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Cleveland Heights : For Good

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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

heights arts hires rachel bernstein as its new executive director

Heights Arts has announced the hire of a long-time Cleveland arts administrator, educator and musician as the nonprofit's new executive director.

This triple threat is named Rachel Bernstein. She will take over the role from Peggy Spaeth, who helped found Heights Arts in 2000 and has led the organization ever since. The switchover is effective as of July 2.

"Rachel shares Heights Arts' mission of the arts being essential to a healthy community," says Spaeth. "She is eager to expand upon that vision."

A New Mexico native, Bernstein has lived in Cleveland Heights for 15 years. A performing cellist and cello teacher, she currently serves as manager of enrollment and customer service at University Circle's The Music Settlement. Her impressive career path and evident passion for the arts gained her the position over nearly 50 other candidates.

"She brings the perspective of an artist and administrator to the job," says Spaeth. "We're a small organization, so there's a lot of multi-tasking."

With an organizational mission of shining a light on regional artists, Bernstein's skills align well with the position, notes the outgoing executive director. Spaeth will make sure the process goes smoothly, staying on board to help Bernstein transition into the role.

There will be an entire songbook's worth of work once the new director takes over. Along with overseeing staff, volunteers, board members and Heights' Arts various programming, Bernstein will be part of the nonprofit's new strategic plan moving forward.

"Rachel has some great ideas to tap the creative potential of the community," Spaeth says.

 
SOURCE: Peggy Spaeth
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

spaeth retirement has heights arts searching for new executive director

Heights Arts ' executive director Peggy Spaeth is retiring, but that doesn't mean the nonprofit community arts organization will be taking it easy along with her.

The group currently is searching for a replacement for Spaeth, who helped found Heights Arts in 2000 and has led the organization ever since. Since late January, the group has received 40 responses from those hoping to carry on the "creative renaissance" that Spaeth launched over a decade ago, says Heights Arts' board president Sharon Grossman.

"We're just starting the process," says Grossman. "We would like to hire someone by late spring."

Spaeth will stay on board during the hiring period and help train the new executive director after the appointment takes place. The outgoing director said the decision to leave was made out of a desire to pursue other interests.

"We don't want to lose her, but this is an all-encompassing job," Grossman says.

It was also a job that Spaeth did well, adds the board president. As director, she brought public art projects to city streets and chamber music concerts to local living rooms. In 2011, Spaeth oversaw expansion of the Heights Arts Gallery on Lee Road, growing its floorspace and successfully stretching the organization's reach into the community.

"Peggy has great drive and an ability to see the big picture," says Grossman.

Spaeth established important relationships with local artists, also reaching out to public figures -- among them Cleveland Heights Mayor Ed Kelley and Cleveland Cinemas owner Jonathan Forman -- capable of supporting these artists.

Heights' Arts next leader will have challenges ahead, but the transition doesn't have to be rough.

"That person will have a chance to put their own stamp on the organization," says Grossman.  "Change can be good."

 
SOURCE: Sharon Grossman
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

nonprofit works to bring 'digital literacy' to cleveland's underserved

If Northeast Ohio has a digital divide, then Cleveland-based nonprofit broadband provider OneCommunity wants to lay down enough fiber-optic cable to successfully bridge the gap.

The divide is particularly wide in Cleveland's poorer neighborhoods, says OneCommunity CEO Brett Lindsey. In response, his organization created the Connect Your Community Project (CYC). Since 2010, CYC has provided broadband training, equipment and support for nearly 8,000 Cleveland and East Cleveland residents. The group's work is supported through a $18.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP).

The organization's new adopters receive a refurbished computer at no cost after matriculating through the training program. They also have the opportunity to receive a free modem and affordable, high-speed home Internet service.

In modern society, everything from job postings to health care information is online, notes Lindsey. The idea is not to give Cleveland's underserved access to solitaire or funny YouTube videos, but an electronic education that will allow them to look up information on their child's school system or connect with far flung family members.

"The haves and have nots in terms of technology are significant," says Lindsey. "This is a way to get people engaged."

OneCommunity is also bringing "digital literacy" to Cleveland families with young people on track for college entry but not currently connected to broadband. Computer training and access can go far in spurring parental engagement in a student's post-high school academic career, Lindsey believes.

So far, so good, says the OneCommunity CEO. In its initial CYC data, 75 percent of parents surveyed used their home broadband connection to communicate with their child's teachers and administrators.

"We have to continue to ensure that people don't get left behind," says Lindsey.

 
SOURCE: Brett Lindsey
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

cpac roundtable asks how arts can foster sustained economic prosperity for cleveland

Arts and culture can define a community, creating a critical mass that translates into jobs, business opportunities and, ideally, sustained economic prosperity. These were the words of Northeast Ohio Sustainable Communities Consortium Initiative (NEOSCC) director Hunter Morrison during a January 25 roundtable hosted by the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture (CPAC).

These also are words that CPAC president and CEO Tom Schorgl likes to hear. The focus of the roundtable event was sustainability, and how the arts and culture community can assist the region as it evolves through population and land use shifts. The local arts sector becoming engaged in these issues can help keep Northeast Ohio resilient, vibrant and sustainable, said Morrison, a notion that the CPAC president shares.

"We have cultural clusters throughout the region, and the ability to communicate on a larger basis with the population about those clusters," says Schorgl. "We need to continue to reach our audience."

The roundtable, which drew over 50 attendees to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History's main gallery, was CPAC's first such event of the year. The nonprofit will sponsor similar forums through November, with an overall aim of connecting the arts and culture realm with professionals from sectors including community development and health and human services. Past roundtable speakers have included Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Eric Gordon, and City of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.

"The idea is to provide a forum for new ideas around a common cause," Schorgl says.

 
SOURCE: Tom Schorgl
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 heights filmmaker seeks crowdfunding boost for new project

It might seem obvious, but making a movie costs lots of money. Grips, props, camera, lighting equipment and special effects all add up. For a small film, just ensuring that the entire crew's gas money is covered can make up a large chunk of the budget. Applying to film festivals so people actually see your movie is yet another expense.

Cleveland Heights filmmaker Tiffany Laufer knows the cost well, and she's looking to get a crowdfunding boost to help her latest project make it to the big screen. Honor Society is a short film about the societal pressures teenagers face and how the friendships they form are often the glue that keeps them together. Laufer already has filmed a trailer starring the two local high school-aged actresses who will appear in the production.

For funding, she is using Kapipal, an international fundraising platform. Laufer's goal is to raise $4,500 by October 16. As of this writing, she has raised nearly $400 for a "nuts and bolts" budget that will top out at about $8,500.

"[Crowdfunding] is a new endeavor for me and I'm excited to try this approach," says Laufer.

The process is as daunting as it is exciting, the filmmaker adds. Laufer has been pushing the project via Facebook, Twitter, her personal website, and the movie's online fundraising home. Laufer plans on submitting Honor Society to more than 30 film festivals. Her previous film, The Acorn Penny, screened at over 16 festivals across the country. 

Even a dollar would offer something in terms of psychological support, Laufer maintains. "You have to hustle and take nothing personally," she says of the crowdfunding experiment. "It's been an interesting learning experience."
Honor Society is getting made whether or not Laufer reaches her fundraising target. She credits her high school friends for getting her through some stormy formative years that included her parents' divorce.
 
Today's teenagers face a society that requires them to be practically perfect, an expectation that's both unrealistic and unfair, she says. Through crowdfunding, Laufer hopes to tell their story.
 
"We need to be there for our teenagers on all levels," she says. "I've come so far [in the filmmaking process] I have to continue."
 

SOURCE: Tiffany Laufer
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
52 Cleveland Heights Articles | Page: | Show All
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