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Climb Cleveland: a trifecta of unique new offerings in Tremont

Chick Holtkamp first discovered rock climbing in 1972 while attending Colgate University in central New York. Once he started, he never stopped.
 
“Very few people were climbers back then,” Holtkamp recalls. “So many people are climbing right now.”
 
Holtkamp regularly enjoys outdoor climbing in picturesque locations around Utah and Yosemite National Park. Locally he's has been known to climb the Superior Viaduct, the Hope Memorial Bridge and the Main Avenue Bridge. Add it all up and Holtkamp has established a reputation for himself as an accomplished climber around the country.
 
Now Holtkamp has opted to get a foothold on the indoor climbing trend with the opening of Climb Cleveland a little more than a month ago in Tremont.
 
He has attempted to open two indoor climbing gyms in Cleveland in the past — at the former Fifth Church of Christ Scientist and at Zion United Church of Christ. Both projects fell through, but his third attempt rose to success. The facility is housed in 7,000 square feet of space in a three-story building he owns at 2190 Professor Ave. 

“I bought the building in 1982, well before anyone was interested in Tremont,” Holtkamp says. “I bought it because I wanted to live on the top floor. But the space is really good for Climb Cleveland and it’s a great location. I’m happy where I am now.”
 
The climbing gym includes three levels, the basement and the first two floors in the corner of the building, all adjoined with a central staircase.
 
Climb Cleveland features a bouldering wall spanning 7,000 feet. The height does not go above 12 feet and there are no ropes involved in bouldering, says Holtkamp. The holds are color-coded to mark climbs in varying degrees of difficulty. Pads line the floor for a safe landing in case of a fall.
 
An interconnected endurance and traversing wall in the basement allows climbers to climb side-to-side routes, as opposed to up-and-down, for more than 200 feet and features authentic rock holds from around the country. Holtkamp explains this wall not only builds endurance, but allows climbers to get creative in their routes and to build their skills.
 
Clips, ropes and a stopwatch are provided on the endurance and traversing wall to practice lead climbing and speed.
 
Climb Cleveland also offers crack climbing — wherein the climber follows a specific crack in a rock. The skill requires specific techniques and is geared toward more experienced climbers — the facility even boasts a roof crack. Holtkam notes crack climbing takes a lot of practice to develop.

“Indoor climbing has become a realm of its own,” says Holtkamp. “Indoors is safer, but the movements are similar, so you can develop your skills.”
 
For those looking for a more mellow experience, Climb Cleveland also offers Ashtanga yoga in a 1,200-square-foot studio with trained instructors. The space is open for three-hour blocks in the mornings and evenings so practitioners can enjoy a flexible schedule.
 
“Ashtanga is another expanding practice, where it gives you ownership of your own practice,” explains Holtkamp. “Some classes are regular classes, but other aspects of Ashtanga let you show up when you’re ready.”
 
The facility also accomodates blues dancing. Classes are held on Wednesday evenings in the space shared by the yoga classes and build on mobility, confidence and partner communication.
 
“It’s another developing practice,” says Holtkamp. “People are used to salsa and swing dancing, but blues dancing is another form of partner dancing.”
 
Unlike salsa and swing, where the leader leads the dance, blues dancing involves both partners working together. “In blues dancing, the leader and follower are in constant communication about what to do next,” Holtkamp explains. “And so it evolves.”
 
Holtkamp stresses that all three practice areas at Climb Cleveland — bouldering, yoga and dancing — are really about building relationships.
 
“Community is a large part within all of these practices — you need other people’s help to succeed,” he says, adding that many people become friends while working out.  “In each of these areas I’ve provided space and support, but people bring their lifetime skills there. Climbing, especially in the environment we’ve created, is 90 percent social and 10 percent trying hard.”
 
While millennials are Climb Cleveland’s primary customers, Holtkamp says, people of every age can benefit. “It’s for all ages,” he says. “We have little kids here as young as four-years-old, and then we have people here climbing who are well into their 60s and 70s.”
 
And, Holtkamp adds, Tremont is the perfect place to work out and build on that sense of community. “It’s a great location,” he says. “People come here, climb, dance, do yoga, and then they go out to a local restaurant.”
 
Climb Cleveland offers day passes for $14, or memberships for $60 per month. Shoe rentals are $4.
 

MetroHealth transforms the medical arts with cultural arts

MetroHealth System is focusing on an aspect of healthcare that is sometimes overlooked: the power of the arts in healing.
 
Launched in 2015, MetroHealth’s Arts in Medicine is a cooperative effort to promote healing and create community through both the visual and performing arts. As a result, the hospital walls are adorned with paintings, dance and theater companies regularly perform in various spaces and music fills the hallways and atriums.
 
“There is a direct impact on patients and caregivers when arts is involved in healthcare,” MetroHealth president and CEO Akram Boutros says in this video about the program. “Art is healing, art is hope, art is life. How could you not include art in healthcare?"

MetroHealth Arts in Medicine from MetroHealth on Vimeo.

The budget for art and programming varies by project. Some funding comes through MetroHealth’s operations budget and some comes from the MetroHealth Foundation, while other projects receive donor funding.
 
Linda Jackson, director of the Arts in Medicine program in the Patient Experience office at MetroHealth, says that embedding the visual, performing and therapeutic arts across the MetroHealth system is a great way of accomplishing the hospital’s mission of inspiring a sense of hope, healing and community. She also notes the program's many goals extend throughout the system and beyond.

“First, we use arts to address population and health issues like opioids, gun violence and infant mortality,” she explains. “We want to integrate arts throughout the system – in waiting rooms, with patients and families, in staff and the community and through school health programs," says Jackson. "Cleveland is so rich in culture.”
 
To that end, several members of the stalwart local cultural network are involved including LAND studio, Cleveland Public Theatre, Inlet Dance Theatre, Kulture Kids, Dancing Wheels Company, Cleveland Print Room, Cleveland Ballet, Cleveland Orchestra, Cleveland Museum of Art, Zygote Press, and the Julia De Burgus Cultural Arts Center, among others.
 
Then there is also an extensive list of local individual artists whose work is featured in many of the new buildings in the MetroHealth Transformation Plan, which was revealed in November. The program extends throughout all of MetroHealth’s campuses.
 
Bringing diverse events to those campuses is a high priority. For instance, professional musicians perform on a regular basis, while Cleveland Public Theatre brought its Road to Hope performance to the outpatient center at the main campus. LAND studio worked with Jackson and other MetroHealth officials to curate the art that created the program’s vision.
 
“The three themes that really were prevalent were hope, healing and community,” says Erin Guido, LAND studio’s project manager. “These are the themes that tie in the whole art collection.” For instance, Guido explains that the critical care pavilion reflects poetic abstraction themes, while the Brecksville facility depicts perceptions of the outside world.
 
“There is a very big focus on local artists in Cuyahoga County, but in a purposeful statement,” Guido explains. “While it is a local focus, we’re also incorporating a lot of national and international artists.”

Jackson says the impact is impressive. "It can be as simple as how live music can help an oncology patient relax before an appointment or how, through the performing arts, we can help illustrate the devastating effects of gun violence on our community,” she says. “It's exciting that in just a short time our patients and caregivers are now seeking out our programming and also to know that we are just beginning and so much potential lies ahead.”
 
One component of the program highlights patients who have thrived after hardship. The Faces of Resilience project, shot by Cleveland photographer Paul Sobota last year, includes portraits of 14 MetroHealth patients who have thrived in the face of trauma. This month, the rotating exhibit will be installed in the waiting areas of MetroHealth's NICU and the Burn Care Center and Specialty Services Pavilion.
 
Last year, Community Partnership for Arts and Culture fellow and performance artist Ray Caspio hosted a month-long storytelling workshop with the hospital’s AIDS and HIV community – teaching participants how to tell their stories. The workshop culminated with a performance in the last week.
 
“It has been extraordinary to see the impact of our Arts in Medicine program,” says Jackson. “I witness daily the effect it has on our patients and equally on our staff - and there are so many examples.”
 
Jackson adds that the program has transformed MetroHealth on both physical and emotional levels. “We've brought spaces to life by adding a visual art collection that engages patients and caregivers and transforms an environment,” she says.

“We see how the arts therapies help patients recover and provide empowerment and engagement. Other people have the opportunity to engage in the arts that might never have the experience otherwise.” 

The Foundry adds rowing tanks, attracts thousands

Almost two years ago, nonprofit MCPc Family Charities, and Mike and Gina Trebilcock announced plans for a $9 million transformation of a group of industrial buildings in the Flats into The Foundry – a park, fitness center and boat house designed around fostering youth rowing in Cleveland. The effort has grown into a thriving center for area kids interested in rowing and sailing.

“We’re just beginning, and we’re starting to watch it take off,” says Foundry executive director Aaron Marcovy, adding that the organization now has nearly 250 athletes-in-residence who use the center on a daily basis.
 
The 65,000-square-foot building sits on a 2.7 acre lot at 1831 Columbus Road in the Flats. About 60 percent of the facility encompasses boat storage, while the remaining 40 percent is reserved for programming, workout facilities and locker rooms.
 
The Foundry has already expended $16 million in constructing the state-of-the-art facility, all of which was funded through private donations, Marcovy says. The organization continues to seek out additional grants and sources of capital.
 
The goal is to guide any student interested in rowing or sailing through the basics and, hopefully, to help them garner college scholarships. “We want to introduce the sport of rowing and provide pathways if they fall in love with it – and they usually do,” Marcovy says. “We want to eliminate as many barriers as possible.”
 
The latest addition to the Foundry is two state-of-the-art indoor rowing tanks – allowing for one person to get a rowing workout or as many as 24 to row together.
 
“The [tanks] will certainly be a workout facility, where athletes can get an incredibly intense workout, in addition to learning the basics,” says Marcovy. “These tanks and the whole facility will be open for people to learn about a new sport, become fit and stay healthy, and utilize our greatest resources – the river and the lake.”
 
The tanks, which have 36 seats that sit in moving water pools, were installed and filled last week, and will be a nice addition to both beginners and seasoned athletes year-round. Marcovy quotes one 30-year-old athlete who marveled over the intensity of a rowing workout, noting with belabored breath, “I've done CrossFit for four years, and that was ... that was ... so much harder," after using one of the tanks.
 
Those new additions will also serve the Foundry well for students who are just learning the sport, many of whom Marcovy says don't know how to swim and have never even seen a body of water like the Cuyahoga River or Lake Erie. “The tanks allow students to get acclimated to the rowing stroke before they go out on the water,” he explains.
 
A new parking lot was also poured last week and the Foundry touts a 584-foot dock – the longest on the Cuyahoga River.
 
Other workout equipment includes about 100 Concept2 rowing machines, a battery of free weights, including five racks and five lifting platforms.
 
On the water, the Foundry has 20 rowing vessels and hosts more than 35 other shells that are owned by individual teams-in-residence. Additionally, there are 12 motorized safety boats, most of which are owned by the Foundry.
 
Programming at the Foundry began to take off this past summer, in part through a partnership with the Cleveland Metroparks. After aligning with the Cleveland Youth Rowing Association in 2015, the Foundry has also joined with St. Edward High School rowing, St. Joseph Academy crew, Magnificat High School and the Urban Community School, among other schools in their rowing endeavors.
 
Marcovy says the Foundry hopes to attract even more schools as the organization grows. “We’d love to have school groups, youth groups and schools starting rowing programs,” he says. “Our doors are always open.”
 
The Foundry began a sailing program last summer with one Tartan-10 vessel, twelve 420 class two-person vessels and access to two Boston Whaler safety power boats. The organization operates a competitive youth sailing program out of the Metroparks’ Wendy Park.
 
The Foundry also worked with the Metroparks last summer on a 'Try It' sailing experience, which was free and open to the public at Wendy Park. “It filled up almost immediately,” recalls Marcovy.
 
This past Saturday, Dec. 10, the Foundry hosted the Bricks & Bridges Biathlon, a 10K run through the Flats and a 10K rowing machine race. The winners received real anvils as trophies.
 
On Sunday, Feb. 26 the Foundry will host the U.S. Junior National Team’s identification camp. The team is sending its head coach, Steve Hargis, and his staff to Cleveland to identify talented athletes for potential selection into the U.S. Junior National Rowing Team system.
 
“We hope that this will be a draw for high level adolescent athletes from all over the Midwest,” says Marcovy. “The event centers around a rowing machine test, as well as rowing in the moving water tanks.”  

Construction of Harness Cycle's new downtown location underway in historic Garfield Building

When Anne Hartnett opened Harness Cycle in 2013, her motivation was fueled by her love for spinning and interest in fitness. The cycling studio immediately took off in the Hingetown location, becoming Ohio City’s most popular place for an indoor cycling workout.
 
Now, Hartnett is in the midst of opening her second Harness Cycling studio – downtown in the historic Garfield Building on E. 6th Street and Euclid Avenue, 1965 E. 6th St. In addition to the studio, the new facility will also house a retail shop offering clothing and fitness gear from local makers.
 
“We’re really excited to go into the downtown market and build brand awareness among people who live and work [there],” Harnett says.
 
Hartnett asserts the Harness workout is perfect for people looking to get some exercise on their lunch hours. The 45-minute session incorporates hand weights into a spinning workout, which occurs in a darkened room with music and without computer metrics.
 
“We call it active meditation,” Hartnett explains. “It’s based on heart rate and beat. You’re really getting a full cardio workout. Lunch hour is a great time to unplug, ride for 45 minutes and get an awesome workout – a little reboot.”
 
While looking for a downtown location Hartnett originally eyed at a space in the basement of the Garfield Building before viewing the 5,000-square-foot space on the first floor. “It’s more than double the size of our Hingetown space,” she says, adding that she will have 35 bicycles at first but the space has the capacity for as many as 55.
 
Hartnett fell in love with the historic building and its marble pillars and large windows. While the Hingetown location has a more rustic feel, the new space will be designed more for the downtown clientele. To that end, she's working with John Williams of Process Creative to create a modern studio that embraces the building’s historic architecture.
 
“He has a great way of merging young and old in his architecture,” says Hartnett of Williams, who designed the downtown Heinen’s rotunda. “We’re keeping the integrity of the space and creating a modern studio.”
 
The new, larger location also allows Hartnett to offer men’s and women’s locker rooms with a total of five showers to accommodate clients coming in on their lunch hours. She also plans to use the lobby for collaborations with food entrepreneurs, many of which will stem from the Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen.
 
“We want to streamline and create a more full-service experience,” Hartnett says. “Come in on your lunch hour and then grab-and-go lunch.”
 
While Hartnett signed the lease a year ago, construction just began with demolition of walls to make way for restrooms and to create the studio space. While she does not yet have an exact opening date, Hartnett anticipates they will open sometime in March. She plans to employ 15 additional people at the new location.
 
In the meantime, Harness Cycle has been holding CycleLab Tours – pop-up cycling classes at unique venues downtown. Hartnett has already hosted CycleLabs at the Rock Hall and House of Blues. Today, Wednesday, Nov. 30, Harness Cycle will bring out more than 40 bikes at the Cavs’ practice courts inside Quicken Loans Arena from 5 to 7 p.m. Pop-up workouts at CycleLabs last about 45 minutes.
 
While today’s event is sold out with a waiting list, the next one is planned for Friday, Dec. 16 at Whiskey Grade’s Moto showroom in Ohio City, followed by a whiskey tasting by Tom’s Foolery. Future tours are planned in the new year.
 
Hartnett says the CycleLab Tours are at once an introduction for prospective customers to Harness Cycle and a way to do some market research on the downtown clientele. The tours don’t make any money, she says, and each event requires loading, hauling and unloading more than 35 bicycles.
 
“It’s a lot of work, but way worth it,” she notes. “Even if we don’t make money off the event, we spend more for people to learn who we are.”
 
While Hartnett’s original vision with Harness Cycle was to convert the energy used in pedaling into electricity, that dream has been put on hold until the technology is perfected and she has enough studios to make an effective impact on Cleveland’s power grid.
 
“It wouldn’t be cost effective now,” Hartnett explains, “but the goal still is to harness the energy of individuals to keep the sense of community.”

Family shelter opens as first of four Salvation Army capital projects

Just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, the Salvation Army of Greater Cleveland officially opened its Zelma George Emergency Family Shelter, 1710 Prospect Ave. adjacent to its Harbor Light Complex, on Thursday, Nov. 17. The organization broke ground on the new facility in November 2015.

The new 30,000-square-foot facility replaces the previous shelter housed on two floors in Harbor Light, allowing the Salvation Army to provide better services to homeless families and victims of human trafficking.
 
When it opened earlier this month, Zelma George was already at capacity – housing 116 people, says Harbor Light executive director Beau Hill. The new facility has 35 family units, some of which are handicapped-accessible, and a three-bedroom apartment suite for up to six victims of human trafficking.
 
Hill says the opening went well. “There are still some quirks we need to work out, as with any new building," he says. “It has truly been an answer to the program.”
 
In addition to the living units, there is a flexible multipurpose room, a five-computer area, a common area for residents and staff and a cafeteria.
 
A walkway connects Zelma George and Harbor Light, with a newly-constructed playground in a courtyard. “It’s your typical school playground, with nothing too tall,” says Hill, adding that there’s a slide and a funnel ball structure targeted at elementary school ages.
 
In addition to family-specific programming offered at Zelma George, all of the residents will have access to the programming and services available at Harbor Light. Families can stay at Zelma George for up to 90 while they get back on their feet and find permanent housing.
 
The opening of the shelter marks the first of four construction, expansion and renovation projects being done as part of the Salvation Amy’s $35 million Strength for today, Bright Hope for Tomorrow capital campaign, which launched after a 2012 study showed the need for enhanced services for the more than 143,000 Cuyahoga County residents it serves each year.
 
The three other associated projects include the Cleveland Temple Corps Community Center in Collinwood, which is starting up its operation, says Hill, while the East Cleveland facility should open in January or February. The West Park Community Center expansion will be finished in March or April.
 
Thus far, the organization has raised $32.3 million toward its goal. “We have a little under $3 million to go,” says Hill, who notes the campaign is now in its third year but was only made public a year ago. “We were hoping to be done, but we’re going to keep pushing.”

ciCLEvia to roll along West 25th this Saturday

This Saturday, Aug. 13, from 3 to 7 p.m., the new summer program, ciCLEvia, will roll out along West 25th Street. This will be the first of three such events and will feature music, games, food trucks, and free demonstrations of activities including yoga, Zumba, and boxing. While residents are encouraged to glide in on bikes, skates, foot or their wheelchairs, one mode of transportation won't be welcome.
 
Cars.
 
That's right. City officials will close West 25th Street to vehicular traffic from Wade Avenue to MetroHealth Drive – which is nearly a mile – for this family-friendly, age-friendly, and health-focused event. This first ciCLEvia will also coincide with this Saturday's La Placita, an open-air Hispanic market and celebration at the intersection of W. 25th Street and Clark Avenue.
 
Inspired by open street events in Latin America, known as ciclovías, ciCLEvia is a neighborhood-based program that is accessible to residents of all ages and abilities. Organizers hope to attract residents from the adjacent Clark-Fulton, Ohio City, and Tremont neighborhoods, as well as those who just want to spend an afternoon in the city without the usual traffic noise and exhaust.
 
“Open street events like ciCLEvia give people an opportunity to move, play, socialize, and celebrate their communities, while encouraging them to experience streets as a shared public space that serves diverse users,” said event organizer Calley Mersmann in a statement.
 
ciCLEvia will return on Sept. 10 and Oct. 8. The September date will also coincide with La Placita. Street closure and event times will remain the same for the subsequent events.

The series is a signature event of Cleveland’s Year of Sustainable Transportation.
 
ciCLEvia was planned by partners Bike Cleveland, the MetroHealth System, the Cleveland Department of Public Health, the Healthy Cleveland Initiative, Age-Friendly Cleveland, Sustainable Cleveland 2019, and Ward 14. Other partners include the YMCA, Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation, the Saint Luke's Foundation, Spindrift and Neighborhood Family Practice. For more information contact Calley Mersmann at 216-512-0253 or email info@ciclevia.com.
 

The basics: May Dugan serves families in need with food, clothing and medical help

Sue Nerlinger likes to keep active. “Sitting around drives me cuckoo,” she says. “I can’t stand sitting around.”

So, when a Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis in 2000 threatened to slow her down, she kept working as an optician for W.A. Jones Optical with University Hospitals until the company closed in 2010.
 
Nerlinger's twins were just 10 years old at the time, and with the job behind her, she needed to get food on the table and was having a hard time making ends meet. She turned to the May Dugan Center’s Basic Needs Program, which provides food, fresh produce and clothing to Cleveland’s west side residents in need.

“That was one of the hardest things for me, to ask for help,” Nerlinger recalls.
 
Since 1969, the program has offered fresh produce at the Ohio City institution from March through October on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month, with the addition of non-perishable food and clothing on the fourth Wednesdays.
 
The produce and food comes through a partnership with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. Charitable organizations, such as the Hunger Network, St. Mark’s Church and Westlake PTA, also provide assistance and May Dugan accepts donations of household goods and clothing from the public Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
 
“Our primary goal is getting food in the hands of people who need it,” says May Dugan deputy director Andy Trares. “We have a racially diverse client base and there are folks here from all walks of life. We have younger folks in their 20s and 30s to seniors in their 70s and 80s.”
 
In total, May Dugan serves thousands of families in its 20 distributions in eight months out of the year. For instance, 322 families totaling 909 people were served in July, which is almost 75 more than the center saw in July 2015, says Trares.
 
Even during the parade to celebrate the Cavs wining the NBA championship on June 22, May Dugan was passing out food to 188 families representing 531 people. “While all of Cleveland was loving that we finally won the national championship, we were celebrating too,” says Trares. “But 531 people knew they could come here and get food.”
 
Nerlinger was so grateful for the help she recieved from the center that she became a May Dugan volunteer. “People were so kind to me I decided it was time to give back to the community, to the people who need it,” she says.
 
On distribution days Nerlinger lines everyone up, making sure they each have a ticket for food bags, and chats up the people waiting for services. “I make sure I take the time to listen,” she says. “It doesn’t help to sit and mope about anything, but I can help someone.”
 
Nerlinger has also taken advantage of May Dugan’s health and wellness program, which the center started offering in January 2012 during monthly distributions. Medical personnel from St. Vincent Charity Medical Center offer screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, type II diabetes, HIV and podiatry checks along with educational health seminars and workshops. ExactCare Pharmacy is often on hand to answer any questions about prescription medications.
 
More than 1,800 screenings were performed at May Dugan last year. “There are so many people who need to have their blood pressure checked and don’t because they can’t get to the doctor,” says Nerlinger.
 
In addition to the screenings, volunteers also help clients with health insurance questions about accessing insurance through the healthcare marketplace and enrolling in and navigating Medicaid.
 
A little more than a year ago, May Dugan implemented a senior programming component to its Basic Needs Program by offering craft classes through Benjamin Rose Institute, financial advice from the Ohio Savings Bank branch on Bridge Avenue and W. 25th Street and music therapy programming.
 
The program provides community members with the basic things they need to survive without humiliation and embarrassment. And sometimes May Dugan simply serves as a place where residents can find compassion and friendship.
 
“I go there and I volunteer and I leave there more of the time thinking, ‘I have hardships but I realized how lucky I am,’” says Nerlinger. “I have no reason to complain. My heart goes out to so many of the people there.”

This story is one of a Fresh Water series supported in part by the May Dugan Center.

Vision Yoga goes underground with second location

Vision Yoga and Wellness opened its doors on West 25th Street in Ohio City in April 2011 – bringing to the neighborhood a source for yoga classes at all levels, workshops, massage therapy and acupuncture. The offerings have been so popular, the 800-square-foot single studio space was busting at the seams and owner Theresa Gorski couldn’t meet the needs of her growing clientele.

So in February, Gorski opened a second location, Vision Underground, in the basement of St. John’s Episcopal Church, 3600 Church Ave. The 2,300-square-foot space will allow Gorski to cater to a broader range of needs. She now offers chair yoga, yoga for children and community-based workshops and certification classes.
 
“I don’t call it an addition, I call it an expansion,” Gorski says of the new space. “When you have only one studio, you have to cater to your clients’ makeup and the majority of the population are able-bodied.”
 
The chair yoga will cater to those who cannot easily get up from or sit down on the floor, Gorski says. The new space also allows Gorski to focus on the wellness aspect of her practice.
 
“There’s a new wave of interest in focusing on wellness and prevention,” she explains, “where people want to take care of themselves.”
 
Gorski hired three additional yoga teachers to help with the 12 additional classes now on the weekly schedule, bringing the staff total for the two spaces to 15.
 
The church itself also has historic significance. Built in the 1800s, St. John’s is the oldest church in Cuyahoga County, Gorski says, and the Vision space was the last stop on the Underground Railroad. The place is also used for Cleveland Public Theatre’s annual Station Hope celebration of the site. Vision Underground will go on hiatus during Station Hope.
 
Vision Yoga hosted Vision Underground’s grand opening on Saturday, March 4 with donation yoga classes taught by Gorski, prizes, discounts on yoga packages and refreshments. Almost 100 people attended the open house and $1,000 was raised through a raffle and donations.

New downtown YMCA set to open at Galleria in March

The YMCA's 40,000 square feet of premium health and wellness space is finally set to open at its new home in the Galleria.

Current members are invited to the two-story Parker Hannifin Downtown YMCA  starting March 21, with a grand opening celebration slated for March 29, says marketing director Amanda Lloyd.

Amenities at the much-anticipated facility include over 70 pieces of cardio and strength equipment and a three-lane lap pool. Members can also enjoy group exercise studios, a spinning area, message therapy rooms, and a health clinic complete with an on-site physician.

Pilates, acupuncture, hot yoga and biometric screenings will be among the programming available, notes Lloyd. The new YMCA is expected to house twice as many fitness devotees as its current location at East 22nd Street and Prospect Avenue, which holds nearly 3,250 members.

The Prospect location will close March 20, meaning members won't have a delay in service, Lloyd says. The old building, sold to a Texas-based company last year, will be maintained as private student housing.

All of the YMCA's functions will move to the Galleria, where the gym will take up a former retail space. The organization has raised $7 million for a project budgeted at $12 million, with $3 million coming from Parker Hannifin. YMCA will tap grant money and individual donations for the balance of the financial package. The project is also set to employ 40 full-time and part-time workers, including personal trainers, lifeguards and housekeepers.

Membership enrollment will cost $50 monthly for young professionals ages 18 to 29, $65 for adults and $105 for a household.

YMCA officials believe the gym can be an anchor for a downtown population projected by Downtown Cleveland Alliance to balloon to 18,000 within the next two years.

"There are some vacant storefronts (in the Galleria), but around us there's a good core of corporations and people living downtown," says Lloyd. "Moving to this space seemed like the perfect fit." 

Collaboration brings home sweet home to disabled Cleveland veteran

An ex-Marine has found a new home thanks to a pair of veteran-friendly groups and a Cleveland suburb willing to support disabled soldiers with affordable housing opportunities.

Elyria native Corp. Leo Robinson signed the final closing documents for his new house in South Euclid during a Feb. 18 ceremony at Cuyahoga Land Bank (CLB). The organization partnered with national nonprofit Purple Heart Homes and the city of South Euclid on the project.

Robinson, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who sustained brain injuries and other ailments overseas, was set to move into his renovated home late last week, says Howard Goldberg, assistant secretary and chief real estate officer with Purple Heart Homes.

The 1,300-square-foot domicile, donated in 2012 by CLB, was rebuilt from the ground up, says Goldberg. Nearly 200 volunteers offered financial and material support for the approximately $70,000 undertaking.  

Plumbing, electrical, HVAC and insulation work was supplied gratis, while a local furniture company provided the home with a new bedroom set and other necessities. Members of the Notre Dame College football team, meanwhile, helped demolish the structure's interior prior to rebuild.

"This shows how a community can come together and make something great happen," says Goldberg.

Robinson will live in the house with his therapy dog, Kota. The finished structure has a new garage, laundry room, basement recreation space, and second-floor bath off the master bedroom. The former Marine will pay a mortgage equal to 50 percent of the home's appraised value.

Eligibility for the ownership program requires an honorable discharge and a service-connected disability, Goldberg notes. Robinson is the second veteran to receive a home in South Euclid through the venture. A third residence is planned for the inner-ring community, while two more projects are in talks for Old Brooklyn and Euclid, respectively.

"South Euclid's done a good job of sustaining their housing stock so the values go back up," says Goldberg. "The timing for us was excellent."

The collaboration also meets Purple Heart Homes' stated goal of improving veterans' lives one home at a time. The organization, launched by two disabled Iraq War vets, has found stable partners among the leadership and general population of South Euclid, Goldberg says.

"The one thing this shows is how people rally around their veterans," he says. "They're not only willing to help, but they want to make a veteran feel welcome in their community."

Further reading: East Cleveland duplex now permanent housing for veterans

Winter is coming and so is fresh local produce and permaculture from the urban greenhouses of CGP

Community Greenhouse Partners (CGP), an urban greenhouse and farm, is about to fly in the face of winter with fresh produce and an all-season teaching venue for an array of people,including some of the city's most disadvantaged youths.

This beacon of all things organic, sustainable and green will also continue to sell their produce at affordable prices even as the snow flies.
 
"We happily sell out the back door," says CGP executive director Timothy Smith, inviting anyone and everyone to visit this unique farm in the middle of the city at 6527 Superior Road. "Come and see. Come and help us harvest your greens."

Hours are between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. during the week. The organization also sets up shop every Saturday at Coit Road Farmers' Market and on Wednesdays from June through September at Gordon Square Market.
 
The greenhouse will operate through the winter courtesy of a compost heater, designed and built by engineering students from Cleveland State University (and funded by Virtec Enterprises). The system heats the farm's hydroponic water system to a balmy 70 degrees, keeping the roots of the plants warm even in winter.

Current crops include lettuce, kale, arugula, root crops and CGP's specialty, sunflower microgreens, which include the first stem and leaf of the sunflower plant.  
 
"They are nutty and sweet and crunchy," says Smith. "They taste a little bit like a sunflower seed. Some people say they taste like green beans or asparagus." He recommends them raw in a salad, as a sandwich topper or a salsa add-in. "I tend to sauté a handful of them in a little bit of butter and add my eggs."
 
Touting the plant's nutritional value, Smith tags protein, B vitamins, folic acid and antioxidants. "They're a superfood that's healthier than kale," he says of the tender greens. "We sell lots of them."
 
The group also offers up handmade value-added items such as apple jelly, herbed vinegars and cherry tomato chutney, which Smith describes as sweet and spicy hot. "It is delicious."
 
The CGP site was formerly a Catholic Church campus. Working the farm are any number of revolving volunteers and seven interns who live in what used to be the rectory, which was originally a farmhouse built in 1865. The interns get room and partial board in exchange for 20 hours of work per week. The live-in staff changes, with candidates coming from schools, internship programs and the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms program, which links international volunteers with organic farmers and growers. Working visitors of CGP have come from New Zealand, France, Peru, England and Germany.
 
While the organization is all about outreach and has engaged in educational and volunteer partnerships with Case Western Reserve University, Hawken School and an array of interested parties and downtown residents, CGP's work with students from the Saint Francis Elementary School truly exemplifies Smith's goal of teaching permaculture -- a hands-on learning approach to the ethical care of people and the planet that creates a "fair share" environment.  
 
The Saint Francis partnership starts aptly enough in the school's cafeteria with microgreen salads purchased from CGP once a month for student lunches.
 
"They love them," reports Smith of the students' reactions to the monthly salad delivery, which started in September. "They tear into them. They're so excited when we bring them in."
 
The kids also have monthly science classes at the farm, where they learn all about urban farming with hands-on instruction on topics such as composting, microgreen planting, bed preparation and harvesting crops like green beans.
 
Sometimes, however, just showing kids where vegetables come from – out of the ground - sparks an epiphany.
 
"You can see them make the connection: this is where (food) comes from. The light bulb goes on," says Smith. "It's remarkable just to watch them," he adds, noting that the Saint Francis students are largely disadvantaged.
 
"They're really smart and they want to learn," says Smith. "They're hungry for information and they're hungry for good food."
 
Community Greenhouse Partners is soliciting donations for an expansion that will include doubling the organization's greenhouse space from approximately 1,250 to 2,500 square feet and transforming CGP's growing system from hydroponic to aquaponic, which will utilize fish as living natural fertilizers. Click here to help the urban farm meet its $12,000 goal.
 

Up to 250 new sharing bikes coming to the 216 ahead of the RNC

Bike Cleveland has teamed up with the Cuyahoga County Department of Sustainability to secure 250 bikes for a bike sharing program in time for the Republican National Convention next July. The move is part of a larger countywide initiative.
 
"Over five years we need 700 bikes in 70 stations," explains Mike Foley, executive director of Cuyahoga County's Department of Sustainability.
 
In order to get started on that tall order, last month the team identified CycleHop-SoBi as the preferred vendor for the new bike share system. Negotiations are ongoing, although Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) awarded the county $357,000 in federal funding to bring the plan to fruition. With 20 percent in matching funds, the group has $446,000 available to purchase the bikes.
 
"The federal government requires us to own these things at least for their usable life," explains Foley, "which is deemed five years." The program in its entirety will cost more, he adds, and will depend on a private-public partnership that relies on business and other private sponsors adopting stations and systems. Downtown will be the initial focus area for the first wave of bike stations.
 
The CycleHop-SoBi brand is a collaboration of two entities.
 
"CycleHop operates the system,"explains Foley. "SoBi manufactures the bikes," which he describes as sturdy and equipped with GPS systems. "Heaven forbid a bike is stolen or not returned," he says, "they'll be able to find it. It also helps figure out routes. They call it a smart bike. We were impressed with technology."
 
The bikes can also be locked anywhere.
 
"You don't have to go to a SoBi bike station," says Foley. "You can lock it up at regular bike stop and go get your coffee."
 
The versatility doesn't stop there. Although still tentative, Foley sees the program having flexible membership options, with yearly, monthly and weekly fee structures available, as well as an hourly rental system for one-time users.
 
As the program expands to reach that 700 number, Foley sees it reaching across the county.
 
"There are suburban communities that I know are interested in this. Cleveland Heights is chomping at the bit to be part of it," he says, adding that Lakewood has also expressed interest.
 
"We want this to be larger than just the city of Cleveland."

East Cleveland duplex now permanent housing for veterans

While social media bloomed with kind words for veterans last week, a project that truly gives back to those who have sacrificed so much was quietly taking shape in a duplex in East Cleveland.
 
Previously vacant, the house is now home to three veterans who were experiencing homelessness and utilizing the Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (LMM) Men's Shelter, 2100 Lakeside Ave.

This is the pilot project for the Veterans' Affordable Housing Initiative, a collaboration between the Cuyahoga Land Bank (CLB) and LLM. While another non-veteran shelter client is also living in the duplex, it has six bedrooms. Hence LMM is in the process of placing two more vets.
 
"We really try to have the application and criteria as open as they can be," says Michael Sering, LMM's vice president of housing and shelter. "We didn't want to create barriers for someone's housing. There are enough barriers in the community." Prospective applicants must be able to live independently, get along with roommates and pay 30 percent of their income towards monthly rent, but no less than $325. All utilities are included.
 
"We have to break even on it financially," says Sering of the minimum rent payment. "There is no government subsidy or anything."
 
The open slots will be filled by eligible veterans that are from the 2100 Shelter population or via a referral from the Cuyahoga County Veterans Service Commission (VSC), but if there is a vacancy and another appropriate applicant waiting, he will be offered residence.

The housing is permanent, which Sering notes as the most impactful point of the initiative.

"Everyone wants people in permanent housing - not in a shelter. Ultimately that’s the goal," he says. "They pay rent and live here indefinitely. We imagine some people might move on," he adds, citing an increase in income or other housing opportunities presenting themselves. And if not, "this is definitely permanent housing."
 
Located within walking distance of a grocery, pharmacy and two bus lines, the duplex features two separate residences, approximately 1,300 square feet each. Each side has its own front and back doors, kitchen, living and dining rooms, basement and three bedrooms.
 
The land bank identified the property and prepared it for title transfer to the LMM as a donation. The paperwork was completed in September; and the men, who are in their 50s and 60s, moved in just a few weeks ago.
 
So far things are going along well.
 
"Two of the guys had already known each other and were referred together," says Sering. "They're good friends. They're glad to be moving in together. They're a support network for each other; they had that built in. The other two guys are off to a good start."
 
While LMM will be sending along a staffer once a month to check in and make sure the men's needs are met and that they have access to services, that's about it.
 
"This is not a rigorous case load," says Sering, adding that counseling and monitoring will not be required. "These are people that just need affordable housing."
 
As for the house, LMM spent $40,000 refurbishing the interior. King's Sons 820, an organization that helps young people adopt trade skills, did the work. 
 
"The house was in decent shape," says Sering. "It's brick and has a fairly new roof and windows, so most of work was on the interior. They painted everything and sanded the wood floors, which came out beautifully. They pretty much gutted the kitchen," he adds.
 
Sering hopes that the East Cleveland house will prove to be a successful pilot for the initiative and an example for many more to come.
 
"The land bank has thousands of houses that they want to see go to a good use," says Sering. "We have lots of homeless people and homeless vets that need housing.
 
"If this works as we think it should, the sky's the limit on doing it over and over again."
 
LMM is accepting household donations for this venture, including linens for six new mattress sets (four queen and two twin) and pillows that were donated by Mattress Firm. Cleaning and paper supplies are also appreciated. Any duplicate items will be shared with other veterans moving out of the shelter. Contact Kelly Camlin, associate director of LMM's Men’s Shelter, at 216-649-7718 ext. 480 for more information.

Lab spaces dominate CSU's new Center for Innovation in Medical Practices

Cleveland State University's (CSU) new Center for Innovation in Medical Practices (CIMP) building opened to students last August. Pelli Clarke Pelli designed the 100,000-square-foot structure, which features three floors and cost nearly $47 million to build. Donley's was the contractor.
 
The airy and modern interior includes spacious common areas, the walls of which are accented with graphics that evoke electrical pulses traveling between a great unseen brain to any number of imaginary limbs. And while CIMP has its share of classrooms, collaborative study spaces and offices, the labs are what set the building apart.
 
In the labs, hands-on practice involves dozens of patients with an array of health needs, from standard blood pressure monitoring to the treatment of acute conditions. These patients, however, won't suffer if a student errs.
 
"They're mannequins," says Dr. Vida Lock, CSU's dean of the school of nursing. "This is simulation. The students have actually practiced and done the psychomotor skills on plastic mannequins before they go into a hospital with a real patient."
 
To be sure, the labs look just like a real medical ward. Monitors beep. Oxygen ports hiss. Gurneys line the walls, each one occupied by a mannequin/patient. The effect is a bit eerie at first, until a visitor notices the names listed above the beds. Try: Ron Stillblowin, Angie Tube, Christopher Crash, Jason Hipster, Tree Shaker or Virginia Hamm. A bit of comic relief per se, but every one of them has a complete electronic health record that includes allergies, medications and the patient's health history.
 
"It's very realistic," says Lock. Students are even required to don a lab coat before they enter the room. "We want students to walk into the lab in role. They have to walk in pretending that they really are the nurse or physician."
 
The mannequins are no cast-offs from Macy's or JCPenney; these are highly technical teaching tools graded as low, medium or high fidelity. Lock describes the least sophisticated models as, "big Barbies with extras," while the high fidelity units cost upwards of $80,000 and simulate heart and lung noises, have blinking eyes and can be intubated or defibrillated among other features.
 
"We can turn these patients from male to female," says Lock. "We can put different body parts, organs, incisions, ostomies … " Versatility notwithstanding, the storage space for those parts is a bit unnerving for the layman.
 
"We actually have a mannequin that gives birth," says Lock. There's also a pediatric ward that features an array of child and infant mannequins.
 
The end result is an all-encompassing educational experience. Students dispense faux pharmaceuticals, confer with one another on patients and review their work courtesy of a digital recording system that captures it all.
 
"We worked with all the different health disciplines to find out what people needed and how various professions could collaborate for education," says Lock. "Health care is really changing and with this new approach, there's not one person in charge. It's very collaborative. Teaching students in silos and then expecting them to graduate and go out and work as a team really is not effective."
 
The center houses 400 students. Approximately 170 are admitted each year. Lock notes that the school receives two and a half times the number of applications that can be accepted.
 
"It's very competitive," she notes of the coveted placements.
 
Other features in CIMP include a speech and hearing clinic, occupational and physical therapy classrooms, a physical assessment lab wherein students practice procedures such as taking a pulse and monitoring heart sounds on each other, a café and CSU's health and wellness services. Community outreach programs include flu shots, a monthly stroke clinic and the Go Baby Go program, wherein children ages six months to two years with Down syndrome and their families work on cognitive development.
 
"The building was really designed to be more than state of the art," says Lock. "It's designed to bring the future of health care to our students and our community. It's designed to be an inter-professional education building. The learning environment that exists here for our students does not exist anywhere else in this region.
 
"We really are cutting edge."

Three outdoor Fitness Zones open on the east side

Last week, the Buckeye, Larchmere and Woodland Hills neighborhoods each got a new public amenity courtesy of a host of community partners and a tenacious group of residents that make healthy living priority number one.
 
About 15 residents make up the Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) Initiative of the greater Buckeye neighborhood, which worked for two years to get Fitness Zones at East End Neighborhood House, 2749 Woodhill Road, Fairhill Partners, 122 Fairhill Road, and the at the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority's Woodhill Community Center, 2491 Baldwin Road.
 
"It's really a labor of love," says Erica Chambers, HEAL coordinator for MetroHealth Medical Center. "It took a while to get it here."
 
Each fitness area features highly durable and rugged resistance training and cardiovascular equipment such as elliptical machines, leg and chest presses and recumbent bicycles, all of which is outdoors and specifically designed to handle the elements. The three installations are also adjacent to kids' play areas, so moms, dads and caregivers can get in a workout while their wards play.
 
Chambers recalls the project's inception. The Buckeye HEAL walking group was out scouting new routes when they came upon an outdoor gym installation in a suburban park and instantly became interested: How can we get this sort of stuff into our neighborhood?
 
With that challenge before them, the group reached out to the Trust for Public Land (TPL).
 
"From there, everything was kind of a go," says Chambers, adding that the HEAL group can take pride in the accomplishment. "They can say, 'You know what? People live here and they do care.' They actually got together. They organized. They learned a lot about this legislative process and how to work with the city and build partnerships and what an investment can look like when you bring the right people to the table to listen to the community."
 
TPL eventually coordinated the three Fitness Zone projects. Funding partners include the Saint Luke’s, Reinberger and CareSource Foundations, and the MetroHealth System. Saint Luke's granted $250,000 toward the approximately $300,000 project.
 
While Cleveland's weather is not exactly the same as that of sunny Muscle Beach in California, area fitness enthusiasts will no doubt enjoy pumping iron amid the elements.
 
"It's a wonderful opportunity for residents who often do not have access to top quality equipment to be engaged in physical activity," says Chambers.
 
While the new installations will bring immediate benefits to area residents, they may have broader implications across Ohio.
 
"We've done these across the country," says Kim Kimlin, TPL's Ohio program director. "These three sites were our pilot for Ohio."
 
TPL will eventually commission a research agency to conduct a usage evaluation of the Buckeye installations, which will determine the future of TPL's Fitness Zone program in Ohio
 
"W are particularly interested in underserved communities," says Kimlin, "where people don't have access to free exercise equipment. One of the great advantages of (a Fitness Zone) is you can get same workout you would get at an indoor gym, but it's free and its accessible to public."
 
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