Always doing something for someone
If you ask Marty Humes what’s kept her going through more than four decades of volunteer work, you’ll likely get a simple answer: “It’s the people.”
“It’s all about relationships with friends and people,” she said. “When people come together, it’s a very powerful thing, what they can accomplish and do. That’s been the driving force.”
That force has driven Humes to dedicate more than 20,000 hours to a long list of local nonprofits, raising more than $6 million to support their work.
And she has enjoyed every minute.
“I simply love what I do and the people I work with and the organizations that appreciate the help and the creativity,” she said. “It’s been a great run.”
From inspiration to impact
Growing up in Fort Thomas, Humes admired her high school boyfriend’s mother, who was heavily involved in volunteering with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
“She really had an influence on me,” said Humes, who now lives in East Walnut Hills. “I always kind of thank her for inspiring me; she was fantastic.”
After graduating from Highlands High School, Humes went to Purdue University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in business/retailing (after switching from her original math and computer science major because she “could never get the hang of using a slide rule”). She returned to Cincinnati and earned her master’s in education from the University of Cincinnati, where she also taught for a few years.
Shortly after moving back, she met Tom Humes “in the crush of the crowd” at a Cincinnati Reds game. (“One reason my husband married me is because I love sports,” she said.) They were married in 1973, and she quit teaching when they started their family, which includes their daughter, Jamie, and son, Scott.
Having two children less than two years apart didn’t stop Humes from volunteering – or from raising significant dollars even early in her volunteer career. She joined the Cincinnati Woman’s Club in 1979 and went on to serve as president, a role that she and others describe as being like a full-time job, from 2004-06. (“Probably the biggest change that occurred when I was president was that we voted to allow pants, because the dress code had always been dresses and skirts,” she said. “It was a big step!”)
Also early on, she was a founding member of Kindervelt of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s Clifton Group in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and became chair of that group’s Kinderklaus Markt. When she joined the Junior League of Cincinnati in 1984, her first volunteer placement was as chair of the citywide 1985 Kinderklaus Markt, which raised $89,000. Around the same time, she chaired the Junior League’s 1985 Festival of Trees, which raised $90,000.
Commitments old and new
Through the years, Humes has added more and more organizations to her volunteer resume without abandoning her prior commitments.
“I like a new challenge, but (there are) also so many things that I’ve been involved with in the past that I like continuing to support,” she said.
So while she’s continued to volunteer with the Woman’s Club (she’s chairing the holiday decorations for the clubhouse this year) and Junior League (she’s co-vice president of its sustainer council), she’s also gotten involved with Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park (She’s a past board member and currently on the Leading Ladies Steering Committee, where she raised $120,000 as co-chair for 2022-23) and Cincinnati Parks Foundation (she’s a past board member, past Hats Off Luncheon co-chair and current advisory council member); and the Christ Hospital Foundation Board, which she joined earlier this year and where she will serve on the committee for its 2024 gala.
Other organizations she’s helped over the years: CET; Wyoming City Schools; her college sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma; and the University of Cincinnati, for its bicentennial. The latter was with her husband, Tom, who served as the Bearcat mascot during his senior year. “We bleed red and black,” she said.
Oh, and she co-chaired committees for two major local events: the 2012 World Choir Games and Major League Baseball’s 2015 All-Star Game.
“Some of my friends have accused me of never saying no,” Humes joked.
“It never ceases to amaze me how many things she’s able to juggle,” said Saralou Durham, who has known Humes for some 50 years. “She’s always doing something for someone.”
Durham, a longtime fellow Junior League member who serves on the organization’s board, added up funds raised through all of Humes’ efforts through the years. She estimated that Humes has raised more than $6 million through her work.
“It’s totally remarkable,” Durham said. “I don’t think there are very many people who would be able to claim that.”
Humes was surprised when Durham came up with that figure. “I’ve never thought about that or added that up … You just do it because you enjoy it.”
Creative and fun to work with
Importantly, Humes helps her fellow volunteers enjoy the work of giving back, too.
“She’s so much fun to work with,” said Judy Dalambakis, who met Humes 30-plus years ago and has volunteered with her at multiple organizations, including the Junior League, Playhouse in the Park, Cincinnati Parks Foundation, University of Cincinnati and The Christ Hospital. “She’s just one of the most creative, enthusiastic people that I’ve ever known.”
“When you see Marty, she always has this big smile on her face,” she added. “She just is someone that you want to be with and soak up that positive energy.”
“Anything Marty calls and asks me to do, I always end up doing,” Durham said. “She’s able to elicit that excitement no matter what she’s doing … I know no one else like her.”
“I think when you really believe in something, you’re enthusiastic about it,” Humes explained. “You certainly couldn’t persuade other people to do something if you aren’t enthusiastic or really believe in it yourself.”
Humes sees similar passion in her fellow volunteers. “The volunteer community in Cincinnati is exceptional,” she said. “I’ve been to lots of other places, and I just think we have this enthusiasm for life here and we want to share that. People believe in this city.”
As for keeping volunteer work fun, “It’s that esprit de corps, that’s how I look at it,” she said. “I want people to feel good about what they’re doing. … I try to find ways to make people happy when they’re doing something that I know is for a good purpose so that they’ll want to stay involved. It benefits the organization and the community when people love what they do.”
Beyond her many volunteer roles, among the other things Humes loves to do is to babysit her nine-month-old granddaughter, which she does two or three days a week. “We’re all smitten, and it’s a pleasure to watch her,” she said.
She also loves to travel, be it during the trips she helps organize for the Cincinnati Woman’s Club or on her own time with friends. “I have some really good friends, I will tell you that,” she said.
Still going strong
With more than four decades of volunteering under her belt, Humes shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.
“I keep joking that I’m going to retire sometime,” she added. “But the truth is that I really enjoy working on things with people.”
“She’s like the Energizer bunny,” Dalambakis said. “She’s just touched so many lives and just continues on. … She truly is one of the hardest working volunteers that I know.”
“She’s still going strong,” Durham said. “Again and again, she’s a woman who says ‘yes’ and then follows through. She’s the kind of person we’re just so lucky to have in Cincinnati. She just inspires me all the time.”
2023 National Philanthropy Day luncheon
Thursday, Nov. 16, Music Hall Ballroom
Presented by AFP Cincinnati, the luncheon recognizes individuals and organizations for their contributions to Greater Cincinnati nonprofits. Networking: 11 a.m. Program and luncheon: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Tickets: $100 (nonprofit) and $150 (corporate).