Champions for Change 1

These Prominent Loveland Women Represent “Boots on the Ground”

Heather Russell

Occupation: Hamilton County Judge

Cause: CHANGE Court

In addition to serving the Hamilton County Municipal Court, Loveland resident Judge Heather Russell also presides over the county’s CHANGE Court, a rehabilitation program for human trafficking victims with misdemeanor soliciting and related charges, and who also struggle with addiction.

In February 2014, Heather was asked by two Cincinnati police officers to create a program to help change the lives of prostitutes on West McMicken Street near the University of Cincinnati.

“It was an overlooked population. Nothing was being done for them, and because the jail was overcrowded, there was literally no room for nonviolent offenders. They were back on the street before the police finished the paperwork,” Heather says. “They needed someone to fix these girls.”

By March, Heather had arranged to meet with other law enforcement officers to draft a plan. By July, they had a roughed-out structure for CHANGE Court, a two-year program that involves four phases: orientation, compliance and stabilization, growth and development, and community reintegration.

Heather says there are about 12 women in the voluntary program at any given time. In the past five years, the Court has graduated six women from the program with three more on the same graduation track.

CHANGE Court offers the women medically assisted addiction treatment, clinic and psychology appointments, a lawyer to help with civil legal services, community activities and so much more. If they successfully complete the program according to the guidelines, Heather can expunge the charges that brought them into the program, as well as any other charges.

While CHANGE Court is a long, difficult road to sobriety and recovery, it is completely life-changing to those who have completed it.

“One of the graduates said, ‘No one had ever offered me help or treatment before. I wanted to get out of this, and I didn’t know how,’” Heather adds proudly, knowing she’s helped change that. 

Kathy Bailey

Occupation: Loveland Mayor

Cause: Loveland Legacy Foundation 

As an adviser to the Loveland Legacy Foundation, Mayor Kathy Bailey gets to witness firsthand the impact that community members can have on one another. It was, after all, their generosity that served as the impetus for the foundation. 

After 2017’s devastating downtown fire, those affected received an outpouring of aid, including generous monetary donations. Once everyone was supported with the funds, the business owners agreed to use the remaining donations to “pay it forward”—starting the foundation to provide resources toward the betterment of Loveland. 

The LLF’s mission is twofold, Kathy says. One objective is to support local charities such as L.I.F.E. and NEST, and the other is to have money available should another disaster strike the city of Loveland. 

“We are always doing fundraisers and trying to make sure we have what we need, so that next time, there’s a safety net in place … we’re already on our way [to having] what we need to help,” Kathy says. 

Upcoming benefit opportunities include plans to hold “band and brews” events (with an open container district) on the first Saturday of every month from May through August, culminating with another Loveland Street Fest in September. The Loveland Art Fest and the Frogman Race will also be held that same weekend. In addition, bands will be playing downtown during 10 Fridays throughout the summer. 

Kathy’s hope for the future of the foundation and Loveland is simple.

“Help your neighbor, that’s really what this is,” she says. “This [foundation] is a bigger way of doing it, but if we can all do it on an individual level … what a better city we will have.” 

Linda Bergholz

Occupation: Executive Director

Cause: L.I.F.E. Food Pantry

How does the L.I.F.E. Food Pantry serve hundreds of Loveland residents every month out of a 250-square-foot space? Executive director Linda Bergholz likens it to playing Tetris, where everything has its place, and there’s a place for everything.

Despite tight operating quarters, L.I.F.E. has been making it work, helping families since the mid-90s. Initially assisting 45 clients out of the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, they now serve between 235-260 families or 400-600 people every month.

Because the pantry is so small, they are constantly restocking it, pulling from additional reserves in the Prince of Peace loft and from two rented storage units. Linda and her volunteer shoppers use monetary donations to find good deals all over the city.

“The more money we can save, the more things we can stock and the more people we can serve,” Linda says.  

L.I.F.E. also receives funding and pantry items through food drives, grants, private donations, the Freestore Foodbank, grocery stores and other partner organizations. In addition to the pantry, L.I.F.E. helps residents in other ways such as a holiday basket program, student and giving shops, financial assistance and senior services.

Linda loves helping families in need, and she loves it even more when they tell her they no longer need the pantry.

“Nothing makes us happier than a family who comes in and says, ‘We’re not going to be back. We don’t need help anymore. We’re back on our feet.’”

L.I.F.E. is committed to protecting the privacy and dignity of the people they serve.

“Our clients deserve the same respect, dignity and consideration as a person who walks into Kroger to do their shopping,” Linda says.

Indeed, they do, and Linda is making it happen.