On an evening in 1985, not long after she had formed Over-the-Rhine's Our Daily Bread, Cookie Vogelpohl was up to her elbows in paint. She was renovating the dining area which saw scores of homeless, low-income and working poor men, women and children lining up each morning for a warm breakfast. Father Chris Hall, pastor of Old Saint Mary's, and Father Randy LaFond dropped by to visit, Cookie handed each of them a paintbrush. Fr. Chris and Fr. Randy had just started their own social service agency, Tender Mercies, dedicated to serving the homeless, mentally ill.

The three of them were scared and nervous, but excited about their new ventures. They plainly saw the call to the poor, but they could also see they needed help. They needed community involvement. Cookie, Fr. Chris and Fr. Randy sat around on paint cans that night talking and wondering how they could raise awareness and funds, not only for their individual work, but for one another too. They came up with an idea for a cooperative-CUP.

Fr. Chris, Cookie recalled, was a nuts-and-bolts type and always on the move. In no time he was drawing up a code of regulations and creating committees. In October 1985, CUP held its first fundraiser, a spaghetti dinner in the basement of Assumption Church. Fr. Chris, in charge of the parmesan cheese, showed up with several ounces in a sandwich bag. Cookie, with a crowd of 100 gathering behind her, just looked at him and smiled.

That first event raised $1,100. A spaghetti dinner the following year did even better. By 1988, CUP was setting fundraising goals of $100,000.

The breadth of CUP has expanded dramatically since 1985. In the beginning, five small organizations participated: Our Daily Bread, Tender Mercies, Bethany House Services, Over-the-Rhine Kitchen and the Practical Family Living Center. By the end of the 1980s larger and more established organizations, St. John Social Service Center, Mary Magdalen House and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul also joined. All of the agencies were bound together by their desire to uplift the poor. Fr. Chris served as the first board chair and Cookie took over later and leading the group for ten years.

The purpose of CUP is to raise awareness of the poor, share information and resources and raise funds for programs and services. CUP Trustees, consisting of the director of each agency, meet regularly to collaborate, problem-solve, share materials and raise funds. CUP speaks to organizations and uses mail solicitation, community events and social media to raise awareness of the poor and fundraise. Friends from all parts of our community and faiths have become CUP supporters because our wide range of services reach a diverse group of people who are in the greatest need.

While the face of CUP has changed over the years, the heart is still the same. We counsel and serve with personalized attention and minimal administrative costs. Our core values of Christian hospitality, upholding the dignity of all persons, direct service through the gospel-mandated works of mercy, and responsible stewardship of our resources remain the essence of CUP.

If you would like to learn more about CUP please visit or our Facebook page. Donations can be made out to CUP and mailed to PO Box 14548 Cincinnati, OH 45250.


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PO Box 14548, Cincinnati OH 45250
(513) 471-4990