Income

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.”


 

Coping with mental illness: moving clients from “survive” to “thrive”

Magnolia House Campus - Cleveland, Ohio
Used with permission from Magnolia Clubhouse
Through a compassionate blend of mental health services, employment training and friendship, Magnolia Clubhouse – a United Way-funded partner – empowers clients to achieve healthier and happier lives.

They see daily success in the accomplishments of Clubhouse members who are gaining stability and greater independence in the supportive environment of their unique center on University Circle.

Adults who have experienced limitations because of their mental-health issues work in close partnership with staff to develop marketable job skills that lead to gainful employment opportunities both there at the Clubhouse and throughout the community.

“Doctors had told me I wouldn’t be able to work. But by coming to the Clubhouse I said people here are just like me. They’re working. So I’m going to try,” said Lakecia, client and now employed as a result of help from the Clubhouse. “Without the clubhouse, I just wouldn’t have been able to sustain…”

They guide members in furthering their education by making measurable progress toward attaining a GED or attending college. Valuable life-skills are cultivated through our onsite programs that include: financial management, food service, horticulture, writing and video production.

Magnolia Clubhouse medical staff ensures members have access to the primary care and psychiatric services they need.

What they do works. Data shows Magnolia Clubhouse clients have higher rates of employment and lower rates of hospitalization and incarceration. They also report a decrease in the frequency and intensity of symptoms.

“The really great thing about being here at Magnolia Clubhouse is we’re all a family. I feel like I’ve got 75 brothers and sisters. It’s just a wonderful place to be,” said William, a Magnolia Clubhouse member.

Please watch the video below to better understand the difference they make in the lives of Magnolia House members:

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 MyFreeTaxes.com, 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 www.irs.gov/eitc. To find a VITA site near you or schedule an appointment, dial 2-1-1 or visit refundohio.org 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.

WHO IS ALICE? ANOTHER LOOK AT POVERTY

United Way ALICEWe all know ALICE. They’re the hard-working people who make us feel at home in our communities. They’re the cashier at your grocery store; the waitress at your favorite restaurant; the teller at your local bank; the teacher at your child’s daycare; and the single mom working two part-time jobs.

The newly released ALICE report by Ohio United Way paints a detailed picture of financial instability in each Ohio county. ALICE – Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed – represents 27 percent of the households in Ohio that bring home a paycheck that is insufficient to cover the basic necessities of housing, food, child care, healthcare, and transportation.  When combined with the number of households living under the federal poverty level, the total percentage of Ohio families struggling to afford basic needs rises to 40 percent.

The voices of ALICE

United Way Greater Cleveland hears the voice of ALICE from 26 counties across the state, 24 hours per day/ 7 days a week, when they call our 2-1-1 Helpline seeking assistance for issues such as food, rent, utilities or medication. They tell us about the challenges they face and they ask for help.  We tell them about the government and nonprofits programs that offer solutions and opportunity.  We make the important and meaningful connections between people and services that can change a person’s life for the better.

Who needs to listen?

As government struggles with their own financial stability challenges at the local, state and federal level, we hope they will listen closely to the voices of ALICE.

United Way of Greater Cleveland, with community partners, strives to raise up the voices of ALICE and those living in poverty to our elected officials and regulatory administrators.  We want to help them consider the impact of their decisions on our most vulnerable families.  If income or sales tax is raised, how will it affect those who are barely making ends meet? If funding for food and utility assistance is cut, will children go to bed cold and hungry? If payday lending is reformed, will it change the financial trajectory of ALICE households?  If the Earned Income Tax Credit is expanded how will it impact those walking on a financial tightrope?

What are we doing to impact ALICE?

In Cuyahoga, Medina and Geauga counties – United Way of Greater Cleveland’s three-county footprint – we are working with Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, committed community volunteers and dedicated staff to fight poverty and create financial stability in our community.

We will use the ALICE report to:

  • Remove stigmas/stereotypes associated with the “working poor,” who are struggling, hard-working taxpayers who deserve help
  • Protect the safety net and advocate for strategies to help a family cope with an emergency and prevent a spiral into poverty
  • Advocate for long-term strategies to help families achieve and maintain financial stability

This isn’t just a household problem; it’s a community problem.  How can Ohio thrive when over one-third of our state lives below the federal poverty level and/or don’t earn enough to make a bare-minimum household “survival budget?”

What can you do with us?

It is incumbent upon all of us to help ALICE families avoid being one crisis away from spiraling into poverty.

Stability in the lives of ALICE is positive for companies that employ them and helps stabilize the economic fabric of our community. Lawmakers, schools, businesses and social service agencies all need to come together to raise awareness, remove barriers and create long-term solutions.

That’s what democracy is all about –  citizens, businesses and government coming together in a non-partisan manner to resolve community problems. We hope you will join the movement and help our ALICE individuals and families prosper by visiting www.unitedwaycleveland.org/ALICE.

To learn more about what United Way of Greater Cleveland is doing to address poverty in northeast Ohio, sign up to receive our community newsletter.


 

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

A Greater Cleveland Cleveland.com Poverty SeriesCleveland.com recently began a new series called “A Greater Cleveland,” highlighting the issue of generational poverty. The first article focused on children living in King Kennedy, a public housing complex on Cleveland’s east side. Kids growing up in poverty, like the kids in these articles, may not have access to healthy food, safe places to play, or high-quality educational opportunities. They may also face violence; sometimes on the streets and sometimes in their own homes.

More than 50 percent of kids in Cleveland live in poverty. This is an incredible statistic and is central to why Cleveland.com is telling stories about this complex issue — an issue that must be approached from many angles.

Mentoring through poverty

Often children growing up in poverty don’t have the benefit of a positive role model. One of the many factors that can influence a young person’s aspirations and outcomes, therefore, is whether or not they have a mentor. Mentors can provide a caring adult for kids to talk with, sharing insights, advice and experiences that are invaluable. Mentors can provide exposure to activities that a kid would normally not have access to and provide a view into various career paths.

In fact, a 2014 report from MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, reveals that at-risk youth with mentors are more likely to engage in positive activities, including volunteering, participating in school sports or clubs, and holding leadership positions in extracurricular activities. It was also reported that “more than three quarters (76 percent) of at-risk young adults who had a mentor aspire to enroll in and graduate from college versus half (56 percent) of at-risk young adults who had no mentor.”

Revealing needs in Greater Cleveland

United Way’s recently completed Community Assessment identified quality “out-of-school time” activities as a critical need for Greater Cleveland’s children. Mentoring is a proven best practice that can lead to social-emotional growth, improved academic performance and better school attendance. Not only does United Way support mentoring programs through its funding, the Young Leaders also volunteer with Boys and Girls Clubs at the very same King Kennedy housing complex featured on Cleveland.com.

Visit http://www.cleveland.com/a-greater-cleveland/ to read the stories and experience how poverty truly affects so many people in our region.


 

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YWCA’s Early Learning Center changes lives

YWCA Greater Cleveland is dedicated to empowering women, but our organization does more than only serve women. The YWCA includes women and men as members, volunteers, supporters and leaders. Programs serve women and men, young adults, adolescents and children. We also provide services to other nonprofit organizations and the business community.

What does YWCA Greater Cleveland do?

The YWCA has responded to the special needs of young adults transitioning out of failing systems, such as foster care. YWCA Greater Cleveland created Independence Place to address the critical need for housing and supportive services of homeless youth. Independence Place is an apartment complex that provides permanent supportive housing to 23 formerly homeless youth, and in some cases their young children, along with case management and supportive services.

YWCA Greater Cleveland also pioneered the NIA program – Nurturing Independence and Aspirations. Under the guidance of a Life Coach, NIA participants pursue educational opportunities, focus on career development, receive housing assistance, learn the importance of health care, and develop life and parenting skills. NIA serves Independence Place residents as well as the YWCA’s Early Learning Center students and parents.

What is the YWCA Early Leaning Center?

The YWCA’s Early Learning Center serves children age three-to-five experiencing homelessness or similar adverse experiences. Our innovative trauma-informed model:

  • Assesses and identifies the social-emotional needs of the children
  • Works with families to create goals and case plans
  • Prevents the re-occurrence of homelessness
  • Empowers families to achieve and maintain the highest level of self-sufficiency

Recognized for our excellence and leadership in serving homeless youth and their families, in September 2016, YWCA Greater Cleveland was selected by a White House initiative, A Way Home America, as the lead agency for a community – wide collaboration of non-profit and government agencies. The collaborative, named A Place 4 Me, was challenged to house 100 homeless youth in 100 days. Together we exceeded that goal.

A Place 4 Me is a cross-sector initiative that harnesses the strengths and resources of its partners to prevent and end homelessness among young adults age 15 to 24 in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. A Place 4 Me is led by a steering committee consisting of the YWCA Greater Cleveland; Cuyahoga County Department of Health and Human Services, including the Division of Children and Family Services and the Office of Homeless Services; FrontLine Service; the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative; and the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland.

About YWCA Greater Cleveland

YWCA Greater Cleveland is a unique and vital community resource in Northeast Ohio committed to eliminating racism and empowering women. It was established in 1868 and with its 150th anniversary approaching, the YWCA is one of the oldest continuously operating nonprofits in Cleveland.

EITC lifts working-poor, boosts local economies

By Carissa Woytach, United Way of Greater Cleveland Staff Writer

Tell congress to expand the earned income tax credit for American workers

United Way of Greater Cleveland, alongside others in an initiative sparked by United Way Worldwide, is advocating for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) expansion in this year’s Congressional tax reform debate.

In a letter to the editor published in The Plain Dealer, United Way President and CEO August Napoli applauded Sen. Sherrod Brown’s support to expand EITC to include childless workers and taxpayers ages 21-24.

In place since 1975, the federal EITC was made permanent last year, prompting organizations like United Way to lobby for its expansion. Currently, the federal EITC provides a refundable tax credit dependent on recipients’ income, marital status and number of children. The working poor with multiple children benefit the most. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), the average EITC refund for families with children for 2015 was $3,186 — effectively boosting wages by $265 a month.

“It’s a proven tool to reduce poverty and for keeping people out of poverty. For working families who benefit from EITC, studies show it helps make ends meet to buy necessities like food and gas, pay a medical bill or make car repairs.”

EITC income eligibility starts between $39,300 and $53,500 depending on the filer’s marital status and number of dependent children. Working poor with no children, whose income is below $14,900 alone or $20,400 for a married couple can receive a very small credit if over the age of 24. The tax credit phases in as a filer’s earnings move toward a maximum value, incentivizing people to leave welfare and for low-wage workers to increase their work hours, according to CBPP.

Research by Brookings Institute shows EITC has the power to lift families above the poverty line. From 2011 to 2013, Brookings estimates EITC kept 272,000 Ohioans out of poverty, more than 150,000 of those children.

Cuyahoga EITC Coalition, organized by Enterprise Community Partners, manages Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) services, another service for working poor made possible through EITC. VITA helps low-income households file their federal and state income taxes for free, saving EITC recipients from predatory or untrained tax preparation services that can eat into families’ refunds. United Way 2-1-1 schedules all VITA appointments for Cuyahoga County.

“If it was expanded for those people without children and 21-24-year-olds, it could help another 502,000 taxpayers in Ohio,” Feleppelle said. “This really benefits low-income and low-wage workers, so it will expand the help to that other half.”

UAW and Community Housing Solutions partner to build ramps, repair houses

By Carissa Woytach, United Way of Greater Cleveland Staff Writer

Two guys working on a front porch of a house

Roger Carney, CPA and controller at Community Housing Solutions (CHS), gives Greater Cleveland residents the tools and resources needed to keep and repair their homes.

Carney deals with everything from installing hot water tanks to foreclosure counseling. Serving low-income homeowners — the majority minority and elderly — the needs Carney fills are desperate.

“I’m not revitalizing neighborhoods, I’m trying to keep people alive,” he said. “So when a senior calls on a winter morning and says ‘I don’t have any heat and I’m going to die tonight if you don’t help me,’ I want to react to that. Those are the kind of things we do and they truly are big deals.”

But, with a finite budget from the county, city and state, he admits there are needs he can’t always meet. “I can do anything, I just can’t do everything,” Carney said.

One of those needs was Orel Parsons’ for a handicap ramp. A double amputee due to diabetes, Parsons lives alone and was unable to maneuver himself down porch steps. A ramp would cost thousands, Carney said, and was more than he had to spend on a single house.

But, through a recent partnership with United Autoworkers (UAW) Local 1250, Carney was able to meet Parsons’ need. All Carney had to pay for were the materials, UAW members provided the labor free of charge – a quote Carney’s other contractors couldn’t beat.

“The partnership with United Autoworkers allowed us to pay for the materials and then in turn, they would take care of the cost of the labor,” Carney said. “It was really a very good project.”

Bridging a gap

A year in the making, the partnership between CHS and UAW developed from funding changes at United Way of Greater Cleveland. A longtime partner agency, United Way was unable to continue funding to CHS for fiscal year 2015. Still wanted to collaborate with CHS, Monica Ghose and Alan Bedingfield, relationship managers at United Way of Greater Cleveland, leveraged their contacts to connect the two agencies.

UAW workers working on a patio

“We connected UAW because of an existing relationship Alan had with Ford’s campaign manager,” Ghose explained. “Alan and I spoke with various people in Community Impact at United Way to get the right contacts, and Community Housing Solutions came up because they were no longer receiving funding.”

Pat Wallace, vice president of UAW Local 1250, welcomed the chance to work with another nonprofit. The local’s group of five men have worked with nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity, offering carpentry and other skills as part of a national UAW-Ford partnership program.

Participating for the past four years in the initiative, Wallace’s team members serve the community 40 hours a week.
Because of the partnership, Carney said he is able to do more at each house. Having completed two projects — Parsons’ and a front and back porch and steps for a Cleveland man — UAW is the first that come to his mind.

“I help more people or I can do more at each house,” Carney said about the partnership. “And oftentimes the needs are so great that it’s multiple things that are happening in each house. So I’m spending the same amount of money but am able to do things that are critical.”

GM Foundation Awards Community Grants to aid Northeast Ohio

General Motors employees with community grant check

The General Motors Foundation and GM’s Parma Metal Center have announced $25,000 in grants to Greater Cleveland nonprofit organizations through its Community Grants program.

“Through the GM Foundation, these important community organizations are able to drive programs that continue to improve the quality of life in our communities,” said Lamar Rucker, Parma’s plant manager. “We are proud to be a part of a company and community that both work hard to support education, enhance community revitalization and help those in need.”

Funded by the GM Foundation, the GM Community Grants will support the following Northeast Ohio organizations and community programs:

  • United Way of Greater Cleveland ($10,000) – Aspires to create and support healthy communities where all kids succeed in school and families and individuals are financially stable. To do this, they engage community members to volunteer their time, talent and voices to support its work. More than 150 Community Impact volunteers oversee the annual investments in programs designed to address some of our community’s most difficult problems, and Campaign Cabinet volunteers work to mobilize some 1,400 workplace campaigns. More than 2,000 volunteers participate in hands-on projects through Days of Caring programs. The result is 450,000 Greater Cleveland residents benefit from United Way every year.
  • American Cancer Society, Northeast Ohio Region ($5,000) – The American Cancer Society is the nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer through research, education, advocacy and service. The Northeast Ohio Region partners with Parma in major initiatives like Making Strides Against Breast Cancer where Parma is a leading supporter in the Cleveland area.
  • Big Creek Connects ($5,000) – Is committed to conserve, enhance, and bring recognition to the natural and historic resources of the Big Creek Watershed and develop a recreational trail network that connects these resources to each other and the community.
  • Greater Cleveland Food bank ($5,000) – Each year, 52 million meals are missed in the Food Bank’s service area. Its mission is to ensure that everyone in Greater Cleveland communities has the nutritious food they need every day through both food distribution and food stamp outreach efforts.  

“Through the Community Grants Program, GM Parma is fostering an environment that supports education and growth of the region,” said Lori Wingerter, vice president, GM Foundation. “Partnerships with these organizations underscore our commitment to the residents of Parma and all of Greater Cleveland.” 

This year, the GM Community Grants program will provide over $2 million in funding to hundreds of organizations in 47 communities where GM employees live and work.

El Barrio Workforce Development works to break down employment barriers, provides career training and services

By Carissa Woytach, United Way of Greater Cleveland Staff Writer

woman filling out a financial form

The Centers for Families and Children’s El Barrio Workforce Development program, funded through United Way of Greater Cleveland, connects Greater Cleveland residents — with an emphasis on Spanish-speaking communities — with training and certifications for careers in the hospitality, customer service, retail, transportation and construction industries.

The Centers’ Workforce Development program is offered bilingually, with many of its students learning English as a second language. Eighty two percent of students are minority, female or veterans, Director Ingrid Angel said.

Partnered with employers across Northeast Ohio, including The Home Depot, Dollar Bank, Marriott, Starbucks and Aramark, the four-week program based out of The Centers’ Gordon Square office gives clients hands-on experience in their selected fields while program directors work with them to develop resumes and complete job applications.

“Almost every day a person is here, they’ll have the opportunity to be trained by [our corporate partners],” Angel said. “We’re making our promise real to people.”

filled out time sheets

The program’s promise is to help employers diversify their workforce by offering them qualified, pre-screened candidates while giving clients the training and certifications needed to best match their career goals.

In addition to El Barrio’s on-site classes in hospitality, retail and customer service, it partners with Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) to offer two 12-week programs in transportation and construction. The first half is spent at El Barrio learning soft skills like resume and application building, computer skills and preparing for a college campus. The second half is spent at Tri-C where students learn mechanics for working in construction or get their commercial driver’s license for driving RTA or other large vehicles.

Named a Best Practice Model in Training by the National Council of La Raza, the center remains a strong resource for Spanish-speaking communities within Greater Cleveland. The program has a 70 percent placement rate and a 72 percent retention rate at 90 days. It strives to place workers in positions paying at least $10 hourly.

“I’m very happy to say we’re closing the gap because we’re bringing clients and employers to the same space,” she said. “They’re here looking at each other, talking to each other and that is our promise to both sides and it works.”