In the News

Planting the seeds of literacy throughout Greater Cleveland

By Seeds of Literacy Executive Director, Bonnie Entler

Seeds of Literacy is a nationally accredited non-profit organization that provides free basic education and GED® preparation to adults in the Cleveland area. Seeds believes that the root cause of poverty is illiteracy and that working together with students, volunteers, donors and more, we can put an end to this cycle. Led by more than 200 volunteer tutors, and overseen by professional educators, Seeds’ offers a personalized one-on-one model of learning, with flexible class times.

The Seeds’ program empowers adults to succeed by fighting the root cause of poverty: illiteracy. Studies show that an average of 66 percent of Clevelanders are functionally illiterate, with some neighborhoods as high as 85 percent. Functional illiteracy means they may have trouble understanding bus schedules, utility bills, or doctor’s instructions, and are unable to help their children with homework – all skills necessary for running a household.

“66 percent of Cleveland Adults are functionally illiterate”

The causes for illiteracy vary by individual, so in addition to educational instruction, Seeds’ instructors offer care and genuine concern for the welfare of students. This dynamic combination can be life changing – a powerful first step towards economic self-sufficiency, better health and the academic success of a student’s entire family.

We hold new student orientation every week and we’re open year-round so students can learn at their own pace and around their busy schedules.  Students set their individual educational goals in orientation, so rather than a one-size-fits-all curricula, instruction is completely customized for each individual. Students have the ability to attend any  – or all – of the classes that are offered three times a day, four days a week. We have both East and West side locations, conveniently located along major bus routes.

Find out how you can get involved with Seeds. Call us at 216.661.7950 or visit us at www.seedsofliteracy.org.

Check out the video below to get a glimpse into what we do here at Seeds of Literacy!

Join us for an evening of fun, philanthropy and food!

Augie Napoli

It’s that time of year when our children head back to school, the days become shorter and we start looking forward to all that fall has to offer our beautiful midwestern city. It’s also the time of year when we hold our annual campaign kickoff. This will be the second official campaign kickoff under my tenure; and as we have done with many other aspects of our organization during the past year, we’ve decided to transform the event to better reengage the community.

This year we’re changing it up from pancakes and taking a more progressive approach to celebrating our kickoff. As someone who holds Cleveland near and dear to my heart, I wanted to help showcase our great city in a less traditional way, while still convening our community members, donors and volunteers in our city’s epicenter to say thank you for your generosity, passion and dedication. After all, you are at the heart – the philanthropic pulse – of what makes United Way tick.

We want to celebrate the things we all love most about Cleveland – our community, our innovation, our willingness to change and the people who make Cleveland a city of greatness and goodwill!

As part of our new United Way, driven by our new strategic plan, we have shifted focus to two core priorities – the people we serve and the donors who make it possible to do so. This year’s event will be held at a fantastic location where Clevelanders can come together to celebrate this past campaign year, while enjoying the city and all that inspires them to give of their time, talent and treasure. What better place than Mall B in downtown where we have celebrated historic sporting wins and are surrounded by the sights and sounds of a respected and growing city?

This year our “Heroes in the CLE” event will honor those in our community who have not only supported United Way and our partner agencies, but have also inspired us to continue to focus on the bigger picture: helping improve the lives of our children, neighbors and community members to ensure that everyone has a healthier, safer and brighter future.

Please join our team, our Campaign Co-Chairs Beth Mooney, CEO of KeyCorp; and Chris Kelly, partner at Jones Day; and fellow community members on Mall B in downtown Cleveland on Thursday, August 31 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Mingle with fellow Clevelanders while enjoying food from local food trucks and music from DJ Ryan Wolf, helping kickoff this year’s campaign by reaffirming your promise to be a Hero in the CLE for those in need.

Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry advocates for those without a voice

By President & CEO, Andrew Genszler, Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry

Andrew Genszler - Lutheran Metropolitan MinistryLutheran Metropolitan Ministry (LMM) inhabits the intersection where great needs meet bold solutions. Our mission leads us to operate programs that change lives, transform communities and enliven community engagement.

Since 1969, Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (LMM) has focused on serving people who are oppressed, forgotten and hurting, including individuals who are homeless, unemployed and involved in the criminal justice system, as well as individuals with behavioral health, guardianship and life-skill needs. Through advocacy and civic engagement, LMM prioritizes public policy issues reflective of our program interests and in line with the interests of our community, stakeholders, clients, program participants and staff.

In 2016, LMM served 8,272 people and engaged 3,584 volunteers. Last year alone: 409,866 meals were prepared for people who are homeless; 3,697 homeless adults and youth received shelter; 608 hours of behavioral health counseling were completed; 1,601 people obtained stable housing; 842 adults accessed medical care; and there were 281 job placements.

LMM is bolstered by individual donors, foundations, government agencies, community partners and more than 3,000 volunteers. We are particularity grateful to United Way of Greater Cleveland for its support of our work in Needs Based Housing Supports, Job Placement and Retention, Chronic Disease Management and Transportation.

Watch the video below to get a glimpse of what Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry does:

United Way Services of Geauga County awarded for distinguished service

By Kimm Leininger, executive director, United Way Services of Geauga County

Kimm and Monica with john and tracy - Frank Samuel Distinguished Service Award by the Geauga Growth Partnership (GGP) United Way Services of Geauga County was presented with the Frank Samuel Distinguished Service Award by the Geauga Growth Partnership (GGP) on June 21.  This award recognizes the:

“prolonged service and outstanding achievement by a GGP member or organization, who through relentless determination, diligence and dedication, has made significant contributions to enhance the value, quality, effectiveness and stature of the GGP and embodies…community service, economic development, advocacy, leadership, community impact, generosity and transparency, and a strong business acumen with a collaborative leadership style.” 

We were very humbled to receive this honor; and we know that getting this award is a true reflection of the value of doing excellent work in this great community.

Geauga County is blessed with organizations and community leaders who are interested in joining together to work on issues and develop local solutions that can lead to long-term positive change.  United Way has been able to bring key stakeholders to the table to address community issues, and participate in the planning processes with several others as well.  We have seen some of the greatest changes happen over the last few years, as we have come together to work on addressing income issues.

Fortunately, we learned long ago that when we stop and listen to the needs of those in our community, the doors of opportunity and possibility open widely. Over the last few years, individuals from our community have discussed ways to strengthen Geauga County. We repeatedly heard about the need to help individuals find employment that will enable them to care for themselves or their family; support those who may be underemployed rise to their full potential and help those with disabilities to achieve maximum independence.

We have made great strides in these areas, along with our valuable partners, through the development of new and innovative programs, such as Bridges@Work and Bridges2Work.

Bridges@Work

Bridges@Work is a collaborative program with the GGP, Catholic Charities Community Services, Geauga Credit Union and the Lake-Geauga Fund of the Cleveland Foundation, which helps individuals employed within Geauga County get to work, stay focused at work and advance in the workplace.

This happens through the utilization of a social worker from Catholic Charities, who is onsite at partnering companies and works with individuals to remove barriers that inhibit their success. In addition, emergency short-term loans are available to these employees, which are a tremendous resource to the program. Connecting individuals to resources within the community has proven to be very impactful – both at the employee and employer levels.

Bridges2Work

Bridges2Work, also a collaborative program, is helping individuals who are unemployed or underemployed to expand their skill sets and gain meaningful employment along a career pathway towards success.

This has included partners from GGP, Geauga County Job and Family Services, Ohio Means Jobs, Kent State – Geauga Campus, Geauga County Department on Aging and Geauga Metropolitan Housing.  This group of partners has successfully graduated two State Tested Nursing Assistant classes from Kent State – Geauga and is branching out to new career pathways, including work in the jail with individuals soon to be released.

While United Way Services of Geauga County was the official recipient of the Frank Samuel Distinguished Service Award, we owe a debt of gratitude to the partners who show up when called upon and commit to creating change for our community.

A volunteer day of action at King Kennedy Boys and Girls Club

By Maria Oldenburg, United Way of Greater Cleveland, Intern, Affinity and Association Campaigns

Maria Oldenberg at King KennedyWith two younger sisters, it’s pretty hard not to love kids. So I was super excited to spend time playing with children at the King Kennedy Boys and Girls Club on East 59th Street with volunteers from the Young Leaders group on July 11. Armed with bags of balls, hula hoops, chalk, bubbles and racquetball games, we spent almost two hours reliving our childhoods playing with the kids.

We were surrounded by these little kids as soon as we brought out all of our toys. The reason? Well, it’s because the kids didn’t necessarily get to play with toys, like the ones we brought, at home or the Club. They were also quite excited about their new playmates; and their enthusiasm was so contagious!

They made the time fly by so quick. All of the kids that I had the chance to interact with were incredibly sweet and inviting,  showing me their best tricks and giving me advice on how to get better at the hula hoop — even though I haven’t played in years. By the end of the event, I felt like a hula hoop pro!

I also got to spend a lot of time playing tag, chalking and tossing a Frisbee with them. In addition to playing games, we had the chance to listen to the kids’ stories and support them in any way we could. It was wonderful hearing the kids tell us their plans for the future. One of the boys, who was especially good at hula hooping, wanted to be a photographer and we were able to give him, as well as the rest of the group advice. It was a really positive, humbling experience to say the least.

The Young Leaders visit the King Kennedy club once-a-month in order to share their time with the children. You can find out more information and sign up for the next Day of Action here.

Free air conditioners to combat summer heat for those in need

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

Taneisha Fair HeadshotIn the midst of the summer heat, many individuals and families have to suffer without air conditioning, which is particularly detrimental for a segment of the population with health risks. However, free air conditioners are being offered through HEAP’s Summer Crisis program again this summer.

HEAP provides payment assistance for electric bills, in addition to air conditioner units and repairs for those who may need cooling assistance to benefit their health.  Common examples of conditions that may qualify include: COPD, asthma and lung disease.

Medical issues like these may leave many without enough income to pay for utility bills, due to extended time out of work, high medical bills and/or low disability payments.

The program is open to income-eligible individuals who are 60 and older, or to those who can provide medical documentation for a certified health condition.  Households with a member who meets the eligibility requirements can also apply.  Residents enrolled in the Percentage of Income Payment Plan Plus Program (PIPP) are not eligible to receive assistance through this program, but may call United Way 2-1-1 to find some additional resources.

The Summer Crisis Program will be available from July 1 through August 31 and can be used only once during the season. This year, it will be provided by the Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland (CEOGC) HEAP office, located at 1849 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115.

Residents can call the 24-hour line at (216) 518-4014 to make an appointment, or can walk-in Monday-Friday starting at 6:30 a.m. For additional information on the program and necessary documentation, call the Ohio Development Services Agency at (800) 282-0880 or dial 2-1-1 to speak with a navigation specialist.

Reimagining a new United Way

Augie Napoli Headshot for UseWhen I joined United Way of Greater Cleveland as President and CEO a little more than a year ago, the Board of Directors gave me one directive – to reinvent United Way. Why? Because despite the more than $2.2 billion United Way has helped raise and give back to our community since 1913, the success of our annual campaign model has declined, while the need for the types of community services we fund has increased.

With the full support of our board, executive team and a special strategic planning committee of the Board of Directors, we’re ready to begin sharing the results of a year-long effort to develop a three-year strategic plan and a recently completed community assessment.

The Community Assessment was a huge undertaking, involving surveys of more than 26,000 individuals and organizations in seven counties, 23 focus groups, interviews with 50 individual stakeholders and many other data and information gathering tactics. What we learned will drive how we allocate funding to the community and help restructure our operations to be more responsive to agencies and organizations we support.

Another important information-gathering resource was the United Way 2-1-1 Helpline, which has an expansive database of information. With more than 4,000 points of contact and the ability to track and identify trends on incoming calls to our navigation specialists, we were able to add a great deal of substantive information to the plan.

The 2017-2020 Strategic Plan envisions a new approach to engaging donors and addressing the greatest needs in our community. The three-year plan, which incorporates a new vision, mission, values and guiding principles  for United Way of Greater Cleveland, identifies four goals:

  • To create a more collaborative culture of philanthropy to address Greater Cleveland’s significant levels of poverty – we will re-establish United Way as the leader in the community on the issue of poverty by being a convener of those aligned with our key goals, allowing us to achieve the greatest social impact.
  • To focus on fundraising, creating more impact by implementing a robust, donor-centric approach that inspires more people to give of their time, talent and treasure. This fresh approach to fundraising will give the donor the power to choose what causes and issues best align with their philanthropic desires.
  • To modify resource distribution to be even more transparent, integrated and data-informed, with a focus on long-term solutions in the four critical impact areas of education, financial stability, health and basic needs – those identified by the Community Assessment.
  • To improve operational performance through a collaborative culture, high-performing teams, integrated infrastructure and enhanced technology. Simply put, we are reorganizing staff to align with the Strategic Plan, and investing in new technology, software and data analytics to support execution of the plan.

I am extremely excited by this new direction for United Way of Greater Cleveland and am ready to work with our talented team to bring this plan to life. Please join me on a journey that will require passion and perseverance, and the ability and desire to remain focused and invigorated as we work to achieve these goals and fulfill our new mission to “mobilize people and resources by creating solutions that improve lives and our community.” Because it all begins and ends with the people in need throughout our community, and each and every one of you play a role in changing our region for the better.

Complete details of the Strategic Plan and Community Assessment will be shared via various outlets in the very near future, so please stay tuned.

The power of rock n’ roll lives in Cleveland

By Heather Light, Associate-Affinity and Association Campaigns

Heather Light - Headshot - WEBIt’s been a bucket list item of mine for quite some time now to attend a Rock Hall induction. I can now cross it off my list with a little help from the Rock Hall’s new Power of Rock Experience.

On Thursday, June 29, I was granted VIP access to the debut of the Rock Hall’s latest exhibit, but I might as well have been front and center at an induction. Name an influential rock and roller and they’re most likely in the 12 minute-film that starts with Ruth Brown singing “(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean,” highlighting the start of rock’s roots and ends with Prince’s infamous guitar solo during “While my guitar Gently Weeps” from the 2004 induction of George Harrison.

I’ll admit my emotions were a mix of wanting to shout out “long live rock!” and jump up and down and also cry contemplating of the talent that we’ve lost. It wasn’t by coincidence that Greg Harris, President and CEO of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, explained that the whole point of the exhibit is to take you on the emotional journey so many of us have while listening to music.

After the film, people will be able to interact with Rock Hall inductees and have personal memories captured in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In the Say It Loud story booths, presented by PNC Bank, fans are interviewed by Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductees, including Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple, Smokey Robinson, Michelle Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas, Mary Wilson of The Supremes, Alice Cooper and others. The interviews can then be shared on social media.

You’ll be able to do all this September 23 during this year’s Fall Ball. Your ticket grants you access to the world renowned Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If you went last year, it will feel like a whole new museum. Another exciting announcement is the addition of Cleveland’s “rock star chef’s” Jonathan Sawyer Greenhouse Tavern, Noodlecat, and Trentina), Rocco Whalen (Fahrenheit) and Fabio Salerno (Lago) have now added their flair to the Rock Hall’s food choices; and I’m happy to announce to Fall Ball’s menu as well.

Learn about Fall Ball

Eaton holds 5k, wellness fair to raise money for those in need

It was a beautiful day for a run. On June 8, Eaton held a 5k run/fun walk at its corporate headquarters in Beachwood, Ohio. Roughly 250 employees participated and raised more than $2,700 to support United Way of Greater Cleveland. Along with the 5k, Eaton hosted more than 20 companies, including seven United Way Partner Agencies, for a Wellness Fair. Hundreds of employees stopped by the fair and were able to get information on various services and benefits throughout the community. The fair concluded with a short program where the winners of the race received trophies. United Way agencies were also able to speak about their respective services and the people they serve.

Eaton is a long time supporter of United Way of Greater Cleveland. Each year, they raise enough funds to put them in the top two employee campaigns in the region. This year, they are holding special events leading up to their kickoff that are geared towards United Way impact areas – health, financial stability, education and basic needs. Along with health, they will hold events around education and financial stability.

Their official employee campaign will kick off in August.

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.

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