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.
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.
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.
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.
One of the topics I will discuss specific to World Health Day is the term “population health.” It was introduced in 2003 and defined as “the health outcome of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group.”
United Way of Greater Cleveland works on addressing the health of the local population in multiple ways, by assisting people with direct health issues, employment, education and basic needs. While I help determine how funds are distributed to agencies in a funding area, or Hub, we call “Health,” all of our funding aids in improving our population health outcomes.
How do we impact health?
In our Health funding area, I work with a team of community volunteers to reduce the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (commonly referred to as ACEs). We fund programs that work to reduce violence, and ones that provide evidence-based care to people who have already experienced psychological trauma.
Evidence shows that people who experience fewer ACEs and less chronic stress, or who have support for recovery from ACEs, will on average have better physical and psychological health down the road. We also support patients who need support managing chronic illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure. While these are fairly obvious ways of helping improve our population health, other areas of assistance might be more surprising.
What other areas of health are there?
For example, United Way funds several programs that assist people with finding employment and career paths. Having reliable and meaningful work can be tremendously important for people’s health. We also help people access their Basic Needs, including food, housing, transportation and medication.
Without access to these basic life necessities, good health will be out of reach for many people. And through funding early childhood programs, and through our Wraparound Initiative in the Cleveland Municipal School District, we strive to make sure children attain higher levels of education, which is associated with long-term better health outcomes.
Finally, United Way of Greater Cleveland is the lead agency on a pilot initiative with several local partners to aid people with their health-related social needs. As we near the launch of this exciting endeavor, we will have more information to share.
If you would like to learn more about our work in the health arena, please visit our Web page at www.unitedwaycleveland.org/our-work-2/health/.
It was clear that this wasn’t going to be a typical night at the theater.
This was apparent when the entire cast stepped into the audience, passed out $1,000 in cash, and asked every person in the crowd to choose how to best spend that money in the fight against poverty.
Certainly not when the plot demands audience members passionately express their deeply held opinions about the problem with strangers in the next row.
But a show entitled “How to End Poverty in 90 Minutes” reveals, by name alone, its monumental ambition. This aspiration is precisely why United Way of Greater Cleveland decided to help bring the nationally acclaimed production to Northeast Ohio.
“This innovative play challenges common assumptions about the faces of poverty and how people fall into desperate circumstances,” said August Napoli, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Cleveland. “We wanted to shatter those stereotypes and strip away preconceived notions, and I think this powerful production does just that.”
“Those of us who have had a lot of opportunity in our lives don’t even think about how the basic things that we take for granted are enormous challenges for people in poverty.”
– August Napoli, president & CEO, United Way of Greater Cleveland
United Way sponsored last month’s six-performance run of “How to End Poverty in 90 Minutes” at Cleveland Public Theatre after Executive Artistic Director Raymond Bobgan proposed the two organizations collaborate on the venture.
“For a long time I’ve been wanting to bring this play to Cleveland but I couldn’t quite figure out the right partners,” said Bobgan. “And it was just so exciting to have United Way of Greater Cleveland step up.”
All shows sold out, including a matinee reserved exclusively for local high school students from a variety of schools in the community.
What is the play about?
The production unfolded in a fast-paced fusion of traditional and non-traditional theatrical elements, mostly on stage, but sometimes moving into the audience.
Among the most powerful scenes are vignettes in which actors portray everyday people struggling with hunger, low wages, racism and violent crime. Other jarring moments played out in just a few searing lines of debate between characters.
Interpretive dances and a musical number became tactics to creatively examine common notions about poverty. One of these notions included the long-held American ideal that it’s more admirable to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” instead of asking for help.
One scene transformed the theater into a social-activism quiz show, with audience members asked to stand front-and-center while answering multiple-choice questions about the demographics of poverty. The information appears on large video screens, while the crowd shouts out suggestions.
At other points throughout the performance, backstage interviews with special guests were broadcast live onto the screens.
What does the play do to help people?
The crux of “How to End Poverty in 90 Minutes” is the climactic decision the audience is asked to make at the finale of every show. They are asked to vote on how to best allocate $1,000 from ticket sales and United Way-support to combat local poverty.
The money must be directed toward one of five anti-poverty strategies: daily needs, making opportunities, system change, education or direct aid. A United Way-funded agency within the randomly selected winning category received the donation.
Cast members steered the decision-making process by leaving the stage to interact with their designated audience sections. The performers served as town-hall discussion leaders, encouraging lively conversations about priorities and the best way to help others, urging audience members to keep in mind what they may have learned throughout the show.
“We are not so arrogant as to decide for the people where they should contribute,” Napoli pointed out. “Our job is to show the impact, make the case, and then get out of the way.”
United Way of Greater Cleveland Board Chairman Marc Byrnes attended opening night and is confident the project will have a lasting impact.
“Leveraging the arts to share a critical social issue as pressing as poverty is an incredibly exciting way to expand beyond our workplace campaign,” Byrnes said. “We believe this play will motivate people throughout our community to have a productive dialogue and become more active in overcoming the increasing barriers poverty has on so many individuals and families in Cuyahoga County.”
The show’s full title is “How to End Poverty in 90 Minutes (with 119 people you may or may not know).”
“Cleveland is a logical stop because it is an incredible American city with history of greatness and challenge, like many other American cities,” explained Rohd, who expressed gratitude to United Way for sponsoring the play and to Cleveland Public Theatre for extending the invitation to have it produced here.
United Way leaders are eager to further explore ways to collaborate with arts organizations to generate more awareness, volunteerism and philanthropy in the battle against poverty.
“People have been talking about the intersection of the arts and social justice to transform lives and communities for a long time,” Napoli said. “It’s important to move beyond simply talking about it – and this collaboration is actually doing it – and breaking ground.”
We all know ALICE. They’re the hard-working people who make us feel at home in our communities. They’re the cashier at your grocery store; the waitress at your favorite restaurant; the teller at your local bank; the teacher at your child’s daycare; and the single mom working two part-time jobs.
The newly released ALICE report by Ohio United Way paints a detailed picture of financial instability in each Ohio county. ALICE – Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed – represents 27 percent of the households in Ohio that bring home a paycheck that is insufficient to cover the basic necessities of housing, food, child care, healthcare, and transportation. When combined with the number of households living under the federal poverty level, the total percentage of Ohio families struggling to afford basic needs rises to 40 percent.
The voices of ALICE
United Way Greater Cleveland hears the voice of ALICE from 26 counties across the state, 24 hours per day/ 7 days a week, when they call our 2-1-1 Helpline seeking assistance for issues such as food, rent, utilities or medication. They tell us about the challenges they face and they ask for help. We tell them about the government and nonprofits programs that offer solutions and opportunity. We make the important and meaningful connections between people and services that can change a person’s life for the better.
Who needs to listen?
As government struggles with their own financial stability challenges at the local, state and federal level, we hope they will listen closely to the voices of ALICE.
United Way of Greater Cleveland, with community partners, strives to raise up the voices of ALICE and those living in poverty to our elected officials and regulatory administrators. We want to help them consider the impact of their decisions on our most vulnerable families. If income or sales tax is raised, how will it affect those who are barely making ends meet? If funding for food and utility assistance is cut, will children go to bed cold and hungry? If payday lending is reformed, will it change the financial trajectory of ALICE households? If the Earned Income Tax Credit is expanded how will it impact those walking on a financial tightrope?
What are we doing to impact ALICE?
In Cuyahoga, Medina and Geauga counties – United Way of Greater Cleveland’s three-county footprint – we are working with Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, committed community volunteers and dedicated staff to fight poverty and create financial stability in our community.
We will use the ALICE report to:
- Remove stigmas/stereotypes associated with the “working poor,” who are struggling, hard-working taxpayers who deserve help
- Protect the safety net and advocate for strategies to help a family cope with an emergency and prevent a spiral into poverty
- Advocate for long-term strategies to help families achieve and maintain financial stability
This isn’t just a household problem; it’s a community problem. How can Ohio thrive when over one-third of our state lives below the federal poverty level and/or don’t earn enough to make a bare-minimum household “survival budget?”
What can you do with us?
It is incumbent upon all of us to help ALICE families avoid being one crisis away from spiraling into poverty.
Stability in the lives of ALICE is positive for companies that employ them and helps stabilize the economic fabric of our community. Lawmakers, schools, businesses and social service agencies all need to come together to raise awareness, remove barriers and create long-term solutions.
That’s what democracy is all about – citizens, businesses and government coming together in a non-partisan manner to resolve community problems. We hope you will join the movement and help our ALICE individuals and families prosper by visiting www.unitedwaycleveland.org/ALICE.
To learn more about what United Way of Greater Cleveland is doing to address poverty in northeast Ohio, sign up to receive our community newsletter.
Cleveland.com recently began a new series called “A Greater Cleveland,” highlighting the issue of generational poverty. The first article focused on children living in King Kennedy, a public housing complex on Cleveland’s east side. Kids growing up in poverty, like the kids in these articles, may not have access to healthy food, safe places to play, or high-quality educational opportunities. They may also face violence; sometimes on the streets and sometimes in their own homes.
More than 50 percent of kids in Cleveland live in poverty. This is an incredible statistic and is central to why Cleveland.com is telling stories about this complex issue — an issue that must be approached from many angles.
Mentoring through poverty
Often children growing up in poverty don’t have the benefit of a positive role model. One of the many factors that can influence a young person’s aspirations and outcomes, therefore, is whether or not they have a mentor. Mentors can provide a caring adult for kids to talk with, sharing insights, advice and experiences that are invaluable. Mentors can provide exposure to activities that a kid would normally not have access to and provide a view into various career paths.
In fact, a 2014 report from MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, reveals that at-risk youth with mentors are more likely to engage in positive activities, including volunteering, participating in school sports or clubs, and holding leadership positions in extracurricular activities. It was also reported that “more than three quarters (76 percent) of at-risk young adults who had a mentor aspire to enroll in and graduate from college versus half (56 percent) of at-risk young adults who had no mentor.”
Revealing needs in Greater Cleveland
United Way’s recently completed Community Assessment identified quality “out-of-school time” activities as a critical need for Greater Cleveland’s children. Mentoring is a proven best practice that can lead to social-emotional growth, improved academic performance and better school attendance. Not only does United Way support mentoring programs through its funding, the Young Leaders also volunteer with Boys and Girls Clubs at the very same King Kennedy housing complex featured on Cleveland.com.
Visit http://www.cleveland.com/a-greater-cleveland/ to read the stories and experience how poverty truly affects so many people in our region.
YWCA Greater Cleveland is dedicated to empowering women, but our organization does more than only serve women. The YWCA includes women and men as members, volunteers, supporters and leaders. Programs serve women and men, young adults, adolescents and children. We also provide services to other nonprofit organizations and the business community.
What does YWCA Greater Cleveland do?
The YWCA has responded to the special needs of young adults transitioning out of failing systems, such as foster care. YWCA Greater Cleveland created Independence Place to address the critical need for housing and supportive services of homeless youth. Independence Place is an apartment complex that provides permanent supportive housing to 23 formerly homeless youth, and in some cases their young children, along with case management and supportive services.
YWCA Greater Cleveland also pioneered the NIA program – Nurturing Independence and Aspirations. Under the guidance of a Life Coach, NIA participants pursue educational opportunities, focus on career development, receive housing assistance, learn the importance of health care, and develop life and parenting skills. NIA serves Independence Place residents as well as the YWCA’s Early Learning Center students and parents.
What is the YWCA Early Leaning Center?
The YWCA’s Early Learning Center serves children age three-to-five experiencing homelessness or similar adverse experiences. Our innovative trauma-informed model:
- Assesses and identifies the social-emotional needs of the children
- Works with families to create goals and case plans
- Prevents the re-occurrence of homelessness
- Empowers families to achieve and maintain the highest level of self-sufficiency
Recognized for our excellence and leadership in serving homeless youth and their families, in September 2016, YWCA Greater Cleveland was selected by a White House initiative, A Way Home America, as the lead agency for a community – wide collaboration of non-profit and government agencies. The collaborative, named A Place 4 Me, was challenged to house 100 homeless youth in 100 days. Together we exceeded that goal.
A Place 4 Me is a cross-sector initiative that harnesses the strengths and resources of its partners to prevent and end homelessness among young adults age 15 to 24 in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. A Place 4 Me is led by a steering committee consisting of the YWCA Greater Cleveland; Cuyahoga County Department of Health and Human Services, including the Division of Children and Family Services and the Office of Homeless Services; FrontLine Service; the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative; and the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland.
About YWCA Greater Cleveland
YWCA Greater Cleveland is a unique and vital community resource in Northeast Ohio committed to eliminating racism and empowering women. It was established in 1868 and with its 150th anniversary approaching, the YWCA is one of the oldest continuously operating nonprofits in Cleveland.
By President & CEO, Andrew Genszler, Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry
Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (LMM) inhabits the intersection where great needs meet bold solutions. Our mission leads us to operate programs that change lives, transform communities and enliven community engagement.
Since 1969, Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (LMM) has focused on serving people who are oppressed, forgotten and hurting, including individuals who are homeless, unemployed and involved in the criminal justice system, as well as individuals with behavioral health, guardianship and life-skill needs. Through advocacy and civic engagement, LMM prioritizes public policy issues reflective of our program interests and in line with the interests of our community, stakeholders, clients, program participants and staff.
In 2016, LMM served 8,272 people and engaged 3,584 volunteers. Last year alone: 409,866 meals were prepared for people who are homeless; 3,697 homeless adults and youth received shelter; 608 hours of behavioral health counseling were completed; 1,601 people obtained stable housing; 842 adults accessed medical care; and there were 281 job placements.
LMM is bolstered by individual donors, foundations, government agencies, community partners and more than 3,000 volunteers. We are particularity grateful to United Way of Greater Cleveland for its support of our work in Needs Based Housing Supports, Job Placement and Retention, Chronic Disease Management and Transportation.
Watch the video below to get a glimpse of what Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry does:
By Taneisha Fair,United Way 2-1-1 community resource navigation specialist
In the midst of the summer heat, many individuals and families have to suffer without air conditioning, which is particularly detrimental for a segment of the population with health risks. However, free air conditioners are being offered through HEAP’s Summer Crisis program again this summer.
HEAP provides payment assistance for electric bills, in addition to air conditioner units and repairs for those who may need cooling assistance to benefit their health. Common examples of conditions that may qualify include: COPD, asthma and lung disease.
Medical issues like these may leave many without enough income to pay for utility bills, due to extended time out of work, high medical bills and/or low disability payments.
The program is open to income-eligible individuals who are 60 and older, or to those who can provide medical documentation for a certified health condition. Households with a member who meets the eligibility requirements can also apply. Residents enrolled in the Percentage of Income Payment Plan Plus Program (PIPP) are not eligible to receive assistance through this program, but may call United Way 2-1-1 to find some additional resources.
The Summer Crisis Program will be available from July 1 through August 31 and can be used only once during the season. This year, it will be provided by the Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland (CEOGC) HEAP office, located at 1849 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115.
Residents can call the 24-hour line at (216) 518-4014 to make an appointment, or can walk-in Monday-Friday starting at 6:30 a.m. For additional information on the program and necessary documentation, call the Ohio Development Services Agency at (800) 282-0880 or dial 2-1-1 to speak with a navigation specialist.
By Taneisha Fair, community resource navigation specialist, United Way 2-1-1
Summer is here, leaving Greater Cleveland kids and teens excited for warm weather. Some are anxious for family trips and barbecues and others about replacing the meals normally eaten at school, which is now lost over summer break.
Feeding America reports four out of five of the more than 22 million children who receive free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch at school will not have access to these meals over summer break. Fortunately, there are community programs to help.
The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), a federal program, has filled this gap for more than 40 years. SFSP prevents summer hunger by supplying free and nutritious meals to those 18 and younger from low-income households while school is out of session. Individuals who are over 18 with mental and physical disabilities and involved in school programs are also eligible for the free lunch.
Meal sites operate in various locations throughout the community as “open,” “enrolled,” or “camp” sites. Open sites are usually in low-income communities, but are available to any child in the community. Enrolled sites provide free meals to children who participate in an activity or program at the site. Camps that participate in SFSP can receive a payment to cover meals for children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.
Many do not know access to free meals for their children is just a phone call away! Residents can call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE to identify their local sites. There are other helpful resources, such as food pantries and hot meals that callers can learn about by dialing 2-1-1 or 216-436-2000.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are roughly 77,000 veterans living in Cuyahoga County, with nearly 200,000 across Northeast Ohio. This is a significant number of people who have sacrificed in so many ways to protect our freedom and way of life.
What many people do not realize is that many of our brave veterans come home facing immense challenges – from PTSD and chronic anxiety to struggles fitting into society and finding work. Even though there are many programs and services available to our veterans in need, many people are not aware they exist and how to best utilize them.
To bridge the gap between veterans’ issues and the solutions that are available, United Way of Greater Cleveland, in partnership with Cuyahoga Community College and the “Stokes: Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future” 50th anniversary commemoration, hosted its first Veteran’s Day of Service for veterans throughout Cuyahoga County.
The Day of Service offered veterans an opportunity to discover myriad resources available to them based on their individual needs. College students within public health-related programs from Cleveland State University, John Carroll University and NEOMED volunteered, to help screen and identify needs and direct veterans to programs and services available to them.
Once the intake screening process concluded, attendees were personally escorted to each of the 28 booths offering services specific to their predetermined needs. The many participating agencies and organizations provided services ranging from basic needs (housing, food, shelter, ID cards) to VA benefits, job placement and education programs, among many others.
“It was an awesome experience to be able to support our veterans in need,” said United Way 2-1-1 Veteran’s Line Coordinator Tim Grealis, also a veteran who served in the U.S. Air Force. “To be able to help my fellow armed service members, especially the ones who are really struggling, is a powerful and gratifying experience. I’m looking forward to next year’s event and helping even more of my fellow vets.”