Monday, May 17, 2004

One woman helps hundreds

By Janet Wetzel
Enquirer contributor

Ethel Whitehead never could stand to see people in need, especially a child. All her life she's dipped into her pocket when she met a child needing shoes or clothing, or saw a hungry family.

Ethel Whitehead of Colerain Twp. looks over some of the things she has collected to give to the needy.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
Her concern automatically led to volunteering long before retiring this year as secretary for the Cincinnati Board of Education.

"I've always been a giver, and people know me for that," said Whitehead, 65, a College Hill widow. "I'm happy making others happy."

Now her helping tree has branches reaching far and wide. Year-around she "collects, begs and buys" things to help others, including clothes and school supplies for hundreds of kids going back to school or those in need later in the year.

She also makes Christmas something to celebrate for many. She and fellow volunteers from St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church, Mount Healthy, and from Grass Roots Leadership Academy provided food, clothing and gifts to 100 families last year. She sends clothing and supplies to a Montego Bay, Jamaica, orphanage every few months. Dot's Clothing Stores have donated clothing for four years.

Whitehead's children and grandchildren all help with her causes.

A children's advocate for years, she founded the Parents Empowerment Coalition in 1990 to help falsely accused parents in child abuse cases, and has worked to get the law changed. Through that coalition she started a program in 1997 to increase awareness of the needy. The program features an annual gospel concert to unite people for fun and fellowship, It's July 17 in Washington Park.

"I admire her strength and fortitude," said Jenny Laster, president and CEO of Grass Roots, an academy that empowers people to be active locally. "Ethel went ahead with one of her events just a month after her daughter died with breast cancer. Even something so devastating didn't stop her. Her compassion encourages others to follow her lead."

Donations to help needy children can be sent to P.O. Box 31307, Cincinnati 45231, or call 513-729-2161. Her next goal is to seek grants to open a home for children who would otherwise go into foster care.


Do you know a Hometown Hero - someone in your community dedicated to making it a better place to live and helping others? E-mail Janet Wetzel at or fax to 513-755-4150.

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