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)

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:

My volunteer experience as a Young Leader

National Volunteer Week in Cleveland - United Way

By Jamal Robinson, IT systems engineer, Progressive Insurance

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

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

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

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

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

About Jamal

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

Learn more about volunteering at United Way


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


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.


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

A Greater Cleveland Poverty 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 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

Visit to read the stories and experience how poverty truly affects so many people in our region.


Please support United Way today

Several Cleveland schools receive national recognition for being healthy

By Zerrine K. Bailey, Healthy Schools program manager, Cleveland Metropolitan School District
In early August, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation launched the America’s Healthiest Schools campaign, recognizing 323 schools across the country that are creating healthier learning environments where children can thrive. As a Healthy Schools Program Manager, I work with 78 Cleveland schools to create sustainable, healthy change for students and staff.

All of America’s Healthiest Schools received National Healthy Schools Awards – a prestigious achievement that celebrates schools that meet or exceed stringent standards for serving healthier meals and snacks, getting students moving more, offering high-quality physical and health education and empowering school leaders to become healthy role models.

This year, six Cleveland schools received national recognition for their transformative health and wellness efforts:

  • Andrew J. Rickoff
  • Artemus Ward
  • Fullerton
  • Ginn Academy
  • Miles Park
  • Robert H. Jamison

These schools are leaders in the Cleveland Community and in the nationwide movement to create healthier schools for kids. They became America’s Healthiest Schools by going the extra mile. They encouraged their scholars to:

  • Get up and move by taking brain breaks during the school day;
  • To find time in the week to provide students with a minimum of 60 minutes of physical education time (national recommendation);
  • To consume healthier food and beverage snack options during the day;
  • To support staff and families in becoming healthier, so they could serve as role models for our young people;
  • … and so much more.

Ms. Sharra Wimberly, Fullerton wraparound coordinator, noted:

Cleveland Schools - Fullerton BannerThe primary business of any school is education. However, research shows that students learn best when they are healthy, safe and feel connected to their school. An investment in a healthy school community is an investment in student success. Here at Fullerton we felt it was important to take a holistic approach to our scholars well-being, so we focused on physical health, mental health along with academics and behaviors. The goal was to promote health and well-being for all members of the school community [scholars, staff and community].”

Every school is capable of becoming one of America’s Healthiest Schools. It starts with each of us committing to support our schools (even in small ways) to reach this goal. Studies show that healthy students learn better. They perform better on tests, get better grades, attend school more often and behave better in class. This speaks to the primary business of schools.

If we start today, we can inspire the next generation of healthier young people. To learn more about creating healthier schools in our community, visit the Alliance for a Healthier Generation website.


Zerrine K. Bailey serves as the Healthy Schools Program Manager for Cleveland Metropolitan School District.  She is funded through a generous grant from the United Way of Greater Cleveland, St. Luke’s Foundation, and Mt. Sinai HealthCare Foundation to work with 78 schools within Cleveland Metropolitan School District to create sustainable healthy changes for students and staff.


Free meals during school break for our youth

By Taneisha Fair, community resource navigation specialist, United Way 2-1-1 

Taneisha Fair HeadshotSummer is here, leaving Greater Cleveland kids and teens excited for warm weather. Some are anxious for family trips and barbecues and others about replacing the meals normally eaten at school, which is now lost over summer break.

Feeding America reports four out of five of the more than 22 million children who receive free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch at school will not have access to these meals over summer break. Fortunately, there are community programs to help.

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), a federal program, has filled this gap for more than 40 years. SFSP prevents summer hunger by supplying free and nutritious meals to those 18 and younger from low-income households while school is out of session. Individuals who are over 18 with mental and physical disabilities and involved in school programs are also eligible for the free lunch.

Meal sites operate in various locations throughout the community as “open,” “enrolled,” or “camp” sites. Open sites are usually in low-income communities, but are available to any child in the community. Enrolled sites provide free meals to children who participate in an activity or program at the site. Camps that participate in SFSP can receive a payment to cover meals for children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

Many do not know access to free meals for their children is just a phone call away! Residents can call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY or 1-877-8-HAMBRE to identify their local sites. There are other helpful resources, such as food pantries and hot meals that callers can learn about by dialing 2-1-1 or 216-436-2000.

Medina County receives grant to support United Way Youth Venture

Cheryl Parzych - United Way of Medina County CEOBy Cheryl A. Parzych, Chief Executive Officer, United Way of Medina County

Since 2014, nearly 25 United Way Youth Venture (UWYV) teams have launched in Medina County.  This work has been made possible by the generous underwriting of founding supporter Tyco/Simplex Grinnell.

Their critical underwriting was renewed in 2017 with a grant award of $15,000. With this funding, United Way of Medina County is looking to increase the number of new students actively involved in United Way Youth Venture by 100.

UWYV is designed to engage youth in their community, helping them graduate well-prepared for life after high school by ensuring that they gain essential knowledge, skills and experiences beyond the classroom.

To accomplish this, students form teams that lead their own discovery, design and execution of initiatives to better their communities. Adult volunteers serve in positions of UWYV Champion or Ally to keep the programs organized and act as resources to the participants. Community leaders sit on UWYV panels to review project presentations, provide experienced feedback and award seed money from the program when the teams are ready to launch. Everyone is empowered by the experience.

In Medina County, UWYV partners within school districts and with outside partners like Junior Leadership of Medina County. Two strong school-based programs, demonstrating the power of UWYV, are Brunswick’s Professionals of Tomorrow and Buckeye Blanket Buddies. Both are school-based and now self-sustaining.

The vision and continued commitment of Tyco/Simplex Grinnell toward youth in our county, and in others across the country, is ensuring that we all have a strong tomorrow.

United Way of Greater Cleveland participates in toy drive for foster youth

By Carissa Woytach, United Way of Greater Cleveland Staff Writer

Hope for Holidays

With the holiday spirit in full swing, several United Way of Greater Cleveland employees continued the organization’s annual tradition of collecting gifts for Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services (CCDCFS) toy drive.

Hope for the Holidays,” the three-year-old rebranding of the County’s Giving Tree, invites participants to donate gifts for all age groups for distribution to attendees from the foster and kinship care.

The rebranding came from trying to help ease some burden off the children’s caseworkers, said Kristin Gardner, CCDCFS volunteer and outreach coordinator. Under the Giving Tree program, caseworkers had to juggle collecting and delivering gifts to individual families, while with Hope for the Holidays, the child’s caregivers are responsible for taking them to the county holiday party.

“Children end up in foster care if bad things have happened to their family or it’s not safe to remain in your home,” Gardner said, “To be removed from your home is sad and hard, especially around the holiday. We love to see the children leave the Hope for the Holidays event with a bag full of stuff because at least it’s one day all about them.”

At the December 10 party, each child received one to two gifts, a book, a craft, a smaller toy and a chance to win raffle prizes like bikes. Pictures with Santa were available, provided by a former foster-youth who aged out of the system without any photos of herself as a child — something she didn’t want to have happen to others.

“When she aged out, she realized she didn’t have any pictures of herself as a kid,” she said. “Which is something most of us take for granted. So she made it her mission to do that, she does pictures and prints them right then and there so the kids can have them. She never wants that to happen to anyone else.”

DJ Reichel, publications manager, has coordinated United Way’s Hope for the Holidays drive for the past seven years. When Reichel started with United Way, he got involved by designing the promotional material for the drive and was eventually given full reign.

“We’ve been doing it the whole time I’ve been here,” he said. “I like it — I get to meet people in the building I wouldn’t have normally communicated with and it [is] an escape from my everyday job.”

The drive provided gifts for the almost 1,800 youth 20-and-under in foster or kinship care. And while only a fraction of those donations came from United Way, Reichel recognizes the gifts of his fellow employees are from the heart.

“Any amount of generosity is successful and this is a pretty generous group of people,” he said. “I know a lot of us don’t really have a lot of money to give away, so any amount of generosity is pretty cool.”