Local Leaders Who Inspire Us
The Philanthropist: Jamie Beringer
Where others see trash, Jamie Beringer finds worth. Beringer is co-founder of Bicycle Recycle, a local nonprofit business that fixes up bicycles, scooters, tricycles and skateboards and gives them to local kids in need, for free.
Beringer can often be found buzzing around town, drumming up support from neighbors and local business owners and collecting toys with wheels for the nonprofit that is giving both bikes and kids a second chance.
Along with business partner Dave Lodder, director of operations, Beringer has given away hundreds of bikes and new helmets to foster children via Butler County Children’s Services, homeless shelters, Boys and Girls Clubs, and other local nonprofits since April, 2014.
“Everybody gives kids clothes and food,” Beringer says. “We give kids freedom and dignity. With a bike, they have something to call their own.”
“I am very passionate about kids,” she says. “They don’t have a choice. If we can give one bike to one kid and that kid changes his life because he sees that there are good people out there, then we’ve done our job.”
Bicycle Recycle partners with Community Foundation of West Chester/Liberty to fund the project.
Beringer is a single mom to three tween boys. She enlists their help with collection drives, scheduled pick-ups from businesses and neighbors, and fundraising projects, including crafting wreaths and jewelry from spare bike parts.
“I feel blessed. I am trying to instill into my children that, ‘You are lucky. You need to appreciate what you have,’” she says. “I want to be a good role model. I don’t want my boys to be selfish.”
Beringer has a knack for finding the positive in people and situations. With her generosity and energy, our community’s castoffs can boost children’s lives.
The Mentor: Nicky Willbrand
The best leaders are the best followers. Nicky Willbrand follows God’s call on her life. Fortunately for us, God led her to West Chester, where she is a volunteer leader of a local ministry with teenagers.
2017 is a benchmark year for this Woman to Watch. This year, Willbrand and her husband Daniel mark 20 years of Young Life with Lakota West High School. There’s no time for a big celebration—with four kids of her own and leading more than 150 teens at weekly gatherings and several Bible studies each week, Willbrand has a full family van and calendar. She’s a mentor, community-builder and caring adult to hundreds of local teenagers. And she loves it.
Young Life is a thread woven through Willbrand’s own spiritual tapestry. When she was a high school teen in Milford and college student at Miami University, she was influenced by leaders and peers involved in its life-changing ministry. Now, she volunteers with Young Life to lead a team of 12 college students and adults at Lakota West and a team of 35 dedicated leaders within the Lakota Community, covering West, East and Wyldlife, a junior-high-aged program.
“Young Life is a non-denominational Christian outreach to high school and middle school adolescents where we get the chance to introduce people to the person of Jesus Christ in a fun, non-threatening way,” explains Willbrand. “Club is our weekly gathering. We call it organized chaos!”
About 150 high school students attend Club each week to sing, play games and hear a short talk about Jesus. Another 35 teens meet in Willbrand’s basement for Campaigners, a co-ed Bible study.
“We enjoy being around teenagers and having a chance to speak truth into their lives…” she pauses and blinks away tears. “I look at my own high schooler, and I want someone to speak truth into her life. That third-party adult is really important at this age. Kids are finding independence from their parents, and that’s natural and it’s good and they should, but to have another voice directing them is of great value,” she says.
Wherever God leads, Willbrand has the courage to follow. She’s a woman on a mission, without ever needing to leave her home zip code to make a difference.
Lakota West Young Life’s Club meets weekly on Wednesdays, 8-9:15 p.m., 7724 Service Center Drive, West Chester (near Pump it Up). LakotaWestYL@gmail.com YoungLife.org
The Musician: Allison Zimmerman
Allison Zimmerman marches to the beat of her own drum. As a clarinet player since she was 11, this Lakota East High School senior is immersed in music. Zimmerman is poised to crash through the glass ceiling with hopes for a career as a band director, a field currently dominated by men.
Zimmerman cannot imagine a happy life without music. In January, she performed with the elite Bands of America Honor Band, which marched in the 2017 Tournament of Roses parade. As one of the drum majors leading the Lakota East Marching Band for the past two years, she took center stage at numerous shows. In April, she completed a season with Rhythm X, an indoor marching band, with a performance at World Finals.
Practice and hard work are the keys to Zimmerman’s success, musically and personally.
“I put in a lot of effort every single day. I make sure that I am dedicated and prepared before even walking into a rehearsal. If I have all of my stuff together, then I am able to teach other people around me. I practice all the time,” she says. “When everyone is the best that they can be, we can all be better as a whole.”
Zimmerman is more than a gifted musician and leader of the band; she is a community leader. She excels as a student, volunteer and tutor to special needs kids at a Lakota elementary school.
“It just takes one person to make a difference,” Zimmerman says. “Everything that you do affects everyone else around you.”
This fall, Zimmerman will study music education at University of Dayton.
Keep your eyes—and ears—out for Allison Zimmerman. Her love of harmony is changing the landscape of our community and the music world, one note at a time.
The Educator: Aisha Moore
Aisha Moore is a favorite teacher to many local children and parents. In a new role this school year, Moore’s classroom has expanded to include the entire West Chester and Liberty Township community. Meet your new teacher, a Woman to Watch.
After 18 years as a teacher to first and second graders at Lakota, and six years as an adjunct professor in elementary education at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Moore is currently serving as a teacher on special assignment as a leader for cultural diversity for the Lakota Local School District. She strengthens the weak spots in any situation with education: in herself, in her classrooms and in the community. She works toward ending stereotypes, ignorance and biases related to diversity.
“My personal goal is to have people think before they speak,” she says. “I’ve seen and heard teachers say things to kids that are unacceptable, with an unconscious bias.”
“I lived it,” she shares. “I personally experienced diversity issues. I know what it’s like for parents not to like me because I am black.”
Monthly, Moore and her colleagues gather “Champions,” a group of one or two teachers from each Lakota building, to discuss diversity issues and lead diversity training for staff.
“This year is about getting together to work on ourselves, look within ourselves, so that we can help others,” she explains. “Next, we will train the trainers within our own schools.”
Moore is discovering the power in putting like-minded people together. She broaches topics that often divide people, and finds links between them to build relationships instead.
“I want people to feel comfortable talking about diversity issues, speaking up when they hear things that are not okay,” she says. “A lot of people get closed up when you are talking about race and other differences between people.”
Moore’s job includes recruitment and retention of minority staff members. In March, she was an integral part of the team that organized the district’s first Job Expo. She used her natural skills for hospitality to design an event to attract a diverse pool of applicants to fill open district-wide positions.
“We had about 2,000 people show up,” she says. “Hopefully we can do this event every year to bring in more applicants and make people feel more comfortable coming in…people of any ethnicity.”
Moore’s warm and welcoming personality comes from a fire within—a blaze of passion for learning, children and advocacy for diversity. Her fiery spirit is sparking a community-wide fire, burning down the differences between us and inspiring change.
“I’m going in a direction I love,” she shares with a wide smile.
Moore leads with grace, compassion and hope.