Author: United Way of Greater Cleveland

12 Ways to Give Back in Cleveland During the Holidays

Young Family in Winter Clothes

The holiday season is the perfect time of year to give—and not just to your friends and family. For the 227,000 people in Greater Cleveland living in poverty, on top of every holiday list is one wish: stability. Spreading cheer can be as simple as giving a few hours of your time or donating supplies to help others stay warm. We’ve compiled 12 ways you and your family can give back to the Land this holiday season.

 

Volunteer 

Volunteering your time is not only beneficial to families in our community, but also to your own personal well-being. Studies show that giving back has a positive effect on both your physical and mental health. Taking the time to improve the lives of our neighbors in need gives the greatest gift of all: kindness. 

 

1. Volunteer with United Way’s Network of Local Nonprofits

United Way of Greater Cleveland is our city’s “go-to” resource for volunteerism and community involvement. Utilizing our wide network of local nonprofit organizations, United Way can match you with the perfect volunteer opportunity that fits your interests and talents.  

 

2. Donate Professional Time Pro Bono 

Do you have professional work experience that you can use to help others in need? Consider donating pro bono time this holiday season. Pro bono work allows professionals to offer their skills to nonprofit organizations who might not be able to afford these services full-time. Contact United Way of Greater Cleveland to learn how you can donate your valuable skills.  

 

3. Join United Way Young Leaders 

Young Leaders are professionals in their 20s and 30s who work with United Way of Greater Cleveland to make our community better through philanthropy, volunteerism and advocacy. Young Leaders engage with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland, providing support and mentorship opportunities for at-risk youth. Through their volunteer opportunities, Young Leaders have the chance to grow both professionally and personally. Learn how you can get involved 

 

4. #Give10 with the Cleveland Browns

Join the Cleveland Browns’ First and Ten movement by pledging to “#give10” hours of volunteer service each year in our community. As one of the Cleveland Browns’ nonprofit partners, United Way of Greater Cleveland offers volunteer opportunities within our community. Take the pledge and work along aside fellow Browns fans.

 

Donate

We understand the holidays can be particularly busy and many of us do not have additional time to spare. Donating supplies, funds and food to worthy nonprofits takes only minutes and can make a substantial impact in helping those in need.

 

5. Create a Food Donation Box within Your Office

It is so easy to get your co-workers involved in giving back to the community when you bring the donation opportunities directly to them. Collect nonperishable foods, canned goods and toiletries right within your office to donate to your company’s nonprofit of choice. United Way of Greater Cleveland recommends donating to one of our vetted charity partners devoted to meeting basic human needs.

 

6. Donate Winter Clothing

Cleveland is known for its long, cold winters. For those without homes or warm places to sleep, access to winter clothing can be a matter of life or death. This holiday season, consider donating your old coats, jackets, hats and gloves to nonprofits that provide emergency shelter and housing.

 

7. Collect Educational Supplies

More than half of Cleveland’s children live in poverty. Its effects can influence brain development, making it more difficult for our community’s children to achieve success. By donating books, pencils, craft materials and other educational supplies to United Way’s network of childhood education charities, you can help young learners support and develop necessary skills.

 

8. Give to United Way of Greater Cleveland

Donating directly to United Way of Greater Cleveland is the best way to make your dollars go further in aiding our community. We direct funds to our network of vetted nonprofit partners to help improve the lives of people in need. 92% of United Way’s work is funded directly by community members, so please consider giving a donation this holiday season.

 

Educate

Many people in our community are unaware of the ongoing effects of poverty occurring every day in the Greater Cleveland area. Taking the time to educate our neighbors, co-workers and friends about how we can combat the root causes of poverty can make a major difference for thousands. 

 

9. Share United Way’s Work on Social Media 

United Way of Greater Cleveland is our region’s support system, but many of our neighbors are unaware of the work our organization does. Sharing United Way’s mission and the stories of people we have helped on social media is one way to encourage others to give back to our community. 

 

10. Engage in Public Policy 

Advocating for public policy that promotes the well-being of others in Greater Cleveland is an incredibly powerful way to give back. Consider promoting government policies and programs that address access to basic needs, health, education and financial assistance. Learn how you can get involved in making a legislative impact.  

 

11. Prevent Bullying with the NFL Character Playbook Challenge 

The National Football League (NFL) and United Way have teamed up to create the NFL Character Playbook Challenge. Now through February 3rd, schools and students are encouraged to implement bully-proof strategies by educating students about healthy interpersonal relationships. Cleveland-area schools and students still can get involved if they sign up today.  

 

12. Commit to Giving Back in 2019 

Each day is a new opportunity to improve the lives of people in need. You can help make a difference at home in Cleveland by committing to giving back in 2019. All the ways listed above are just scratching the surface when it comes to disrupting the cycle of poverty. Contact United Way of Greater Cleveland or follow us on social media to learn all the ways you can make a difference in the new year.  

 

Fighting Against Mental Health Stigma

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States and the leading cause of disability worldwide. Globally, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression. For some individuals, it can interfere with their ability to accomplish daily activities.

Despite reports from the National Institute of Mental Health that 6.7% of all U.S. adults have experienced at least one depressive episode, stigmas remain attached to mental disorders. This form of societal prejudice was familiar to Melodie well before she began struggling with her own depression.

“My sister is mentally ill and there was a stigma attached with that,” says Melodie, a patient at United Way-funded Far West Center. “We were always told at home not to tell anyone about it and that it was a secret.”

Then, Melodie and her friend were involved in a serious car accident that dramatically impacted Melodie’s mental well-being. “After the car accident, I withdrew myself from all social activities. I knew I needed help. My sister was coming to Far West, so I went with her to a group therapy class. Afterward, an employee approached me and said, ‘Let’s see you by yourself too.’”

Expression Through Art Therapy

With United Way funding, individuals in the Greater Cleveland area are granted access to counseling, art therapy and other therapeutic methods to treat depression, anxiety and other mental disorders.

After several sessions at Far West Center, Melodie still struggled with socializing with others. She tried different forms of therapy until she began attending the center’s art club to help treat her depression. It was then that Melodie began to see dramatic changes.

“One of the first art assignments I was given was to draw how do you see yourself, how do you think others see you and what you like to see,” said Melodie. “What I drew first wasn’t even a human person—one was a couch potato and the other was just a big blob. But in the third drawing, I drew myself as a professional photographer and as an artist. And you know what, I actually achieved my goals.”

 

Melodie Portrait

There are many different approaches to treating mental disorders that provide those diagnosed with the necessary strength they need to achieve recovery. Individuals evaluating treatment can choose the process that works best for them. Different mental health treatments include, but are not limited to:

-Psychotherapy
-Medication
-Support Groups
-Art Therapy
-Music Therapy
-Peer Support

For Melodie, art therapy helped treat her depression in ways she never imagined. “The art therapy program was a game changer for me because it let the walls come down,” she said with a grin. “Not being in a clinical situation one-on-one was extremely helpful. Instead, you focus on expressing yourself through the art.” Today, Melodie continues to work to improve her mental health and now commissions her art and photography all over Northeast Ohio.

Stand Against Mental Health Stigma

The stigma surrounding mental health disorders often prevents people from seeking the help they need. This is an unacceptable burden to carry for those already in pain. While the societal stigma has reduced in recent years, there is still more work to be done. You can help advocate for individuals like Melodie fighting against the stigma of mental illness by engaging in public policy and donating to United Way of Greater Cleveland. United, we can build a kinder, healthier Cleveland for everyone.

Do you or a loved one need help accessing mental health resources? Call 2-1-1 to speak with a mental health professional trained in helping individuals find the care they need.