Community Impact

When growing up in poverty, it can be hard to see a way out

A Greater Cleveland Cleveland.com Poverty SeriesCleveland.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.


 

Please support United Way today
 

A volunteer day of action at King Kennedy Boys and Girls Club

By Maria Oldenburg, United Way of Greater Cleveland, Intern, Affinity and Association Campaigns

Maria Oldenberg at King KennedyWith two younger sisters, it’s pretty hard not to love kids. So I was super excited to spend time playing with children at the King Kennedy Boys and Girls Club on East 59th Street with volunteers from the Young Leaders group on July 11. Armed with bags of balls, hula hoops, chalk, bubbles and racquetball games, we spent almost two hours reliving our childhoods playing with the kids.

We were surrounded by these little kids as soon as we brought out all of our toys. The reason? Well, it’s because the kids didn’t necessarily get to play with toys, like the ones we brought, at home or the Club. They were also quite excited about their new playmates; and their enthusiasm was so contagious!

They made the time fly by so quick. All of the kids that I had the chance to interact with were incredibly sweet and inviting,  showing me their best tricks and giving me advice on how to get better at the hula hoop — even though I haven’t played in years. By the end of the event, I felt like a hula hoop pro!

I also got to spend a lot of time playing tag, chalking and tossing a Frisbee with them. In addition to playing games, we had the chance to listen to the kids’ stories and support them in any way we could. It was wonderful hearing the kids tell us their plans for the future. One of the boys, who was especially good at hula hooping, wanted to be a photographer and we were able to give him, as well as the rest of the group advice. It was a really positive, humbling experience to say the least.

The Young Leaders visit the King Kennedy club once-a-month in order to share their time with the children. You can find out more information and sign up for the next Day of Action here.

The power of rock n’ roll lives in Cleveland

By Heather Light, Associate-Affinity and Association Campaigns

Heather Light - Headshot - WEBIt’s been a bucket list item of mine for quite some time now to attend a Rock Hall induction. I can now cross it off my list with a little help from the Rock Hall’s new Power of Rock Experience.

On Thursday, June 29, I was granted VIP access to the debut of the Rock Hall’s latest exhibit, but I might as well have been front and center at an induction. Name an influential rock and roller and they’re most likely in the 12 minute-film that starts with Ruth Brown singing “(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean,” highlighting the start of rock’s roots and ends with Prince’s infamous guitar solo during “While my guitar Gently Weeps” from the 2004 induction of George Harrison.

I’ll admit my emotions were a mix of wanting to shout out “long live rock!” and jump up and down and also cry contemplating of the talent that we’ve lost. It wasn’t by coincidence that Greg Harris, President and CEO of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, explained that the whole point of the exhibit is to take you on the emotional journey so many of us have while listening to music.

After the film, people will be able to interact with Rock Hall inductees and have personal memories captured in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In the Say It Loud story booths, presented by PNC Bank, fans are interviewed by Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductees, including Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple, Smokey Robinson, Michelle Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas, Mary Wilson of The Supremes, Alice Cooper and others. The interviews can then be shared on social media.

You’ll be able to do all this September 23 during this year’s Fall Ball. Your ticket grants you access to the world renowned Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If you went last year, it will feel like a whole new museum. Another exciting announcement is the addition of Cleveland’s “rock star chef’s” Jonathan Sawyer Greenhouse Tavern, Noodlecat, and Trentina), Rocco Whalen (Fahrenheit) and Fabio Salerno (Lago) have now added their flair to the Rock Hall’s food choices; and I’m happy to announce to Fall Ball’s menu as well.

Learn about Fall Ball

Eaton holds 5k, wellness fair to raise money for those in need

It was a beautiful day for a run. On June 8, Eaton held a 5k run/fun walk at its corporate headquarters in Beachwood, Ohio. Roughly 250 employees participated and raised more than $2,700 to support United Way of Greater Cleveland. Along with the 5k, Eaton hosted more than 20 companies, including seven United Way Partner Agencies, for a Wellness Fair. Hundreds of employees stopped by the fair and were able to get information on various services and benefits throughout the community. The fair concluded with a short program where the winners of the race received trophies. United Way agencies were also able to speak about their respective services and the people they serve.

Eaton is a long time supporter of United Way of Greater Cleveland. Each year, they raise enough funds to put them in the top two employee campaigns in the region. This year, they are holding special events leading up to their kickoff that are geared towards United Way impact areas – health, financial stability, education and basic needs. Along with health, they will hold events around education and financial stability.

Their official employee campaign will kick off in August.

Young Leaders hold successful speaker’s series event at American Greetings

American Greetings Young Leaders Networking EventOn June 7, more than 40 young professionals met at American Greetings headquarters in Cleveland, near Crocker Park, to attend United Way of Greater Cleveland’s second quarterly speaker series of 2017.

After first being led on a tour of the new, state-of-the-art building that houses American Greetings and exemplifies the company’s dedication to collaboration, attendees listened to an engaging, audience-driven talk by Group Vice President of Social Expression, Steve Laserson.

Laserson shared his journey of professional growth and recalled how he navigated various career fields at different organizations before discovering American Greetings, the organization he is truly passionate about and has been for more than 22 years.

He advised audience members on how to attain the same successful transitions by working hard and consistently producing positive results no matter what position they were in to ensure future employers would recognize their achievements.

He also answered questions from the audience surrounding the importance of community and volunteer engagement, goal-setting and mentor and mentee relationships. The event moved to the nearby Burntwood Tavern for refreshments and networking when the event concluded.

Thoreau Park Elementary gets new Reading Room

Sam Ameen HeadshotBy Sam Ameen, communications coordinator, Public Relations, Parma City School District

Thoreau Park Elementary Principal Jamie Franko was anxious to see the Reading Room the school was receiving from United Way of Greater Cleveland courtesy of the of Young Leaders and its Readers Become Leaders initiative. On May 12, the room was revealed to the students, faculty and staff.

“We’ve been really excited that we were given this opportunity. I’ve been really excited since they reached out to me in December and said that we were going to be the recipients of the room,” Franko said. “It totally went above and beyond my expectations for what I thought the Reading Room was going to look like.”
Readers Become Leaders Thoreau Park Elementary

The room has an outer-space theme and was furnished with comfortable places to lounge and read a book, such as beanbag chairs. The Reading Room was supplied with 500 books, which were donated by the Cleveland Kids’ Book Bank.

“It’s just another space in our building that really focuses on literacy and helps our students with early literacy and growing as students here,” Franko said.

Every student in the school was given a drawstring bag with two books, a coloring book, and crayons. The school also had a special visit from the Cleveland Browns mascot Chomps.

“Kids were saying this is the greatest thing ever, they were thanking the Young Leaders, the volunteers for everything that they’ve done and I think just really made their day and it has already impacted our building,” Franko said.

The Reading Room is located outside of Principal Franko’s office in the main hallway for ease of access.

Live tour of Cleveland Rape Crisis Center

According to a 2015 report by the Office of Criminal Justice Services, nearly 100 people per 100,000 within Cuyahoga County’s population experience some sort of sexual abuse or assault. This data is among some of the highest within the state.

United Way of Greater Cleveland believes that sexual assault, rape and human trafficking are issues that must be tackled with strong resolve. That is why United Way funds programs at the Cleveland Rape Crisis center, a nonprofit that supports survivors of rape and sexual abuse with a focus on prevention. Serving more than 28,000 people in Cuyahoga, Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula Counties, their ultimate vision is to completely eliminate sexual violence.

Today, CEO of Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, Sondra Miller, gave a live tour of the center – showcasing how your volunteerism, financial support and philanthropic passions can manifest into real actions.

Watch the tour below…

United Way part of exploratory group to bring “Say Yes to Cleveland”

United Way of Greater Cleveland is proud to be part of the exploratory group working to bring Say Yes to Cleveland.

Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C)The bold promise of Say Yes is to bring together an entire community to ensure each of its children has the opportunity –and the support – to go to college. Using last-in-dollar scholarships as a catalyst, Say Yes partners with communities to create systems intended to help every child progress along the pathway to post-secondary success.

Partners from the public, philanthropic, nonprofit and private sectors are working together over the next 12 to 18 months on the complexities required for consideration by Say Yes.

We’re also glad for the ongoing support and encouragement from the Say Yes team. As Say Yes Chief Operating Officer Eugene Chasin says, “it’s clear to the senior leadership of Say Yes that Cleveland is a community with a fierce desire to give its young people access to higher education, armed with the support to succeed in obtaining a college degree or other postsecondary credential.”

“At United Way, we know it takes a village to ensure our community’s kids have everything they need to succeed academically and ultimately pursue higher education,” said United Way of Greater Cleveland President and CEO August Napoli. “If Cleveland is successful in becoming a partner community with Say Yes, we are excited about the opportunity to wrap holistic services – everything from tutoring to health care – to elementary, middle and high school students. Say Yes is an innovative strategy that will create new excitement about education in our community.”

In the coming months, our work includes:

  • Determining the parameters and criteria to provide last-dollar tuition scholarships to qualifying students admitted to an in-state public college or university
  • Establishing a local fundraising committee and raising a significant portion of the scholarship fund as part of the approval process
  • Identifying the necessary in-school and out-of-school supports and services and related public and philanthropic funding sources to meet the development needs of every child

If Say Yes ultimately approves Cleveland’s application, the organization would commit to invest $15 million in the community over six years, as various milestones are achieved. Those funds are not intended to be used to pay for scholarships. Rather, they would help to finance the scaffolding of a communitywide governance structure to manage the local Say Yes partnership and to seed student and family supports that, in other Say Yes communities, have included school-based social work; mental and physical health; legal services; college and career counseling; tutoring, and robust after-school and summer enrichment programs.

United Way is a member of the Cleveland exploratory group along with City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Cleveland Foundation and College Now of Greater Cleveland.

Young leader showcases value of giving back

Note: United Way of Greater Cleveland is highlighting exceptional volunteers in our community that have went above and beyond the call of duty to make our region a better place to live.

Yasmeen MuhammadUnited Way of Greater Cleveland’s Young Leaders volunteer program is extremely active – with roughly 2,000 members of all walks of life, from ages 20-40 years old. Yasmeen Muhammad, a portfolio management associate at Key Private Bank Family Wealth, has been heavily involved with United Way’s Young Leaders program since January 2016.

She was asked by the previous co-chair of the KeyBank United Way Young Leaders to take her place in November 2015, because she knew Muhammad was active in internal networking and external philanthropic causes. However, she was exposed to United Way as an organization much earlier, when she was a part of KeyBank Foundation’s 2013-2014 United Way workplace campaign.

Muhammad says that she “really loved seeing the energy that everyone had around United Way… was impressed by the great staff, the rally of effort from the Greater Cleveland business community… helping United Way achieve fundraising goals.”

The Young Leaders volunteer group works diligently to plan and execute some of the year’s most exciting events; not only to raise money, but to raise awareness and garner greater excitement, as well as more motivated volunteers. “My favorite event is definitely the Annual Meeting – such a high energy event! The impact stories are very touching and it’s always exciting to see the final fundraising number for the campaign year.”

Beyond the Annual Meeting, the Young Leaders hold several of its own events to promote awareness and generate engagement in the community. Some of these events – several of which are award winning – include: the Annual Fall Ball; myriad networking events; a speaker’s series; days of action to give back; and many more.

She anticipates continuing, if not increasing, her volunteerism with the organization because of these, and numerous other events, as well as the core mission and vision of United Way.

“I volunteer because I love to help people and establish new relationships with people who are equally motivated to serve the community.” she adds. “… I feel like it’s the best way to make the widest reach of positive impact on the community.”

A viewpoint on volunteering from a corporate leader

Note: United Way of Greater Cleveland is highlighting exceptional volunteers in our community that have went above and beyond the call of duty to make our region a better place to live.

Jim Smith talks about National Volunteer WeekNational Volunteer Week is a way to thank those who volunteer and to build awareness for those who do not, and those who may be considering a volunteer stint. Jim Smith, a veteran at Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and acting VP, digital transformation & customer experience, is no stranger to volunteering.

He became involved with United Way of Greater Cleveland when he moved to the Cleveland area from his post in China last summer. “When you volunteer, it’s really personal… it’s a shared experience,” Smith says. “You’re giving something back to a group of people… It’s that personal contact with the people you’re giving something back to that’s meaningful.”

Smith goes on to talk about how volunteering not only makes one feel a sense of achievement and personal self worth, it also lends itself to professional development. He says some of the ways volunteering can manifest into the workplace is through leading groups of volunteers; learning and experiencing the challenges and successes of managing those people; and the planning and teamwork required to be successful. He always encourages people on his team who manage others to go out and volunteer in the community because those experiences are uniquely valuable.

He also mentions how many studies reveal that volunteering helps you live longer, healthier and happier, all while lowering stress. Smith sees this as a particularly appealing element that for him only enhances his desire to volunteer.

“United Way makes it easier to connect organizations to the organizations in need,” he adds. “You’re [United Way] is nationwide, which for us [Saint-Gobain] is good. We can volunteer with one organization, collect the stories and work together. There’s more need in the world than there is resources and if we can all do something then we can all make a difference!”