THE HISTORY OF THE BETHANY GROUP, INC.
The Bethany Group formally began in July 2002. Earlier that year, Albert Trinh, David Trinh and Dennis Trinh were looking for ways to perform community service. At the time, they were elementary school students at Bethany School in Glendale, Ohio. Albert wanted to involve his younger brothers and other friends from Bethany School so that together they could provide volunteer services to the community, while keeping this group of friends close even when they moved on to different high schools.
Trinh brothers were
familiar with the needs of retirement and nursing homes. They were students of Mr. Kenneth Gottlieb at the Toedtman School of
Music. They had performed piano music with Mr. Gottlieb at a retirement home and found
that the residents there appreciated their recital very much. Since
many of their friends were also musically talented, they began
contacting each other around April 2002 to promote the formation of a
volunteer group. Everybody was enthusiastic about the plan. The original
group included Veronica Burkel (7th grade), Adrienne DiTommaso (8th
grade), Annette DiTommaso (7th grade), Erin Leventry (7th grade), Albert
Trinh (8th grade), David Trinh (6th grade), and Dennis Trinh (4th
grade). Albert proposed the name The Bethany Group to denote their
While organizing was still in progress, the group started to perform, giving its first recital at the St Mary’s Memorial Home in Glendale, Ohio on May 25, 2002. St. Mary’s is an assisted-living facility situated next to the Bethany School campus, and is sponsored by the Convent of the Community of the Transfiguration. A second recital was given at the Convent itself on June 27, 2002.
The first plenary meeting of The Bethany Group occurred on June 13, 2002, followed by a second meeting on August 20, 2002 to write the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws for the Group. Present were the seven original members of the Group. They elected the Permanent Board of Directors, comprised of Veronica Burkel, Adrienne DiTommaso, Annette DiTommaso, Albert Trinh and David Trinh. The Board of Directors then elected the Officers for the first term: President: Albert Trinh; First Vice President: Adrienne DiTommaso; Second Vice President: Annette DiTommaso; Treasurer: Veronica Burkel; and Secretary: Erin Leventry. David Trinh was appointed chair of the Membership Committee, a position he retained until 2008 when he went to college. In this position, he recruited new members and student volunteers to the Group. The President and Incorporator, Albert Trinh, signed the Articles of Incorporation. The Bethany Group was incorporated in the state of Ohio. Albert Trinh, with legal advice from Mrs. Kathy Leventry, JD, applied for section 501(c)(3) tax exemption status with the Internal Revenue Service. The Bethany Group was recognized by the IRS as a non-profit organization on March 11, 2004, with the status recognized retroactively to September 23, 2002.
Bethany Group started expanding in several areas: membership,
activities, and numbers of nursing homes. First, more Bethany School
students joined the Group: Lydia Ewbank, Alex Adams, Meredith Baker,
Huy Nguyen, Adrian and Maria Githuku, Candace and Patrice Kirksey, Jade
Kurlas, Ryan Donnelly, and Chelsea Kessler. The Bethany School students
then invited their friends and acquaintances from other schools to join,
such as Priscilla Barnabas from the Lakota School, Lise and Robyn
Wilkinson from the Colerain Elementary School, Laura Rojo and Kaitlin
Corrigan from the Loveland Middle School, Sydney Victor from Clark
Academy, Elizabeth Green, Allison Schweikert and Emily Wages from the
Fairfield Middle School. The 60-student Cardinal Chorale group from the
Colerain School, with Mrs. Melissa Mitiska as director, also performed
with The Bethany Group. During this term, Adrienne DiTommaso started
attending Ursuline Academy, and Albert Trinh began studying at St.
Xavier High School. Besides musical programs, Veronica Burkel started
an arts and crafts program that adopted activities that were easy on the
hands of the nursing home residents. Typical arts and crafts programs
included making throw pillows, Christmas tree ornaments, bookmarks,
window hangers, and prayer cards. Chelsea Kessler initiated a dance
program which was performed along with the music program. The Bethany
Group was now supporting more nursing and retirement homes, including
the St. Mary’s Memorial Home, the Blue Ash nursing home, the Lodge Care
Center of Montgomery, the Seasons Retirement Community, and The
Waterford of Fairfield.
At the annual meeting of The Bethany Group on August 17, 2003, the Board of Directors elected Adrienne DiTommaso and Annette DiTommaso as Co-Presidents for the 2003-04 term, effective September 1, 2003. Veronica Burkel was elected as First Vice President, David Trinh as Second Vice President, Albert Trinh as Treasurer and Program Director, and Erin Leventry as Secretary.
During this term, many members entered high school, with Veronica Burkel attending Seven Hills High School, Alex Adams, Meredith Baker, Annette DiTommaso and Erin Leventry attending Ursuline Academy, Lydia Ewbank attending Roger Bacon High School, and Adrian Githuku attending St. Xavier High School, thus increasing the number of schools represented in The Bethany Group. More students from the Bethany School and other schools also decided to join and do community service with the Group, such as Dawn and Dana Thomas from the Bethany School, Jonathan Brown from St. Xavier High School, Emily and Nathan Duderstadt from St. John the Evangelist, Holly Bird and Annie McKinnon from Ursuline Academy, Sarah Sawicki from Lakota Ridge Junior High School, Rachel Sawicki from Shawnee Elementary School, Leah Merchant from Princeton High School, Tajana Schneiderman from Fairfield Elementary School (now at Mason Intermediate School), Rachel Wang from Sycamore High School, Korey Anstead from Badin High School, Justin Scheibel from Loveland High School, and Derick White from Hopewell Junior High School. The large Colerain Cardinal Chorale group also continued to perform with The Bethany Group. Rachel Wang, a senior at Sycamore, brought her piano students to perform with the Group, including Alexa Abele, Sabrina Bulas, Cassandra Chang, Caroline and Christina Gao, Jodie Hutchins, and Victoria Liang. During this term, Bethany Group violinist Patrice Kirksey auditioned and was accepted as a member of the Cincinnati Junior Strings Orchestra. She traveled with the Orchestra and performed in many cities in Australia during the summer. The Bethany Group flutist, Erin Leventry, auditioned and was accepted to join the Great Miami Youth Symphony. And last but not least, Bethany Group pianist Rachel Wang was featured in a National Public Radio program, “From the Top.”
More programs and nursing homes were also added. Annette DiTommaso initiated a program to support the Bethany House, a homeless center for low-income women and children, which provided a full range of housing, education and assistance programs. Adrienne DiTommaso started an Adopt-A-Highway program by working with the Ohio Department of Transportation. The Bethany Group was assigned two miles of the I-71 Interstate highway, between mile marker 28 and mile marker 30, for maintenance. Kevin and Ryan Donnelly proposed a therapy dog program. They trained their dog Allie to pass the necessary test to become a therapy dog, and they themselves passed tests as certified handlers. David Trinh initiated and has overseen The Bethany Group's effort to help underprivileged women overseas via the Economic Opportunities Program. This microfinance program is operated by the Save the Children Federation, which makes small loans to women to help them each start a small business. After about six months, if they make progress, they qualify to ask for more loans to expand their businesses. At the end, the women repay the loan principals, and Save the Children uses the money to help more women. David led a fundraising drive to send seed money to women in Guatemala and Vietnam.
term, Bridgeway Pointe Assisted Living and the Meadowbrook Care Center
were also added to the list of institutions that The Bethany Group
supported. And for the first time, members of the Communication
Committee, including Adrienne and Annette DiTommaso and Erin Leventry,
published the “Bethany Beat” newsletters.
At the annual meeting of The Bethany Group on August 29, 2004, the Board of Directors was expanded by the election of two additional members, Erin Leventry and Dennis Trinh. The Board then elected Veronica Burkel and Erin Leventry as Co-Presidents for the 2004-05 term, effective October 1, 2004. David Trinh was elected as First Vice President, Lydia Ewbank as Second Vice President, Albert Trinh as Treasurer and Program Director, and Candace Kirksey as Secretary.
During this term, the roster of student volunteers was further expanded. More students from the Bethany School and other schools joined and performed community service with the Group, including Ericka Haverkos, Emily Jump, Kristin and Taylor Swope, Ian Jones, Jay Bekal, David Demo, and Chris Inglin from the Bethany School; Katarina Schneiderman, Grace Lamantia and Alyssa Stamp from Western Row Elementary School; Danielle Zucker, Ashley Schlissel, and Will and Noah Brackenbury from Indian Hill Middle School; Jen Dickhaut from Mason Intermediate School; Beth Lipton from Mason High School; Shante Eisle from St. John the Evangelist; Charissa Lake, Anna Handelsman and Morgan Schuler from Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy; Marisa Sponzilla from Lakota/Adena School; Amy Kohmesher from Sycamore Middle School; Hannah Dashley from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton; and Melanie Carrie from the Evendale School. Alex Adams now started attending Clark Montessori, Chelsea Kessler attended Ursuline Academy, Candace Kirksey attended St. Ursula High School, and Kevin Donnelly and David Trinh were at St Xavier High School.
Group members continued to develop new and exciting programs for residents of the homes. Veronica Burkel initiated a Healing Touch program for The Bethany Group by inviting members of the Good Shepherd Spiritual Healing Touch Ministry to the Meadowbrook Care Center. The Good Shepherd Church is now doing Spiritual Healing Touch at the Meadowbrook Care Center four times a year. Erin Leventry provided support to U.S. soldiers by organizing a group of friends to write letters to our soldiers who were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan to protect our freedom. Ericka Haverkos and Emily Jump developed an origami program customized to senior citizens’ needs. They not only selected origami foldings that senior hands could manage, but at times also used soft materials such as napkins instead of paper. Dennis Trinh initiated a slide show program to allow Bethany Group members to present their different experiences to the residents of the homes. Topics included Yosemite National Park and Wisconsin Dells. The digital projector the Group uses in this program was purchased with a generous Volunteer Support Grant from the Procter & Gamble Company. Dennis also invited the Cincinnati Art Museum to give slide shows on their popular exhibitions, such as "Petra—Lost City of Stone" and "Christianity in Art." Since it is difficult for the residents to visit the Museum, the idea is to bring the Museum to the nursing homes.
In this term, Mason Christian Village, Clermont Nursing Center, and the Ronald McDonald House (affiliated with Children’s Hospital Medical Center) were added to the list of institutions that The Bethany Group supported, mainly through visits of The Bethany Group’s therapy dog team.
To date, The Bethany Group has representation from twenty-five schools, and has at least some form of activities at eleven institutions in the Greater Cincinnati area.
The Fourth Year (2005-06)
At the annual meeting of the Bethany Group on September 10, 2005, Adrienne DiTommaso and Annette DiTommaso resigned from the Board of Directors while still retaining their other positions to allow the Board to elect two new members, Candace Kirksey and Lydia Ewbank. The Board then elected David Trinh as President for the 2005-06 term, effective October 1, 2005. Candace Kirksey was elected First Vice President, with Lydia Ewbank as Second Vice President, Dennis Trinh as Treasurer, and Patrice Kirksey as Secretary.
In this term, more students joined and performed community service with The Bethany Group, including: Erin Donnelly and Caleb Swope from Bethany School; Rebecca Kahn and Ethan Kahn from Indian Hill Middle School; Sydney Clark from Seven Hills High School; Dana Prazynski and Danielle Prazynski who are home schooled; Annie Foertmeyer from Winton Woods Middle School; Shelby Riddle from Bellevue High School; Lauren Rogers from Ursuline Academy; Suprasanna Mishra from Mason High School; Jason Li and Kevin Li from Lakota East High School; and Sophia Li from Union Elementary School. In this term two former presidents, Albert Trinh and Adrienne DiTommaso, graduated from high school and departed for college.
The members had also developed more programs. During the summer, Emily Jump, Ericka Haverkos and Dennis Trinh went to a Clown Camp to learn the art of clowning. They invited other students who attended that camp to perform and entertain residents of St. Mary’s Memorial Home and the Lodge of Montgomery retirement home. The Donnelly siblings, Kevin, Ryan, and Erin, arranged a program with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) so they and other students of The Bethany Group could go to the local SCPA facility weekly and give care to the abandoned dogs that were housed there and were waiting for adoption.
In this term, Maple Knoll Village, Pickaway Manor nursing home in Circleville, and the SPCA were added to the list of institutions that The Bethany Group supports.
Of particular interest is the recognition of the Bethany Group by the media. Due to its outstanding participation to the 2005 National Make a Difference Day, The Bethany Group was chosen to be the 2006 Regional Honoree for the Greater Cincinnati area by the USA Weekend magazine (which organizes the annual Make A Difference Day) and the Cincinnati Enquirer (local participant). On May 16, 2006, the Cincinnati Enquirer recognized The Bethany Group, represented by David Trinh, Veronica Burkel, Candace Kirksey, and Dennis Trinh, at the Aronoff Center for the Arts, before a Smart Talk Lecture featuring Whoopi Goldberg. The Bethany Group officers had the chance to talk and take pictures with Whoopi. Presidents of the Bethany Group: Veronica -2005, David-2006, Candace-2007 and Dennis-2008.
Furthermore, on May 19, 2006, President George W. Bush personally recognized David Trinh with the President’s Volunteer Service Award for his extensive community service, including his work with the Bethany Group, during the Presidential visit to Northern Kentucky University.
The Fifth Year (2006-07)
At the annual meeting of The Bethany Group on September 30, 2006, the Board of Directors elected Candace Kirksey as President and Lydia Ewbank as Co-Presidents for the 2006-07 term, effective October 1, 2006. Dennis Trinh was elected as First Vice President, Patrice Kirksey as Second Vice President, Emily Jump as Treasurer, and Ericka Haverkos as Secretary.
Dennis Trinh had always searched for ways to increase the participation of more student volunteers. First, in 2005, to publicize The Bethany Group, Dennis built the Bethany Group’s web site and became the custodian of this web site. Later he selected some performances of current Bethany Group members and posted them on YouTube to motivate Group members in their volunteer work, and for others to have some ideas about the different activities of the Group. Second he tried to expand The Bethany Group activities into other cities by sharing his experiences and suggesting his friends to open Chapters of The Bethany Group in their own cities. He also encouraged some members to volunteer at hospitals.
Besides music recitals, many arts and crafts sessions and origami sessions were organized and conducted by the very able Tajana Schneiderman, with the help of her many friends in the Mason school district. They include Deepa Kosuru, Melissa Maddux, Prathiba Prabakhar, Lindsey Randa, MacKenzie Shivers, and Katie Wicker, all from Mason Middle School; Michelle Tsai from Mason Intermediate School; and Cynthia Tsai from Mason High School. Others who started participating in The Bethany Group’s activities include Ashley Vorpe, Katherine Vorpe, Megan Vorpe from Sycamore Middle School, and Samantha Vance from Milford High School. A guess student volunteer was Kristine Hooter from Indianapolis.
The Sixth Year (2007-08)
At the annual meeting of the Bethany Group Veronica Burkel, Lydia Ewbank, and Erin Leventry resigned from the Board of Directors to attend college, and were replaced by Ericka Haverkos, Emily Jump and Tajana Schneiderman. The Board then elected Dennis Trinh as President for the 2007-08 term. Patrice Kirksey was elected as First Vice President, Ericka Haverkos as Vice President of Internal Affairs, Emily Jump as Vice President of External Affairs, David Trinh as Treasurer, and Tajana Schneiderman as Secretary.
Albert Trinh, a co-founder of The Bethany Group decided to open a Bethany Group Chapter at the University of Dayton. Albert and his UD friends Joy Burch, Julio Fiallos, Pan Ho, Pete Kolis, Fuji Le, Drew Morrison, Bich-Vy Nguyen, Hong-Vy Nguyen, and Allen Yu performed music at three local nursing homes. Admirably, Dr. Jennifer Seitzer, Professor of Computer Science at UD, also joined her students to perform as a soprano and a pianist.
There is also a young Bethany Group Chapter in the Mountain View/Los Altos area in California whose founding members are Ethan Goolish from Oak Elementary School, Jolie Goolish from Blach Middle School, Amy Tran and Michael Tran from Almond Elementary School, and Emily Tran from Los Altos High School. New members include Natalie Tran from Bullis Purissima Charter School, and Kathy Vo and Victor Vo from Campbell High School. .In Cincinnati, new members include Chase Coyle from Bethany Elementary School; Archer Amorosi from Mason Early Childhood Center, Anna Huang from Liberty Bible School; Mary Chamblin and Timothy Huang from Mason Heights Elementary School; Addison Amorosi, Ashton Cumble, Amanda Glover, Sarah Greensfelder, Jeffery Huang, Courtney Kappa, Katie Lipps, Michael Marino, Sean Patterson, Emily Schlimm, Olivia Small, Marti Sumrall, Ellen Stout, Arjun Venkatesh, Kaeleigh Warfield and Emma Zhao, all from Mason Middle School; Ashbey Amorosi and Brad Chamblin from Mason Intermediate School; Diana He, Shelby Laterza, Emily Pham, Linh-Thuy Vu, and Karen Zhang from Mason High School; Christina Lam from Lakota East High School; and Oliver Lam and Benjamin Leung from St. Xavier High School. Two seasoned members, Kevin Li and Tajana Schneiderman have decided to volunteer at Bethesda North Hospital.
After several years of extensive effort, The Bethany Group was finally recognized at the state level for its participation in the National Make A Difference Day. The "Raising Roofs in Vietnam" project that supported the Jarai people in Vietnam was chosen to be one of the ten projects (out of over 1,000 Ohio NMADD projects) to receive the 2007 Outstanding Project Award from Mrs. Frances Strickland, the First Lady of Ohio.
2007 Make A Difference Day Ohio Award