More than 1,000 people gathered March 4, 2016, to get an update on the community work being carried out by United Way of Greater Cleveland. The meeting, at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel Grand Ballroom, packed in a full agenda of board business, storytelling and awards.
Guests were welcomed by a rousing chant and calisthenics by AmeriCorps City Year volunteers, then invited to enjoy lunch.
America SCORES student poet Feliciana Thomas-Hambrick, a 4th grader at Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Fullerton School of Academics, performed a spoken-word piece, “Confusion,” which included the lines, ‘I know I got to stay in my groove/and soon I will be just like you/with all A’s no C’s or D’s./I don’t want to be a follower but a leader.”
Simon Bisson, interim president of United Way of Greater Cleveland, began the meeting with a brief message. “If you know our mission, you know United Way exists to marshal and deploy the resources required to address the increasing cross-generational needs of our community. We can change lives only by working together, with our partners, allies and friends,” he said.
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish addressed the crowd, recognizing United Way’s role in the community.
“Many of the strategies in my vision are matched by work United Way is doing, including promoting ‘brain gain’ by engaging young people, job growth through training and stability initiatives, and social and economic equity,” Budish said. “In particular, we both recognize the importance of health care. I stand here with United Way, ready to do my part, to work with Cuyahoga County. We need you with us. We have lots to do, and there’s no time to waste.
United Way’s chairman of the board, the managing partner of MAI Capital Management, Rick Buoncore, updated the audience on recent business with the board of directors and affinity groups such as Young Leaders.
“The improved lives, the outstanding work – it happens because thousands of people strive every day to realize United Way’s mission,” Buoncore said. “There is a dedicated staff of employees, a rich network of agencies and community partners, and a caring community of loyal donors, volunteers and board members. I have served proudly because I can see the impact, and today I am proud to share some of those results.”
Buoncore referenced several data outcomes that drew applause from the crowd, including:
- In 2015, United Way of Greater Cleveland set out to help 23 kindergarten prep centers improve their state Step Up to Quality ratings. Ten additional centers, 33 in all, improved their ratings, which means thousands of additional Cleveland children have access to high-quality early childcare.
- United Way of Greater Cleveland set a goal to help reduce barriers to job placement by providing access to job training and education. In 2015, nearly 1,200 people obtained employment through funded programs, 116 percent of the goal. More than 92 percent of those individuals kept those jobs for at least 90 days, which is 134 percent of the stated goal.
- In 2015, more than 35,000 individuals were served through United Way of Greater Cleveland food programs; that equals more than a half-million healthy meals in 2015 alone, more than double the amount anticipated.
“United Way makes an impact every day, on a scale so massive and yet so personal, that numbers can only begin to define it. All of you have helped us make that impact. You have helped us change thousands of lives,” Buoncore said. Buoncore ended his two-year term as United Way’s board chairman at the meeting, and we thank him wholeheartedly for his dedication and commitment to our community.
Throughout the meeting, inspirational videos were shown to highlight United Way’s community impact, including stories of a formerly homeless woman who put herself through a health care class with tuition funded by United Way; a domestic violence survivor who told the story of how the resulting trauma impacted her children; and a look at the expert staff who respond to 2-1-1 calls for help. (See the videos here.)
Former United Way board chairman Paul Clark of PNC Bank, who won the 2014 Volunteer of the Year Award, presented this year’s honor to Sally Stewart. She is a United Way of Greater Cleveland board member and co-founder of its Women’s Leadership Council.
A special tribute was also made to Eaton, which recently completed its 100th United Way campaign, and retiring Eaton chairman Sandy Cutler, a true United Way champion. As a former United Way chairman of the board, Cutler oversaw the launch of 2-1-1 and the Community Vision Council. Through his personal philanthropy, his oversight of Eaton’s philanthropy, and his involvement as a volunteer solicitor, Cutler and his wife, Sally, have raised more than $90 million for United Way of Greater Cleveland.
2015-16 campaign co-chairs Debbie Read, managing partner at Thompson Hine, and Paul Dolan, chairman and CEO of the Cleveland Indians, recognized several outstanding campaigns and revealed the 2015-16 campaign total, which was heralded by the Cleveland Cavaliers SCREAM Team. This year’s total was $40,515,978.
Incoming board chairman Marc Byrnes, chairman of Oswald Companies, discussed his personal connection to United Way and kicked off his term with 2016-17 campaign co-chairs Heidi Gartland, VP of government relations at University Hospitals, and John MacIntosh, managing partner at KPMG.
“It’s gratifying and humbling how many people in Cleveland work to make sure our families are healthy and financially stable and our kids reach their greatest potential,” Byrnes said.
In his keynote speech, Bisson noted the complexity of issues facing our community.
“It’s not just hunger, or unemployment, or education, or housing, or dealing with trauma. It is a series of factors immune to any single approach or solution,” he said. “But while the issues are complex, United Way of Greater Cleveland’s mission is clear. United Way engages caring northeast Ohioans to make lives better and forge a stronger community. We do this by providing services such as 2-1-1, agency partners and funding prioritization; opportunities to help people find and keep stable employment; and through the security of helping families and individuals maintain their health by increasing access to nutritious food and health care.”
Bisson closed the meeting by welcoming to the stage Larry Bailey, a disabled veteran who volunteers at Fullerton School of Academics, one of United Way’s Wraparound schools. Bailey was featured in a video highlighting the impact of the wraparound strategy.
“Every action we take is fueled by your generosity and your faith in us as stewards of your time, talent and treasure,” Bisson said. “We need the support and company of one another to create and sustain our great and beloved Cleveland. For this generation. For the next generation. For every generation.”