Why? United Way Heroes Unite!

By Jen, Why CLE? blogger (reposted with permission from the author)

There’s a superhero in each of us and on Wednesday, June 27, the United Way of Greater Cleveland wants to celebrate that!

Heroes Unite will take over Public Square to celebrate the United Way of Greater Cleveland’s 2017-2018 campaign. Headlining the Heroes Unite event is Welshly Arms, a Cleveland-based band that has risen to national prominence.

There will also be superhero-themed activities for all ages, including appearances from caped crusaders, a photo booth, games, and a video game virtual reality simulator.

Heroes Unite takes place on Wednesday, June 27 in Public Square from 4-8 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, but the United Way of Greater Cleveland is requesting RSVPs here.

The United Way of Greater Cleveland helps people in need with education, health, basic needs, and financial stability, with services ranging from emergency shelters to mediation programs to substance abuse treatment to childcare centers. Find out more about the United Way of Greater Cleveland and how you can help here.

There is a superhero in each of us and we can proudly let our capes fly with the United Way of Greater Cleveland’s celebration!

About Why CLE?

Jen at Why CLE? Cleveland Blogger on United Way of Greater Cleveland

I’m a CLE gal, born and raised. And I’ve lived other places, but I always come back home – by choice, not by chance.

The people I know who make a life here genuinely love it, but often hear the same question, “Why Cleveland?” The worst part is when people who actually live in Cleveland ask, “Why Cleveland?” I get convincing the outsiders. But when Clevelanders themselves ask, “Why Cleveland?” Well, that’s a problem…

Learn more about the acclaimed Why CLE? blog.



RSVP for Heroes Unite!


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:

Your health determines your success

Ben MiladinAt United Way of Greater Cleveland, we observe World Health Day and support its mission with great purpose, as it matches our mission and ambitions – to reduce poverty and provide greater access to critical health services and coverage.

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

Did You Know?
One in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90 percent of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence. (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence)
How are we helping?
As a result of United Way-funded programs, 6,504 people learned how to recognize the signs of abuse and neglect and how to respond appropriately.

Help us raise funds to support health challenges in our region


Refusing to disappear: Abuse victim overcomes the darkness of mental illness to become a shining light

“United Way, by funding an organization like Magnolia Clubhouse, is so important because everybody needs help and everybody needs support.”

Refusing to disappear: Abuse victim overcomes the darkness of mental illness to become a shining light

“United Way, by funding an organization like Magnolia Clubhouse, is so important because everybody needs help and everybody needs support. And we want as many people as possible to be able to benefit and change their lives.”

Read Story Watch Video Help us raise funds

In her darkest moments, Lakecia Wild thought the only way to escape the anguish would be to simply disappear.

And by ‘disappear’, a struggling young girl meant an act of finality that claims the lives of far too many people with mental illness.

“I had thought about not being here anymore. Just ending it,” remembered Lakecia. “I had these tapes in my head of all these negative things about myself. I was sexually abused, so I felt like it was my fault.”

Lakecia suffered abuse during her early years in foster care. The trauma caused debilitating clinical depression, anxiety, OCD and PTSD—a daunting combination of mental health problems that invited ongoing thoughts of suicide long after she was adopted by a wonderful mother at age seven.

Now 27, she’s eager to share the story of her transformation. It’s a trajectory that led from despair, to cautious hope, and finally, to a special program that allowed her to blossom into a confident, independent woman with a fulfilling job and plans to earn a college degree.

Lakecia credits Magnolia Clubhouse and its funding partner, United Way of Greater Cleveland, with lighting a path others seemed convinced she would never find.

A 12-year-old hits rock bottom

The thought of anyone reaching their rock-bottom moment is heartbreaking. It’s almost incomprehensible to imagine falling into that hole as a 5th grader.

Lakecia’s depression had grown severe. She was self-harming and experiencing deeper isolation as an intense paranoia set in.

“I always thought people were trying to hurt me or kill me, so it was very hard to trust people. Even though I wanted help, it was hard to open up and say, ‘this happened and I need help,’” she said.

Though her childhood was littered with fragmented memories, the full magnitude of the abuse didn’t strike Lakecia until a social services expert made a presentation at her elementary school.

“We had somebody come into the school and talk about how to recognize sexual abuse, or abuse, in your home. And that’s when it hit me,” she recalled.

It hit with devastating effect. The 12-year-old decided she would run away from home. Worse, she thought about leaving this world entirely.

“It was after school and I was out until very late in the night. And I was literally just lying in a creek, and this was in the winter time, just wishing that I wasn’t there anymore. I didn’t try to end it all, but I was just hoping that it would.”

Fortunately, she returned home that night, wet and hypothermic, and was soon hospitalized in a psychiatric unit. The deeper awareness of the abuse she had endured in her foster home, combined with recurring thoughts of suicide, led to a long series of hospitalizations over the next few years. Despite working with a wide variety of mental health professionals, Lakecia recalls feeling a resistance to the help she knew she needed.

She does not share names, but Lakecia certainly remembers more than one medical practitioner stating that her options in life would be seriously limited by her mental illness.

“Doctors told me that I wouldn’t work. I wouldn’t be living on my own,” she said. “I just needed to come to grips with either living in a group home setting or something more structured, and I didn’t like that idea,” she said.

It wasn’t the future she envisioned. But there seemed to be no other option.

Magnolia House Campus - Cleveland, Ohio
Used with permission from Magnolia Clubhouse

Around age 18, Lakecia began to take treatment more seriously and remembers a therapist suggesting it was time to try ‘something different’. That ‘something different’ was a unique program called Magnolia Clubhouse.

“I was very nervous and unsure of what to expect. But when I walked though the doors I just saw a community. And everybody was so happy and so lively and they were so welcoming. It was just a wonderful feeling,” she exclaimed.

Soon, staff members were talking about ideas Lakecia never heard during her hospital stays.

“The Clubhouse was saying you have a right to do something that you love and that you enjoy,” she recalled. “So I said I like to do office type work. I like reception. I like helping people. They said we see in you an ability to be able to work. And I started thinking, well okay, if they see that, I definitely want to try because they just make you want to try and do better.”

The transformation

Magnolia Clubhouse gave Lakecia, for the first time in her adult life, an opportunity to demonstrate that she had the intelligence and talent to make a valuable contribution as a productive member of the workforce.

The Clubhouse operates out of two renovated mansions in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood, offering a program based on the belief that meaningful work and a sense of community are integral to mental health.

Clients are referred to as members. They work side-by-side with staff in the daily operation of the Clubhouse, sharing responsibility for tasks such as staffing the front desk, cooking daily lunches, working in the resale shop or maintaining the grounds. Lakecia Wild - Magnolia Clubhouse Cleveland, Ohio

Lakecia’s self-confidence grew as she developed office skills by answering phones, greeting people and performing data entry.

“I started being able to get out of my shell…’Hello, how are you doing?’ It doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re coming out of depression, it gave me a purpose,” she said.

A Clubhouse support program for members who want to find outside employment helped Lakecia leverage her marketable skills into a job with the ADAMHS Board of Cuyahoga County. She’s been working three days a week for the past year-and-a-half.

“I knew I could do it. I just needed the right support,” Lakecia said.

Magnolia Clubhouse Executive Director Dr. Lori D’Angelo has closely followed Lakecia’s transformation and growth.

“Lakecia has made striking progress. Not only is she no longer being hospitalized, she is working in a job she enjoys, and she is a leader at the Clubhouse.” D’Angelo said proudly. “Lakecia is more confident, and it is a joy to see her smile, her humor and her strength.”

The next goal for Lakecia is to earn a college degree. She’s participating in another Clubhouse support program that assists members who would like to finish high school or attend college.

“Without Magnolia Clubhouse I wouldn’t be who I am today. They have changed my life.”

The impact on individual lives and the community

Mental illness is prevalent throughout our community and takes a tremendous emotional, physical and economic toll on individuals and families. It’s estimated one-in-four people lives with mental illness, with one-in-17 of those cases considered severe. Sadly, less than half of adults dealing with mental health problems get treatment.

Lakecia Wild - Magnolia Clubhouse Cleveland, OhioSuicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. and disproportionately effects the mentally ill. More than 90-percent of those who take their own life suffer from mental illness.

Treatment options like Magnolia Clubhouse save lives and help reduce the economic impact on society.

“I know that Clubhouse works because I was in and out of the hospital a few times a month. And that costs a lot of money,” Lakecia points out. “By coming to Clubhouse, I know that I can come here every day of the year, and it costs a lot less.”

Clubhouse staff point out that one year in their program can cost less than two days in the hospital.

According to the agency, Clubhouse members are five times more likely to find employment and enjoy longer job tenure and higher pay than others who live with mental illness.

“The community at large benefits from the ability of each of its members to reach their full potential,” said D’Angelo, who emphasizes that not adequately meeting the needs of those with mental health issues comes with unacceptably steep human and financial costs.

“Not treating or minimally treating mental illness results in people dying sooner, and having increased use of hospitals and crisis services. Without services, those living with mental illness are less likely to be employed or to achieve educational goals, and they are most likely to live in isolation and despair,” she said.

Lakecia has experienced that isolation and despair. She realizes how close she came in the past to ‘disappearing’ under the crushing weight of her mental health problems.

That’s why she will keep speaking out about her struggle and victory. She also praises the support United Way of Greater Cleveland has provided over the years.

“United Way, by funding an organization like Magnolia Clubhouse, is so important because everybody needs help and everybody needs support,” Lakecia emphasized. “And we want as many people as possible to be able to benefit and change their lives.”

Watch Video


Bold stage drama showcases power of the arts to help battle poverty

How to End Poverty in 90 Minutes - United Way & Cleveland Public Theatre
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?

How to End Poverty in 90 Minutes Cleveland, Ohio
Bobby Bermea*+ and audience members in discussion. Photo by Steve Wagner. *Actor appears courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States. + Sojourn Theatre Artists

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.

How to End Poverty in 90 Minutes -- Sojourn Theatre Artists.
Jono Eiland, Alejandro Tey+, Sara Sawicki, Ananias J. Dixon, Bobby Bermea*+, Wes Allen, Nik Zaleski, Cathleen O’Malley, Tim Keo. Photo by Steve Wagner. *Actor appears courtesy of Actors’Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States. + Sojourn Theatre Artists.

“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).”

It was conceived by Sojourn Theatre’s Michael Rohd, who took a break from his professorship at Arizona State University to direct the production in Ohio.

“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.

What’s next?

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.”


Engaging youth in the power of philanthropy

At United Way of Greater Cleveland, we connect individuals to philanthropy and convene organizations, people and other partners throughout the community to affect positive change. But, why wait until we become adults to engage in philanthropic activities? We shouldn’t wait. That’s why we brought back the John K. Mott Youth Fund Distribution Committee with renewed ambitions.

John K. Mott was a long-time employee of United Way of Greater Cleveland. After his passing, this initiative was formed and unfortunately disbanded around 2011.

However, the YFDC is revamped and ready to involve our youth throughout the community to be inclusive in both the committee and allocations processes for determining funding for agencies and programs.

By working with high school juniors and seniors to connect them directly with the philanthropic and giving process, they will be better able to appreciate and understand funding methods. We are in great part doing this through meeting them where they are; through social media and other technologies, as well as in person.

Youth Fund Distribution Committee (United Way of Greater Cleveland)

Who makes up the committee?

The YFDC committee members are student volunteers who allocate dollars towards youth-funded service agencies. The students come from 10 different high schools, ranging from the eastern suburbs to the inner city, and even a parochial school.

The students will have $25,000 to allocate towards agencies and programs they deem the most impactful and show growth using the United Way funding model. It is important that we ensure this process is done in a simplified manner, while allowing them to learn in a hands-on environment.

What does the committee do?

Over the course of seven meetings, our students learn directly from several of our Impact-Area directors. The Impact Areas at United Way are: Basic Needs, Financial Stability, Health and Education. These are the same areas that the Community Impact team and Committee, volunteer committees and others utilize when making funding decisions.

After a rigorous process and debate among the various students, they voted on their top-five priority focus areas. These areas include:

  • Education Support – School preparation programs, literacy support, English as a second language and mentoring
  • Job Training and Opportunities – Job skills training, work etiquette training, part-time job placement and internships
  • Basic Needs – Clothing, food, shelter, transportation, etc.
  • Behavioral Health – Treatment for mental-health needs, substance abuse and prevention
  • Violence Prevention – Educating youth to prevent violence, victimization, family violence, rape and dating violence prevention

What is the process for allocating funds?

Within our United Way allocation process, there is a much more complex set of processes and procedures as you can imagine, but the students still follow rigorous steps. Our YFDC application and award process is listed in the following steps:

  1. Agencies apply through a simple Request for Proposal (RFP)
  2. Proposals are sorted and put into priority area focus
  3. The student committee then chooses several candidates to interview
  4. A total of five agencies will be awarded $5,000 each

This occurs over a seven-month period, with the intention of helping future youth leaders comprehend the impact of giving back, while learning the needs of an entire community.

Youth Fund Distribution Committee (United Way of Greater Cleveland)What do the students get out of this initiative?

Working with the students provides a sense of comradery. Each student gains a deeper understanding that people in our city need help. That help can range from housing and food to behavioral health and substance abuse. It is apparent that the students want to make a difference for the greater good. The most exciting part of this initiative is seeing the pride they have knowing the dollars they vote to allocate to an agency will help youth from different parts of the county.


Learn more about the Youth Fund Distribution Committee and how your school and students can take part in next year’s initiative.


America’s true beauty through diversity

United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland

By Cecil Lipscomb, executive director, United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland

“We the people” … three words with so much depth.

At its core, the phrase is collaborative, creates anticipation, implies power and acknowledges humanity. As we settle into Northeast Ohio’s crisp February weather, let us also settle into the significance of February being Black History Month; and in that context, “We the people.”

This is a month set apart to acknowledge the richness of African and African-American citizens shaping the United States of America and Canada. America’s true beauty is present in its diversity of season, landscape, culture and people. It is in this spirit that we would like to acknowledge the 30-plus years of collective work between United Way of Greater Cleveland and the United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland (UBF) to improve the quality of life for African Americans in Greater Cleveland.

What is the United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland

Established in 1981, the UBF was created by the late Judge George White and a host of concerned community leaders to assist and empower Clevelanders in some of our most challenged communities.  He modeled the organization after Dr. Calvin Rolark’s United Black Fund of America in Washington, DC.

Within a few years, Judge White and UBF’s staff were working collaboratively with United Way of Greater Cleveland to address issues of poverty and began breaking down barriers to success in the African American community. Ruby Terry, UBF’s longtime Executive Director, chaired United Way committees, worked with other United Way Federated Partners and coordinated joint community work.

Since 1984, United Way has provided an estimated $19 million that has benefitted African American-led and governed organizations doing exceptional work in Northeast Ohio’s diverse communities. This powerful effort, with the strong support of United Way, has helped ensure resources are provided to thousands of qualified nonprofits, influencing tens of thousands of people in our region.

Making an impact in our community

United Black Fund of Greater ClevelandIn this new era of social service delivery and philanthropic impact models, both United Way and the United Black Fund maintain an unwavering commitment to our collaborative work in Cleveland’s African American community.

For example, investing in workforce development efforts is a necessary beginning at the school level. Thanks to a host of partners, including United Way of Greater Cleveland, PNC, and the Ohio Department of Education, UBF initiated a computer-coding curriculum at Richmond Heights Schools for grades 5 – 12. This program makes use of mentors and enables students to learn not only the basics of coding, but robotics, project management and life development skills. We are mentoring with the purpose of preparing our children for next generation-level careers.

“We the people” … as we celebrate Black History Month in Cleveland, let us not only reflect on the contributions made by generations of African Americans throughout history, but let us also applaud the milestones that continue to be made due to the great work of our many nonprofits and sponsors throughout Greater Cleveland. They are the people and organizations who ensure that we continue to fight the disparities, inequalities and injustices that still linger.   

About Cecil Lipscomb

Cecil Lipscomb - United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland (Headshot)-WEBCecil Lipscomb is the Executive Director of the United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland, Inc. (UBF).  Founded in 1981, United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland (UBF) is a charitable organization that provides financial (grants) and technical support to neighborhood-based organizations offering a full range of health and human service programs for the residents of Cleveland’s African American and lower-income communities.  Prior to this, Mr. Lipscomb was Senior Director of Institutes at Cleveland Clinic and worked as Director of Fundraising for Case Western Reserve University’s School of Engineering. Before 2004, he worked in commercial and government sales, management, and marketing in the telecommunications sector for 10 years with two Fortune 100 companies who eventually merged to create Verizon.

He currently serves as 2nd Vice Chair, Board of Directors at Eliza Bryant Village. Eliza Bryant Village is the oldest continually operating African American long-term care facility in the United States.  He also serves on the Friends of Breakthrough Schools Board, which is the highest-performing network of free, public charter schools in Ohio.

Mr. Lipscomb received his undergraduate degree from Ursuline College, his MBA from Weatherhead School of Management, and certificate of nonprofit management from Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Case Western Reserve University.

A promising year for the bold path ahead

Augie Napoli Headshot for UseA new year has never felt more promising. At United Way of Greater Cleveland, we are in a position to transform promise into action against the groundswell of poverty in our region.

The path in 2018 is steadfastly guided by the light of our bold, new 3-year strategic plan that continues to break the mold for how to most effectively tackle community issues and challenges.

I’m excited to share that we are currently in one of the most crucial phases of our reinvigorated process, among the many we have put in place. We are evaluating which agencies and programs throughout our region demonstrate the fullest capabilities to serve as our problem-solving partners.

Change through data, partnerships

Our Community Impact team is undertaking this crucial task, equipped for the first time with a powerful tool—the 2017 Community Assessment of the needs of people throughout Cuyahoga County. This report is the most comprehensive body of data United Way has amassed about the condition, perceptions and needs of those in the communities we serve.

This report also revealed to us that we needed to reform our allocations process to better serve the people in most critical need. The outcome of this was the inception of our Community Hub Model.

The model is designed to provide funding for program capacity, while creating opportunities for programs to collaborate. Our goal is to create a more effective social-service network by convening people and resources to better impact poverty and its underlying causes.

Once we have fully vetted our potential partner agencies and programs, we will apply this very same data-driven approach to choosing which organizations to allocate your valued donations.

And this is where the heart of the new strategic plan beats strongest.

Funding will require agencies to closely collaborate with one another in an entirely new fashion to help ensure there is an even greater impact. Stringent standards of accountability will require evidence that the programs and services we fund are making measurable progress toward long-term solutions, which include:

  • Preparing children to succeed in school, from early childhood to post-secondary education
  • Ensuring parents have adequate financial educations to find stable jobs that can support a household without constant struggle
  • Providing access to quality health care and medications
  • Refusing to allow families to suffer because they cannot afford basic needs like food, shelter and heat

Through all of this we will demand of our partners, and of ourselves, a transparency that earns the deepest trust of all stakeholders and instills their unwavering confidence in us.

Other initiatives for success

To our donors, we pledge to foster a more personalized and rewarding fundraising experience that empowers the philanthropic spirit by better aligning contributions with the causes that resonate most-deeply within. Our efforts will inspire new supporters to join the cause and give of their time, talent and treasure.

And rest assured that the talented staff at United Way is committed to a high-performance, team-centric workplace culture grounded in best-practices and bolstered by the advanced technological support they need to execute our strategic plan.

Together, We're Greater

Solving complex problems of the human condition takes courage, perseverance and passion. Those are core traits that have defined United Way from our inception more than a century ago, and are the very traits that will keep us sure-footed as we surge ahead with our ambitious strategy.

We are truly grateful to have so many of you walking arm-in-arm with us as we take on the challenges that lay ahead. Prepare to experience a year of bold, innovative strides that will not only transform promise into action, but transform action into success.

Causes you care about: Creating a lasting impact

United Way of Greater Cleveland Planned GivingWith the holidays in full swing, many of us pause to look inward and explore fundamental questions about our place in the world. Have I achieved what I’ve set out to do in my life? Is my family happy? Am I true to my friends? Have I done enough to make a difference?

After all, as Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” In fact, we give because it makes us feel good.

The Greater Cleveland community has seen tremendous growth and progress, and our donors’ generosity has echoed this success. Yet there are still many residents who struggle to meet their most basic daily needs to survive.

More than 58,000 households in Greater Cleveland are living in poverty.

Cuyahoga County is home to over 245,000 food-insecure people, making it the state’s largest population of people facing food insecurity.

In the City of Cleveland, 66 percent of adults are functionally illiterate. Four-out-of-five fourth graders from low-income families fail to read at a proficient level.*

Can you effect change?

We must preserve and protect our ability to continue to combat these systemic challenges that face so many in our community. One of the most powerful ways to make sure we continue to effect positive change into the future is to include United Way of Greater Cleveland in your will or estate plan.

The prospect of legacy (or estate) planning can be intimidating. You may think you need to have considerable assets to be able to make a gift. The truth is quite different. Many donors contribute and make gifts to the within the limits of their financial ability and life circumstances. But, even with the many barriers we face, many people still give because they believe it is the right thing to do.

Above all else, it is a chance to create a lasting legacy that is a passionate expression of their values beliefs. It is an expression of their most deeply rooted philanthropic spirit; one that can influence others to make the same commitment.

There are quite a few tangible benefits to legacy gifts too: they require no cash outlay and can lower taxes or offer an income for life.

When is the right time to act?

United Way of Greater Cleveland Planned GivingThere is no such thing as being too young to think about creating a will. In fact, making your intentions known, or confirmed now, can ensure you establish a solid estate plan and shape how you want to be remembered through causes and issues you care about.

Whether your calling is making education a right for all; fighting endemic poverty; reducing violence; funding resources to address physical and mental health; or striking barriers that cause chronic unemployment – you can affect real change. Countless families, friends, colleagues and neighbors depend on you.

If you’ve considered making a charitable gift in your will, please contact us directly for a confidential conversation. Our Director of Principal Gifts, Maureen Horton, can help you identify smart giving opportunities that fit your current and future needs. Please contact her at or by phone at 216-436-2193.

*Data from “United Way of Greater Cleveland 2017 Community Assessment

A young man lives to tell tale after dying from an overdose

This is a special story surrounding our #GivingTuesday initiative to raise awareness, funds, in support of the opioid epidemic.

“I’m really looking forward to going out to Arizona, and I want to make my family proud. I want them to see that I’m above this; I’m a better person than I’ve proven to be. I want to make something out of my life!”

A young man lives to tell tale after dying from an overdose

This is a special story surrounding our #GivingTuesday initiative to raise awareness, funds, in support of the opioid epidemic.

“I’m really looking forward to going out to Arizona, and I want to make my family proud. I want them to see that I’m above this; I’m a better person than I’ve proven to be. I want to make something out of my life!”

Read Story Watch Video Help us raise funds

IIn the shadows of a classroom, a young man of 16 sat ready to tell his story of addiction. After some time working up the courage to speak about his addiction, he began…

“One day I came home and was feeling quite sleep deprived,” said Joe, who’s name isn’t being used to protect his identity because he’s a minor. He came home and went to sleep for a bit. His grandmother came home and woke him. She didn’t ask him why he was home early sleeping. She asked him about money being missing.

In a flurry and without thinking he responded, “I was doing drugs and that’s why the money was missing.” His initial reaction was to run, so he left home and called his drug dealer to pick him up and drive him somewhere. They made some stops to get drugs and then his dealer dropped Joe off at a spot in the woods near a local high school. This was a spot he would frequent with his friends when they wanted to get high. Once they settled in and they made sure they were alone, they began doing the drugs he purchased from his dealer.

Joe was first. He took three hits of the heroin, which would normally be a small amount for him, and overdosed. Little did he know that the heroin was laced with a powerful type of fentanyl, called carfentanil, which according to a WCPN Ideastream segment, is an “opiate 10,000 times more powerful than morphine… the drug is [used] as a tranquilizer for very large animals, like elephants or hippos.”

His two sober friends called 9-1-1 when they realized what was happening and he was rushed to the hospital. It took seven cans of Narcan (also known as Naloxone) to revive him and a few more to stabilize his breathing, which still shocks him at the sheer number as he told his story.

“I just thought that would never happen to me,” Joe added. “They [his grandparents] told me that they still loved me and that I needed to start making better decisions.”

Fortunately for him, New Directions was there to help him and his family through this tragic moment and his addiction through providing individualized, family-based recovery programming. Some of the programs that New Directions offers include getting clients back on track with their education in classroom settings, as well as outpatient counseling and residential treatment.

“It helped me to recognize that I had a problem and get me to focus on solutions,” Joe added with a more upbeat tone is his voice and demeanor. “Going to meetings is really helpful; hearing other people’s stories… knowing that you’re not alone and that it is possible to achieve sobriety.”

Joe is moving out to Arizona to live with his father after he’s discharged from New Directions in the next few weeks. He plans on continuing to expand his passion for music as a guitarist, playing hard rock music like his favorite guitarist Matt Heafy from Trivium. “I’ve always wanted to be a professional musician, or like a studio musician.”

He added with great excitement and emotion, “I’m really looking forward to going out to Arizona, and I want to make my family proud. I want them to see that I’m above this; I’m a better person than I’ve proven to be. I want to make something out of my life!”