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'courage fund' created to help cleveland kidnap survivors

The brave escape of three women held captive in a Cleveland home has garnered a philanthropic response from local political and business entities.

The Cleveland Courage Fund was established by Cleveland City Council members Brian Cummins, Matt Zone and Dona Brady to benefit kidnap victims Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Berry's daughter. The funds were set up at the Cleveland Foundation and Key Bank two days after the release of the survivors, and have raised $650,000 to date. The total includes a $50,000 gift from the Cleveland Foundation and a $10,000 donation from Key Bank.

Money can be donated through the foundation's website or at KeyBank branches throughout Northeast Ohio, says Tom Stevens, the bank's vice chair and chief administrative officer. Prospective donors also can mail funds to the Cleveland Courage Fund care of the Cleveland Foundation, 1422 Euclid Ave., Suite 1300, Cleveland, Ohio, 44115.

KeyBank is providing pro bono financial council to the affected women and their families."We hope that through the generosity of the public, we can help these women get the resources they need," Stevens says. "We are delighted to serve as advisors to help ensure that Gina, Michelle and Amanda are able to use the money for their well-being."

Since its inception, the fund has received contributions from all 50 states as well as overseas. Groups including Jones Day, which is providing free legal council to the women, and The Centers for Families and Children are working to get every penny of the donated dollars into the right hands.

"People have been very generous with their contributions," says Stevens.

 
SOURCE: Tom Stevens
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

program connects students with opportunities in own backyard

During the mid-2000s, local newspapers ran stories with evocative phrases like "quiet crisis" and "brain drain" in lamenting the flight of young, talented minds from Cleveland.

Bob Yanega saw those negative headlines, too, and decided he wanted to do something about it. Yanega, a self-professed "serial entrepreneur" with a background in commercial construction and real estate, is the creator of Choosing Success Programs, a Cleveland-centric advocacy project aimed at area high school students.

The program provides live, in-school presentations showing students how to connect with the opportunities right in their own backyard. The goal is to motivate youth to become passionate, lifelong residents of Northeast Ohio.

"Many kids don't have parents who expose them to what's great here," says Yanega, of Larchmere. "We need to sell Cleveland to young people."

Yanega has been giving Choosing Success talks at local high schools for the last 18 months. Along with providing students with tips on college and career choices, he also mixes in a "sales pitch" about Cleveland, pointing to the city's affordability, increasing job rate and wealth of cultural options.

Choosing Success, under the umbrella of its parent organization The 1990 Project, recently received a boost as one of the winners of The Cleveland Colectivo's fast- pitch presentation event. The program now has a chance to get some much-needed funding from the giving circle, and Yanega believes his brainchild is worth it.

"We're presenting facts about the city," Yanega says. "Keeping the next generation in town is a powerful, broad-based message."

 
SOURCE: Bob Yanega
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

county vote-off secures grants for two large-scale arts projects

Cuyahoga County residents have picked which two large-scale projects will get funding through the Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) Creative Culture Grants competition.

* Dancing Wheels received $130,421 for a television documentary that will expand on the dance company's performance of the multi-media ballet, Dumbo. The film will explore issues of bullying and social injustice using the life stories of artists and community figures.

* LAND studio was awarded $150,000 to fund a multi-faceted light installation illuminating public spaces in downtown Cleveland.

Both projects were selected by 6,500 county residents in a public voting process held February 1-20. The winning arts programs, scheduled for completion in 2014, were chosen from a list of six finalists selected by an independent panel of arts and culture experts.

Officials from competition sponsor CAC were pleased by the voter turnout, and believe the winning projects will engage the region in creative ways.

"All six finalists had a different spin on how to connect arts and culture to the community," says CAC executive director Karen Gahl-Mills. "The two winners did a great job of reaching out to the general public."

CAC's pilot voting program revealed just how much creativity exists in the area, Gahl-Mills maintains. "It was delightful to see it come forward in new, exciting ways," she says.

The nonprofit is now assessing the program for possible future iterations. Gahl-Mills is not certain CAC will put on an annual public vote, but she can certainly envision county residents stuffing the ballot boxes for future arts projects.

"It's a great investment of public dollars," she says. "It isn't just the organizations that win; the community wins, too."

 
SOURCE: Karen Gahl-Mills
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

nonprofit makes getting federal returns less taxing for disadvantaged families

Filing a federal income tax return is far from the most enjoyable activity one can do. It can even be intimidating for people who don't understand the process or know they are eligible for an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit providing free tax preparation and other services to low- and middle-income Cuyahoga County residents, aims to bridge the knowledge gap and help hard-working individuals and families keep more of what they earned. Nationwide last year, the average credit handed out was about $2,200, but the credit can provide as much as $5,900.

"About 20 percent of people eligible for [EITC] don't claim it," says Mark McDermott, Enterprise vice president and Ohio market leader. "We get the word out."

That word is spread in conjunction with the Cuyahoga County Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition and a host of other local partner organizations. This tax season, Enterprise has recruited over 350 IRS-certified volunteers to assist in the effort.

Eligible residents can access the free service by dialing the United Way of Greater Cleveland's 2-1-1 help line. Appointments are scheduled at one of 25 sites located throughout the country. There are also a handful of Saturday free tax-preparation events taking place right up until filing day.

During the past seven years, more than 55,000 participants have received over $77 million in refunds and saved millions of dollars in fees from paid tax preparers, notes program director Kathy Matthews.

"That's about $13 million going back into the local economy," says Matthews.

Tax help isn't Enterprise's only offering. Those who use the service also have access to benefit screenings, debt management and more.

"The tax work is our foundation," says McDermott. "This has proven to be a great program."
 
 
SOURCES: Mark McDermott, Kathy Matthews
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

csu produced second most fulbright scholars in 2012-13

Cleveland State University has had a busy year expanding its international reach, and now it has the accolades to prove it.

CSU produced the second highest number of Fulbright scholars in the nation during the 2012-2013 academic year. The second-place ranking was shared among eight universities, with each producing five Fulbright scholars. Tying for runner-up this year with CSU were Arizona State University, University of Arizona, Rutgers, Texas A&M at College Station, University of Florida, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and University of Washington at Seattle.     

CSU's Fulbright grant winners are staff members Jayne Mary Fuglister, Rama K. Jayanti, Brian Edward Ray, Janche Sang and Miena Sterio.

"This is an important distinction," says Joe Mosbrook, CSU's director of strategic communication. "CSU has an outstanding faculty that's been doing some remarkable things."

The Fulbright program allows participants to study, teach and conduct research abroad. CSU's grantees are studying the fields of law, business and computer science, respectively, and within the next year will be headed to far flung destinations including India and Azerbaijan.

The honor is nothing new for CSU. The university achieved the same ranking during the 2010-2011 academic year. With nearly 50 Fulbright grants awarded to CSU faculty in the past decade alone, the school consistently ranks among the nation’s top universities for Fulbright scholars, its supporters note.

"People don't think about Cleveland State as a research institution," Mosbrook says. "Look at the track record and you'll see the work being done. We look forward to continuing that trend."
 
 
SOURCE: Joe Mosbrook
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

abeo turns reclaimed materials into distinctive workstations

Daniel Cuffaro has been working in design for 20 years. He knows how an inspiring, eclectic workspace can act as fuel for creative minds, promoting interaction among those who essentially use their imagination for a living.

Such was the idea behind Cuffaro's founding of Abeo Design, a Lakewood-based company that builds aesthetically distinctive office/studio workstations with a sustainable bent. Unlike your typical office furniture, the spindly "Hive" workstations are designed with both functionality and adaptability in mind, Cuffaro says.

Each station is comprised of a work surface and storage shelf embedded with LED lighting. The entire unit is on wheels, making a studio or office easy to reconfigure as projects or teams change, notes Cuffaro. This is not something you could readily do with a set of hard-to-move cubicles.

"Our product is a dynamic and customizable alternative,” he says.

The workstations also fulfill a practical need. They are made of wood and other building materials reclaimed from abandoned Cleveland houses deconstructed during the foreclosure crisis. Cuffaro, head of the industrial design program at The Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA), first got the idea for Abeo in 2009 when he was developing the layout for the school's design studio. At the time, there was a growing market for raw materials harvested from foreclosed homes, so why not build CIA's studio furniture with those resources?

"I had a desire to turn a bad situation into something salvageable," Cuffaro says.

His first customer also happens to be his current employer. CIA recently purchased a handful of the $6,000-and-up workstations from Abeo, which works with Northeast Ohio companies A Piece of Cleveland and Benchmark Craftsmen to make the product a reality.

A portion of Abeo's profits will support CIA programs. Meanwhile, Cuffaro will continue to live by the company's name. In Latin, Abeo ( pronounced "a-bay-o") means "change" or "transformation." Turning trash into something of value is good for both the company and a sustainable Cleveland, he says.

 
SOURCE: Daniel Cuffaro
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

'gardens that teach' contest imparts to local students the importance of healthy eating

A school garden is a real, living world, a type of lab that offers teachers a way to embed creativity, collaboration and love for nature into their curriculum, believes Carlton Jackson, a farmer, self-described "food evangelist" and proprietor of Tunnel Vision Hoops, a provider of hoop houses that allow for year-round food production.
 
The Cleveland-based company is offering Cuyahoga County public school students grades K-8 a chance to win a hoop house for their school. The Gardens that Teach contest, which runs through February, asks students a series of questions about the preparation, construction and maintenance of a theoretical school garden. Answers will be reviewed by a panel of experts from the realms of food policy, botany and community gardening.
 
The winning school will receive the greenhouse-like hoop house, while the other participants will learn about the benefits of plants, year-round gardening and healthy eating, says Jackson. "We wanted kids to use their math skills," he adds. For example, "how many pounds of tomatoes can they get? What will the do with the food once it's grown?"
 
Hoop houses provide a high-temperature environment that protects crops from strong winds, cold and frost, allowing fruits and vegetables to grow during gardening's so-called "off-season," Jackson says.
 
The concept also is in line with the city's Sustainable Cleveland 2019 project, a movement that in part aims to increase the percentage of locally produced food. Mayor Frank Jackson also proclaimed October 24 to be Food Day, a national venture with the overriding objective of "eating real" and promoting healthy diets among the population.
 
The Gardens That Teach contest is certainly a nourishing exercise for Northeast Ohio's young students, says Jackson.
 
"There's a wonderment in watching something grow," he says. "If we can kids back to that, it would be a beautiful thing."
 

SOURCE: Carlton Jackson
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

cleveland bike advocates make push for bike-sharing network

That's no crass come-on, but rather an effort to advocate for a Cleveland-based bike-sharing network that has become popular in a number of U.S. cities. For a small fee, bike sharing allows patrons to rent a bike at self-service sites scattered about a city, then return the bike to another site.
 
Cleveland's Office of Sustainability recently issued a request to conduct a feasibility and implementation study on the service. Minneapolis, Chicago and Chattanooga, Tenn., are among the cities that have recently launched a bike-sharing network.
 
The local push is being fronted by Bike Cleveland, a group that advocates for the rights of the local cycling community. Earlier this year, the organization teamed with University Circle Inc. and other groups to form a Bike Share Task Force.
 
By providing greater access to bikes, bike-share programs can help increase the number of people biking, decrease the amount of pollutants in the air and improve community health, says Jacob VanSickle, executive director of Bike Cleveland.

"The city has stepped up," he says of the effort. "We have to determine the model that would work in Cleveland."
 
VanSickle would like to see bike-sharing docks placed at locations with high-density populations and job rates, including rapid stations, Public Square, college campuses and the Cleveland Clinic. The bikes would typically be used for short trips -- an office worker taking a bus to Public Square, for example, could use the automated bike station instead of taking another bus to his ultimate destination.
 
Trips of less than 30 minutes would be free of charge. Those using the service more frequently could pay $50 to $70 become annually. They would be charged a fee for treks longer than a half hour.
 
Promoting bike sharing is part of creating a culture that makes a city more attractive, says VanSickle. Along with the bike-sharing program, Bike Cleveland has been advocating for bike lanes and other cycling-friendly amenities. The group plans to keep the wheels turning until more progress is made.
 
"Cities with the bike-sharing program are seen as more livable and friendly," says VanSickle. "That's something we can gain from in Cleveland."

 
SOURCE: Jacob VanSickle
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

beachland owner launches new nonprofit to preserve and promote city's rock scene

The way Beachland Ballroom owner Cindy Barber sees it, Cleveland's music glory days are far from over. Yet our music scene could use some better amplification. That's why Barber has created a new nonprofit, Cleveland Rocks: Past, Present and Future, to preserve the legacy of the city's rock-and-roll history while also promoting and shaping its future.

"The past is the legacy project of capturing Cleveland music history, the present is documenting what's happening now, and the future is figuring out what we need to do to grow it," says Barber. "There's already a huge amount of music business here. We need to take stock of what we have and what we're missing."

Barber cites music business startups like Gotta Groove Records, Fortune Drums, Audio Technica and Dr. Z Amplification as success stories. She also wants to highlight the local bands that are touring and getting signed nationally.

"The plan is to create a website to highlight the bands that are getting attention," she says. "If they're out touring the world, they can bring that energy back to share with other people in Cleveland and grow the music business here."

To kick off the project, Barber and others are organizing a series of live interviews with local legends that played a role in Cleveland music history. The first event is scheduled to place on Saturday, November 3rd at 1 p.m. at the Beachland Ballroom. Tickets cost $15 and include lunch and the opportunity to participate as Larry Bruner, former booking manager for the 1960s folk music venue La Cav, is interviewed by Steve Traina, DJ for the WCSB radio show "Steve's Folk."

Future plans include working with the Rock Hall to preserve oral histories and promote live music, helping musicians identify investment sources for growing their bands or recording albums, and marketing the music industry here.

"All the clubs that came together as part of the Cleveland Music Coalition [to challenge the city's admissions tax] are part of this," says Barber. "We want to use the nonprofit to support what they're doing to create live music in Cleveland."


Source: Cindy Barber
Writer: Lee Chilcote

attorney general holder touts united way help line during cleveland high school event

A parent can cover their child's eyes when there is violence on television, but who will do that for a child when they're exposed to real-life trauma? That is the question United Way is answering with its 2-1-1 community access line, a 24-hour help number that's part of Cuyahoga County’s Defending Childhood initiative.

United States Attorney General Eric Holder and Cuyahoga County Executive Edward FitzGerald hosted a news conference September 28 at Martin Luther King Jr. High School to announce a $2 million Justice Department grant that will aid Defending Childhood programs including the community access line.

The phone line is manned by United Way staff members. These trained staffers determine if Defending Childhood services can help a child who has witnessed violence or experienced trauma. Diagnosing and treating children who have lived through violence can be a significant step in helping them avoid trouble later in life, says Stephen Wertheim, president/CEO of United Way.

 "The trauma a kid goes through can impact their function in society," Wertheim says. "We're trying to get to these problems at the root."

While at the high school event, Holder participated in a round-table discussion with students and teachers. He later met with a group of law enforcement officers and social workers that were also on hand.

The impact of violence on children has reached "national crisis" proportions, Holder told the audience during the Sept. 28 conference. Assessing and screening the young people victimized by violence must take precedence over merely prosecuting those perpetrating the trauma.

Studies have shown how post-traumatic stress can negatively effect children, says FitzGerald. 

"If a child witnesses horrific acts of violence, they're more likely to be involved in the justice system themselves," says the county executive. Through a preventative measure like the 2-1-1 help line, "the idea is to increase public safety rather than just incarcerating everyone."

 
SOURCE: Stephen Wertheim, Ed FitzGerald
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

creative fusion brings global artists to cleveland to leave lasting impression

For the next three months, artists from Sri Lanka, India, Armenia, Mexico and Chile will bring their talents, experiences and cultures to Cleveland through The Cleveland Foundation's international artist-in-residence program, Creative Fusion.

"The Cleveland Foundation does have a globalization agenda for Cleveland, and we think it's important for Clevelanders to see the city as a global, international city and that the rest of the world see us that way, too," says Kathleen Cerveny, Director of Institutional Learning and Arts Initiatives for the foundation. "The arts are a great tool to promote international understanding and exchange."

Creative Fusion brings in five international artists for a three-month stay in Cleveland. The program has been in the pilot phase for the last three years, and this year's roster of artists represents a complete relaunch for the initiative.

"Traditionally, arts organizations will bring in international artists, but there's very little lasting impact," says Cerveny. "We wanted to bring artists here for a longer period of time, especially cultures that are not represented in Cleveland."

While Creative Fusion artists are embedded within a cultural organization, they are required to complete community engagement activities and interact with the local artistic community. Cerveny says that the artists have gotten right to work.

"There's an Indian choreographer at the Rainey Institute who has been here a week and a day, and he's already taught two classes at Hathaway Brown and worked with inner-city kids at Rainey. This program has a significant impact."

Many of the artists consider Cleveland "a second home" after living here, she adds.

The artists are being hosted by Inlet Dance Theatre, Rainey Institute, Trinity Cathedral, Young Audiences and Zygote Press. More information about the Creative Fusion artists can be found on the Cleveland Foundation's website.


Source: Kathleen Cerveny
Writer: Lee Chilcote

saint luke's foundation eyes greater impact with narrower but deeper grantmaking strategy

Like many foundations, the Saint Luke's Foundation in Cleveland has emerged from the recession with a narrower yet deeper approach to grantmaking. Beginning this year, the foundation has eschewed responsive grantmaking for targeted grants in three primary areas: health, communities and families.

"This year our foundation turned 15, and as we thought about what our successes had been and how to serve the community in the best way possible, there was interest in focusing more narrowly," says LaTida Smith, Vice President of Programming, Outcomes and Learning at the foundation.

The change has been both challenging and rewarding. "This year, we're narrowing and doing responsive grantmaking at the same time," says Smith. "There are some projects we've funded in the past that we won't be able to fund anymore, and even though we've narrowed to three areas, those challenges are still broad."

One area where Smith says the foundation has been innovative and successful is in advancing the understanding of community health. The Cuyahoga County Board of Health was awarded a grant to develop its capacity to complete health impact assessments -- basically, determinations of how planning and redevelopment decisions impact neighborhood health -- while the "Place Matters" speaker series at the City Club prompted a broad discussion of place-based health disparities.

Examples of the foundation's changed grantmaking strategy include an increased emphasis on strengthening families -- as opposed to simply helping kids or adults in isolation -- and a strong commitment to the neighborhoods around the former Saint Luke's Hospital (Buckeye, Larchmere and Shaker Square in particular).


Source: LaTida Smith
Writer: Lee Chilcote

roots of american music brings music education into low-income schools

When musician educators with Roots of American Music hold workshops in Cleveland public schools, it almost goes without saying that they are entering a place that doesn't have a full-time music teacher. Most cannot afford to hire full-time music staff, so they rely on part-time faculty and visiting artists.

The 14-year-old nonprofit organization educates more than 15,000 individuals throughout Northeast Ohio each year, teaching social studies, financial literacy and health education through music.

"We do a lot of songwriting about topics that are important to kids," says Kevin Richards, ROAM's Director. "They work with authentic artist-educators who not only can teach but are also bluesmen, Cajun zydeco artists or rappers."

Richards likens ROAM's educational approach to parents who disguise healthy foods to get their kids to eat them. In general, the artists have little trouble convincing kids to participate. "Kids don't realize they're getting an academic message at the same time as they're fooling around with traditional music."

ROAM's curriculum has changed as educational goals have evolved. When Richards created the organization, the focus was on teaching social studies. Today, such staple courses are supplemented with programs about financial literacy and health education (the latter is in partnership with the Cleveland Clinic).

One popular program called "On the Move" teaches students in the Central neighborhood of Cleveland about migration patterns throughout history. Students learn the song "Kansas City" and change the lyrics to fit their family's story.

Roots of American Music will host its 13th annual Benefit for Education on Saturday, October 6th at the Beachland Ballroom. Multi-award-winning Austin singer-songwriter Guy Forsythe is the headliner. The tickets are $125 for VIP access including dinner and preferred seating, or $15 for the concert only.


Source: Kevin Richards
Writer: Lee Chilcote

innovative program helps neighborhoods fight foreclosure and blight

An innovative software program developed by the Center for Urban Poverty at Case Western Reserve University is helping Cleveland neighborhood development practitioners reinvent their urban communities in strategic, data-driven ways.

NEO CANDO, a publicly accessible database, provides one-stop-shopping for anyone looking to research property information in their neighborhood. The site allows users to go beyond researching individual properties and look at snapshots of neighborhoods -- including which properties are at risk of foreclosure and which have been condemned. The site also contains social, economic and census data.

"In the past, information was collected from multiple websites, and by the time it was assembled, it was out of date," says Mike Schramm, a Research Associate in the Center on Urban Poverty in the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at CWRU. "We bring data together across domains. Our mission is to democratize data and to create data-driven decisions by both nonprofits and government."

In practice, NEO CANDO is used by foreclosure prevention agencies to research which properties are in danger of going into foreclosure. Armed with this info, grassroots groups can knock on the owner's door and attempt to intervene, thus hopefully preventing another vacant, bank-owned home in the neighborhood.

The information is also used to focus on areas with strategic assets in an effort to better protect them. "You need to know that the house across street from that recently rehabbed home is in foreclosure -- and then do something about it."

Projects like NEO CANDO are helping to facilitate a shift within the community development field towards creating more strategic, placemaking investments.


Source: Mike Schramm
Writer: Lee Chilcote

hands on northeast ohio connects volunteers with worthwhile projects

Jeff Griffiths launched Hands On Northeast Ohio in 2007 to "train and equip volunteers to be at the center of change in their communities." In 2011, the startup nonprofit organization helped connect nearly 5,000 volunteers with hundreds of worthy projects throughout the Cleveland area.

Last weekend, volunteers prepped bikes at the Ohio City Bike Co-op, served meals to the homeless, delivered meals to seniors, cleaned cat cages, and lended a hand at the Cleveland Botanical Garden.

Hands On Northeast Ohio offers accessible, well-managed opportunities to serve throughout the community. Volunteers attend an orientation session and sign up for opportunities on the group's website. With a point and a click, they can read descriptions of opportunities, find out which ones are available, and sign up.

"People wanted to help, but oftentimes accessing volunteer opportunities was filled with barriers -- the commitment was unrealistic, the training was too cumbersome, or the agency didn't have a way to recruit or train volunteers at all," says Griffiths. "By us managing projects, we make both parties happy."

In addition to 35-plus managed projects per month, Hands On also manages one-day national events such as the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance.

Griffiths says the organization is part of a national network of similar groups. "We saw a need, took a proven model and adapted it locally to our needs here," he says.


Source: Jeff Griffiths
Writer: Lee Chilcote
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