In 1978, Sister Barbara Busch and Dave Scharfenberger, working in Northside, became deeply concerned as the residents of low to moderate-income neighborhoods increasingly struggled to improve their communities. High utility bills, the unavailability of loans to move people toward home-ownership, and the need for economic education were major obstacles. In addition their Millcreek Valley neighborhoods were rapidly becoming victims of blight, vacant homes and crime.
S. Barbara, with the support of the Sisters of Charity, convinced Dave to join her in founding a new neighborhood organization that would undertake grassroots organizing to help people solve these problems. S. Barbara and Marilyn Evans (Dave Scharfenberger served as Chairperson of the Board) established an office in a rented classroom in St. Bernard School in Winton Place, now Spring Grove Village. They depended totally on volunteers until 1981 when Sister Judy Martinez joined the staff.
Every corner of that room was used, every square inch had a purpose. Volunteer Sharon Zumwalde remembers copying documents on an old crank-style mimeograph machine and shoveling snow from the track before the annual fund-raising race could take place. Dave recalls writing proposals in the evening at S. Barb’s and S. Judy’s kitchen table while his young children played in the living room. One of the early board members recalls meetings in the school annex, actually a kitchen, planning car washes and bake sales as fund raisers. S. Barbara remembers often repeating that “necessity is the mother of invention” in those days.
In 1992, an unused convent building on the St. Pius Parish property became available and WIN relocated there, reveling in having space for individual offices, tiny as they were. By this time S. Judy was spearheading the Housing Development Program and Dave was
working in community organization. The WIN staff had grown to ten.
It was March 17, 1999, after the St. Pius Church property had become available that the WIN staff took a great leap of faith, working frantically to raise the funds to purchase the buildings. S.Barbara remembers saying to S. Judy “I never thought I’d own two towers!” After several years of renovations, WIN was established in its present offices, where it has expanded its efforts over the past ten years. ‘
WIN presently has 22 staff members and serves a seven county area. Dave Scharfenberger remarked that “WIN has grown more and lasted longer than I ever expected due to the determination and vision of all the people involved.”
Over these 35 years, WIN has seen over $700 million in good quality mortgages invested in its neighborhoods. Utility reform and energy education for over 900 residents annually helps keep people comfortably in their homes. WIN has built or rehabbed over 150 homes and sold them to first-time homeowners. Each year WIN prepares hundreds of families for home ownership and saves hundreds of homes from foreclosure. While celebration plans are still taking shape, you can join your support to WIN’s continuing efforts to “build strong communities across Cincinnati”.