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After stalled peace talk, Rotary Club of Cincinnati has found its voice in nonviolence projects

WageCincyPeace had a rough start
After stalled peace talk, Rotary Club of Cincinnati has found its voice in nonviolence projects
Posted at 7:00 AM, Oct 29, 2017

CINCINNATI -- All they were saying was, "Give peace a chance."

In September of 2016, the Rotary Club of Cincinnati kicked off its WageCincyPeace project. It was to be an affirmation of peace as a goal for the city, with service projects for the next 12 months and a major peace event in the summer of 2017.

But not much happened beyond the kickoff events: A dinner on Celebrations Riverboat, with a speech by Paul Chappell, an Army veteran and author of the Road to Peace series of books; and two projects at Taft High School in Over-the-Rhine -- a new courtyard and packing clothes for poor children.

Those events were a great success from the standpoints of attendance and public service, said the club's executive director, Linda Muth. More than 200 attended the cruise, and more than 60 bags of clothing were sorted at Taft High School for shipment to Togo, Kosovo and Honduras.

But after that, WageCincyPeace foundered.

"There didn't seem to be the momentum to move forward," Muth said. "I don't know how else to describe it. … There didn't seem to be the enthusiasm among the attendees to continue."

The club had also hoped that the WageCincyPeace events would help bring together millennials and baby boomers for common action. But they didn't result in a big increase in young people joining the club, Muth said. The club did welcome 60 new members in 2016.

The WageCincyPeace events "allowed us to reach a different audience than we have traditionally, so in that respect, I think it had a positive impact on the club and the community," Muth said.

The club continues to reach out to people who attended WageCincyPeace events to let them know about upcoming service projects, she said. For example, on Oct. 26, the club kicked off a project to install solar panels and drill water wells in Uganda, a project done in partnership with Rotary Clubs in Africa and North Carolina.

Another partner is All We Are, a nonprofit begun by Nathan Thomas when he was a University of Cincinnati student, Muth said. He has since moved to North Carolina, where he is a Rotary club president.

The local club hopes to raise $25,000 for that project from its members and the Tri-State community.

It seems to be easier to interest people in service projects like this than to get them talking about barriers to peace, she said.

"People are doers, typically," she said.

The club had planned to partner with several local groups in its WageCincyPeace project, including the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center in Over-the-Rhine. That nonprofit educates and advocates for peace, challenges unjust systems and promotes non-violence.

The club's failure to pursue the WageCincyPeace initiative surprised and disappointed Andrea Koverman, the center's program manager. The club had some great ideas for the project and some great people working on it, she said.

About the same time the club was talking peace, the center began talking about a long-term peace initiative of its own in conjunction with Campaign Nonviolence, a national peace initiative.

In September, the center kicked off that initiative with a speech from Father John Dear of Campaign Nonviolence, an event that about 350 attended, Koverman said.

From that event was created a steering committee, the Nonviolent Cincinnati Coalition, with about 35 local members who represent multiple organizations, she said. The coalition, which meets monthly, is now working on a vision statement and next steps.

Nonviolent Cincinnati Coalition members are pictured after the coalition's launch event in September.

The coalition's vision will include raising consciousness about violence and its effects on the community, Koverman said. Those interested in joining the coalition can email her at andrea@ijpccincinnati.org.

"We hope we can have an impact," she said. "Get people to understand what nonviolence is, and what skills are needed to create a nonviolent society."