In its first year, Direct Energy and Local 12’s 2013 Cincinnati Volunteer Citizen of the Year award is honoring Elizabeth “Libby” Hunter. Hunter is the co-founder of WordPlay Cincy, a nonprofit organization located in Cincinnati’s Northside that offers a safe and inspirational haven where children are supported in literacy with homework help, reading and writing skills and creative projects that promote self expression.
What began in early 2011 as a search for a community-based solution to support disadvantaged children in her neighborhood quickly evolved into a drive to fund a new organization that would be unlike anything else in the city. As a single mother of three boys and using her own hard-earned money, Hunter leased a three-story building that would eventually become WordPlay Cincy’s home. She and co-founder Elissa Yancey rallied some of the top educators in the city to design successful literacy, tutoring and creative writing programs and initiated partnerships with local schools and other nonprofit organizations, all the while working full-time in another career to support her family.
Today, after being open for only six months, WordPlay has served over 300 students with more than 70 students attending the writing center every week and a wide range of additional programs in their partner schools. Libby and the rest of the volunteers at WordPlay help these students find their “voice” through literacy and creative expression while developing the skills, knowledge and character necessary for them to succeed, ultimately giving them the opportunity for a brighter future. In her nomination, Libby’s passion and grassroots efforts to build the foundation for WordPlay Cincy and to serve the children of Cincinnati is described as inspirational by all that know her. Despite being a busy working mom, Libby identified a pressing need in her community and tirelessly devoted her time and talents to benefit disadvantaged children and the greater community.
“We received over 70 admirable nominations for this program and choosing just one winner was an enormous challenge. Hunter’s resilience partnered with her unwavering commitment to Cincinnati’s children makes her a valuable asset to the community and an outstanding first winner,” said Jason Wasserman, commercial director for Direct Energy.
Hunter has recruited and trained over 90 volunteer tutors for WordPlay Cincy and under her guidance, they help provide students with many educational programs designed by Hunter and her curriculum committee. From after school tutoring of severely remedial students to academic summer programs and creative writing workshops, if Hunter can find a way to help a child, she will do anything in her power to do so. By winning the Cincinnati Volunteer Citizen of the Year award, Hunter will receive a $1,000 cash prize and a $5,000 donation to WordPlay Cincy from Direct Energy.
“Not only is Hunter’s passion for helping educate children inspiring, but her devotion to achieving her dream is extremely impressive,” said Sarah Jacobs, sales manager for Local 12. “She is a shining example of an outstanding leader and role model to Cincinnati’s youth.”
A special event honoring Libby Hunter will be held on Thursday, April 11th at 6:00 pm. Representatives from Direct Energy and Local 12 will be on hand to present Hunter with her award. Students from WordPlay Cincy will also be in attendance showcasing the reading and writing skills they’ve acquired at WordPlay Cincy by displaying their work and reading aloud some of their own written pieces. The event is open to the public and will be held at WordPlay Cincy’s offices at 4041 Hamilton Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45223.