Heroes unite in Public Square to mark major fundraising milestone for United Way

For more than 100 years, officials at United Way of Greater Cleveland have worked tirelessly to make sure local children get a quality education; help residents find food, shelter, and transportation; find jobs for those seeking to rise out of poverty; and tackle prevalent issues around health, substance abuse, and violence.

Through all their work, the United Way acknowledges who the true heroes are in the organization’s mission: the people of Cleveland. This evening, the organization recognized those “superheroes” by urging the community to come fly their hero capes at a thank-you event in Public Square.

Deemed “Heroes Unite!,” the event was a free concert and rock party headlined by Cleveland blues-rock band Welshly Arms, also featuring the music of local violinist Humble G Tha Fiddla. Attendees got the chance to try a video game virtual reality simulator, enjoy food truck fare, take pictures in a photo booth, play games of skill, and interact with real-life caped crusaders.

Along with celebrating the people United Way serves, Heroes Unite! also marked the culmination of the organization’s successful 2017-2018 fundraising campaign—with the announcement that this year’s campaign raised $45.4 million from more than 50,000 donors in Cuyahoga, Medina, and Geauga counties.

The total amount includes $25 million from United Way’s annual workplace fundraising campaign. A more diversified fundraising strategy expands revenue streams to generate funding for not only current needs, but also for long-term programs that fuel future innovations.

Of the $45.4 million, United Way plans to invest $31.2 million this year in the community, supporting programs aimed at alleviating poverty. That money will break down to $10.1 million toward Greater Cleveland’s health and human service sector to address education, financial stability, health, and basic needs in the Cuyahoga, Geauga and Medina counties; $3.1 million to United Way federated partners that support programs aligned with poverty relief goals (Catholic Charities Diocese of Cleveland, Jewish Federation of Cleveland and United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland), and $18 million to donor-specified causes and programs associated with United Way’s mission.

The remaining $14.4 million will go toward future programs and initiatives, as well as to United Way’s operating expenses.

“We need to ensure there is even greater transparency and accountability in our funding methodology,” explains United Way president and CEO August Napoli. “We have done a good job of ensuring we were allocating resources to quality programs in the past, but it is time we take the process and procedures to a whole new level.”

Making its debut at the Heroes Unite! event was the Impact Institute, which is charged with innovating next-generation social systems that can overcome barriers to combatting poverty. Much like a startup accelerator, it assembles advanced talent and experience from many thought partners from varied areas of our community.

“The goal is to get the most passionate, like-minded people together to form a consortium to tackle certain issues and challenges in the community,” explains Ralph Davila, director of news and community content. “The core group has been identified, and magic is going to happen.”

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Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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