Fighting Against Mental Health Stigma

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States and the leading cause of disability worldwide. Globally, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression. For some individuals, it can interfere with their ability to accomplish daily activities.

Despite reports from the National Institute of Mental Health that 6.7% of all U.S. adults have experienced at least one depressive episode, stigmas remain attached to mental disorders. This form of societal prejudice was familiar to Melodie well before she began struggling with her own depression.

“My sister is mentally ill and there was a stigma attached with that,” says Melodie, a patient at United Way-funded Far West Center. “We were always told at home not to tell anyone about it and that it was a secret.”

Then, Melodie and her friend were involved in a serious car accident that dramatically impacted Melodie’s mental well-being. “After the car accident, I withdrew myself from all social activities. I knew I needed help. My sister was coming to Far West, so I went with her to a group therapy class. Afterward, an employee approached me and said, ‘Let’s see you by yourself too.’”

Expression Through Art Therapy

With United Way funding, individuals in the Greater Cleveland area are granted access to counseling, art therapy and other therapeutic methods to treat depression, anxiety and other mental disorders.

After several sessions at Far West Center, Melodie still struggled with socializing with others. She tried different forms of therapy until she began attending the center’s art club to help treat her depression. It was then that Melodie began to see dramatic changes.

“One of the first art assignments I was given was to draw how do you see yourself, how do you think others see you and what you like to see,” said Melodie. “What I drew first wasn’t even a human person—one was a couch potato and the other was just a big blob. But in the third drawing, I drew myself as a professional photographer and as an artist. And you know what, I actually achieved my goals.”


Melodie Portrait

There are many different approaches to treating mental disorders that provide those diagnosed with the necessary strength they need to achieve recovery. Individuals evaluating treatment can choose the process that works best for them. Different mental health treatments include, but are not limited to:

-Support Groups
-Art Therapy
-Music Therapy
-Peer Support

For Melodie, art therapy helped treat her depression in ways she never imagined. “The art therapy program was a game changer for me because it let the walls come down,” she said with a grin. “Not being in a clinical situation one-on-one was extremely helpful. Instead, you focus on expressing yourself through the art.” Today, Melodie continues to work to improve her mental health and now commissions her art and photography all over Northeast Ohio.

Stand Against Mental Health Stigma

The stigma surrounding mental health disorders often prevents people from seeking the help they need. This is an unacceptable burden to carry for those already in pain. While the societal stigma has reduced in recent years, there is still more work to be done. You can help advocate for individuals like Melodie fighting against the stigma of mental illness by engaging in public policy and donating to United Way of Greater Cleveland. United, we can build a kinder, healthier Cleveland for everyone.

Do you or a loved one need help accessing mental health resources? Call 2-1-1 to speak with a mental health professional trained in helping individuals find the care they need.

Hotdog vendor pledges November profits to United Way of Greater Cleveland

By Carissa Woytach, United Way of Greater Cleveland Staff Writer

Hot Dog Vendor from Fletchs Franks

Stephen Fletcher remembers watching United Way commercials as a kid — PSAs with NFL legends talking about helping build playgrounds in various neighborhoods. Decades later, the message has stayed with him and has prompted him to donate 10 percent of his hotdog cart’s November profit to United Way of Greater Cleveland.

In food service since he was 16 years old, Fletcher took what he learned at Taco Bell and Church’s Chicken and applied it all to his business. Now, his stand has been open for two months, and he is saving money for a second cart to create another job in the city.

As his business took more and more time, Fletcher knew he didn’t have the extra hours to volunteer but said he still wanted to give back to his community. Touched by patrons who often give him extra money to buy food for someone in need, he stopped a United Way employee to find out more about the organization. From there, he decided to donate 10 percent of his November profits and continue the donations in the months ahead.

“I want to give back, even if it’s a small amount, he said. “There are stories like this in United Way and I’m excited to be a part of it now.”

Fletch’s Franks, located on 14th and Euclid in downtown Cleveland, plans to stay open as long as it can during the winter and also does private parties and catering on the weekends. For more information, call 216-203-4459 or email

Lisa Moran Ltd. turns CATWALK into black-tie affair

By Carissa Woytach, United Way of Greater Cleveland Staff Writer

Editor’s note: Rock the CATWALK, United Way of Greater Cleveland’s Women Leadership Council’s annual fundraising event, features fashions from several local boutiques. This series serves to highlight each boutique’s unique style and preview some of the looks to hit the runway

Lisa MoranOffering the epitome of class in formal wear, Lisa Moran Ltd. continues to take the Rock the CATWALK (RTC) decorum to new heights. Its fifth year participating in the event, the upscale boutique provides ball gowns, cocktail dresses and other formal wear and accessories for the event’s community models.

Located in the Eton Shopping Plaza in Woodmere, owner Lisa Moran opened the boutique more than 20 years ago. Over the years, clientele has come and gone, but Moran has continued to offer high quality from American and European designer labels, including Marisa Baratelli and Algo of Switzerland.

“I’ve been in business for 26 years, this is my 11th at Eton and it’s been fabulous,” she explained. “I absolutely love clothes and wanted a job where I could raise my children and work in the fashion industry and it’s worked out really well. I have 25, 23 and 19-year-olds and they were all raised in the store. Most days, I could be a good mom and a good shop owner.” Continue reading “Lisa Moran Ltd. turns CATWALK into black-tie affair”

J3 Menswear rocks fall-forward patterns, fashions on this year’s CATWALK

Editor’s note: Rock the CATWALK, United Way of Greater Cleveland’s Women Leadership Council’s annual fundraiser features fashions from several local boutiques. This six-part series serves to highlight each boutique’s unique style and preview some of the looks to hit the runway.

JB-DunnA more recent addition to the Rock the CATWALK lineup, J3 provides all the men’s clothing for the event. In business since 2010, they have given the guys of the CATWALK fashion-forward looks for the past three years.

J3 got involved with Rock the CATWALK at the request of some of their client’s wives. Already known for their philanthropy with sponsoring Flashes of Hope — a nonprofit that raises funds for childhood cancer research — and participating in Susan G. Komen’s Pink Tie Guys event, becoming involved with United Way’s Rock the CATWALK was the next step for the three J’s.

Started by JB Dunn, Joe Paster and Jack Madda, J3 looks to fill a gap in sustainable men’s fashion in Greater Cleveland. Continue reading “J3 Menswear rocks fall-forward patterns, fashions on this year’s CATWALK”

Staff Profile: DJ Reichel designs the branding and heart of United Way of Greater Cleveland

By Carissa Woytach, United Way of Greater Cleveland Staff Writer

Editor’s Note: While we focus on our work in the community and rarely shine a spotlight on ourselves, this series is designed to put faces and names to the great and challenging work United Way does every day.

DJ Reichel United Way of Greater Cleveland’s Publications Manager, DJ Reichel designs art for every campaign, fundraiser, event and promotion. From Pancake Flip banners to the simplest of nametags, his work can be found throughout Greater Cleveland, Geauga and Medina United Ways.

Recently celebrating his 10-year anniversary, he came to United Way after being self-employed as a freelance designer for 16 years.

“I really wanted to go somewhere to be around other people. I was sending out resumes and United Way called back,” he said.

Designing for events

In his decade at United Way, Reichel has designed for Fall Ball, Rock the CATWALK, the Campaign Kickoff and Pancake Flip and the now defunct golf tournament and Ride United bike ride.

“We used to do a golf tournament, we probably did that for 15 or 16 years in a row,” he said. “And that raised $2 million for the community.”

For Ride United, Reichel designed signs to mark trails and levels — the longest of which was a ride to the University of Akron and back, close to 100 miles.

“People would pledge money to sponsor riders,” he said. “That was a big project; I made all kinds of signs to mark the course, commemorative t-shirts, signage for vans and things like that.”

Recently, he helped with this year’s Campaign Kickoff and Pancake Flip, as it moved from several Cleveland schools back to its traditional location in Public Square. He hopes to visually rebrand it for next year, including redesigning logos.

He also lays out all the campaign and fundraising material and literature.

“As we move into the future, we’ll probably have more companies opt to do digital campaigns,” he said. “But at the same time we’ll probably still do paper [campaigns], because not everybody has access to the internet in their jobs — some factories and places like that don’t.”

Artistic process

Reichel works with project managers and committees to design their promotional materials. Taking cues from committees members, he creates proofs, giving them multiple ideas to pick from.

“I’ll assess their ideas and add what I can to make it better and move forward with what they’re after,” he said. “Sometimes multiple ideas lead to a new hybrid.”

Handling printing costs, Reichel said United Way typically gets a discount from vendors. Foote Printing, a Cleveland-based printing and design company, typically trades the printing of Pancake Flip items in exchange for free breakfasts.

“They’re very generous with us, their pricing is always good and we try to give them as much work as possible,” he said. “We like to hire a union printer because unions support United Way so we like to support the union and they always have the best price and they do good work. So it’s a win-win.”

A mighty task

Outside of work, Reichel said he enjoys spending time with his wife of 21 years and his 11-year-old son.

He grew up in Lakewood, and was always the artist in his classes. Beginning by drawing illustrations for his middle school newspaper, he continuously elected to take art classes before pursuing it as a college major. After high school and ready for a change of scenery, he attended art school in Fort Lauderdale. Afterwards, he returned to his childhood city, drawn to its urban qualities.

“This is where I belong,” he said.

Now, he owns an almost-century year-old home and often spends weekends working on it. This summer, with help from his father and wife, he has undertaken the task of meticulously repainting and repairing the aging façade.

“I spend a lot of time working on [the house,] and I enjoy that kind of stuff,” he said. “This summer I decided to paint it and I’m four weekends and some weeknights into that and I’m about half-way done. It’s a mighty task.”

Fostering friendships

Ryan Platten has worked closely with Reichel for the year-and-a-half he’s been at United Way – handling the website and other online media.

“When you envision a great coworker, he’s who you see,” Platten said. “He’s one of the nicest, funniest, most genuine guys you’ll ever meet.”

Sharing interests, including music and pop culture, Platten and Reichel are friends outside of work.

“DJ was one of the first people to greet me when I walked in,” he said. “He is true to himself in every aspect of his life, whether its work or personal, it’s all the same.”

Fall Ball is almost here!

Guest blogger, Bill Donatone is manager, assurance services at EY. He is also a member of United Way’s Young Leaders cabinet.

Bill and Andrea Donatone

It’s slightly hard to believe (2016 is really flying by), but I recently saved a date on my and my fiancée, Andrea’s, calendars for the first week of October. As I set the Tuesday evening event, another entry caught my eye. There it was – October 8 the date of Fall Ball 2016 shining like a beam of light on the screen. I felt a rush of so many memories with friends, colleagues and fellow Young Leaders (YL) from Fall Balls past. My memories quickly shifted to excitement and anticipation of this year’s event at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! It’s been truly amazing to see the growth of this event over the years.

I remember my first Fall Ball like it was yesterday. I had the pleasure of meeting the YL co-chairs that year, Andrea Timan and Carmen Edgehouse. I also met Paul Lepro who was taking over for Carmen as a co-chair the following year. I’m proud to say I’ve been volunteering with YL ever since. Continue reading “Fall Ball is almost here!”

United Way of Greater Cleveland feels Cleveland energy, hope after Cavaliers win

By Carissa Woytach, United Way of Greater Cleveland Staff Writer


In the aftermath of the Cleveland Cavaliers Game 7 win June 19, United Way of Greater Cleveland’s staff is being swept up in the excitement — donning jerseys and T-shirts, decorating cubicles and discussing game play and the city’s celebration plans.

And while many are expressing surprise at the Cavaliers’ 93-89 win against Oakland, Calif.’s Golden State Warriors; everyone is in agreement the win means a lot to Cleveland.

“It’s important because sports in Cleveland are something that brings us together, no matter who you are or where you’re from — it’s unifying across all demographics,” said Andrew Katusin, program manager for community impact at United Way of Greater Cleveland

His sentiments were echoed by many of his coworkers, including resource development assistant Andrea Harris.

“That game meant everything to everybody,” she said. “We were overdue for that. It was that game last night that was LeBron’s appreciation for the fans … [it was] closure for LeBron, he’s officially said “‘I’m sorry.’”

“Hopefully the jinx has been lifted,” added Alan Bedingfield, relationship manager. “The city has kind of completed its transformation, in the last four to five years we’ve been building up downtown — [we’ve] turned the corner.”

Bedingfield expressed his disbelief, saying he didn’t believe the Cavaliers had won until the last 10 seconds of the game. This is also being felt throughout the city, and in United Way of Greater Cleveland’s office.

“It feels unreal,” Nada Karaja, pledge accounting specialist, said. “The 4th quarter was a little shaky, [but] as soon as we knew that we won, it felt like the drought was over.”

For many, the end of the “drought” was long overdue. Having been a fan for the past 52 years, Jeffrey Miles, collections manager at United Way of Greater Cleveland, didn’t expect Cleveland’s “reign” to come anytime soon. He remembers attending the first Cavaliers game at its old arena, and has watched its rise and fall over the years.

“I’m excited, happy,” Miles said. “It’s been a long time. After 52 years, you don’t expect to win — you hope they do, but you don’t get overly excited, unlike these youngsters.”

While Taylor Holan may not have 52 years of Cleveland loyalty under her belt, her love of Cleveland sports was instilled at an early age by her father, a Cleveland fan his whole life. While the win was important to her on a personal note, she said it also affects United Way of Greater Cleveland’s work.

“When people are happy and excited and feeling like the city is going somewhere, it makes it easier to talk about our work,” Holan said. “Cleveland is a big city, but it feels like a small town when it comes to sports … It’s an amazing thing and I feel extremely lucky to have been born here.”

Katie Foster, relationship manager at United Way of Greater Cleveland agrees that, as a sports fan, she is happy for her city, but also the chance to highlight United Way’s work.

“It’s a page-turner, it changes the story of sadness and [hope] to accomplishment,” Foster said. “[United Way of Greater Cleveland] works so hard to make our community a better place … It shows us what we’ve done and still have to do in such a cool way.”

Nancy Mendez, director of community impact operations, has been waiting for a win for the city, while working toward its rebirth. Working to impact the city on a social and economic level, the Cleveland pride the Cavaliers championship has brought, has renewed energy in the city.

“When something like this happens, it changes the culture, the environment, where we believe,” Mendez said. “You take some of that hope that we brought a championship to Cleveland and you can translate that hope and energy into rebuilding this city.”

America Saves Week

Dan Hinman

At the start of every year many of us make resolutions attempting to be idealized versions of ourselves. While some efforts may fail, each one highlights the optimism and hope we have to be our best self, and often the difference between success and slipping back to old habits is a helpful nudge to keep us on track.

If your goal, like mine, is to save more money this year there are a few things in your favor at the beginning of the year. First, it’s tax time! For many, a refund can be the largest single check of the year, and it’s a great time to put some money away for a rainy day (check our blog on free tax prep programs).

Also, February 22-27 is America Saves Week, a week dedicated to promoting good savings behavior and a chance for individuals to assess their own saving status. Continue reading “America Saves Week”

Humanitarian delivers

Dempsey HeadshotCandice Dempsey has been giving for a decade – and is just getting started. The UPS sales manager says her interaction with United Way began 15 years ago through a standard workplace campaign, but with each passing year, she has become more active as a volunteer and donor.

Dempsey has been a Humanitarian-level donor for nearly a decade. Humanitarian Society donor contributions (donations of $1,000 to $9,999) typically represent 25 percent of the campaign total each year. The generous support of Humanitarians joins the contributions of all donors to facilitate United Way’s work as a change agent to ensure kids succeed in school and healthy families and individuals achieve and maintain financial stability, all as a means of combating the effects of generational poverty.

“UPS is a major contributor to United Way; when I started working there 15 years ago, I signed up for the payroll deduction,” Dempsey said. “Over the years, I began volunteering at United Way events. When you see what they do, you see the impact.
Continue reading “Humanitarian delivers”

Open Doors

Michael S. MillerLess than one week after the terrorist shooting in San Bernadino left 14 people dead and untold lives forever changed, a mundane act of civility illustrated for me how on-edge many of us are.

I was exiting a Speedway in Lakewood, a Cleveland suburb known for its diversity and cultural inclusion. Walking a few feet behind me were two men, probably in their mid-30s, definitely on their way to work. Real work: they were dressed in tough but well worn jeans, tan Carhartt jackets and boots that had seen many miles of action. Both carried presumably full coffee thermoses; one had a Cleveland Browns sticker on it.

As I approached the door, two women dressed in full burqas were walking toward the entrance. On reflex, I held the door open and waited for them to step inside. Neither of them spoke or made direct eye contact with me but both women nodded their heads slightly in thanks. Continue reading “Open Doors”