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3 Ways to Keep Kids Safe this Summer

Keep kids safe this summer - United Way of Greater ClevelandGuest post by Christine Sanchez, manager of PR at United Way Worldwide

With summer in full swing, many of us are heading outdoors with family.  But it can be easy to let our guard down when it comes to safety. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure kids stay safe outdoors.

  1. Be careful of heat and sun. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns that most sun damage occurs in childhood, and advises caution between 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Babies under six months should avoid direct sunlight, wear brimmed hats and lightweight clothing that covers their arms and legs. Older kids should wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15 or greater. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before heading outside and remember to reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating. Always check the back seat for kids or pets when leaving your car. Temperatures inside a parked car can hit 160 degrees in less than 10 minutes on a 90-degree day. There are apps available that will remind you to check your back seat once you reach your destination.
  2. Don’t mess around when it comes to water safety. Did you know drowning is one of the top causes of accidental death in children? Always make sure kids have your full attention when they’re in or around water. Learning the basics of swimming is also key. New guidelines from the AAP say parents should consider a child’s exposure to water, emotional development, and physical abilities before enrolling kids under four in swim lessons. Fencing off your pool is a critical safety measure for you and your neighbor’s kids. And learning CPR, available through the American Red Cross, is always a good idea.
  3. Watch those mosquitoes and ticks. These critters don’t have to put a damper on your outdoor fun, so make sure to use insect repellent that has DEET or another EPA-approved ingredient. Insect repellant isn’t recommended for babies under two months, so make sure their clothing covers their arms and legs and use mosquito netting over cribs, strollers and baby carriers. For everyone else, EPA has information on finding the right repellent for you. And remember: always apply sunscreen first, then your insect repellent.

Keep these tips top-of-mind the next time you head out, and teach your kids the importance of staying safe outside. If you spot a person or pet trapped in a hot car, call 911 immediately. For more information and local resources, call 2-1-1.

Reposted with permission from United Way Worldwide (original post)

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!


It’s tax time… are you prepared?

Earned Income Tax Credit - Cuyahoga CountyAs the deadline to file your taxes looms, you may be wondering if you’re getting back the biggest bang for your buck. With various changes to the tax laws, requirements and complexity of filing, it’s no wonder why you may be worrying if you’re doing everything you can to maximize your return – and for good reason.

Did you know that more than 30 percent of families are living on the financial edge in all but two of the largest 35 cities?

You may or may not fall into that category, but ensuring you identify opportunities to increase your return are extremely important in securing your financial security and growth. One opportunity that has been helping millions of people is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a refundable tax credit offered as a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. For more than four decades, VITA programs have provided high-quality filing assistance to low- and moderate-income families completely free of charge.

What is the EITC?

The EITC is a refundable tax credit available to qualifying lower-wage workers and their families. Workers earning less than about $60,000 from wages, self-employment, or farming in 2017 could qualify. Many people will qualify for the first time this year due to changes in their income, their marital status, or parental status, according to the IRS. The IRS estimates that one-out-of-five eligible workers does not claim their EITC. The CTC is available to workers with children earning more than $3,000. A qualifying child must be under age 17.

The EITC is one of the nation’s largest and most effective anti-poverty programs. In 2015, the EITC lifted an estimated 6.5 million people out of poverty, more than half of them children.

Are you prepared?

There were 20 tax sites that offered complimentary tax services throughout Cuyahoga County in January and February, but there’s still time to take advantage of these services. To learn more and schedule an appointment with an IRS-certified tax consultant, call our United Way 2-1-1 Help Center by simply dialing 2-1-1 or visiting


Celebrating my personal, professional ambitions during International Women’s Day

Shanette and mentors 2015 - International Women's Day
Shanette and two of her mentors/women who inspired her at the 2015 NACDA Convention
Left: Chevonne Mansfield
Right: Temeka Samuels

The month of March is known as Women’s History Month and March 8 is International Women’s Day. A day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. There are many local and national events held throughout the month to celebrate and empower women.

This awareness month and celebratory day prompt me to reflect on my own life and career as a woman as well as the many women who have inspired me. These women include my mother, famous women, and women who I look to as mentors.

My mentors have always taught me, “good leaders must lead by example. By walking your talk, you become a person others will want to follow.”

As I progress in my career, I continuously look inward and self-reflect to see how I can improve both personally and professionally. Each year I set professional goals with deadlines and milestones. I identify and attend professional development workshops that correlate with my goals to ensure success. This fiscal year my goal was to enhance my management skills.

Two years ago, while attending the Crain’s Women of Note event, I picked up a brochure on the YWCA of Cleveland’s professional development programs. After reviewing the program offerings, I felt the YWCA Women’s Leadership Institute Boot Camp aligned with my professional goals – specifically to enhance my management skills.

I decided to pull the trigger and sign up for the program. Since October 2016, I have been attending YWCA Women’s Leadership Institute Boot Camp bi-monthly sessions focusing on leadership and management. The YWCA Women’s Leadership Institute offers a comprehensive leadership development training curriculum and corresponding programs that are designed to build, train, recognize, and empower transformative leaders at all phases of their careers.

The leadership development program is designed to bring together women from varying backgrounds and stages in their careers, and organizations to deepen their self-awareness and self-management in an effort to become more effective and productive leaders. Through this leadership development program, I have gained 29 “sisters.”

As I progress and advance in life and my career, I try to lead by example and give back to others. I strive to offer the support and serve as a mentor for other women who are also career driven. As Oprah Winfrey says, “the biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.”

About Shanette D. Buford-Brazzell

Shanette Buford-Brazzell is the special events manager at United Way of Greater Cleveland. Prior to this role, Shanette was events coordinator at The Jerome Schottenstein Center/The Ohio State University from 2013 – 2015. She currently serves on the Board of Directors/Fund Development Council for Junior League of Cleveland, is a member of Cleveland State University Alumni Association’s Young Alumni Council, as well as a mentor with College Now of Greater Cleveland. Shanette received her undergraduate degree from Cleveland State University in 2013 and a certificate in sports philanthropy from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.




Diversity: a powerful catalyst behind the civil rights movement

Black history month is a time to reflect on the contributions of black Americans to our country beyond slavery. And it’s fitting that we take a full month to highlight and discuss the history and influence of black people in America because black history has been ignored, or marginalized at best, in our mainstream narrative.

As I reflect on the contributions of African-Americans to this great experiment called the United States, I am struck by how diverse our history is, not only racially but in business, art, poetry, music, science, inventions, education, war and diplomacy. The power of diversity, of course, was extremely important to the most recognizable period in black history — the civil rights movement.

“The power of diversity, of course, was extremely important to the most recognizable period in black history — the civil rights movement.”

The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s would not have been successful if its courageous leaders had not embraced diversity. They needed the help of other powerful segments of our society; white Christians, Jews, women and more. This mosaic of Americana boldly advanced the cause for everyone by being physically present, vocally supportive, and willing to publicly shame those who remained silent. There was diversity in the outrage over watching so many fellow citizens being oppressed and denied their basic human rights.

Live up to the promise

Very few accomplish great things on their own. We all receive help at points throughout our lives. Diversity was the help that propelled the civil rights movement to success. Though depicted as a mostly black American movement, it was actually a tapestry that included: Hispanics, Latinos, Asians, women, whites, blacks, Jews, gays and many more. Above all, the civil rights movement was a calling of minorities of all kind, to America, to live up to the promise of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

What did all of this mean to me? I saw the movement’s success as a new beginning, in large part because I was “woke” to the harsh realities of the world from a very young age. I knew about racism, prejudice and the pain people lived in because of discrimination and lack of access to education, jobs, mobility and opportunity. So to me this was a time of optimism. I saw my generation for what the new future could be—a future in which we would live in harmony, color blind, accepting each other for the content of our character and not the color of our skin.

There is still much work to do

I still have hope in my heart for our nation and especially for the next generation. We have come a long way, but there is still much work to do to create the equitable society laid out in the vison of the Founding Fathers.

That’s why I say we all must remember that diversity is what makes us strong. We all have the power to work in our small corner of the world to embrace this fundamental notion and encourage others to understand and embrace it as well. For when we help the people around us be happy, we help ourselves be happy; thus creating an environment that is positive, nurturing and accepting of others.

You see, friendships and relationships cannot be forced. Only when they are nurtured can we see one another as individuals that have value and worth to our community, which is also value and worth to ourselves.

As I’ve moved through this world I have experienced the dream, the optimism and the pleasure of coexisting peacefully and respectfully. So many people of all races, religions, ages and ethnicities have touched my life for the better and helped me become who I am.

I would not trade any of those experiences for anything. I learned a lot from embracing and understanding the power of diversity.

It’s actually quite simple. Live each day treating others the way you want to be treated. Don’t prejudge, and always be open to learning about other cultures. Curiosity is a trait that will serve you well. I am sure you will find more commonalities than anticipated among those that you think are so different. We are, after all, far more alike than not.

Yes, we may still have a long way to go to fully achieve the dream that inspired our extraordinary civil rights leaders. I’m confident, however, that if we value each other, treat each other with dignity and respect, and learn from each other… we will arrive together at the America they envisioned.

Alan Bedingfield is Senior Associate Director, Attainment and Retention, at United Way of Greater Cleveland. He is a lifelong Clevelander who graduated from Cleveland State University and enjoyed a successful tenure in management at UPS. After serving in the Loaned Executive program, Alan decided to join United Way permanently and has focused his talents for the past 10 years on alleviating poverty and improving his community. He is also a diehard Cleveland sports fan with uncompromising optimism.


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.”


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.

Myths, questions and concerns about nonprofits

United Way of Greater Cleveland Kid SuperheroesA nonprofit organization is like a complex machine. There are numerous moving parts that all must come together for this machine to run smoothly. From hiring accountable and passionate people that follow necessary processes and procedures to fundraising and allocating funds to the highest performing and impactful agencies and programs, each part must move in harmony together.

Sometimes those moving parts do not always move in the proper sequence though. That could be an individual’s action that doesn’t adhere to accountable and transparent processes and procedures. This single occurrence can negatively affect the organization’s reputation in the community.

That one instance can change public perception for years to come, making people question the nonprofit and its ability to do good in the community. This is a question of ethical and moral philanthropy and honest activism.

So, what constitutes being a fair, transparent, equitable and impactful nonprofit in a time of public distrust in nonprofit practices? And how do you find the nonprofit that’s right for you?

Elements of trust for a nonprofit

There are many factors that must be strictly followed to ensure a nonprofit organization is successful – making the greatest impact on the people it serves and causes it supports. Some of the most important factors that should be considered include:

  • Disclosing 990 forms when major organizational changes occur, such as leadership hires, funding model changes and detailed donation reports
  • Sharing organizational financial reports with the public, revealing details of funding that go to programs, services and agencies, as well as percentages to internal operating costs
  • Keeping the public well-informed on the status of its mission and goals and what has been, and needs to be, done to meet those promises

According to a 2016 article in The Times Herald, “An organization should make its financial health, board members and mission results available for anyone who asks.”

Steps to ensure you’re giving to a reputable nonprofit

United Way of Greater Cleveland and Rape Crisis Center presentationWith countless nonprofits to choose from, it’s extremely important that a prospective donor or volunteer become well-informed when choosing a nonprofit. You may or may not already know the cause or issue you want to support. Maybe you just want to give back in general and don’t know where to begin.

The following characteristics and traits can help you determine the most appropriate, accountable and impactful nonprofit to support:

  • Has a clear mission and vision they follow and one that aligns with your beliefs and ambitions
  • Are financially sound and have a history of fiscally responsible practices in the community
  • Is respected and recognized throughout the community and by the people it serves
  • Can mobilize and bring people and other organizations together to achieve success and address pressing issues in the community

Remember, identifying the nonprofit that best aligns with your philanthropic passions is an important part of giving back to your community. These steps will get you started on your charitable journey and arm you with the information to make the right decisions.

This article was originally published on by United Way of Greater Cleveland. Read the original article here.

Volunteer Views Profile

Our “Volunteer Views” series seeks to share United Way of Greater Cleveland’s partners who generously give their time and talent through the gift of volunteerism. Their continuous work helps make our community a greater place to live, work and play. This month we are featuring Gary Poth, executive managing director, head of Key Family Wealth.

Questions and Answers

How did you get involved with volunteering early on in life?
I learned the importance of helping others from an early age by serving in my church and also the gratification that comes from caring for others. In my adult life, I became more deeply involved in serving others when my career brought me back to Cleveland about 10 years ago.

Since then, I have been fortunate to serve on the board of several nonprofits. I love helping people and working with organizations that have the heart to help others. It’s very fulfilling for me to help organizations like United Way. I am currently serving on the boards of the Cleveland Sight Center; Cleveland Institute of Music; Community Partner Arts and Culture; and the Holden Arboretum.

Why did you choose to volunteer with United Way of Greater Cleveland?
United Way is a great organization with a stellar reputation and, because of the fundraising capacity, United Way has the single biggest impact on our community. As a member of the KeyBank team, I am fortunate to be part of an organization that has always been a strong supporter of United Way and places a premium on employees giving back to the community.

Over the last several years, I have had the pleasure of co-chairing United Way’s Humanitarian Society along with Kelly Tompkins of Cleveland Cliffs. The generous members of the Humanitarian Society makes up about 20 percent of all giving to United Way.

What are some causes/issues that resonate with you? If so, what is it and why?
As someone who was the first person to attend college in my family, I know firsthand the doors that are opened from a solid education and how it can break the cycle of poverty. In far too many of our neighborhoods, we still have capable and talented children that never realize their potential because of the lack of a good education.
What are your personal and professional aspirations for the people of our region and our communities we live and serve in?
We’re on a good trajectory here in Cleveland. To continue that momentum, we need to be able to retain our best and brightest talent. Cleveland has always been a great place to live and raise a family, but we are making it a great place to have a career as well.

There is a real entrepreneurial spirit here with new companies now popping up every day. Our ability to sustain this momentum ties back to making sure that we have an educational system that provides our young people with the skills required for a successful career.

For those looking to possibly volunteer their time in an age where we’re all so incredibly busy, what would you say to those who may be on the fence about volunteering?
The old adage that “It’s better to give than receive” is so true. The personal fulfillment one gets from helping others is tremendous and well worth the costs. In addition to the personal satisfaction of helping others, volunteering connects you to other leaders throughout our community that share your passions expanding your professional network, which can have an enormous impact on your career.
Gary Poth
Executive Managing Director, Head of Key Family Wealth
Gary Poth, Key Family Wealth
One of the oldest and largest family offices in the country, serving roughly 500 of KeyBank’s largest families across the country and managing $12 billion in investments.

Learn more about volunteer opportunities at United Way of Greater Cleveland.


Getting the most out of your tax return

By Kathy Matthews, senior program director with Enterprise Community Partners

VITA and EITC Tax Relief for People in NeedEvery year, millions of hardworking taxpayers fail to benefit from getting the most out of their taxes. It’s a given that tax time isn’t a time of year people look forward to, but why not make sure you get as much money back as possible?

One great way to ensure you keep more of what you earn is to take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a refundable tax credit for low-and-moderate-income taxpayers. It helps millions of Americans get a larger tax refund to pay for things like reliable transportation to and from work, adequate and safe housing and putting healthy meals on the table.

Nationwide during 2017, more than 25.8 million eligible workers and families received about $63.8 billion in EITC refunds, with an average amount of $2,470. The EITC is one of the nation’s largest and most effective anti-poverty programs, lifting millions of families out of poverty each year.

The Cuyahoga EITC Coalition supported by Cuyahoga County Job & Family Services, United Way of Greater Cleveland, the IRS, many financial institutions, and hundreds of volunteers, help people claim the EITC at tax time. Just last year, the Coalition and its partners, through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and, helped connect more than 5,000 people in Cuyahoga County to roughly $7 million in EITC tax refunds – money coming right back into our community and being spent at local businesses. This ultimately bolsters our local economy and makes our community an even greater place to call home.

“The EITC and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) can make a real difference for workers who are struggling to make ends meet,” said Diane Gatto, director of United Way 2-1-1.

Free tax prep services for you

Beginning, January 20, 2018, the Cuyahoga EITC Coalition is offering free tax preparation services to working families at 21 tax sites throughout Cuyahoga County. Because workers move into and out of eligibility based on changes in their marital, parental and financial status, millions of workers will qualify for the EITC for the first time this year, making awareness of this important tax credit critical. At a VITA site, individuals can get free help determining their EITC and CTC eligibility and claiming these important tax credits.

EITC Awareness Day tax events

The Coalition is raising awareness of these services by hosting an EITC Awareness Day event on January 26 at Gordon Square from 1:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. There are also several Super Saturday events scheduled with:

  • CHN Housing Partners, hosted by St. Ignatius High School and sponsored by Key Bank on February 3
  • Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Cleveland, hosted by Cleveland Central Catholic High School and sponsored by Third Federal Savings & Loan on February 10
  • Notre Dame College, sponsored by Ohio Savings Bank, a division of New York Community Bank on February 17

Join us and take part in EITC Awareness Day to learn how you can get more out of your tax return. We also hope you will advocate expanding the EITC for those roughly 7.5 million Americans who are ineligible, who are actually taxed into poverty as a result.

Are you eligible?

To check your eligibility for the EITC, visit To find a VITA site near you or schedule an appointment, dial 2-1-1 or visit to learn more.

About Kathy Matthews

Kathy Matthews - Enterprise CoalitionKathy Matthews, a Senior Program Director with Enterprise Community Partners, has led the Cuyahoga EITC Coalition for the last twelve years.  Ms. Matthews is well versed in the administration and operation of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites and provides oversight for 400+ IRS certified volunteers and 25 VITA locations. Since its inception in 2005, the Coalition has prepared over 107,000 income tax returns resulting in $144M refunds for low and moderate-income families living in Cuyahoga County.

Prior to joining Enterprise, Ms. Matthews has over 18 years of corporate work experience in the financial industry in Cleveland and Chicago. During her corporate tenure, she held various leadership roles within the retail, commercial, and client services business units. Her experiences include several management positions along with time spent leading corporate-wide, diverse, revenue generating and expense reduction initiatives.

Ms. Matthews has a bachelor’s degree in English and Psychology from John Carroll University.  Ms. Matthews is a founding member of OutRun Ovarian Cancer (OROC) – a volunteer-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to raising ovarian cancer awareness and money for research and education. She also dedicates her volunteer time in support of several schools located throughout the Cleveland area and most recently, served as a volunteer for Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services.