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Everyday Evangelists: St. Gertrude parishioner changes her corner of the world

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

By Sister Eileen Connelly, OSU

ST. ANDREW DEANERY — Growing up in an Italian Catholic community in Pittsburgh, Darla Wainscott recalls how much her faith was part of daily life from an early age.
“The Catholic community made me who I am,” said Wainscott, now a married mother of three and active member of St. Gertrude Parish in Madeira, who brings that foundation of faith, along with an unbridled enthusiasm for helping others, to her outreach efforts.

Once example is Wainscott’s work with the Children’s Home of Cincinnati, a private, nonprofit agency that transforms the lives of vulnerable children and their families through services in special education and mental health treatment.

Darla and Jim Wainscott
Darla and Jim Wainscott (Courtesy photo)

Her involvement with the Children’s Home began 13 years ago after Wainscott heard a public radio appeal for the agency and loaded up her car with used shoes and winter coats to donate.
She had recently lost a baby girl, Mary, who was stillborn, and felt “empty-armed,” said Wainscott.

“The appeal tugged at my heart and ignited my passion for children,” she explained. “I decided to take my energy and channel it into the Children’s Home. It was really there to help me heal.”
Wainscott soon became a member of a focus group to find ways to promote the Children’s Home. She was then asked to join the advancement committee of the agency’s board as an ad hoc member. While on the committee, Wainscott initiated and chaired the Children’s Home’s first ever fundraiser.
Now held annually, the popular Rockin’ Lobster Party nets at least $100,000 each year. Wainscott also began annual Christmas gift-giving gatherings in her home for youngsters served by the Children’s Home that include necessities like socks, underwear, hats, gloves, scarves and a special toy for each child.

Today Wainscott serves on the Children’s Home board of trustees and has even recruited her husband, Jim, president and CEO of AK Steel Corporation, to assist with many of the events. Together they recently co-chaired the agency’s Building on a Legacy of Excellence Campaign, raising $5,000,000 from the local community to fund a multi-faceted renovation and expansion project that will enable the Children’s Home to better serve at risk youth.
The Children’s Home was originally established as an orphanage and later became a residential treatment center for troubled youth. It has since has evolved into a non-residential, multi-service organization that provides special education and mental health treatment to thousands of children and their families each year. Campus and community-based programs serve children from birth to 18 years who face significant social, behavioral and learning challenges that prevent them from succeeding in their home, school and community settings.

“The greatest hope we provide is a future for children who have literally fallen through the cracks,” Wainscott explained. “They’ve been labeled the ‘bad kids,’ but they have so much potential. The Children’s Home is place where they can succeed and be understood.”
Wainscott said her involvement with the agency has provided “beautiful life lessons,” for the couple’s own children, Benjamin, Maria and Sarah Grace, all students at St. Gertrude School, in addition to enhancing their family and prayer life.

“What I want for my children is to realize that what we’ve been giving in life is a blessing,” Wainscott said. “I don’t want them to have a sense of entitlement or take things for granted. My work gives them a real life picture of those who are less fortunate and we pray for them every night. It helps my children realize that they’re here for others, they’re here to serve. It’s a beautiful thing for a parent when they understand that.”

An accountant by training, she and her husband have also devoted their time, energy and faith to many other non-profits and community organizations, including the Anthony Munoz Foundation and the Dominican-founded Aquinas College in Nashville. Another cause particularly close to Wainscott’s heart is a private family endowment she set up at Good Samaritan Hospital during her second pregnancy, inspired by the care and compassion she received. The funds help families who have a lost a baby to stillbirth or neonatal health issues pay for funeral expenses.
“No parent should have to pay funeral expenses for a child they expected to love and nurture for life,” Wainscott said.
When asked what drives her passion for helping others, she responded, “We don’t really need to look any further than our own backyard to help someone in need. God isn’t really asking us to change the entire world, just our corner of it. I’m a firm believer in this.”

“Christ helped everyone,” Wainscott added. “He didn’t discriminate. I like to think that we’re just leveling the playing field for those who need it most but don’t have the resources to make it on their own.”

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