We’re United in Kindness

United in Kindness is back again in Tompkins County this October!

United in Kindness is a series of events and activities organized by the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force for National Bullying Prevention Month and National Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.

DOWNLOAD United in Kindness Schedule

This year the series includes “Huddle Together: Mental Health for Athletes Week”; a story walk with a book giveaway for kids in Lansing; a creative writing workshop for youth at Tompkins County Public Library; and Fall Family Fun Day at the Mental Health Association on the Commons.

One of the highlights is How I See Myself, where youth ages 5-21 are invited to create and submit self portrait artworks for an art exhibition starting October 26 at the Outreach Center in Center Ithaca. The exhibition will host a reception on Friday Gallery Night on November 3.

According to organizer Mental Health Association in Tompkins County, “Bullying can affect the way we see ourselves, and art can be a healing and a powerful way of communicating those feelings. Our mission for this exhibit is to send the message that we are not alone, that bullying prevention matters, and that we each have a powerful voice to contribute.”

Dryden Central School District will launch a year-long campaign to promote kindness, includes a family dinner with a discussion about bullying, student “be kind” pledges, and more.

This year’s United in Kindness features three professional presentations on bullying and cyberbullying.

Stephanie S. Fredrick, associate director of the Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention at the University at Buffalo, presents “Cyberbullying and Social Media Use: Overview and Implications for schools and families.”

Brandi Remington, TST-Boces Youth Development Coordinator, presents “Dignity for All Students Act: Empowering Parents & Caregivers to Address Bullying.”

And author James Garbarino presents “And Words Can Hurt Forever: How to protect adolescents from bullying, harassment, and emotional violence.”

Huddle Together: Mental Health for Athletes Week 9/27 through 10/10

@ Cornell University &  Ithaca High School

Home sports events are branded as “Mental Health Awareness” games with information available about community resources. 

Free Hugs @ Apple Harvest Festival 9/29 through 10/1 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

@ Ithaca Commons

Free Hugs Ithaca and Be Kind Ithaca team up to give away t-shirts and iconic Be Kind hearts—and actual hugs—to dozens of lucky Apple Fest attendees.

Domestic Violence Reading Kits 10/1 through 10/31

@ Public & school libraries and select other locations, Advocacy Center kits contain reading lists for teens & adults, healthy relationship bookmarks, support resources, and purple ribbons for Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.

How I See Myself 10/9 through 11/6

@ Mental Health Association Outreach Center in Center Ithaca

Tompkins County youth ages 5-21 are invited to create and submit self portrait artworks by 10/9 deadline. Creative art exhibition from 10/26–11/6 at the Outreach Center @ Center Ithaca. Gallery Night Reception 11/3 5-8 p.m.

Story Walk 10/14 10 a.m.-12 Noon

@ Lansing Center Trail, 104 Auburn Road, Lansing—(Scoops Ice Cream parking lot)

A guided read-aloud of The Nook, by Sally Anne Garland. Plus bookmaking and activities for the whole family.

8th Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest 10/14 10 a. m.-4 p.m.

Bernie Milton Pavilion

Fun event including live music and information tables to raise awareness about mental health. Contest submissions from 10 a.m.-12 Noon

United in Kindness in Dryden October through June

Schools throughout Dryden Central School District

A year-long campaign to promote kindness kicks off 10/16.

United in Words 10/21 2 p.m.-3:30 p.m.

Tompkins County Public Library

Young Adult novelist Bree Barton leads a fun, interactive youth writing workshop for Tompkins County students with a focus on creativity, collaboration, and cool prizes.

Cyberbullying & Social Media 10/24 12 Noon-1 p.m.

On Zoom

Symposium for parents and caregivers on keeping children safe from cyberbullying by Stephanie S. Fredrick of the Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention.

Empowering Parents & Caregivers to Address Bullying 10/25 6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.

On Zoom

A presentation about New York State’s Dignity for All Students Act by Brandi Remington, TST-Boces Youth Development Coordinator.

And Words Can Hurt Forever 10/27 5 p.m.-7 p.m.

@ Mental Health Association Outreach Center in Center Ithaca

Presentation on how to protect adolescents from bullying, harassment, and emotional violence by author James Garbarino.

Clothesline Project 10/28 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

@ Ithaca Farmers Market

Advocacy Center invites people to write Acts of Kindness messages on paper hearts for a temporary display and view Clothesline Project t-shirts with uplifting messages of support for abuse survivors.

Fall Family Fun Day 10/28 12 Noon-3 p.m.

@ Mental Health Association Outreach Center in Center Ithaca

Snacks, crafts, games, pumpkin painting, cookie decorating + info about family peer support.

For more information about bullying and the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force, go to: https://thesophiefund.org/bullying/

What About Via’s Cookies?

When entrepreneurs develop their business models, typically they identify gaps in the market that their bright ideas can fill. Via Carpenter, a 2022 business graduate from Ithaca College took a different approach.

When she entered the school’s “Demo Day” startup competition, she envisioned creating a business that could help fill the finances gap that many college students experience every day.

She won that competition and its prize money, and later others, helping her to professionally launch Via’s Cookies in Ithaca three years ago.

By now, Carpenter’s Cookie Crumble Madness, Snickerdoodle, Lemmie Boy, and Chocolate Chip cookies are known far and wide throughout Upstate New York.

She sells them at pop-up sites such as Angry Mom Records on the Ithaca Commons and The Downstairs venue on Martin Luther King Jr. Street. She delivers her sugary treats to retailers like The Strand Cafe and Ithaca Bakery, and caters heaping platters to countless business and social gatherings across the region.

What may not be so well known by those munching on Carpenter’s confections is the philanthropic social justice mission at the core of her business. She uses a portion of earnings to make cash donations, as she calls them, to students struggling to meet essential expenses.

“One of my professors asked, ‘If you’re starting a business, you have to solve a problem. What problem do you want to solve?’” she recalled. “My mind jumped straight to ‘Giving back to students.’”

Carpenter made her first donation of $120 three months after launching Via’s Cookies, to Amaechi, a student attending college in New York who faced a hold on their registration.

Soon, she made another donation, to Tracie, a student in Chicago. Then another one to Yahaira, an undergrad at Ithaca College. A recent recipient is Sage, a student from Ithaca who experienced racism in high school and is now studying forensic psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Thus far, Carpenter has distributed $2,063 in small donations to over a dozen students.

Carpenter promotes her gift-giving on her website and Instagram, through social justice partners like the Village at Ithaca, and by word of mouth. Her latest call for applicants ended on September 9, with a plan to provide five college students with donations of $200 each.

“I want to help people so that they can focus on their schoolwork,” she said. “And I have been able to do that. It’s been awesome.”

The premise of her philanthropy, Carpenter explained, is giving a percentage of her profits to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and LGBTQ+ students. “I chose those designations because these are a lot of people I relate to,” Carpenter explained. “I am within these communities where there are typically very oppressed individuals.”

Carpenter’s mission is rooted in her own life experiences, including racism and bigotry as well as financial hardship. She grew up in rural Ohio, where she was one of a mere handful of students of color at her high school. She never went on field trips, because she knew her parents would have to struggle to come up with the fees.

She understood that she would have to excel in school in order to win scholarships, and take out college loans, and she did.  But still the financial squeeze followed her all the way to Ithaca.

“They don’t tell you that when you get there, they expect you to pay thousands of dollars for things like laptops and books and all of this stuff,” Carpenter said. “I’m like, ‘Wait a minute! How am I supposed to do this?’”

The answer: she worked three jobs during her freshman year to help pay the expenses. “In the midst of that, I am thinking, ‘This is the problem I want to solve.’ I want people to be okay. I want people like I was to know that there is something else out there that is valuing them, that knows they are struggling even though they have made it this far.”

Carpenter is a self-taught baker, having begun as a kid paging through a Betty Crocker cookbook in the kitchen of her childhood home. “I never took any baking course,” she said. “I just experimented for a long time.” Via’s Cookies began in her downtown Ithaca apartment’s kitchen, but now she leases space in a commercial kitchen to produce up to 500 cookies a week. Besides an inviting assortment of textures and flavors, Carpenter offers gluten-free and vegan as well as regular cookies.

She first came up with her own cookie recipe at 13 and cherishes baking cookies as a family tradition. “When I look back, I have made cookies with every single woman that mattered to me,” Carpenter recalled. “My great-grandma, my grandma, my mom. Every one of them had their signature cookie recipes.”

Her business actually has its origins in Olivia’s Cookies, which she started in her teens and sold to classmates to earn some needed cash. But her high school shut her down, she said, claiming that she was taking away business from the school lunch program. “This was some weird bias,” she recalled. “I think it was probably racism.”

Carpenter does not have a particular ambition to become a star pastry chef, but she has enjoyed her business versatility in expanding her brand. One of her partnerships is with Sweet Melissa’s Ice Cream Shop, creating ice cream cookie sandwiches and pairings such as lemon cookies with Key Lime scoops.

But Carpenter’s passion for social justice is something else. “It took me a while to even think of myself as a baker,” she said.  “I have a sweet tooth. Essentially, I really like cookies. And I’m using cookies to spread a message.”

“The goal,” she added, “is to get my business to a place where I can form a foundation that gives thousands of dollars.”

In an interview about Via’s Cookies with her college newspaper in 2021, she said: “I want to pursue social justice, I want to make change in the world, I want to build up the people around me because as a student of color, I know the struggle. That’s what I include in my pitch because it’s the truth.”

She admires The Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, powered by ice cream profits, whose website says it supports “grassroots groups that are led by the people most impacted by the legacies of white supremacy culture as they organize for racial equity, and social and environmental justice.”

When she is not pulling cookies out of the oven or making deliveries, Carpenter is busy with other aspects of her mission. She is frequently invited to lecture on entrepreneurship,  and give motivational talks on racism and perseverance in the face of adversity. Recently, she was a guest speaker at the Community Foundation of Tompkins County’s Annual Celebration and a donor brunch hosted by the Ithaca College Alumni Association.

Carpenter’s fans may be in for another treat before long: The Ultimate Cookie Plate Cookbook, with recipes from pastry chefs around the world, and some of her own. “The base cookie recipe that I use is almost exactly the same from the one I made in high school,” Carpenter said. “So it’s come a long way.”

How I See Myself

Calling all young artists! The Mental Health Association in Tompkins County is inviting youth aged 5-21 to create self-portraits for an art exhibition beginning October 23. The deadline for submissions is October 9.

The exhibition, “How I See Myself: Self Portraits of Youth and Young Adults,” will take place from October 23 to November 3 at the organization’s Outreach Center in Center Ithaca on the Ithaca Commons. A reception will be held to celebrate the artworks on Gallery Night November 3.

Click HERE to learn more and access the Submission Form

The exhibition is part of the United in Kindness series of events in October coordinated by the Tompkins County Bullying Prevention Task Force to mark National Bullying Prevention Month. The exhibition is made possible in part by a grant from The Sophie Fund.

“Bullying can affect the way we see ourselves, and art can be a healing and a powerful way of communicating those feelings,” the organizer said. “Our mission for this exhibit is to send the message that we are not alone, that bullying prevention matters, and that we each have a powerful voice to contribute.”

To participate in the exhibition, artists must submit one piece of art in any style or medium including video pieces of five minutes or less. All works must originate with the artist submitting them. No copyrighted materials may be submitted for this exhibition.

Each piece must not exceed 24 inches in height, width, or depth. All artwork must be ready to hang. Framed or matted, it must have wire across the back by which to be hung. Sculptures must be stable and able to stand on their own (24 inches or less in diameter).

Participants are asked to write a brief statement about their artworks, about the medium being used, feelings about their piece, what they liked about making a self portrait, or anything that would help the viewer understand more about the work.

Walking for Hope and Change

More than 200 people raised over $30,000 in the 11th Annual Greater Ithaca Out of the Darkness Walk on September 9 organized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Greater Central New York Chapter.

2023 Out of the Darkness Walk at Myers Park

The walk, which took place in Meyers Park in Lansing on the edge of Cayuga Lake, is among 400 held across the country every year designed to raise awareness and collect funds for research, training, and programming.

This year’s Greater Ithaca walk was held during National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Walkers included many people who lost a loved one, friend, or colleague to suicide.

L³ Lisa’s Lagomorph Legion was the top fundraising team this year, collecting $6,285. Team Hope brought in $3,507; Jack’s Pack $2,377; Team 22 $1,150; and CFCU Standing with Stacy $1,110.

To add a donation to AFSP, click here

“Our mission, to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide, would not be possible without each of you,” Crystal Howser, the walk chair, said in remarks kicking off the event.

Howser said that she volunteers with AFSP to remember and honor the memory of her father, Jerry Howser, and the many others who lost their battle to depression and other mental illnesses. 

“We strive to be a source of strength for our community and let everyone know they are not alone,” she added. “On this journey, strangers turn into friends and friends turn into family as we connect with one another and navigate through our grief. Together, we are strong. Together, we are making a difference.”

AFSP’s Cheyanne Scholl, Crystal Howser, and Karen Heisig

Dave Ashton, morning host on Ithaca’s WYXL-FM, said that suicide is the eleventh leading cause of death in the United States and can no longer be swept under the rug.

“By showing up today, you are sending the message that mental health is as real as physical health. You are sending the message that reaching out for help is the strong thing to do. Suicide is a health issue that affects all of us,” he said.

Scott MacLeod, co-founder of The Sophie Fund, a mental health advocacy organization in Ithaca, said that the most recent statistics indicate a 5 percent increase in the national suicide rate in 2021 and 2.6 percent increase in 2022.

But he cited contributions to greater local suicide prevention efforts, by AFSP as well as the Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition, Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service, Cayuga Health System, and others. He said that medical providers are working toward implementing the Zero Suicide Model, a quality improvement program designed to more effectively identify at-risk individuals and close gaps in in their care management.

The 2023 walk was sponsored by:

CFCU Community Credit Union; The Strebel Planning Group’s Fund for Community Enrichment; Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service; Maguire Automotive; Borgwarner; Pizza and Bones; Lansing Funeral Home; Ithaca Beer Company; Texas Roadhouse; Moore Family Farm; Cayuga Health System; Visions Federal Credit Union; Lansing Redemption Center; Cayuga Lake National Bank; Tioga State Bank Foundation; Ithaca Apartment Management/Solomon Organization; Antlers Restaurant; GreenStar Food Co+op.

Town Hall: How Healthcare Helps Prevent Suicides

The Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition will host “How Healthcare Helps Prevent Suicides,” a community town hall to discuss local efforts to implement the “Zero Suicide” model for improving healthcare support for at-risk individuals.

The town hall, at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center (GIAC) on September 28 from 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., will feature panel discussions about why suicide is a public health challenge and how the Zero Suicide model is used by healthcare systems to prevent suicide deaths.

Whole Health Commissioner Frank Kruppa will kick off the town hall with opening remarks.

Organizations serving as presenters and panelists include: Tompkins County Mental Health Services; Cayuga Health System; Cayuga Medical Associates; Guthrie Medical Group, Cortland; Cornell University; Ithaca City School District, Alcohol and Drug Council; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service (988 Call Center); Cayuga Addiction Recovery Services; Smile Through the Storms; and The Sophie Fund.

In addition, Coalition work groups will give brief presentations on their work to improve suicide data collection and analysis, prevent suicides among young people, and reduce access to lethal means within at-risk populations.

Several local mental health agencies and organizations will provide information tables with staff who can answer questions. They include: Tompkins County Whole Health; Tompkins County Office of Veterans Services; U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Mental Health Association in Tompkins County; Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service (988 Call Center); American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Greater Central New York; and the National Alliance on Mental Illness Finger Lakes.

Zero Suicide is an emerging suicide prevention model designed to save lives by closing gaps in suicide care in healthcare as well as behavioral health settings.

The model calls for systematic use of screening for self-harm, safety planning for patients deemed at risk, referrals to appropriate levels of further care, safe transitions of care between providers, and evidence-based treatment for suicidality, among other tools.

“We recognize the critical role of healthcare in preventing suicide deaths,” said Zoe Lincoln, Whole Health Planner with Tompkins County Whole Health and Coordinator of the Tompkins County Zero Suicide Steering Committee, a collaborative group of local healthcare leaders. “The Town Hall highlights county-wide dedication to saving lives through evidence-based best practices, via the Zero Suicide Model. Together, we strive to elevate the standard of care and support for our community members in need.” 

Implementation of Zero Suicide across local healthcare is one of the objectives listed in the Coalition’s 2022-2025 Strategic Plan. In 2022, leaders from community and campus healthcare providers formed the Tompkins County Zero Suicide Steering Committee to lead and coordinate efforts.

The Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition was formed in 2017 and is comprised of health agencies, community organizations, and individual members who share a determination to prevent suicide deaths in the community.

“We are excited to present this Town Hall with a focus on Zero Suicide,” said Sally Manning, Racker Program Director and convenor of the Coalition. “We recognize suicide as a serious public health concern. The Coalition has a vision for our community where no lives are lost to suicide. This is a chance to learn more about suicide prevention and what we can all do to help those who may be struggling.”

The Sophie Fund has encouraged Tompkins County providers to work toward implementing the Zero Suicide model, beginning with a presentation by leading experts for healthcare leaders in October 2017. The Sophie Fund then sponsored a series of five presentations and trainings on Zero Suicide for healthcare leaders and clinicians in 2021-22.