In the News
By Sam Ameen, communications coordinator, Public Relations, Parma City School District
Thoreau Park Elementary Principal Jamie Franko was anxious to see the Reading Room the school was receiving from United Way of Greater Cleveland courtesy of the of Young Leaders and its Readers Become Leaders initiative. On May 12, the room was revealed to the students, faculty and staff.
“We’ve been really excited that we were given this opportunity. I’ve been really excited since they reached out to me in December and said that we were going to be the recipients of the room,” Franko said. “It totally went above and beyond my expectations for what I thought the Reading Room was going to look like.”
The room has an outer-space theme and was furnished with comfortable places to lounge and read a book, such as beanbag chairs. The Reading Room was supplied with 500 books, which were donated by the Cleveland Kids’ Book Bank.
“It’s just another space in our building that really focuses on literacy and helps our students with early literacy and growing as students here,” Franko said.
“Kids were saying this is the greatest thing ever, they were thanking the Young Leaders, the volunteers for everything that they’ve done and I think just really made their day and it has already impacted our building,” Franko said.
The Reading Room is located outside of Principal Franko’s office in the main hallway for ease of access.
According to a 2015 report by the Office of Criminal Justice Services, nearly 100 people per 100,000 within Cuyahoga County’s population experience some sort of sexual abuse or assault. This data is among some of the highest within the state.
United Way of Greater Cleveland believes that sexual assault, rape and human trafficking are issues that must be tackled with strong resolve. That is why United Way funds programs at the Cleveland Rape Crisis center, a nonprofit that supports survivors of rape and sexual abuse with a focus on prevention. Serving more than 28,000 people in Cuyahoga, Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula Counties, their ultimate vision is to completely eliminate sexual violence.
Today, CEO of Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, Sondra Miller, gave a live tour of the center – showcasing how your volunteerism, financial support and philanthropic passions can manifest into real actions.
Watch the tour below…
United Way of Greater Cleveland is proud to be part of the exploratory group working to bring Say Yes to Cleveland.
The bold promise of Say Yes is to bring together an entire community to ensure each of its children has the opportunity –and the support – to go to college. Using last-in-dollar scholarships as a catalyst, Say Yes partners with communities to create systems intended to help every child progress along the pathway to post-secondary success.
Partners from the public, philanthropic, nonprofit and private sectors are working together over the next 12 to 18 months on the complexities required for consideration by Say Yes.
We’re also glad for the ongoing support and encouragement from the Say Yes team. As Say Yes Chief Operating Officer Eugene Chasin says, “it’s clear to the senior leadership of Say Yes that Cleveland is a community with a fierce desire to give its young people access to higher education, armed with the support to succeed in obtaining a college degree or other postsecondary credential.”
“At United Way, we know it takes a village to ensure our community’s kids have everything they need to succeed academically and ultimately pursue higher education,” said United Way of Greater Cleveland President and CEO August Napoli. “If Cleveland is successful in becoming a partner community with Say Yes, we are excited about the opportunity to wrap holistic services – everything from tutoring to health care – to elementary, middle and high school students. Say Yes is an innovative strategy that will create new excitement about education in our community.”
In the coming months, our work includes:
- Determining the parameters and criteria to provide last-dollar tuition scholarships to qualifying students admitted to an in-state public college or university
- Establishing a local fundraising committee and raising a significant portion of the scholarship fund as part of the approval process
- Identifying the necessary in-school and out-of-school supports and services and related public and philanthropic funding sources to meet the development needs of every child
If Say Yes ultimately approves Cleveland’s application, the organization would commit to invest $15 million in the community over six years, as various milestones are achieved. Those funds are not intended to be used to pay for scholarships. Rather, they would help to finance the scaffolding of a communitywide governance structure to manage the local Say Yes partnership and to seed student and family supports that, in other Say Yes communities, have included school-based social work; mental and physical health; legal services; college and career counseling; tutoring, and robust after-school and summer enrichment programs.
United Way is a member of the Cleveland exploratory group along with City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Cleveland Foundation and College Now of Greater Cleveland.
By 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.
Note: United Way of Greater Cleveland is highlighting exceptional volunteers in our community that have went above and beyond the call of duty to make our region a better place to live.
United Way of Greater Cleveland’s Young Leaders volunteer program is extremely active – with roughly 2,000 members of all walks of life, from ages 20-40 years old. Yasmeen Muhammad, a portfolio management associate at Key Private Bank Family Wealth, has been heavily involved with United Way’s Young Leaders program since January 2016.
She was asked by the previous co-chair of the KeyBank United Way Young Leaders to take her place in November 2015, because she knew Muhammad was active in internal networking and external philanthropic causes. However, she was exposed to United Way as an organization much earlier, when she was a part of KeyBank Foundation’s 2013-2014 United Way workplace campaign.
Muhammad says that she “really loved seeing the energy that everyone had around United Way… was impressed by the great staff, the rally of effort from the Greater Cleveland business community… helping United Way achieve fundraising goals.”
The Young Leaders volunteer group works diligently to plan and execute some of the year’s most exciting events; not only to raise money, but to raise awareness and garner greater excitement, as well as more motivated volunteers. “My favorite event is definitely the Annual Meeting – such a high energy event! The impact stories are very touching and it’s always exciting to see the final fundraising number for the campaign year.”
Beyond the Annual Meeting, the Young Leaders hold several of its own events to promote awareness and generate engagement in the community. Some of these events – several of which are award winning – include: the Annual Fall Ball; myriad networking events; a speaker’s series; days of action to give back; and many more.
She anticipates continuing, if not increasing, her volunteerism with the organization because of these, and numerous other events, as well as the core mission and vision of United Way.
“I volunteer because I love to help people and establish new relationships with people who are equally motivated to serve the community.” she adds. “… I feel like it’s the best way to make the widest reach of positive impact on the community.”
Note: United Way of Greater Cleveland is highlighting exceptional volunteers in our community that have went above and beyond the call of duty to make our region a better place to live.
National Volunteer Week is a way to thank those who volunteer and to build awareness for those who do not, and those who may be considering a volunteer stint. Jim Smith, a veteran at Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and acting VP, digital transformation & customer experience, is no stranger to volunteering.
He became involved with United Way of Greater Cleveland when he moved to the Cleveland area from his post in China last summer. “When you volunteer, it’s really personal… it’s a shared experience,” Smith says. “You’re giving something back to a group of people… It’s that personal contact with the people you’re giving something back to that’s meaningful.”
Smith goes on to talk about how volunteering not only makes one feel a sense of achievement and personal self worth, it also lends itself to professional development. He says some of the ways volunteering can manifest into the workplace is through leading groups of volunteers; learning and experiencing the challenges and successes of managing those people; and the planning and teamwork required to be successful. He always encourages people on his team who manage others to go out and volunteer in the community because those experiences are uniquely valuable.
He also mentions how many studies reveal that volunteering helps you live longer, healthier and happier, all while lowering stress. Smith sees this as a particularly appealing element that for him only enhances his desire to volunteer.
“United Way makes it easier to connect organizations to the organizations in need,” he adds. “You’re [United Way] is nationwide, which for us [Saint-Gobain] is good. We can volunteer with one organization, collect the stories and work together. There’s more need in the world than there is resources and if we can all do something then we can all make a difference!”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are roughly 77,000 veterans living in Cuyahoga County, with nearly 200,000 across Northeast Ohio. This is a significant number of people who have sacrificed in so many ways to protect our freedom and way of life.
What many people do not realize is that many of our brave veterans come home facing immense challenges – from PTSD and chronic anxiety to struggles fitting into society and finding work. Even though there are many programs and services available to our veterans in need, many people are not aware they exist and how to best utilize them.
To bridge the gap between veterans’ issues and the solutions that are available, United Way of Greater Cleveland, in partnership with Cuyahoga Community College and the “Stokes: Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future” 50th anniversary commemoration, hosted its first Veteran’s Day of Service for veterans throughout Cuyahoga County.
The Day of Service offered veterans an opportunity to discover myriad resources available to them based on their individual needs. College students within public health-related programs from Cleveland State University, John Carroll University and NEOMED volunteered, to help screen and identify needs and direct veterans to programs and services available to them.
Once the intake screening process concluded, attendees were personally escorted to each of the 28 booths offering services specific to their predetermined needs. The many participating agencies and organizations provided services ranging from basic needs (housing, food, shelter, ID cards) to VA benefits, job placement and education programs, among many others.
“It was an awesome experience to be able to support our veterans in need,” said United Way 2-1-1 Veteran’s Line Coordinator Tim Grealis, also a veteran who served in the U.S. Air Force. “To be able to help my fellow armed service members, especially the ones who are really struggling, is a powerful and gratifying experience. I’m looking forward to next year’s event and helping even more of my fellow vets.”
Poverty rates in Greater Cleveland have been on the rise. According to a community assessment executed by United Way of Greater Cleveland, in partnership with Case Western Reserve and The Center for Community Solutions, “About 78 percent of the county’s residents living at 200 percent or less of the Federal poverty level reside in Cleveland or the inner-ring suburbs.”
These staggering statistics are growing and affecting people in our community in many ways, particularly those who receive Medicare and Medicaid. Cleveland with a poverty rate of 36 percent, East Cleveland at 42 percent and Warrensville Heights at 19 percent have 209,000 residents who are Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.
Poverty is not just low-income individuals and families. It is those in need of health care and basic needs support. In many cases, there is a disconnect between health care and social services, making it challenging for folks on Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries to identify holistic solutions that best work for them, their families and caregivers.
Addressing the need
As a result of this gap in services, United Way applied for a grant through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to establish the CMS Accountable Health Communities (AHC) Model in 2016. With the support of four clinical partners – Cleveland Clinic for primary care and emergency health service, MetroHealth for primary care, emergency health and labor and delivery service, St. Vincent Charity Medical Center for behavioral health service and Care Alliance Health Center for primary care, United Way was able to attain a multi-million dollar grant yesterday to implement the model.
“Creating an AHC in Greater Cleveland will allow our health system to build a bridge and holistically assess a patient’s wellbeing and refer them to proper health care and social service agencies to address basic needs such as housing instability and food insecurity,” said United Way President and CEO August Napoli.
Over a five-year period, the grant will be used to embed United Way 2-1-1 community resource navigation specialists into seven Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth, St. Vincent Charity Medical Center and Care Alliance Health Center sites. The grant will create and support community partnerships for technology, workflow design, evaluation and planning. Additional dollars will be utilized for necessary equipment and supplies.
An AHC is a CMS model to address the health-related social needs of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries through assessment, referral and community navigation services, leading to improved care delivery, enhanced quality of care, reduction of the total cost of care and inpatient and outpatient health care utilization.
Patients receiving health care at Cleveland Clinic South Pointe Hospital; MetroHealth’s Main Campus, Broadway Health Center, Old Brooklyn Health Center and Thomas F. McCafferty Health Center; St. Vincent Charity Medical Center and Care Alliance Health Center’s Central Neighborhood Clinic will be screened for health-related social and basic needs such as housing instability and quality, food insecurity, utility needs, violence and transportation barriers. The screening will be followed by a community resource assessment and referral from United Way 2-1-1 community resource navigation specialists.
“United Way 2-1-1 is a free and confidential 24/7 help center with a robust database of more than 4,000 organizations, providing nearly 25,000 services in our area,” said United Way 2-1-1 Director Diane Gatto. “Our specialists will create a customized plan to address patients’ health-related social needs and then follow up to ensure the patient is able to implement the plan.”
The grant also allows for a one-year planning and training period to finalize the intervention, organize and structure the advisory committee as well as hire and train staff, beginning May 2017. Starting in May 2018 through May 2021, the AHC will aim to serve 75,000 or more Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries per year.
Note: Read our press release for more information on the CMS grant award.
By Leon Bibb, anchor and reporter at WEWS-TV, News Channel 5
It was the mid-1960s, resting in the midst of an ongoing war in North Vietnam as well as in South Vietnam, and tempers in the United States swayed like a wispy weeping willow. This tree had no secrets to tell though. All of us knew of the fight because the war had a total of 3 million Americans involved in it over the period of a decade. In the war in Vietnam, 59,000 Americans were killed.
This seemingly endless war most certainly took its toll on so many in the U.S. and all over the world. It was our war; their war; a war that put us side-by-side with our Southern Vietnamese allies in a time of great hope, as well as great despair.
I was in my youth at the time; not quite 22 years old. My life was ahead of me. I had dreams of furthering my ambitions as a reporter in our great city of Cleveland. After graduating from Bowling Green State University in 1966 with a degree in journalism, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to take on a full-time job at the Plain Dealer. I can tell you this was a proud moment in my life. To be a staff writer, gathering and reporting the news of our region, to the great people of our region, was to put it mildly an awesome responsibility.
We all watched as the war continued to rage on. It took so many lives that it was a paralyzing force to watch. Everyone was hoping the war would just end with honor, but it kept going on and on. At some point the war in Vietnam had to reach out and touch me I thought.
My call had finally come
As it would stand, it did do just that. One afternoon while working on a story at the PD, my mother called with a distinctive concern in her voice. I had received a letter from the Selective Service. Since I was living at home with my parents at the time, the letter to came to our Cleveland address. At the time, the letter came addressed to me, my mother theorized what it was because it was from the Selective Service – the draft. Holding the envelope, my mother called me at work, insisting that she open it for me. Knowing what it would say, I replied to her that “I’ll take a look at it
when I come home mother.”
As suspected, she resisted my request to leave the letter for me to open it later that day. My mother broke the seal and read what the government had sent me. As I remained on the phone waiting patiently, her nervousness practically palpable, she opened the letter and began to cry. “They’re drafting you… they want you… you gotta go [to basic training] next month!”
The news was, of course, troubling for me, yet expected. During those times, I inwardly understood the draft would be almost a certainty. When I came home that evening, we sat down and simply talked about the letter and what was to come. There was some solace in the words my father shared that evening though. As a World War II veteran, draft shortly after Pearl Harbor, he imparted in me many of the most basic, yet memorable qualities and traits I should take with me on my military journey.
Although simple advice, it was relevant and resonated with me to this very day. Dad said “You’re gonna meet men of all walks of life. You’re gonna meet men who didn’t finish high school. You’re gonna be with men who graduated college… southern white boys and northern black boys… all kinds of people, but what’s important is to get along with people and do what the officers order you to do and learn to do your job.”
The support extended beyond my father. All of my uncles were in the military, as well as my soon to be father-in-law, his brothers, and other men in his life. They left a rich legacy of military honor and duty throughout the two families.
So there was nothing unusual about being drafted – it was just part of our lifestyle. If you talk to anyone from that time [a World War II veteran], just about every man of age was in the military. That knowledge was part of my growing up. That was the way it was.
Of course, I looked inward and reflected on this new reality that was sitting right in front of me. But, I kept telling myself “If the government called, it was my obligation to go. Who should go if I don’t go? So I answered the call. It was my duty.”
My time defending our nation
The day I was drafted, my father drove me down to the Standard Building in downtown Cleveland on Nov. 8 at 5:30 a.m. to report for duty. This was the place every area person who was drafted, or who enlisted, went to sign in. That vast pool of men who were in the military and served in the war that yielded such an uncertain future was astonishing. But I, and all of those other patriotic men, forged on to answer the call from our nation.
Within three months of receiving an earlier letter from Selective Service, I had gone through the physical exam, testing, and induction. I was basic trained and deployed. It was a whirlwind, all meant to prepare me to protect our country. Along the way, I would learn to do my job and survive against the enemy.
Only a few hours after my induction, when my feet hit Fort Benning, Georgia, where I underwent basic training, I thought to myself, “I am putting away civilian things now… I am now a soldier and that is what I do for a living.” The key was learning to do the things required of me so I could learn to defend myself, my country and have the best possible chance of coming home.
After eight weeks of basic training, came eight more weeks of advance individual training in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. After that, I was assigned to a unit in Fort Sill. For the next few months, I served in an artillery unit until orders came for me to go to Vietnam.
In Vietnam, the initial plan was for me to be a truck driver within a convoy for the Fourth Infantry Division. However, I never made it to that job. I had mentioned to someone that I had a degree in journalism. To my surprise, I was something of a commodity. With that newfound knowledge, they assigned me to be a public information officer at a firebase in the middle of the jungle in a tent that had PIO on it.
Working for a full Colonel, I handled clerical work, writing, reports and combat photography. When I was not writing or taking photos, I still had to go out on patrol. I spent nights in the dark jungle, searching for the enemy or guarding the perimeter, watching for the enemy in the event of an ambush.
My two years went on in a similar fashion. I did my job, kept my head down and kept open lines of communication. Those were the traits my dad instilled in me during our chats leading up to my deployment and they served me greatly during those years of unease, fear, challenge and hope. That mentality allowed me to survive and to perform courageous acts beyond what I thought I could do. I still think about those words of wisdom to this day with fond memories and a full heart.
My return home, a lifetime of knowledge
When I returned home after being discharged in the fall of 1968, I was changed in many ways for the better. Being in the war and having those intense experiences made me more aware of the importance of life and how precious it truly is. I’d seen death in the reflection of men’s eyes and souls.
One of those reflections was personal. It was the death of a friend, who would now be my age were he to have survived. To know his life ended at the mere age of 21 is a powerful, heartbreaking and life-changing event that shed a light on the beauty of life.
During the past several years, I have been in touch with his parents and his sister. It was a bittersweet moment to reach them and begin communications.
It made me realize the importance of our military and that when we send our men and women, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters to war, some are not going to come back. This is the harsh reality. This is the reason we must make sure that whatever conflict the U.S. gets involved in is worth getting involved in for the betterment of our country and the world.
My resolve for supporting our veterans
I can say with certainty that we must support the troops we send into the field of battle every day and in every way. We must not just support them while active on the stages of war, but encourage and support them more vigorously when they return home. They are only following the orders of a nation. When they went and fired their weapons, their fingers were not the only fingers on the trigger. In a way, all of America’s fingers were on that trigger. It is our responsibility to welcome them back into society with open arms, open hearts, and open minds.
When they come home bruised, battered, troubled and emotionally devastated, we have to be there for them. We have to find ways to increase the support of our veterans, especially in these chaotic times, with programs and services, some of which United Way supports.
Fitting back into society is an even greater challenge now. Our veterans need emotional, physical, employment, and financial support, among a myriad of other needs. We must embrace them, hold them closely and shield them from harm in our attempts to help them find their ways. United Way serves in such a fashion to help those veterans in critical need.
It all comes down to love. It is the love of fellow man, of humanity, and of our veterans. That is what United Way is all about – providing the love, care, resources and support so many veterans are desperately seeking. We can be their beacons of hope. We can and must treat U.S. military veterans with respect and help those who do not have voices find theirs. United Way can be one of the voices to help veterans find what they need and claim it. Let us be the love and the hope for our veterans.
About Leon Bibb
Raised in Cleveland’s Glenville area, and a graduate of Glenville High School on the city’s east side, Bibb’s broadcasting career began during his student days at Bowling Green State University (BGSU). Following graduation, he worked as a newspaper reporter at The Plain Dealer.
Prior to joining WEWS-TV in 1995, Bibb worked at WKYC-TV as the weekend News Anchor and News Reporter starting in 1979. In 1986, he became Primary News Anchor for the Monday through Friday newscasts there.
He has narrated and hosted many shows at WEWS-TV, including “My Ohio with Leon Bibb,” “Leon Bibb’s Perspective,” “Kaleidoscope,” and a series called “Our Hometown.” Bibb has interviewed numerous political leaders and notable figures, including President Barack Obama, President George H. W. Bush, Neil Armstrong, and James Earl Ray, the convicted assassin of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
*Photos courtesy of Leon Bibb and Selective Service Publications
Advocates for a healthier Ohio and America have grown increasingly worried over the proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA), a plan by the current administration to overhaul much of the American healthcare system. Particularly troubling are enormous cuts to Medicaid, which would roll back a large increase in enrollees, which the previous administration and Medicaid advocate Governor John Kasich brought to Ohio a few years ago.
Health, job implications of Medicaid
Medicaid is a program that is funded by the federal government and administered by the states. The consequences for millions of American’s hopes and dreams could be devastating without federal funding. Medicaid has proven to be one of the most successful investments in the American dream that the country has ever seen. A recent in-depth survey conducted by the State of Ohio helps demonstrate Medicaid’s impact. The state surveyed more than 7,500 Medicaid recipients and found impressive results.
An overwhelming majority of respondents (roughly 75 percent) said that having secure health insurance made it much easier for them to look for and obtain work. This is important to those who worry that Medicaid will lead people to be less incentivized to work.
This should not be surprising given there were significant improvements in health among those who receive Medicaid. According to the survey, direct measurements of patient blood pressure, obesity, and cholesterol, as well as self-reports about mental health was greatly improved. This data showcases an important point that in order to thrive, and move up the economic ladder, having a solid foundation of health is critical.
Changes to Medicaid
However, despite this success, House leadership and the current administration are advocating for a bill that would eliminate vast amounts of funding for Medicaid.
Ohio alone is expected to lose between $19-26 billion dollars from 2019 to 2025, with total losses across the country in excess of $800 billion dollars. With funding reductions such as these, there is simply no way that Medicaid can avoid cutting off millions of people from the benefits of the program.
Approximately 30 percent of our Cuyahoga County friends and neighbors are currently receiving assistance from Medicaid, and this will almost certainly be lower should the AHCA pass. Job losses and investments in new and innovative practices in the region at our local healthcare institutions could also be considerable.
The United Way position
United Way of Greater Cleveland works with many agencies that use the Medicaid program to help people live healthier, more productive lives every single day. Our funding to them combines with Medicaid funding to create new opportunities for health and success for people struggling with disabilities, mental health issues, addictions, layoffs and other challenges.
With cuts to Medicaid, such as those proposed, our community will be less able to help our own people thrive. For this reason, United Way of Greater Cleveland will work with our elected representatives to tell the stories of those negatively affected by potential Medicaid cuts and to advocate for the continued strength of the Medicaid program.