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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.  

 

#GivingTuesday: A Day to Change Lives

young girl with sister giving tuesday

Seven years ago, the tradition of Giving Tuesday began. #GivingTuesday harnesses the generosity of people and the potential of social media to bring about real change in our community. While the information we share and conversations we have on social media are important, they will not solve the ongoing problems happening each day in Northeast Ohio. That’s why, one day a year, we ask our neighbors to come together to give back to the Land that we love.

When is #GivingTuesday?

#GivingTuesday is celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving—taking place this year on November 27, 2018. While many donations are received directly on Tuesday, any gifts collected during the month of November leading up to #GivingTuesday will be counted in our total. This gives everyone in our community a chance to give—no matter how big or small.

Where do my #GivingTuesday donations go?

While we continue to disrupt the cycle of poverty each day, United Way of Greater Cleveland is focusing our 2018 #GivingTuesday efforts on:

  • Food

Each day, one in five children has to choose between breakfast, lunch or dinner. United Way of Greater Cleveland invests in programs across our community that provide access to healthy, quality food to individuals and families in crisis. A $5 donation provides a bag of groceries for a neighbor in need.

  • Clothing

During the harsh Northeast Ohio winter, proper clothing is more than just a fashion statement – it is a matter of survival. This is particularly true for our most vulnerable, such as children and the elderly. A gift of any size can make a huge difference for one of our neighbors.

  • Shelter

Right now, over 2,700 children in Cleveland do not have a bed to call their own. United Way of Greater Cleveland helps provide emergency housing for those who need an immediate place to stay and supports families who work hard toward owning a home of their own. A $130 donation provides one week of room and board for a child in need of emergency shelter.

Why donate on #GivingTuesday over any other day?

medical mutual logo

#GivingTuesday is the perfect opportunity to truly impact the lives of our neighbors in need this holiday season. Why? Because this year, United Way of Greater Cleveland and Medical Mutual will to take your donation even further with a $20,000 matching grant. That means that your gift will have twice the impact.

This season of giving, give.

 

Give Now

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.

Teenage book lover collects 25,000 books for needy kids

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Julia Foos transformed her family’s basement into a warehouse to organize the thousands of books she donates to others.

A voracious passion for reading has inspired a local teenager to accomplish an astounding feat of community service that is enriching the lives of underprivileged children.

Julia Foos, a 17-year-old high school student, has single-handedly collected and donated more than 25,000 new and gently used books to kids throughout Northeast Ohio.

She has directed 10,000 of those books to United Way of Greater Cleveland’s Stuff The Bus initiative.

We sat down with Julia to learn more about what motivates her to devote so much effort to help others.

How do you collect, organize and distribute all of those books?

I collect new and gently used books mostly from businesses. I originally collected them just from family and family friends, but it’s grown over the years, a lot of it through word-of-mouth. Now, I get random messages on Facebook, ‘do you still need books for me to donate, I can donate them’. Usually I sort them by age and reading level. I have the board books for the little kids and picture books, and small chapter books and bigger chapter books. And then usually I make my parents help me carry the giant boxes out to the car (laughing). And the entire operation is located in the basement of our home. It’s worked for us.

What motivates you to devote so much energy into this?

I’ve always been reading; it’s always something that I’ve done. Actually, when I was little the only way my parents could punish me was to ground me from reading on the car ride home. Because that was the only punishment I would listen to. So, reading’s always been something I’ve just been really, really passionate about and I hope I can give other kids the opportunity to be passionate about it too, especially if they don’t have access to books. I can’t imagine what my childhood would have been like without access to a library.

It's considered especially important for children to keep reading over the summer. How are you making a difference in their ability to continue reading?

For me personally, when I’m in school I don’t have a ton of time to read. Not as much as I like because I have so much work to do. Summer is the time I actually tend to catch up on my reading. I like giving more kids that option, too, because I know most kids during the school year are focused on the books they have to read for school and maybe don’t get as much time to read for pleasure. And I think that’s really important to me—that I get to read what I want whenever I want. I know when I read during the summer, I may not be reading about school subjects, but I’m still learning about new things and gaining new ideas, and I hope I can pass that along to other kids.

What do you get personally out of your volunteerism? And, what would you say to others looking for a volunteer opportunity?

It just makes me feel really good to give kids the opportunity to read and learn, because I know that my life would have been very different if I hadn’t had those opportunities. Mentally, it really makes me feel good and rewarded. I would encourage anybody to find something they’re passionate about and see what kind of impact they can make. It’s amazing what one person can do.

Julia was recently featured on News Channel 5 Cleveland (WEWS)

Watch her story here:

Julia Foos - Stuff the Bus with Books - WEWS Channel 5 Cleveland Story with Homa Bash

Julia Foos
Book Lover and Youth Philanthropist

Julia Foos donates to Stuff the Bus United Way of Greater Cleveland
Quick Facts –

High School:
Hathaway Brown School

Family:
Lives with her parents, Heather and Kevin, a sister, Ava, and dogs Pippa and Tacy in Avon Lake.

How much does she love books?
When Julia was 7-years-old, her library card was declined because she was over the 75-book limit.

Why did she start a book drive?
Was shocked, then inspired, after reading an article about how many kids in Cleveland don’t have access to books at home. Also hopes her efforts will eventually help reduce the city’s 61 percent adult illiteracy rate.

Who do you donate them to?
United Way of Greater Cleveland, Cleveland Kids’ Book Bank, and others.

Hobbies:
(besides reading a lot) Crafts, including knitting and sewing, and entertaining her dogs.

Future plans?
Heading off to college in the fall, where she intends to major in English and/or pursue a path in pre-med. She hopes to collect an additional 10,000 books before classes start.

 

Mayfield Heights’ senior tells her story of helping fund local agencies

“Community Impact is excited to report that we have successfully reestablished the John K. Mott – Youth Fund Distribution Committee (YFDC). United Way’s youth philanthropy program enlists motivated high school juniors and seniors to take part in a unique opportunity to help solve community problems. The teenagers are given the responsibility of learning about the needs of the community—especially the needs of young people—and then learn about potential solutions in addressing those issues. Members of the committee make funding decisions about where to distribute dollars to non-profit partners that serve youth in Cuyahoga County.”

Steve Borstein, United Way of Greater Cleveland board member and executive director, Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple


A Mayfield High School senior and member of the YFDC class of 2018 tells of her experience in her own words:

By Zicari Matthews, Mayfield High School senior

At a very young age, I lost my father to cancer. Losing any figure in one’s life is tough, but being just 5 years old and losing someone of that significance is a crack in anyone’s foundation. Refusing to trip over this tall hurdle, I decided that my life was made for helping others in any capacity and I swore to myself that if there was any chance for me to make a difference I would take it.

Youth Fund Distribution Committee Awards Ceremony
Zicari Matthews presents check for $5,000 to Neighborhood Family Practice, which provides high quality, affordable care in your neighborhood.

Becoming a part of the YFDC Committee has helped me find who I am and what I would like to become. I’ve always known that I wanted to help others, but actually taking part in aiding the Greater Cleveland community has altered my life for the better. I could not be more thankful for an opportunity like this one.

I know that I want to go into the Journalism field and pursue a career that creates awareness for the suppressed and advocate for those who need immediate and desperate help. Without being a member of this group and having first-hand experiences, I know my eyes wouldn’t have been opened to these kinds of things.

Eyes opened and ideas broadened, I found that the things I haven’t experienced are very real and very alive in this world. There are members of the committee who are faced with gun violence, blatant discrimination and drug-ridden communities. I have been gifted with the safety and security within my community and home where I haven’t had to face those things.

Having the discussions of what we feel are most important to address in the Greater Cleveland area has made me realize that I may go through some things and feel down every now and then, but there are people who hear gunshots as they lay in bed at night and people who go to sleep hungry and without food on their tables. Talking with the other members have shown me that, as people, we are all faced with different issues and there is an urgent need for care and assistance within our communities.

Although we do not live in a perfect world and things like famine, homelessness and poverty still exist, the YFDC Committee has shown me that there is hope for tomorrow. Empowering youth and uniting us from diverse developments and backgrounds to problem solve and analyze situations for solutions displays an obvious sign that we can get through the pain and hurt and struggles communities go through daily. By working with YFDC and finding my calling through others’ experiences, I know that my father would be proud to see that I am working to fulfill the plan destined for me in his honor.

2018 YFDC Results

This year 20 students from 10 area high schools participated in the program. This past Monday, they officially present grants totaling $25,000 to five worthy non-profit organizations. They allocated five $5,000 grants to organizations that help solve community problems (48 organizations applied).

The organizations receiving grants are:

Therapy helps autistic boy make great strides

Achievement Centers for Children - Autism Therapy Cleveland

His parents didn’t understand why, but the spirited toddler who always appeared content and expressive began to change.

After several months of doctor appointments and testing, the heart-breaking conclusion would force Logan Mehic’s family to confront their new reality: seeking the best treatment for their beloved son’s severe case of autism.

“When we originally got this diagnosis, it was almost like somebody handed you a terminal disease,” recalled the child’s father, Adi Mehic. “You’re told that your son is going to be non-communicative, might need assisted living the rest of his life.”

Logan’s condition, according to his mother, Samantha, grew more unmanageable when he started behaving aggressively toward others.

“The moment I realized Logan needed extra help that we couldn’t give him as parents was when he went from a kid who threw no fits to a kid who would bite and hit,” she said. “We wanted to give him the best chance we could, so we reached out for help.”

The helping hand that reached back came from the dedicated staff at Achievement Centers for Children, a United Way-funded partner that has been treating clients with disabilities for nearly eight decades.

Samantha recounted the stress of their first visit to have Logan evaluated.

“It really was a difficult one. No parent wants to hear that their child doesn’t meet standards. But they really made us feel comfortable that even though he didn’t meet these, he was going to in the future.”

That spirit of hope is reflected in the agency’s mission statement, which pledges to “empower children and adults with disabilities, and their families, to achieve their greatest potential.” In the case of Logan, Achievement Centers designed a comprehensive treatment plan that has led to significant progress over the past two years.

“His growth in the past two years at the Achievement Centers is something like I’ve never seen and I feel like we have changed all those pre-conceived notions about what autism was.” – Adi Mehic, Logan’s father

He’s a little fish

Logan’s treatment plan incorporates physical, speech and occupational therapy, which all have proven highly beneficial.

Achievement Centers for Children - Autism Therapy ClevelandHis favorite form of therapy, however, is one that allows this 5-year-old to spend time in the pool.

“He loves to swim. He’s a little fish,” said Samantha, with a mother’s pride. “We got him to aquatic therapy about a year ago and we were really excited because Logan has always loved the water.”

Logan has been working with an adapted aquatics instructor, Holly Osborne, and the two have grown close. These sessions have produced measurable results in terms of improved temperament and language skills.

“When he started he didn’t speak—no words. And now he repeats, he can request, which I think is fabulous,” explained Holly. “We have also worked on patience, which doesn’t seem like it would be an aquatics type of lesson, but it is because he is now able to wait when I say ‘one, two, three, go.’”

Logan’s parents note that aquatics therapy just makes their son feel good, which alone is a blessing they celebrate each time they see him laughing and splashing in the water.

“Swimming really helps turn his day around,” said Adi. “Even when we’re going through a really frustrating day where he’s had too much on his plate or he’s been pushed a little too far, swimming is his outlet where he goes to feel like Logan again. It’s a release for him, physically and mentally, and elevates his mood, or frankly, poops him out.”

Making an impact in more ways than one

United Way-funding helps make it possible for Achievement Centers for Children to help families like Logan’s.

A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study estimates 1 in 59 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD); and last year, Achievement Centers served more than 600 clients with ASD.

Data and evidence are important to Logan’s parents. Equally important, though, are the “everyday life” moments that demonstrate their child is indeed progressing.

“I remember the first day he walked up and he handed me a cup—and he goes ‘Dad, I want water.’ That’s one of those moments that people with a typically developed child really take for granted. And it’s not something you see every day and, it’s … it’ll make a big man cry, I’ll tell you that much.”

Adi and Samantha credit Achievement Centers with helping their entire family cope, grow closer and learn how to play a vital role in Logan’s therapy. They also believe Logan is on his way to reaching his full potential.

“People donating to United Way should ask themselves one question,” added Adi. “Do you really want to make a difference in this child’s life? And do you really want to affect the families of children who have autism and special needs?”


Watch Logan’s Story


Help us raise funds to help kids like Logan

 

Three ways to support a family member or friend who is a sexual assault survivor

Sexual Assault Awareness Month Cleveland - #SAAM

As we approach the end of April, we reflect back on an important month of awareness — Sexual Assault Awareness Month. With the #MeToo movement still garnering great support and furthering the mission of empowering countless survivors of sexual harassment, The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center shares tips on supporting those who experienced sexual harassment and violence.

By The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center

Sexual Assault Awareness Month ClevelandOver the last few months, sexual violence has been elevated to the national conversation in ways we have never seen before. The #MeToo movement has empowered countless survivors of sexual harassment and abuse to speak their truth and share their experiences, even if perhaps they had never dared before.

We all have a role to play in supporting survivors of sexual violence.  And as many survivors are coming forward for the first time, there are ways you can show your support if someone close to you discloses that they, too, are a survivor.

When someone you care about confides in you that they experienced rape or sexual abuse, it can be a challenging conversation.  You may feel that you want to help them, but you might not be sure how or know what to say.

Below are three ways to support a friend or family member who is a survivor of rape or sexual abuse.

1) Simply listen, without judgment or expectations.

Listen with the intention of listening and giving your loved one space to share what they are ready to share with you that moment. What your loved one may need now more than ever is someone to simply listen and validate what they’re experiencing.

Consider saying:

  • “I believe you.”
  • “You are not alone.”
  • “This doesn’t change how I think of you.”

2) Remind them it wasn’t their fault.

Many survivors can place the blame on themselves.  Remind them that they did nothing wrong and that the perpetrator is to blame. It is never the survivor’s fault this happened to them.

Consider saying:

  • “It’s not your fault.”
  • “Nobody deserves this.”
  • “I’m sorry this happened to you.”

3) Encourage your loved one to seek help that is right for them; when, and if it is right for them.

Everyone reacts to trauma in their own way. Your loved one may want to seek help, or they may not. Your loved one had a traumatic experience that makes them feel powerless. You can help them understand the options they have and support the decision they make as the right thing for them at that moment.

Consider saying:

  • “Are you open to seeking medical attention?”
  • “Have you thought about learning about your legal options?”
  • “Have you thought about reaching out to a hotline or a therapist for help thinking through your options?”

How to Access Help

Text or call Cleveland Rape Crisis Center’s 24/7 Crisis & Support Hotline at (216) 619-6192 or chat online at clevelandrapecrisis.org/chat for support and information.  Learn more or request an appointment at clevelandrapecrisis.org. You can also call United Way 2-1-1 Help Center for support by simply dialing 2-1-1.

Learn more at clevelandrapecrisis.org/saam.

 

My volunteer experience as a Young Leader

National Volunteer Week in Cleveland - United Way

By Jamal Robinson, IT systems engineer, Progressive Insurance

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing to help others?” A quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., a civil rights activist I most admire.

This quote has been a driving factor in my personal and professional life. Community involvement to me means that I have the opportunity to inspire. Growing up, I had the opportunity to attend the Boys and Girls Clubs for two summers.

National Volunteer Week in Cleveland - United WayThat experience was important to the development of life skills. I mention this because I now realize the bigger meaning in using community involvement to serve as a role model for children who are not exposed to many, or in some cases any, successful individuals.

Volunteering with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland has been one of the most rewarding activities that I have completed. I say this because I now realize the bigger picture of the Boys and Girls Clubs and how I have a direct impact to help children in underprivileged communities.

Because of my great volunteer experiences, I joined the Young Leaders marketing subcommittee in January 2018.

About Jamal

Jamal Robinson was born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, when he was 12. Jamal completed his undergraduate studies at Georgia State University located in Downtown Atlanta. While attending Georgia State University, Jamal studied Computer Information Systems and graduated in 2017. Jamal was selected to complete an IT Internship at Progressive Insurance, located in Mayfield Village, Ohio, in the summer of 2017. After the internship, he was offered a full-time position working as an IT Systems Engineer with the infrastructure support team. Feel free to reach out to Jamal about community involvement, sports and new technology.


Learn more about volunteering at United Way

 

Gift of Knowledge: Struggling mother earns her high school equivalency

Seeds of Literacy Cleveland - United Way Funded Partner
All she wanted was to be in school, learning new things with other kids her age. Instead, troubling family circumstances forced Teresa to assume the responsibilities of a parent when she was still just a child herself.

“At 9 years old I had to be mom to four kids,” she explained through tears, recounting why the burden fell on her shoulders.

With an alcoholic mother incapable of adequately caring for a family and an abusive stepfather, there seemed to be no choice.

“I couldn’t leave my brothers and sisters alone to go to school. And if I didn’t get them to school and make sure they got their homework done and they had baths and they had food, no one else did. I had to protect them.”

 “I was never given an opportunity to go to high school. And I love school. I do well in school. I love to learn,” said Teresa, who recently earned her GED from Seeds of Literacy.

The responsibilities thrust upon her at home only grew with time. The sacrifice became permanent.

“I was never given an opportunity to go to high school,” she said. “And I love school. I do well in school. I love to learn.”

Planting a seed

Years later, that love of learning led Teresa to a place where adults without diplomas get a second chance.

Teresa and mentor - Seeds of Literacy Cleveland“Seeds of Literacy is amazing,” are words she chose to describe the United Way-funded organization that has helped thousands of Cleveland-area residents living in poverty achieve their high school equivalency.

Teresa recently passed all her subject tests at Seeds of Literacy to finish her GED after a combined seven months of tutoring and hard work.

“When I got my results after opening my email it felt amazing. It felt like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. I could breathe,” she said.

For more than 20 years, Seeds of Literacy has provided free, one-to-one instruction that prepares adult students to advance their education, with the ultimate goal of financial stability.

And the need to advance educational opportunities in our region is great, as is financial stability — both United Way core impact areas, alongside health and basic needs.

According to Seeds of Literacy, nearly two-in-three adults residing in Cleveland are functionally illiterate, and 88 percent of the agency’s students live at or below federal poverty guidelines.

A blossoming future

For Teresa, earning a GED enabled her to meet the requirements of a local employer, where she now works in a job she loves. The accomplishment, according to her tutor, could also be viewed favorably by a judge in a legal battle to regain custody of her 9-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son. She also aspires to eventually go to college and study engineering.

Teresa told us she’s grateful and encourages others to support programs that provide opportunities for adults to complete their schooling.

“Donating to United Way of Greater Cleveland is extremely important because if people don’t put other people first, other people can’t become stable enough to do it on their own,” she said. “And that is my final goal. Becoming stable enough to do it on my own and stand on my own two feet.”

Watch and listen to Teresa’s experience and transformation at Seeds of Literacy below.


Watch Teresa’s Video


Help us raise funds to combat illiteracy

 

Personal approach to treating mental health

Neighborhood Family Practice - World Health Day Header

By Maryann Kuzila, LPCC-S, Neighborhood Family Practice behavioral health therapist

World Health Day is celebrated every year on April 7, and this year it is more important than ever that we do what is needed to support people struggling with mental health issues. While we’ve made great strides, it’s an unfortunate truth that a stigma surrounding mental health still exists.

People with mental health issues often feel uncomfortable, embarrassed or believe they should handle their struggles alone. Many times, they don’t even know there is help available.

At Neighborhood Family Practice (NFP), a United Way funded organization, our medical providers, behavioral health providers and other care team members work together to identify when a patient is struggling early on and provide the support that is best suited for him or her.

The toll of stressors, how to support

We know that the toll of stressors on a person’s physical and mental health can be enormous.  At NFP, we believe strong relationships between providers and patients are key to creating a trusting space for patients to discuss their struggles. Regular screenings related to, for example, substance use and depression allow the medical provider to link the patient to appropriate mental health services.

Patients may struggle with depression, loss of employment, caring for an ill family member, relationship issues and much more. We realize that supporting the patient early on prevents the problem from worsening. Letting the patient know they do not need to carry the burden alone is perhaps even more important in successful treatment.

Personal forms of assistance

One of the ways NFP assists patients is by offering a personalized session with a member of our behavioral health team. After undergoing a thorough assessment with the behavioral health team, the patient and therapist develop a course of treatment that will benefit the patient most. Other times, the patient’s needs require that we pair them with other organizations and resources in the community. With the assistance of our linkage coordinator, we help them navigate that process.

Did You Know?
Studies show that people with mental health problems get better and many recover completely. There are more treatments, services and community support systems than ever before, and they work. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
How are we helping?
As a result of United Way-funded programs, 368 people receiving trauma therapy reported a reduction in PTSD symptoms (78 percent).

Our patients report feeling very supported by our team approach to their care. At NFP, it’s our belief that everyone deserves access to care regardless of ability to pay, and to be treated with compassion, dignity and respect.


Maryann Kuzila, LPCC-S
Neighborhood Family Practice behavioral health therapist

Maryann Kuzila, LPCC-S, began working at Neighborhood Family Practice in 2013 as a behavioral health therapist. She previously worked at Recovery Resources as a mental health assessor, clinical therapist, group facilitator and alcohol and drug therapist. Maryann has over 15 years in the field and holds a bachelor of arts in Psychology from Cleveland State and a master of arts in Counseling and Human Services from John Carroll University.

 

 

 

 


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