New Voices of Philanthropy

In partnership with the Community Foundation of Louisville

Presented by Delta Dental

By Tonya Abeln

Photos by Clay Cook

Makeup by Rick Bancroft

Hair by Ana Perez

The Voice-Tribune features, follows and photographs Louisville’s nonprofit organizations every week of the year; but this week, we decided to recognize five young professionals between the age of 21 and 35 who are making a difference in creative and inclusive ways. These ambitious individuals use their time, talent and treasure for worthy local organizations and, perhaps most importantly, they use their voices to advocate for those who often are not empowered to do so for themselves.

Our call for nominations was met with an enthusiastic response and resulted in the nomination of commendable candidates. In a city as innovative and compassionate as ours, there is no shortage of qualified people hoping to leave the world a better place than how they found it. However, the five honorees chosen display impressive initiative and leadership when it comes to contributing to the organization they represent. As the first ever class of New Voices of Philanthropy they will each receive a $1,000 grant to be given to their chosen nonprofit. They are the voices for established nonprofits of which you are very familiar and for lesser known charitable organizations that are only getting started.

In uncovering and honoring these new voices, we are grateful for the partnership and leadership provided by Community Foundation of Louisville, the largest charitable foundation in Kentucky. The incredible impact their work has on the state is unparalleled, and their efforts on behalf of nonprofits in the Bluegrass assure that organizations like the ones highlighted here can thrive in their desire to provide needed funds and do important work.    

We are proud to recognize and honor the New Voices of Philanthropy: Ozair Shariff with Muhammad Ali Center, Hannah Rose Neuhauser with Young Authors Greenhouse, Kelsey Petrino Scott with Petrino Family Foundation, Zakiya Lacy with Mahogany Foster and Cathy Shircliff with Backside Learning Center.

Keep reading for a bonus feature on our Future Voices of Philanthropy, two young individuals who, though not within the age requirement of 21-35, are worthy of recognition no less. We have no doubt Alex McGrath and Jake Latts will find themselves among these pages to be recognized again in the future as they grow their involvement with the nonprofit community. We salute their exemplary passion for philanthropy at such a young age.

It is our hope that these stories open your eyes to the important charities represented, and may the efforts of these young humanitarians inspire you to find your own way to fulfill a need or to contribute to and improve the community around you. 

Kelsey Petrino Scott

Photo by Jacob Zimmer

Petrino Family Foundation

When Bobby Petrino returned to University of Louisville football in 2014, his playbook included a charge toward helping the city where he found fame as a coaching powerhouse. He promptly established the Petrino Family Foundation with his elder daughter, Kelsey Petrino-Scott, at the helm as executive director. In just two years, the foundation has paid out to the populace in far more than monetary provisions; rather, this is a concerted endowment to lift up individuals and groups in the community that lifted up and cheered for Petrino.

“It started when we all moved back here,” says Kelsey. “My parents had given a donation to the children’s hospital when they were here before to build a new family center for NICU patients. When they came back, they wanted to get involved with the hospital again, but instead of doing a one-time thing, they sat down and came up with the idea of starting a foundation that could do more. A couple months after that, my dad called me and asked what I planned to do with my life. He told me that he had started a foundation and asked me if I would run it for him.”

Since that time, Kelsey has taken Petrino Family Foundation to a level they never imagined they could achieve, raising almost a million dollars to benefit the city of Louisville. As the only paid employee, her obligations are numerous and the administrative overhead is kept to a minimum. “I do everything,” she says. “I’m an event planner and an office manager. I do have a lot of great volunteers and board members, including some attorneys to help with the legal side and a CPA. I go out and visit charities, which is probably my favorite part of the job—to find the various organizations that are doing stuff to help affect the community as well as singular families and children, and try to raise funds to pass on.”

Petrino Family Foundation is one of the most recognizable charities in the city right now, not because of the famous name it bears, but because of the work of Kelsey. She recently launched the Love Louisville campaign through the foundation aimed to spread love in the city by building alliances, creating pride and inspiring compassion. In addition to the popular tailgate parties that precede every football game and their Annual Spring Classic Golf Tournament, the Foundation will launch a new event in February at Churchill Downs called “A Night of X’s & O’s”—a Valentine-themed dinner that will feature UofL coaches breaking down football for their guests. For information on this and other PFF events, visit petrinofamilyfoundation.org   

Note: Following our selection of New Voices of Philanthropy, Kelsey Petrino-Scott was admitted to the hospital after exhibiting early labor symptoms. The unexpected emergency delivery of her third child corresponded with the group photo for the honorees and is why Kelsey is not represented on this week’s cover. We are pleased to announce the arrival of Anissa James to Kelsey and the Scott family, and we wish them all the best as Anissa continues to grow in the NICU. Portions of Kelsey’s story are from a previous Voice-Tribune feature on the Petrino Family Foundation written by Kellie Doligale.   

Ozair Shariff

Muhammad Ali Center

When the Mayor of Louisville specifically asks you as a young professional to get behind and support an organization, chances are, you follow through. Attorney Ozair Shariff did exactly that in 2012 when Mayor Fischer encouraged him to meet with Donald Lassere, the newly appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of Muhammad Ali Center. “I had lunch with Donald and soon afterward he recommended me as a candidate for the Board of Directors at the Ali Center.

Membership on distinguished boards in the city was not new territory for Ozair, who serves on the Board of Trustees at Speed Art Museum, the Board of Doctors and Lawyers for Kids, Board of Directors at Pendennis Club and the Community Leadership Council for the Falls of the Ohio. But, as with everything he does in life, Ozair became fully committed to Muhammad Ali Center. He is currently a member of the curation, education and exhibits committee and is the chair of the collection committee. “As you can imagine,” he explains, “following the death of Muhammad Ali in June of last year, there was a sharp uptake in donations at the museum. It is our job to be good stewards of that money. The lifeblood of the organization is the daily programming that takes place there.”

This year, Ozair also served on the selection committee for the prestigious Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards. “The Ali Center and its mission attract very high caliber nominees. It was an honor to be a part of that early process of selecting the young and phenomenal individuals that correspond with the six core principles that Muhammad Ali made part of his life.”

Ozair shares that the easiest example of how the Muhammad Ali Center has impacted others internationally and locally in our community was when it became the epicenter of the global outpouring of support, admiration, sorrow and grief following the death of The Greatest. “It was great to see the diversity of those coming into the Center and paying homage on a daily basis for weeks and months after his passing. It was a very spiritual time for the city.” Ozair acknowledges that although Ali is heralded for his accomplishments in the ring, he will be most remembered for what he accomplished after boxing. “His legacy is his commitment to humanity regardless of race and religion and his message that everyone should be treated with respect.”

Ozair says he is awe-inspired each time he is in the Ali Center and hopes to educate the community that it is more than a museum. “There is a lot of great programming for school-age children. I would encourage them to take regular visits to the Ali Center to experience all it has to offer. It really is a jewel for the city. Each time I visit, I am reminded that I can do more to achieve personal greatness.” Ozair grew up in the Louisville area in Southern Indiana and attended Indiana University for both his undergraduate and law degrees. After participating in Teach for America in St. Louis for a few years, he returned to Louisville to practice law at Stites & Harbison, where he practices corporate and healthcare law.

To learn more about Muhammad Ali Center visit alicenter.org 

Hannah Rose Neuhauser

Young Authors Greenhouse

Hannah Rose Neuhauser believed in the mission of Young Authors Greenhouse so strongly that when she first heard of 826michigan, the nonprofit on which it is based, she walked away from her full-time position as a preschool teacher and hopped in her car to move to Ann Arbor to take an unpaid internship with the organization. Luckily, they were able to offer her a two-year AmeriCorps VISTA position, and thus began her passion for growing the imaginations of students through writing.

The original 826michigan was founded by novelist Dave Eggers, who believed that the world would be a better place if there were more teachers and increased opportunity for one-on-one mentorship. When Hannah Rose returned to her hometown of Louisville, she heard of someone locally who was trying to start a similar nonprofit and reached out immediately to be a part of it. With a mission to inspire students ages 6 to 18 from under-resourced communities, Young Authors Greenhouse is a new organization that is growing quickly thanks, in large part, to the volunteer efforts of Hannah Rose. Her passion and commitment run so deep that she even turned down acceptance into graduate school in order to volunteer her time to establish the nonprofit.

Hannah Rose shares that there is nothing more rewarding than seeing minds open and pencils move. “We really believe in the transformational power of individual adult attention,” she explains. “We believe that having caring, engaged adults listening and encouraging helps students become motivated to work hard. We believe that writing helps develop habits of the mind such as confidence, persistence and mindfulness. We believe that we all have a story to tell, and it is important to create the space for young people to tell their story and to amplify their voices. It’s not just about becoming a better writer-—it’s about becoming a better thinker, a more thoughtful human.”

As the volunteer manager of programming and volunteer outreach, her role is to write curriculum for the writing programs; instruct classes of students; recruit volunteers through outreach with universities, other nonprofits and community centers; train and manage volunteers and lead communication on social media. In this role, Hanna Rose dedicates at least 30 hours a week to these efforts. But to this young writer who believes “words are everything,” the rewards are rich.

She shares, “I’m proud when I hear a student say they are proud of their work and excited to share it, because honestly, that’s the best ending to any story. And it wouldn’t happen without volunteers, dedicated to sitting with students, validating their ideas and asking, ‘Well, what’s next?’ or saying, ‘You are really thinking like a writer! I’m really impressed.’ Seeing students realize that their voices matter is beautiful.”

In her nomination, Hannah Rose was described as “the heart of the organization” for her advocacy to publish an inclusivity statement on the organization’s website and for advancing students’ voices and their need to express their unique opinions as young people. With a program she developed that explores themes of community, culture, place and identity and how these things intersect, she encourages students, many of whom are children of immigrant families, to celebrate their cultures and share the richness of their experiences with others.

Hannah Rose encourages the community to get behind Young Authors Greenhouse by volunteering or donating, saying, “Whether it’s helping make origami forest creatures for a day or working with students for a semester, we have lots of different opportunities to make an impact.”

A sold out solo acoustic performance by Jim James with special guest Dave Eggers is scheduled at Clifton Center on November 17 to benefit Young Authors Greenhouse.

Learn more at youngauthorsgreenhouse.org.

Zakiya Lacy

Mahogany Foster

Zakiya Lacy is the founder and president of Mahogany Foster, a nonprofit whose mission is to break the barriers of underprivileged youth and bridge the gap to help them become successful adults. Like many in Louisville, Zakiya felt burdened by the increased violence in West Louisville. But unlike most others, she vowed to do something about it.

Zakiya’s dream was to establish a community center in the most underserved area of the city, so she started to research the proposition and began by canvassing the streets and questioning the teens she encountered, all the while bracing herself for a wish list she could not fulfill – a pool or a basketball court. She was surprised to discover that the requests were simpler than that – they needed a free lunch program. “I realized we needed more than just a community center,” she recalls. “We needed something that could provide the social life skills that some of us take for granted every day.”

Mahogany Foster was established in 2015 with three friends in Zakiya’s living room, and until their fundraising efforts began, was supported through her personal income. “I knew nothing about starting or running a nonprofit, but I had a lot of passion and so I gathered people from different walks of life and developed our board,” she shares.

One of the first efforts for Mahogany Foster was a back-to-school kickoff held at 40th and Vermont. “The area was surrounded by condemned businesses and boarded up houses,” Zakiya describes. The goal was to provide a hot meal the day before school and additionally she rallied volunteers to set up hair cutting stations, paint fingernails or provide any service that would make the children feel good about themselves as they embarked upon a new year. “We had such a big turnout that we ran out of paper products, so I went around the corner to a Family Dollar store to restock. I ran into a mom who was standing at the checkout with her child and she had six folders, some deodorant and some paper towels. When she got to the register she didn’t have enough money to pay so she went to put the paper towels back. I was able to tell that mom to put it all back because everything she was getting ready to buy – all necessities – we were providing around the corner for free.”

In addition to meal giveaways, and events for underprivileged youth, Mahogany Foster recently acquired a home in the South Louisville Government Center where they provide mentorship consistently to 15 girls ages 10 to 15. “Consistency and stability are important to these girls,” she explains. “I have mentored a 14-year-old heroin addict who was living with her elderly grandmother because her parents were addicted to drugs, and was I able to witness her turn her life over to God.”

The mother of three young girls herself, Zakiya credits her daughters as the driving force behind everything she does, and says they also help her stay in tune to the needs of today’s youth. While Mahogany Foster is her full-time passion, she also opened a food truck called Scoops in August that is rooted in a spirit of service, “I’m so passionate about youth that I even tie my business into my nonprofit. I want to give them a chance through Scoops to be job-ready and to teach them essential skills that they can take out into the workforce to pursue their dreams.”

Zakiya is currently looking for donations and volunteers for a Thanksgiving dinner to be held November 20 at 1st and Broadway under the overpass and is hard at work planning their first gala to be held in March. You can stay updated on ways to get involved at mahoganyfoster.org.

Cathy Shircliff

Backside Learning Center

Cathy Shircliff is one of those people you ask to take the lead when you want to get things done. She has a brain for development, a heart for service and the list of nonprofit organizations for which she has assumed a leadership role could fill a book that might be published by the company she heads, Shircliff Publishing. Yes, she is one of the Kentucky Humane Society’s most active advocates, both as a hands-on volunteer and as an integral part of the success of their fundraiser, Tuxes & Tails Gala. Indeed, you may find her at a Friends of the Zoo Board meeting, Kentucky Derby Museum Gala committee meeting or even helping to plan a fashion show for the Younger Woman’s Club. But, it is her work with the Backside Learning Center that has earned her recognition as one of this year’s New Voices of Philanthropy.

“I was potty trained at Churchill Downs,” Cathy laughs when describing her family’s lifelong passion for horses. “I may get lost in a car, but I can get you wherever you want to go at the track and can probably get you there in a freight elevator.” She started volunteering for Backside Learning Center in college. “As somebody who was very interested in speaking Spanish, Latin American people and horses, it seemed like a good fit. After graduation from Georgetown in Washington D.C. and upon obtaining her master’s degree in nonprofit management at UofL, Cathy joined the Board and currently serves as the development resources chair.

Cathy cares deeply and sincerely about improving the lives of the track workers at Churchill Downs and likens them to the unsung heroes of other industries. She explains, “The way I describe it is when you think of a movie, everyone applauds the actors, directors and sometimes producers. That is like the horses, jockeys and trainers in racing. You don’t always think about the people who make the movie happen. What about the sound guy and the lighting grip? The people who work on the backside are the ones who are taking care of the horses—walking them, grooming them. They are there every single day taking care of every need of the horses and trainers.”

She says the English as a Second Language program is the biggest the Center offers because “it changes the language barrier and gives track workers more access to education and opportunities.” Also of note is the after school program which provides homework assistance to students as well as special family programs for the adults. “These kids go to school like everyone else, but when they come home, it’s difficult for their parents to help with homework if they don’t speak the language.” Cathy continues, “While they are receiving tutoring services, we’ve offered programs from a sun safety course by American Cancer Society to bringing in a chef to give a healthy cooking class. Some just need help with basic social services like translating their phone bill or help with medical needs or basic government services.”

This year, Cathy will co-chair the Backside Learning Center’s 11th annual signature fundraiser, Benefit for the Backside: A Day at the Races, formerly known as Ladies Day at the Races. The day of food, fun and racing will take place on Friday, November 17 and will support the Learning Center’s mission to provide educational and social services to the equine workers and families at Churchill Downs.

Future Voices of Philanthropy

By Mariah Kline  |  Photos by Ryan Noltemeyer

Jake Latts

Louisville’s Got Talent

Jake Latts started Louisville’s Got Talent for his bar mitzvah project in 2013, and in just four years the spectacular show has raised over $25,000. Jake has been participating in local theater since he was a child, and now as a junior at Kentucky Country Day School, he’s preparing for college and hopes to make a career out of his passion for performing.

The annual competition that Jake started raises funds for CenterStage Acting Out, a program that takes live theatrical productions into schools and community centers throughout the region.

“I wanted to do something with the arts for my project because that’s a huge part of my life,” he says. “The goal of it is to reach kids through the arts who might not be financially able to experience them otherwise.”

The Acting Out troupe is made up of professional actors and theater producers who present high-quality productions for students of all ages. They bring all of their own props, costumes and other essentials to the school, and the plays they perform vary based on the age of their audience. They also lead discussions or “talk backs” after each play and provide activities and lesson plans, all of which comply with Common Core Standards, to go along with their performances. Acting Out gives students the chance to experience theater at no cost and without the need for a field trip or a parent’s permission.

The competition that supports these efforts happens in the spring of each year. Jake says his favorite part of the competition is the audition process, which begins this coming year on February 11 from 3 to 6 p.m. Around 100 children audition each year, but the judges have to narrow it down to just 20, a difficult task given how very talented so many of them are. Anyone between the ages of 6 and 18 can try out, and cash prizes are given out to the winners. Awards are given to one contestant age 6-12, one 13-18, one grand prize winner and one people’s choice winner with cash prizes ranging from $100-400.

When he’s not managing the competition, Jake keeps a overwhelmingly full schedule. In addition to his school work at KCD, he juggles piano, voice and guitar lessons and regularly participates in theatrical shows around town. He can be seen in the upcoming production of Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” at his school next month. Thankfully he can rely on co-chairs Lenae Price and Anne Ensign-Urteaga and help from Marketing Director Ben Goldenberg to make Louisville’s Got Talent happen.

Members of the community who would like to help Jake and the CenterStage team can do so by donating to or sponsoring the event through their website. You can also help by sending any talented children you know to auditions and going to watch the show at CenterStage on March 25. For more information, visit jewishlouisville.org/the-j/centerstage/louisvilles-got-talent.

Alex McGrath

The Invisible Wound Project

Most college freshmen worry exclusively about passing their classes, making friends and adjusting to college life. Alex McGrath and his partners, however, took it upon themselves to start a nonprofit, the Invisible Wound Project, during their freshman year. The organization brings students to the fight against childhood toxic stress through mentorship, advocacy and education. After just one year, they have already made incredible progress and are excited to see their efforts effect change in Louisville.

Alex, a dual English and Philosophy major who is minoring in Spanish, met his colleagues Praneeth Goli and Zachary Fowler at UofL freshman orientation in the summer of 2016. They and a few other students arrived late and crossed paths in the parking lot, where they ended up talking and getting situated as roommates for the night. As they got to know one another, they all realized they had a common interest in social entrepreneurship and psychology. After their time together, they eventually had the idea to start a non-profit and began the early planning stages.

Initially, the mission of IWP was to create a preventative program to eliminate childhood toxic stress within the city. But since they lacked both the expertise and the platform to do this, they altered their mission to its current state. IWP currently works with Big Brothers Big Sisters to send mentors and mentees on fun outings around the city. They’re still in the pilot phase of this program with just 20 volunteers, but they hope to put a plan in place to triple their impact on childhood toxic stress over the next three years.

IWP’s approach to helping the community and solving the problem of childhood toxic stress revolves around involving students in their work.

“There’s a clear gap in engagement of college students, specifically within Louisville,” says Alex. “They’re not getting as involved in this landscape as they could, and since they’re the next generation of leaders, we want to cultivate their abilities now in the landscape of childhood toxic stress.”

What exactly is childhood toxic stress? Alex describes it as being synonymous with adversity, neglect and abuse, ranging from exposure to alcoholism to divorce and other stressful events. Without adult guidance or intervention, these stressful experiences can have profound impacts on a children’s development and lead them to making problematic decisions. For those who want to learn more about the issue, Alex and his team have done their research. The IWP website has a thorough and clear explanation plus a great deal of analysis of childhood toxic stress.

As for Alex’s future plans, he hopes to earn a dual masters in business administration and a master’s degree in public policy. IWP has only been up and running for a year, but Alex and his partners know that the best is yet to come. He recently had the opportunity to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative Conference in Boston, where he presented IWP’s prospective plan and shared their mission with a number of Harvard students and professors. Now, they’re looking forward to sharing it with the local community and gaining the support and interest of Louisvillians. For those who wish to donate or get involved with IWP, visit theiwp.org. VT