Sunday, March 8, 1998
Margaret Richards
Makes children her career

BY MARK CURNUTTE
The Cincinnati Enquirer

1997 Women of the Year
Margaret Richards is chairman of the board of Beech Acres.
(Tony Jones photo)
| ZOOM |

Margaret Richards didn't have to work to support her family financially.

Now 53, she says she was part of a generation of women that didn't feel they needed to work to be emotionally satisfied.

With this "luxury" came the time to serve.

After volunteering for several years as a Cincinnati Art Museum docent, Mrs. Richards became heavily involved in her children's elementary schools.

"I asked myself, 'What else am I supposed to know about?' " she says. "The answer was 'children.' "

What started with room mothering has evolved into a regional child advocacy role.

She is in her second year as chair of the board of Beech Acres, an Anderson Township-based non-profit agency that runs a network of foster parents for children who are abused or neglected. She has served on its board since 1991.

She has been a member of the Children's Services Commission since 1993. Mrs. Richards served in 1996 as chair of the group charged by Hamilton County commissioners to act as the link between social service providers and the community at large.

Since 1991, she has also been involved with the United Way & Community Chest's Children and Youth Field of Service Committee, which monitors and awards more than $6 million to 25 agencies.

"Margy has made a real difference in the lives of children in this community," United Way president Dick Aft writes in a Woman of the Year nomination letter. "She has taken on some very difficult assignments here and seen them through to successful conclusion." The Hyde Park resident started as a room mother at Summit Country Day School. She planned field trips and organized book fairs. And as her children grew, so did her awareness of children's issues: She founded alcohol awareness programs for parents at Summit, St. Xavier High School and Ursuline Academy.

For 20 years, she was involved in many roles with Christ Child Day Nursery in Over-the-Rhine. It was organized in 1915 by alumna (including her grandmother) of Mrs. Richards' high school, the now-defunct Sacred Heart Academy in Clifton.

Margaret Kyte Richards
  • Birthplace: Anderson Township.
  • Residence: Hyde Park.
  • Activities: Chairwoman of Beech Acres board; Children's Service Commission of Hamilton County (chairwoman, 1996); United Way and Community Chest Children & Youth Field of Service, vice chairwoman. Family: Married 26 years to Gates T. Richards; sons Gates Richards Jr., 25, and Brady Richards, 22; daughter, Mara, 19.
  • Education: Sacred Heart Academy, Clifton, 1963; Manhattanville College, Purchase, N.Y., bachelor's degree, English literature, 1967; Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., master's in English literature, 1968.
  • Best advice received: Heard first at her high school graduation from the featured speaker, the Rev. Ed Smith. ''He wanted us not to be like the Dead Sea, where all the water comes in and then stops. It becomes stagnant water, and everything dies. He wanted us to let the water out again so the water would be fresh and renewable.''
  • Her first position was recording secretary. That was just part of her service.

    "I took dead birds from behind ceiling tiles and cleaned and removed restroom tile where boys had missed for generations," she says.

    Mrs. Richards also served for four years as board chair at Christ Child, which has since become part of the YMCA child-care system. One morning, at 3 o'clock, Mrs. Richards - as board president - was called by the police. Christ Child had been burglarized. Two juveniles had been arrested. After checking the building, she went to District 1 police headquarters, where the juveniles were being held.

    "Margy stayed until she was satisfied that those children would be taken care of and that somebody would come for them," writes her husband, attorney Gates T. Richards. "That's what she does." It was while serving Christ Child that much of her philosophy on children was formed.

    "There were cultural and economical differences between women, but we were all trying to do the same thing - raise our kids well," she says.

    Mrs. Richards has seen the commonalities of children.

    "Kids are raw potential," she says. "They have enormous, wonderful gifts, unique gifts. What they need is not to have insurmountable barriers in front of them. We have to do as much as we can to help all kids develop as their own blossoms."

    Juanita M. Adams | Rebecca Bechhold | Sarah Blanken | Shannon Carter
    Susan S. Friedlander | Barbara Gould | Margaret Richards | Susan Tew
    Judith Van Ginkel | Kathy Wade
    Cover | Introduction | Previous winners