Seven years ago, the tradition of Giving Tuesday began. #GivingTuesday harnesses the generosity of people and the potential of social media to bring about real change in our community. While the information we share and conversations we have on social media are important, they will not solve the ongoing problems happening each day in Northeast Ohio. That’s why, one day a year, we ask our neighbors to come together to give back to the Land that we love.
When is #GivingTuesday?
#GivingTuesday is celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving—taking place this year on November 27, 2018. While many donations are received directly on Tuesday, any gifts collected during the month of November leading up to #GivingTuesday will be counted in our total. This gives everyone in our community a chance to give—no matter how big or small.
Where do my #GivingTuesday donations go?
While we continue to disrupt the cycle of poverty each day, United Way of Greater Cleveland is focusing our 2018 #GivingTuesday efforts on:
Each day, one in five children has to choose between breakfast, lunch or dinner. United Way of Greater Cleveland invests in programs across our community that provide access to healthy, quality food to individuals and families in crisis. A $5 donation provides a bag of groceries for a neighbor in need.
During the harsh Northeast Ohio winter, proper clothing is more than just a fashion statement – it is a matter of survival. This is particularly true for our most vulnerable, such as children and the elderly. A gift of any size can make a huge difference for one of our neighbors.
Right now, over 2,700 children in Cleveland do not have a bed to call their own. United Way of Greater Cleveland helps provide emergency housing for those who need an immediate place to stay and supports families who work hard toward owning a home of their own. A $130 donation provides one week of room and board for a child in need of emergency shelter.
Why donate on #GivingTuesday over any other day?
#GivingTuesday is the perfect opportunity to truly impact the lives of our neighbors in need this holiday season. Why? Because this year, United Way of Greater Cleveland and Medical Mutual will to take your donation even further with a $20,000 matching grant. That means that your gift will have twice the impact.
This season of giving, give.
As the director of basic needs at United Way of Greater Cleveland, I lead the organization’s investments in food security, which means ensuring community members have access to healthy food for themselves and their families. I have visited many food pantries throughout Cuyahoga County. When you walk in, you quickly see how many young parents and their children, individuals with special needs and even our community’s senior citizens access the pantry to get the food they need. For thousands of other Clevelanders, their access to food is changing as two of the four Cleveland Giant Eagle grocery stores close.
A recent food pantry visit made me realize I take my own trips to the grocery store for granted. I pulled into the parking lot of what looked like an abandoned building which once housed a corner store and a laundromat. This building was now a food pantry and the only place in the area to get fresh food.
While there, I witnessed an older couple loading up their cart. I learned the couple was married for approximately 50 years and were likely in their 80s. The couple doesn’t have any immediate family in the area and they live a mile away from the pantry. Bi-weekly, the elderly couple walks a mile to get their groceries. That day the couple trekked the distance in the snow and slush gifted by a Cleveland winter. They did it because they had to – because they lived in a food desert.
A food desert, defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is an area lacking access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk and other foods recommended for a healthy diet. Nationally these areas, according to the USDA, have a 42 percent lower median household income than nonfood desert neighborhoods and consistently see higher rates of poverty. However, food deserts have an abundance of corner stores specializing in snacks, processed frozen food, alcohol and cigarettes. Grocery stores are unable to generate enough revenue and keep business in food deserts and therefore do not provide residents the ability to get proper nutrition.
As more grocery stores are forced to close, one retailer has become a staple in Cleveland. Dave’s Markets continue to operate 14 grocery stores in Greater Cleveland increasing access in several neighborhoods, some of which are low income. Even with Dave’s dedication, many Cleveland residents lack access to fresh food due to barriers such as transportation. Convenient access to healthy and fresh food is critical and why United Way continues to invest basic needs.
United Way facilitates county investments to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and The Hunger Network that operate area food pantries. In addition, we invest in 11 community programs striving to enhance people’s ability to access and eat nutritious food and reduce the influence food deserts have.
As a community member, get educated about the issue, research what is going on and learn how your community is responding. Take time to volunteer or donate to local organizations providing healthy food to those who need it. And when you hear about legislation impacting available funding for programs, speak up! It is amazing the power a quick call to your local legislator can have. If you’re not sure how to help, send us a note. The bottom line: it is our obligation to ensure food desserts don’t force any individual, family or senior citizen to go hungry due to lack of access.
By Carissa Woytach, United Way of Greater Cleveland Staff Writer
United Way of Greater Cleveland is working to bring community voices into the allocation and aid process through its Community Conversations initiative. This program invites community leaders in the Mount Pleasant, Hough and Glenville neighborhoods to engage other residents and provide feedback on services and basic needs in their area.
An’Tuan Williams, community conversations associate at United Way of Greater Cleveland, worked with the Engagement Center from November 2015 to August 2016 to gather preliminary, thematic and feedback data from these communities, which is then turned into qualitative, testimonial information and quantitative statistics for basic needs services.
“The whole purpose is to aid in the allocations process with the Community Impact team,” Williams said. “Once [Community Impact] sees there are common themes from agencies and residents, they’re able to mesh those together to create a sweet spot of information to be filtered out into the community for ongoing relationships and also internal communications.”
Data is collected through Mind Fest, — scheduled conversations throughout service areas — and phone conversations, as well as Williams meeting with active members of the community, who relay his message to other residents.
Williams’ work is in conjunction with similar discussions Andrew Katusin, program manager, Community Impact is having with agencies to find out what they feel needs to be improved and how United Way can help accomplish those goals.
Finding a disconnect
Thematic findings include a lot of quality of life issues, Williams said, as well as a lack of program awareness.
“The residents feel like there’s not enough awareness marketed, whether it’s with calls, emails or flyers in the mail and then the agencies that provide the services feel like nobody shows up,” he said. “So, somewhere there’s a disconnect, a miscommunication and hopefully community conversations working with the entire team here can bridge that gap to create awareness and lead people to resources.”
Citizens have also expressed an interest in vocational guidance at an earlier age. Rather than start in sophomore year of high school, residents want guidance to start in middle school to give the students more time to develop the skill set. They also want educational programs at recreation centers and libraries, he said.
Bridging the gap
This initiative is hoping to bridge the gap between a community’s needs and the agencies serving it, he said. It has seen success on a small scale, with three grassroots programs bringing community leaders together to engage neighbors about their concerns. These programs are Coalition for a Better Life, Pride Among Daughters and Sisters, and several area barbershops.
Raphael Taylor, a Cleveland Heights resident and barbershop owner in the Hough neighborhood said he is interested in Community Conversations’ concern with the problems in his community.
“I was intrigued by the Community Conversation because it addressed concerns of what is happening in my community,” Taylor said. “It’s great to hear the views and opinions of others and how things can actually get better. Community Conversations are all about people coming together to share our views and opinions and discuss how things can actually get done.”
Working in the community, he has made connections with youth who often come to the older generation for advice.
“There is something being done with Community Conversations, it is a way to have a relevant voice and engage those who want to do something in the community,” he said. “There are even teenagers in the community who were excited to participate in Community Conversations. They have ideas, but no one is asking them or engaging them in the work.”
A report, combining Williams work with residents and Katusin’s conversations with service agencies, will be released to United Way of Greater Cleveland’s board of directors this fall describing trends in each community, similarities between residents and agencies concerns and gaps in the services provided.
A town hall is planned for spring 2017 to engage other neighborhoods and discuss whether their basic needs are being met.