Tragic loss, and help she received, led to life of volunteering

VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR: Stacey Meyer 

Stacey Meyer knows about childhood grief firsthand: At age 9, she lost her mother to suicide.

That tragic loss led her to Fernside Center for Grieving Children, where she felt safe talking about what she was going through. Having that outlet made a huge difference in her young life. 

Stacey Meyer by Tina Gutierrez for Movers and Makers 2022
Stacey Meyer by Tina Gutierrez for Movers and Makers 2022

“I don’t feel like I would have been as successful through high school without having gone through Fernside. I would probably have remained kind of lost,” Meyer said. 

By the time she started college at the University of Cincinnati, where she earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in German studies, she felt ready to help other children experiencing a loss. She started volunteering at Fernside that same year, first as a group facilitator and then with camps. 

That was in 1996. Aside from some time away from Cincinnati – Meyer lived in Switzerland and then in Germany, where she was a Fulbright scholar – she has volunteered with Fernside ever since. Twice a month, she serves as a group facilitator for children who’ve lost a significant adult. 

“It’s hard sometimes because it breaks your heart,” she said. “You don’t want to see them hurting.” 

– Stacy Meyer

Meyer often sees the positive outcomes she herself experienced reflected in the kids she now serves. 

“Some of them will come in and don’t want to be there, don’t want to say a thing,” she said. “And then they’ll end up starting to talk after a few groups. And then somewhere in the middle, they end up becoming the leader in the group almost, the Type A person doing all the talking.”

She has heard of grades improving and watched kids get through nightmares and other challenges after coming to Fernside.

Over the years, her volunteer duties there have expanded into helping with fundraising, and she volunteers in that way with other organizations as well. That evolved, in part, because of her career: Meyer is fine wine manager for Heidelberg Distributing Company and can leverage her relationships with wineries – and make use of her own wine expertise – to help raise funds. 

Among her commitments is serving as a committee member and past chair for the Fernside Classic, an auction dinner and golf outing, since 2009. Meyer works on both aspects of the event, soliciting large sponsorships and donations for the golf outing, as well as auction packages for the dinner. 

Fernside is an affiliate of Hospice of Cincinnati, and Meyer has been on the committee for that organization’s annual Gourmet Melodies event since 2012. She now chairs the event’s food and beverage committee, lending her expertise to help with things like pairing wine and beer with the food. 

Katherine Buescher, events and communication development officer for Bethesda Foundation, oversees the committees for both the Fernside Classic and Gourmet Melodies. (Hospice of Cincinnati is part of Bethesda Hospital; Bethesda is part of TriHealth. The Bethesda Foundation is their fundraising arm.)

“(Meyer) is the moving force that gets people going to donate,” Buescher said. “I don’t think our events would be as successful without her.”

As a committee member for the Cincinnati International Wine Festival, Meyer has been heavily involved with the planning of that event since 2009. 

“It’s so great to be able to raise money by creating a fun event for people,” she said. 

Meyer also volunteers at Hyde Park School, where her daughter, McKenna, attends. 

A big part of what Meyer brings to her volunteer commitments is the ability to get others on board.

“She’s passionate about the charities she participates in, and her passion becomes infectious. You just want to be part of what she’s doing,” said Mary Horn, vice president of fine wine sales and education at Heidelberg, who has known Meyer for 20 years and brought her into the company. 

“Generosity and philanthropy come easily for her,” Horn added. “It’s just intrinsically the core of her being, that passion and that drive to do good and help others. It’s inspiring.

Meyer said she saw the volunteer spirit modeled in her own family, from her father who always helped at her school or extracurriculars (and to pick up and serve pizza at Fernside), to her grandfather, who always worked the board of elections or volunteered at church. 

Meyer has obviously followed suit, but always wishes she could do more. She said the time she gives back to Fernside in particular feels “miniscule” compared to everything the center did for her family – at no charge to them. 

“There’s no way that my sister or I would be as OK as we are now without the help we got,” she said. “Fernside covered psychologists for both of us, then just the regular group night sessions – it was just huge. I want to say I feel like we got special attention, but we didn’t. They take care of everybody as well as they can. It’s just incredible.”

Vicky Ott, executive director of Fernside, has worked there since Meyer started volunteering in the ’90s and has seen her impact over the years.

“There’s no way I could quantify the impact she’s had,” Ott said. “She’s probably touched literally hundreds of people’s lives at Fernside, and that’s directly, not indirectly by fundraising … that enables us to keep our programs free.”

“I can’t say enough positive things about her,” Horn said of her friend and colleague. “She’s just an incredible person, and I’m so glad that she’s being honored. I can’t think of anyone who’s more deserving.”

National Philanthropy Day 2022

National Philanthropy Day is set aside by the Association of Fundraising Professionals to recognize individuals, organizations and businesses inspiring change through nonprofit organizations. AFP Greater Cincinnati Chapter helps members and nonprofits practice ethical and effective fundraising to improve our community. 

Area nonprofits can nominate exceptional donors, volunteers and friends. Honorees are selected by a diverse committee of AFP stakeholders. Read more about this year’s honorees:

National Philanthropy Day Luncheon

Nov. 17, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., Music Hall Ballroom


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