Posts tagged ‘history’

September 29, 2012

The World Without Me – An Interview with Sherrie Kleinholz

The following exclusive interview with Sherrie Kleinholz, author and advocate for the homeless, appears on the eve of the publication of her first book, The World Without Me.  The book is an anthology of stories by homeless individuals in Greater Cincinnati, compiled and edited by Ms. Kleinholz over a number of years.

Interview by Jordan Bailey

RED! – What sparked your interest to begin researching such a major crisis in society today
such as homelessness?

S.K. – My interest in those who are without has been growing within me since my teenage years
and has peaked greatly in my adult years. I look around and I see so many beautiful
people who are disconsolate and suffering deeply with no one to help guide them
through it. I watch as there is no one sharing love with them and I am heartbroken.

RED! – Have you done any volunteer work – for instance, in shelters or in a food pantry – in
terms of assisting the homeless?  What were any of those experiences like and what are
some things you have learned being around them?

S.K. – I have worked at a homeless shelter doing counseling as part of my internship and this
has been very rewarding. It gave me a great sense of being a part of something so much
greater and my heart would be filled with a little more respect, humility, and love for
those I interacted with each time I left. I also enjoy making lunches to pass out to those
on the streets or take to the soup kitchen and have developed meaningful relationships
with these I interact with.

RED! – Tell us a little about your book and how it came about.

S.K.The World Without Me is a compilation of stories told by those who live them
every day. Stories about what it is like to be on the streets without your basic
needs readily available such as food, shelter, clean clothes, medical care, and
love. A great deal of the stories are written in dialogue form. This is done so that
the reader can get a better understanding of what the person being interviewed is
feeling, thinking and seeing from their perspective. The book came about because
it has been a part of my life for many years and to watch as others spit at,
degrade, and ridicule those who have to live it deeply saddens me. It saddens me
for the person on the street, as well as the person who is ridiculing and the world
as a whole.

RED! – You and RED! technical assistant, William Lambers, also a legendary advocate of
global food assistance, have worked together recently on issues of homelessness and
food advocacy. How successful have you been?

S.K. – I cannot say enough about William Lambers. What a kind hearted, giving, intelligent,
talented, and genuine man he is! My work with William began in my undergrad years at
Mount St. Joe when we held a fund raiser for international charities on hunger to which
was a success. He has also shown me how to help feed those who are hungry by playing
a game for free that donates rice for international hunger. We have also done an honorary
food drive in his mom’s name which helped three local pantries, and he has been a
profound help in the writing of this book. I’d be lost without him! I am quite certain that
we will be working together for a long time to come.

RED! – What kind of impact would you like your book to make?

S.K. – It is with my deepest hope that the stories inside this book grab the reader’s heart to help
them realize that the person behind the story is just like the person who is reading it.
They have feelings that hurt, thoughts that are important, needs to be met, & wants that
are forgotten. I hope that the reader can see that more often than not the person behind
the story had it all once and lost it because of reasons that could happen to anyone
including the person reading the book. These reasons consisting things such as physical
illness, death of a loved one, tragedy and mental illness. I want the reader to close the
book with tears in their eyes and love in their heart and realize that not every person on
the streets is trying to scam them and if they are trying to scam them to ask “why?” I
hope that the reader sees that person on the street are just people who are not lucky
enough to have the social support or means that others who are not on the streets have
had. If a person believes that it could not happen to them then they need to open their
eyes and see life for what it is. It can happen to anyone at any given moment and it can
break you.

RED! – What are some things you believe the city of Cincinnati, or the region on the whole, can
do to better address homelessness, especially as indicators suggest it is on the rise in
this particular U.S. economy?

S.K. – Sometimes when we look at a problem we feel alone and overwhelmed and we cut
ourselves off emotionally in order to protect our overall wellbeing. More often than not
we just don’t understand something and we fear what we do not understand. Therefore,
I encourage each person to educate themselves in understanding homelessness for what
it is.

Many times we create comforting self-soothing stories about those who are homeless
such as “they’re just lazy, a drug addict, and/or worthless criminals. I believe we do this
because we have to fill the void of “not knowing”. We simply cannot see a person who
is in need and drive by them because we would feel bad so we put a spin on our thinking
to justify driving by. Does this mean that the person on the street is not plagued by
mental illness, addiction, the loss of desire to help themselves, or is not a criminal?
Absolutely not!  However, keep in mind that inside each of us is our own personal evil
wolf lying in wait that could break free when pushed to our own thresholds. So maybe
ask yourself, “If this person really is one of those things then why and how did it come to
this and how can I help stop it or prevent it?” Remind yourself that you to could lose your
job have someone you love die and take your spirit with you, get a debilitating mental
illness, or lose your health and can’t work. You too could be pushed to your threshold
and wake up with nothing.

Therefore, to best address homelessness educate yourself to get a better understanding
of it, know it could happen to you, realize how powerful you are in the fight against it, and
advocate! As individuals we often do not understand how powerful we are. One person
can reach many people but they underestimate their own power and think to themselves,
“What I have to offer and contribute is not really making a difference.” That thought is
incorrect. Trust me; you are powerful in the lives of others. Inside each of us is a hero.

July 16, 2011

Cowboys and Indians – by Karyn B. Alexander

I wanted to share some family memories with you this week, old and new.

Daniel Boone, one of the most widely known pioneers, is also someone with whom I share genetics. He is my 7th cousin.

Frank Spackman, a cowboy who was a skilled rider, fought with Teddy Roosevelt; one of the Rough Riders at San Juan Hill, he was also my relative and great-grandfather. Chief Red Feather, a Miami Indian, whose blood runs
through my veins – a kindred spirit and my great-grandfather, stilllives in me today.  All three men were culturally distinct in their own right; and all are men who make up my family tree.

Cowboys and Indians, once partners in trade and sometimes foes, are now all mixed into the same bloodline to make up my personal biology and the landscape of our early American heritage. I grew up in a family where bullet making and gun cleaning seemed as normal as eating and a bath. My father, who claimed to be an Indian fighter, was married to my mother, who came from Midwestern Miami Indians. We grew up believing that he was an American hero and she
tolerated his wily ways because he was a handsome gun slinger who was our protector and provider.

Some of my fondest memories are stories told over the task of cleaning guns. I watched my father dismantle a collection of guns each week, as he told stories of hunting down the enemy, of course bad and uncivilized Indians. He ran a smooth cloth inside each barrel while rubbing the guns clean with oil.  The guns, once cleaned, were put away
and locked until the next week, where he continued the ritual of methodical care and storytelling. We went from his large wooden desk, where he kept the pistols to the high work bench where ammunition was made for the shiny tools of the trade. 

I was part of the bullet making process. I was allowed to hold an iron pot with a thick handle as it melted the lead. When melted, I poured the lead into molds to form bullets. The lead was cooled and then pressed with powder into a shell.
A bullet dropped out of the mold, then placed into a carrier, ready for the next Indian encounter.  The process seemed dangerous because something hot enough to melt lead was surely not a toy. I was a trusted part of the Cowboy line in our family as I learned this trade and it became part of my nature. I can’t remember if my brother and sister
were part of the tradition, but I do remember them being more interested in shooting the bullets.

I did not like target practice or hunting, but I liked the exciting stories, many of which took place on
the Ohio River where my father grew up. Our family dog was a part of this world as well. He was a hunting dog, so along with my father he was in on the action and became part of the family lore. My mother was soft spoken and slight. She represented food and discipline and first aid. While thrashing through the woods during our days at
play, we were left with many a wound that this little “Indian” mom took care of. We ate what she cooked, and feared her hand of discipline, as she was little but mighty. During the evenings, we sang along with my father as he strummed his guitar. We sang songs about the cowboys and the streets of Laredo. These songs were the lullabies I heard as I drifted off to sleep each night. 

Life was good and calm; cowboying seemed like the way of the world, my world anyway. In my twenties, I moved near the Ohio River where I kindled the love for the Indian side of my family. I visited every Indian mound, read every true story and history book I could put my hands on. I even danced with like-minded strangers on an ancient Indian burial mound. I trudged through fields where I found many arrowheads, feeling secure that I had now connected to those who made the weapons. I made it a goal to find a Tommy Hawke and other tangible artifacts that helped me to understand a lost people – my people.  I visited reservations where I talked to strangers, walked through their homemade museums, felt connected, but saw a culture that “once was” and was no more.

As I raised my children, my father’s influence did not miss a beat with my oldest. My son sat in the bathtub with his cowboy hat on, while my dad, wearing the same, strummed his guitar, singing the songs I had sung as a child. Wild Turkey was the soothing balm that grazed ailing gums as babes. More stories and added generational tales were told.
My children were raised to play in the woods, too. Armed with backpacks full of food and homemade weapons, they stayed in the creekbed for most of their childhood days. Rock hunting, animal tracking, mud slides, and fort building were their favorite tasks. They made forts out of leaves and branches and swung on vines just as their grandfather, my father, had done in his youth. They found their own treasures and now have their own stories to tell.

It seems that everything changes in life, when nothing really does.

I own a farm on the Ohio River, not far from where my father and ancestors lived. I took a long walk just the other day, with my son-in–law, a descendent of Russian rebels. He led the trek through the woods, as he was the initiator of the exploration that day. A fisherman, he wanted to find a pond that lies on our property. He asked if he could clear land and settle a cabin for himself and my daughter. A pioneer! Just like Daniel Boone, a new generation felt the call.

As we walked, he turned over almost every stone saying, “This could be something,” meaning, he, too, was overtaken by the rawness of the land and wanted to look for artifacts or bits of history that might be a clue to who lived here last. We did not lose sight of what we were touching and seeing along my property line. The very rock walls that Irish immigrants had laid only generations before were still standing, just like the stories my father had told many years before. All alive, all part of our world today.
My daughter, who hiked with us, carried the tiniest member of our tribe, a little boy whose name is August.  August comes from Frank Spackman, an English American cowboy, Chief Red Feather, an American Miami Indian, Daniel Boone an American pioneer, Lottie Pierson, a German American baker, and Edmond Britton, an American preacher. All of
these people a part of the mix of my genetic batter, now combined with my son-in-law who comes from Russian rebels, makes an elaborate smorgasbord of heritage. Out of our giant melting pot or mixing bowl of genes comes another generation of life: little August.

August sounds like a cowboy name to me. A modern gun slinger, explorer or even farmer, he will live a similar yet different life than his forefathers. Growing up in Kentucky along the river, August will see and feel the natural beauty of being an American mix of Cowboys, Indians and more.

All of my forefathers knew the value of living and loving. They knew the cost of freedom and being an American. They fought hard for it, sometimes side by side, and sometimes one against another. All recognized that future generations would inhabit the same land they had shared, lived and fought for. Only four generations from my parents
lived my grandfather who rode-rough to free people.   I now wonder what challenges and gifts lay ahead four generations later. It will seem trite to say, “Life goes so fast,” but it does. It was within my generational reach to know the life of Cowboys and Indians and their struggles. It is now within August’s reach to see the same history and to write a new page of it. The cycle keeps going, the story never ends.

Giddy-up, Cowboy!
Karyn Alexander
Executive Director, Winfield House (

Winfield House brings the good news of Jesus in a practical way, giving
hope to God’s people.
Voice of the Nations: Rev. 5:9 “With your blood you purchased men for
God from every tribe, people, language and nation.”
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