Norwood Flora & Fauna: Temporary Beautification for Abandoned Space

The new building when Lydia’s House first acquired it, in May:











The same building, on October 29:












Lydia’s House’s new building was facing a long year of renovations. The windows would need to be covered, and we wanted to do that in a way that would be beautiful, and show that the building had new owners who cared about it. We connected with Woven Oak and Garden Camp, hoping that local kids could be involved in some kind of creative project to make this popular corner more beautiful. In mid-September Erin, Laura, Elizabeth, and I made some drawings from observation around the neighborhood. Elizabeth collated these drawings into a design, spread out over the shapes of the windows at 4502 Carter Ave. She chose six colors and created for us a simple but beautiful plan.

On an early morning in the last week of September, Ben and I bought 25 sheets of plywood. We got right to work cutting them to size, then priming and sealing them. Over the weekend, Deb and I finagled the Lydia’s House projector to enlarge the drawings and cast them on the boards.












Here is our tracing scenario, erected among the primed boards. We outlined the drawings in pencil, and wanted to finish them all that weekend, because on Monday the kids would start painting!


























This was our very first day of painting, with Girls’ Safe Space! Almost every weekday in October, kids’ after-school groups (facilitated by Grace and Erin) worked on the panels.












The next week, the Girls’ Safe Space girls finished the “hummingbird” panel.












These two created some very painterly cabbages.












We soon realized that “adult touch ups” would be needed. We also found that by painting the outlines in advance, kids were freed up to have more fun just filling big spaces with color. And why make a mural if you can’t go big?
















A scene from “the warehouse”. Making progress!












There is a method to the messiness.
















The kids of Garden Camp carried their panels safely across the street, to work outside in the lovely weather.


















A beautiful day with eggplants.











We brought a segment up to Lydia’s House, so the guests and their kids could have a hand in painting.











And then the day came to install! Here I am, in the air, “not terrified”. We got help from some Habitat for Humanity Young Professionals.
















There’s my co- associate Deb in the air with a drill. Some folks just passing by stopped to help, including our buddy Brent who advised us on ladder safety. He also suggested that we pre-drill the screws into the boards, which was very helpful.












We found a second drill and really got into the swing of things. Work like this is fun but also frustrating, each window had its own challenges. There were even a couple of times we had to remove a panel we’d already installed, to straighten it out or make it fit better.












Goodbye SNACKS!


Here’s some before & after images from each window panel:































































I really loved working on this project with Elizabeth, Erin, Grace, and all the kids. It was truly a collaborative and community-based project, and it couldn’t have been done without the work of many hands.

-Taylor, Lydia’s House Associate

September in Review

Every weekend in September held a joyful event! Here’s a few pictures and notes from the last month at Lydia’s House.


It’s our biggest event of the year: Women for Women. Maria Krzeski has planned and hosted this fundraiser for us for five years, and it is an incredible labor of love. Women gather, clad in shades of blue and purple, to hear the stories of our guests and the trajectory of our mission. MUSE choir serenades us, and we end the night with dinner and desserts. This year, we raised $75,000, exceeding our $50,000 goal. We truly could not do the work of Lydia’s House without Maria and the incredible generosity and commitment of women in our community.


Guests J and S planned this baby shower for weeks! J was our emcee, and led party-goers in some goofy games (including a milk-bottle-drinking contest). Anne prepared an incredible breasts-&-belly-shaped cake, as requested by S. It was beautiful to see S & her daughter, and her future daughter, surrounded by love. S was so delighted and grateful for all the cute and useful gifts she received, and is feathering her nest in her new apartment. The baby is due any day now!


It was the last night of September, and the last night of open season at The Cone. Lydia’s House guests and staff piled into minivans for a chilly night of ice cream in celebration of Meridith’s birthday. We all love ice cream (except toddler J, who is scared of it), but for Meridith, soft-serve is part of her daily office. After gorging on banana splits, ice cream sundaes, and classic soft-serve, kids and adults alike scrounged for quarters to play arcade games and hope for prizes. Our time at this local landmark was so much fun, but my favorite moment was listening to Raffi on the way home and hearing everyone sing along.

Though life may be challenging and stressful, we try to have fun together and celebrate each other. We’re looking forward to all that October brings!


Family Camp at Pocter Center

We’d been talking about it for weeks. When Anne first suggested it at dinner back in June, every hand shot up: Yes! We want to go to camp! We filled out health forms. We pored over the packing list (yet still forgot a couple things). And then, last week, the day finally arrived. The minivan was fully loaded with duffel bags and campers. We took off!

But first, we had to stop for lunch. For weeks, S had had a powerful pregnancy-craving for Chic-Fil-A. So that’s where we stopped. Gosh those fries are good.

At the green and spacious Procter Center,  we unloaded the van to a chorus of children pleading for the pool. This was a theme of the trip. Mary Ellen was the bravest and jumped off the diving board many times. Though it was his first time at the pool, Toddler J splashed with delight in the kiddie pool for hours. Kids of all ages enjoyed the shallow kiddie pool because it was so warm in the sun.

Our guests strongly approved of the Procter kitchen’s lasagna and meatloaf, and we all appreciated the cherry tomatoes and salad greens from the on-site farm.

Because of her pregnancy, S didn’t get to join in the rougher games and activities. She spent a lot of time in the Arts & Crafts cottage, tie-dying T-shirts and painting, making art for her daughter and baby-to-be. Then we got bit by the friendship bracelet bug! Many a tangle of strings could be seen hanging off our water bottles, and half the heads at our table were down, focused on our knot-work after dinner was done.

We loved all the sing-song times at camp, and have brought a few camp songs home with us. The big finale of Family Camp was the BLOB. A terrifying, exhilarating experience wherein a camper seated at the end of the blob is launched (by the force of a counselor leaping onto the blob’s other end) into the air, flies for a moment, then lands in the lake. Not everyone was brave (or foolish?) enough to try it. But we got to see Kid A somersault in the air, and our co-founder Mary Ellen go flying.

Family Camp was a great opportunity for the volunteers, staff, and guests of Lydia’s House to bond as a “fmaily group”. We ate, sang, and played together. Though we do these things at home in Cincinnati, it is special to be together in a beautiful place where we are reminded so often of God’s love and presence.

All the guests of Lydia’s House who have gone to camp in their life remember it happily, even if everything else in their lives at the time was rough. So we are glad to continue in the tradition of this safe, fun escape. We especially thank Procter Center and the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer for their scholarship support. ***

Field Trip to Gorman Heritage Farm

Here are some of the highlights from our excursion to Gorman Heritage Farm generously hosted by Kathy, a friend of Lydia’s House and one of the farm’s volunteers.

Look at that!  One-year-old resident of Lydia’s House points to one of Gorman’s goats – a new mother of twins.

Ever wonder where apples come from?

Chickens might be a little scary when they’re not on your plate…

…but rabbits are cute and fuzzy.  Can we take it home?

Before we take a break for lunch, we stop to feed the little lambs.

Our tour concludes with a riveting game of tic-tac-toe in the children’s garden.

Home Improvements

A house is like a living, sighing, leaking creature, and it always needs a little help somewhere. The house that holds St. Lydia’s has been standing for a century, and received some loving attention this week. We residents inside the house have seen the friendly faces of Georgia and Dennis Bishop popping up in the windows. This couple, our regular building maintenance volunteers, are taking on the long-term improvement project of installing new storm windows. The house’s original windows are still in place but have not always provided the most security from the weather, especially cold winds.

We really appreciate Dennis and Georgia for their commitment to us, and to the house’s many needs.


One of my first memories of Lydia’s House was a rainstorm so heavy it woke me up through the night, and when I finally got up in the morning I found the basement had flooded. Just a few inches, but still, a major project to drain and clean. And then, the next time it rained, it happened again. Our resident architect, Ben, and I started talking about how to fix it. So, a few weeks ago, a young guest and I dug up the yard, looking for the pipes that direct rain water away from the house. Once found, Ben gave directions for extending the pipes farther from the house, all the way to the gravel and concrete of the driveway. Look at the trench we dug!


I am so proud of this work. Four hours of digging, with a 7 year old assistant. We finagled some joinery, moved some pea gravel around, and tried to replace the sod. The yard looks a little bald in some spots but the basement hasn’t flooded since!

Post by Taylor Hand, Lydia’s House Associate