CINCINNATI - We are marking the end of our effort to cover 30 stories in 30 days that document how far Cincinnati has come in the 10 years since the unrest.
As we conclude this series, we want to remind you of some of that progress and show you one piece of unfinished business for our entire community.
In the last 30 days, we've seen stories that capture the hope of improved police community relations, relations so tattered 10 years ago they sparked the unrest.
We've seen the triumph of a school system seemingly reborn, typified by the resurrected Taft Information Technology High School in the West End and embodied in its principal, Anthony Smith.
We've heard our neighbors assess how far we've come in race relations, the leaders of the two professional sports franchises as an example, and how far we have to go.
We've charted efforts to build a stronger economy by building more diverse businesses, making more jobs available. This would seem to be a spring time of hope in Cincinnati, 10 years after the winter of our despair.
And yet, even as we celebrate the change in so many of our institutions the last 10 years, there are still glaring concerns about perhaps our most important one: The family.
Dorron Hunter of the Young Men's Program sponsored by Mercy Franciscan/St. John's puts it in painfully simple terms, "I was so amazed at how many young men down here don't even know their father. I'm not talking about haven't seen them. They don't even know them."
Hunter works with young men in Over-the-Rhine. He sees what's missing and tries to replace it. But he knows what Dr. Lief Noll knows: that a surrogate is not a father.
Dr. Noll, a psychologist, said, "Kids whose fathers are not around tend to engage in earlier sexual behavior; more likely to act out behaviorally; have difficulties in school. What happens at the family level certainly goes out to have an impact on the broader community."
But at least one group is working to fix that. Last week, the Fatherhood Project at Talbert House graduated 22 fathers from a 10 week program that reconnects fathers with their children.
Fathers like Rob Vogelsong, who graduated from this program as Father of The Year three years ago, have dealt with their personal demons: Drugs, alcohol, failure to pay child support and committed to their children.
This is how Vogelsong described the change that reconnection made in his life:
"I guess I was a little wild. did things I probably shouldn't have done. I knew that if I had my kids and would be back in their life, there'd be a good chance, by the grace of God, I'd settle down."
His daughter, Janie bears witness to the changes in her father.
"It's like he influences us, so he wants us to see the example he's making and the right way to live," Janie said.
And that's the point behind this program: fathers committing to be in their children's lives.
"I think there's something important psychologically for a man to be connected to relationships and to be engaged in relationships where he means something to the people around him," Dr. Noll said.
But these men won't just reconnect with their children. Statistics show they'll reconnect with their community.
"Men who are engaged in families, who are married and have children tend to pay more taxes; more likely to be employed; they're more likely to engage in fewer unhealthy behaviors," Dr. Noll added.
On the night they graduated, the fathers launched a journey. And like Rob Vogelsang--Minister of Music at his church, father of two--each step forward leads right to the lives and directly into the hearts of their children.
"I wanted to show them that their father was a real father and that he cared," said Vogelsong. "He loved them. And that he still does."
Dr. Noll addresses two more points. First, this is not just an urban core problem. Rural and suburban communities are also coping with absent fathers. Second, Noll says it's not just absent fathers, but increasingly mothers, too.
Dr. Noll says the answer is to build loving, two-parent relationships that fully nurture kids. A tall order to be sure, but as we've seen this past month, this community has faced and overcome what were once thought to be insurmountable obstacles.
We can do it again. If we want to.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
For more than 100 years, the Anna Louise Inn in downtown Cincinnati has been a safe, serene place that thousands of struggling women came to know as home.