Alumni news and photos

July 20: Seven file to run for Toledo mayor; 25 vie for six council seats

Polly Taylor-Gerken
TOLEDO -- "Polly Taylor-Gerken, 48, a Democrat who ran for Toledo City Council and was narrowly defeated 12 years ago, announced just yesterday - and filed her petitions then - for a primary run for a Toledo City Council at-large seat. Ms. Taylor-Gerken, 2025 Sherwood Ave., who is married to Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken, is a 30-year employee of the Toledo Board of Education - 18 years as a school secretary and the last 12 as a school psychologist. Ms. Taylor-Gerken is a former board member of the utilities watchdog group Ohio Citizen Action and is now a member of the board of Covenant Youth Development, which assists troubled African-American youth. She said she wanted to run because there were no female candidates with her experiences and skills," Ignazio Messina and Tom Troy, Toledo Blade. Published July 18.

June 5, 2009: Alumni news:
Chris McNulty and Katie Michalko

Andrew Michalko, Chris McNulty and Katie Michalko began the project "Being And Doing."

LAKEWOOD -- "We at Being And Doing, Inc. feel that our energy is better spent promoting the work of nonprofit and community-based organizations that measure success by their ability to help and serve rather than their profitability. We believe that it is time to pay attention to the people who have been doing it right all along. Being And Doing, Inc. is a mobile nonprofit group out of Lakewood, OH that promotes the ideals and goals of the extensive nonprofit sector (tax-exempt organizations, community groups, and individuals who work for a purpose rather than a paycheck). Our means of doing so is simple: hop in a van, volunteer with different nonprofit groups across the country, and tell their stories online. While everyone’s top priority right now is to make a change, we need to acknowledge what can, and should, remain the same," Being And Doing, Incorporated.

Chris and Katie worked as field canvassers in our Cleveland office in the first half of 2009.

Apr 29, 2009: Alumni news:
Christa Zielke

CINCINNATI -- "Christa Zielke is now the Development Coordinator for Media Bridges. Media Bridges is a nonprofit community media center in Cincinnati that provides the education, equipment, and environment to assist people in communicating effectively through media. Christa’s experience at Ohio Citizen Action 'back in the day' helped provide inspiration and a foundation for her future fundraising adventures," Ohio Citizen Action.

Christa Zielke was office manager, program assistant and occasional canvasser in our Cincinnati office from 1999-2002.

Mar 27, 2009: Community Organizer James Thindwa: Making a difference

James Thindwa

CHICAGO -- "James Thindwa was born and raised in Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia. His family took part in Rhodesia's fight against British colonial rule. There he learned the power of organized labor and organized protest. 'Unions to us, growing up, performed more functions than just negotiating for better wages for workers. They really were seen in society as a legitimate vehicle for transforming society.' Thindwa won a scholarship to Kentucky's Berea College and went on to a masters degree at Miami University of Ohio. As a student he protested against the Ku Klux Klan and apartheid in South Africa. He moved to Chicago, where he advocated for senior citizens before joining Jobs with Justice," Bill Moyers Journal.

James was a canvasser for Ohio Citizen Action in the early 1980s, and later served as Columbus Canvass Director. He has been a featured speaker at many Hudson Bay canvass conferences.

Mar 3, 2009: Healthy Schools Hero Award 2009: Ruth Breech

NEWTON CENTER, MA -- "Every year, to mark the anniversary of the March 18, 1937 Texas School Explosion, I name a Healthy Schools Hero who demonstrates extraordinary responsibility and inspirational leadership for safety in schools. The 2009 Healthy Schools Hero Award winner is Ruth Breech, Program Director at Global Community Monitor in El Cerrito, CA. Ruth Breech was nominated by Peter Fugazzotto, Director of Oceans and Communities, for her work to protect school children in Addyston, Ohio from the hazards of toxic industrial pollution. Described in the media as a 'tenacious, high-energy community activist,' Breech is motivated to 'tell the untold story' of the people who suffer in silence in 'fenceline' communities such as Addyston, Ohio," Ellie Goldberg for Healthy Kids.

Ruth Breech was Ohio Citizen Action's Cincinnati program director from 2004 to 2007 during which time the school was closed.

Jan 22, 2009: Ohio Citizen Action alumni working with the Peace Corps in El Salvador

John and Amber

CINCINNATI -- "John and Amber Lucero-Criswell made a visit to Cincinnati in December to see friends and family. The Lucero-Criswells are both Municipal Development program volunteers in the Peace Corps in Suchitoto, El Salvador. John is helping the city create a strategic plan for its tourism development, managing various projects and doing general management trainings. Amber is focusing on tourism development that aligns with the city’s artistic and cultural heritage, teaching art classes to children and designing marketing materials. They have been serving in the Peace Corps since June, 2007.

John was a canvasser and field manager in Ohio Citizen Action's Cincinnati office from 1996-1999. Amber was an intern at Ohio Citizen Action’s Cincinnati office in the fall of 1997.

Jan 14, 2009: Interview with Artie Knapp, author of Stuttering Stan Takes a Stand

CINCINNATI -- "I am a children’s author living in Cincinnati, Ohio. I have written many published works for young readers, and my children’s literature has been published in over 80 newspapers and kids’ sites across the world to date. Humorous talking animal children’s stories are my trademark if you will... After writing the story, I was surprised to learn how little content—like Stuttering Stan—there is for kids. I believe the reason why there is great excitement for my book, is because Stuttering Stan is going to help fill a gap where content is desperately needed for children who stutter,"

Artie Knapp worked as a field canvasser in our Columbus office in 1995.

Dec 9, 2008: Simona Vaclavikova writes from Darfur

DARFUR, Sudan -- I was brought in [by the United Nations] to run a capacity-building cell within Civil Affairs. Similarly to what I did in Bosnia, we want to make civil society stronger by carrying out workshops, trainings, and by providing funding for development projects, mostly education-related, but also gender-based violence, conflict resolution, etc.. My first meeting with a group of women from one of the camps was very difficult. They were telling us about the security problems and even though they were not saying any specific stories, I could see it in their eyes – the pain, the suffering on a daily basis we cannot even imagine – I was fighting tears that whole meeting," Simona Vaclavikova, United Nations.

Simona Vaclavikova was the Columbus Program Director for Ohio Citizen Action from 2002 to 2006.

Dec 5, 2008: Sarah Straley, Green Energy Ohio

Sarah Straley COLUMBUS -- "Green Energy Ohio welcomes Sarah Straley as the new Central Ohio Program Manager. Sarah started with GEO on March 3, 2008, bringing with her a passion for 'staying put' and greening Ohio. Over the past seven years Sarah has lived in Columbus and worked for such groups as Ohio Citizen Action, the Sierra Club, Highlands Nature Sanctuary and Simply Living. Such non-profit experience has helped Sarah to become a leader in community organizing, fundraising and partnership-building. Not only has she worked for many non-profits, she also volunteers and makes it a monthly practice to join various non-profits to financially support the greening of Ohio's farms, rivers, forests, gardens and urban communities," Green Energy Ohio.

Sarah Straley was a canvasser in our Columbus office in 2002 - 2003.

Jun 24, 2008: Al Stern 1927-2008

CLEVELAND -- "Al Stern, a lifelong liberal social activist, passed away at his home, surrounded by his wife and children on June 23 from pancreatic cancer. He grew up in Wheeling, WV., served in the Navy at the end of World War II and moved to Cleveland in 1951. He was passionately committed to the struggle for peace and justice. He participated actively in the Civil Rights movement, the anti-Vietnam war movement (helping to organize some of the big marches in Washington), and has worked tirelessly for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, most recently as one of the leaders of Americans for Peace Now," Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Al Stern was a long-time supporter of Ohio Citizen Action and a former board member of Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund. He was a gentle, generous, and compassionate man and a tireless advocate for peace and justice.

Jun 3, 2008: Alumni news: Ryan Rittenhouse

AUSTIN, TX -- Since leaving Ohio Citizen Action, Ryan Rittenhouse has moved to Austin, TX where he now works with Public Citizen. He is an assistant to Tom "Smitty" Smith, the executive director of Public Citizen Texas, and focuses his work on halting the construction of new coal fired power plants in Texas and throughout the country. Public Citizen advocates Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy sources as an alternative to building new baseload fossil fuel and nuclear power plants. Prior to Ryan's arrival at Public Citizen, they had been involved in a significant victory over TXU, who had wanted to build 11 new coal plants in Texas. With the help of a number of other organizations 8 of those 11 plants were halted. Comming off this great victory, Public Citizen now wants to use that momentum to stop the construction of any other new coal-fired power plants, including the 3 left from TXU. Ryan works as a coordinator and organizer with other organizations throughout the country to reach this goal. He will also be working on the launch of a new website,, which will incorporate multi-media and tools to help people fight coal plants.

Ryan Rittenhouse worked as a field canvasser in our Cleveland office in the summer and fall of 2006.

Apr 16, 2008: Richard Renner named Legal Director for National Whistleblower Center

Laura Yeomans, Richard Renner and their daughter Jennie Renner-Yeomans.

DOVER -- "Richard has accepted a job in Washington, D.C.  For many years he has worked on different cases with attorneys from a law firm who are the national experts for whistleblowers. These attorneys also run the National Whistleblower Center.  Richard will become the Legal Director for this Center and a partner in their law firm. He is very excited as over the years he has wanted to work directly with them. Our daughter Jennie is working full-time for the North Carolina State Democratic Party in Raleigh, NC as their Volunteer Coordinator for a virtual phone banking system where people connect through the Internet and help turning out voters in their area," Laura Yeomans.

Laura Yeomans and Richard Renner were co-directors of the Appalachian Ohio Public Interest Campaign (now Rural Action), and Laura was Ohio Citizen Action's research director. Jennie was an intern with the Money in Politics Project during 2005.

Mar 24, 2008: Questions arise over silt disposal in Maumee Bay
Practice may fuel toxic algae growth

Sandy Bihn stands in 'lyngbya wollei' algae along the shore near her Maumee Bay home. (Andy Morrison/Toledo Blade)
TOLEDO -- "Open-lake disposal, as it's called, is controversial because it resuspends silt in the water column, making the water more turbid. Biologists long have questioned what that does to the region's multibillion-dollar fishing industry. Now, there's a public health and property-value threat - a toxic algae called lyngbya wollei - drawing more attention to the issue... Sandy Bihn, an Oregon activist who has gobs of the stuff clinging to the shoreline along her Maumee Bay property, said she's learned from researchers down South that the algae is a 'cancer' that won't go away on its own," Tom Henry, Toledo Blade.

Sandy Bihn was a member of the Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund Board of Directors.

Mar 18, 2008: Accomplishments and obstacles in Ukraine

Grant Earich is serving in the United States Peace Corps in the Ukraine. He is pictured in Kyiv overlooking the Dnipro River.
ZANESVILLE -- "When I decided to join the United States Peace Corps, I was an assistant to Ohio State Senator Joy Padgett. During that time, I learned a great deal about Southeastern Ohio and its inhabitants as our main mission was to increase the standard of living and contentment of constituents in Ohio's 20th State Senate District. My affinity and interest for Appalachia Ohio grew and I developed a strong desire to serve the region. Consequently, I made sure that my Peace Corps recruiter knew that I wanted to serve an area of the world that was comparable, not only in landscape, but also in demographics such as infrastructure, economy and level of affluence," Grant Earich, Guest Columnist, Zanesville Times Recorder. Published March 17.

Grant was a canvasser and assistant for the Money in Politics project in our Columbus office in 2006.

Jan 3, 2008: Strickland's energy adviser Mark Shanahan - once a critic - now has power and influence

CLEVELAND -- "The 58-year-old Shanahan is wrapping up his first year as Gov. Ted Strickland's energy adviser, three decades after calling for the end of the B1 bomber and for greater tenant rights... 'He wanted to be more thoughtful than purely ideological,' notes Cleveland Councilman Jay Westbrook, who was best man at Shanahan's wedding. 'When others were headed to the picket line, he was working on his dissertation.' The two worked together on numerous campaigns that were the basis for what is now the advocacy group Ohio Citizen Action," Mark Naymik, Cleveland Plain Dealer. Published December 31, 2007.

Mark Shanahan was Ohio Citizen Action's first Cleveland Program Director.

30th Anniversary

News from 2007:
Gary Dougherty. Merrill Goozner, Joe Rugola, Nick Kostandaras, Eddie Parks, Roxanne Qualls, Jane Forrest-Redfern, Harriet Applegate, Linda Robinson, Nathan Sooy, Michelle Taphorn, Gavin Leonard, Amy Ryder Wentz.

News from 2006:
Pari Sabety, Tom Mooney, Dan Stewart, Sarah Grutza, Artie Knapp, Roxanne Qualls, Padi Hallam, John Harris, Deanna Clemente Milne, Brandi Whetstone, Rachel Gelbmann.

News from May - Dec 2005:
Noreen Warnock, Jay Westbrook, Debanuj Dasgupta, Atossa Soltani, Sarah Strayley, David Williams, Trish Lanahan, Anna Tinsly, James Thindwa, Nathan Sooy, Colleen Trickett, Merrill Goozner, Erik Dumont, Kristin Plambeck.

News from Jan - Apr 2005:
Harriet Applegate, Glen Brand, Jim Draper, Melissa English, Kevin Everett (Schneider), Carrie Garnes, Dave Gee, Vic Gideon, Ken Ilg, Pete MacDowell, David McCann, Beatrice Miringu, Jane Reilley, Brian Riggle, James Thindwa, Shari Weir, and obituaries for Cindy Dublo and Coleen Tracey.

News from Jul - Dec 2004:
Marc Anderson, Steve Cerny, Aamir Deen, Stu Greenberg, Jim Grossfeld, Brantt Hamilton, Ed Hopkins, Kendall Jackson, Wendy Johnson, Chris Kuwamoto, Sue Lacy, Mark Leddy, Gavin Leonard, John Lynch, Pete MacDowell, Todd Main, Marianthe Manak, Bobbi Jo Medlen, Kathy Remias, Paula Ross, Joseph Rugola, Chris Shumway, Atossa Soltani, Roxane Staples, Dan Stewart, Craig Stuntz, Shari Weir, and Darlene Wolnik.

News from Jan - Jun 2004:
Bill Callahan, Merrill Goozner, John Greenman, Pete MacDowell, Mark Real, Brewster Rhoads, Paula Ross, Noreen Warnock, and Laura Yeomans.

News from 2003:
Roxanne Qualls, Jane Forrest Redfern, Rich Swirsky, and James Thindwa.