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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

'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

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

civic engagement boot camp challenges people to experience cleveland as they've never seen it

When Earl Pike of the Cleveland Leadership Center helped design the new Civic Engagement Boot Camp, he tapped the popular national trend of half marathon benefits as a wellspring of inspiration.

"People want to be challenged," he says. "We didn't want to do the typical thing of getting a bunch of young people in a room to listen to an old person pontificate. We wanted to ask people to do something really hard and put their hearts and souls into it."

The result? A one-day civic engagement half marathon, if you will. The Boot Camp starts at 6:30 a.m. and runs until 9 p.m.

"At the end, you'll be exhausted and probably smell bad and be a little frayed," says Pike. "But you'll see every major sector of Cleveland and you'll be engaged in a way that changes you, challenges you."

In June, participants held a behind-the-scenes meeting with the editorial board of the Plain Dealer, worked out with an 82-year-old woman, dug in the dirt at Ohio City Farm, went on a bike tour of Cleveland, and honed their improv skills at Cleveland Public Theatre. And that was just part of the day. It concluded with a meeting of area foundation leaders at the Terminal Tower Observation Deck.

The next installment of Boot Camp, titled "Cleveland from dawn to dusk -- like you've never seen it before," will take place Thursday, October 4th. The cost is $500.

"It doesn't really matter what people do: We love seeing people inspired and getting active in whatever domain they choose," says Pike, who says the long-term goal is combining civic engagement with personal growth. "Now we're beginning to look at the coaching that might come after the experience."


Source: Earl Pike
Writer: Lee Chilcote

thrive to host happiness-inducing events aimed at engaging city's residents

Thrive Cleveland, a new grassroots "happiness incubator," wants to amaze you. The goal is to provide experiences that are "surprising," "boundary expanding" and "beyond your comfort zone," according to cofounder Scott Simon.

"What we’re doing is creating what you could call a happiness gym," says Simon. "It will be a series of ongoing, curated experiences for Clevelanders. We want to get them to meet other people, be creative and hear from the best and brightest in Cleveland."

The group is composed of 13 Clevelanders who are volunteering their time to create happiness-inducing events aimed at engaging the city's residents.

The first experience, entitled "WTF? (What's That Food?) -- A Local Farm-to-Table Exploration," will take place on Saturday, August 25th from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Participants will meet at Cafe Benice and then travel as a group to the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Farmers Market, where they'll meet with farmers, taste just-picked produce, and learn how fresh food contributes to happiness and well-being. Afterwards, the group will return to Cafe Benice to participate in a hands-on cooking experience utilyzing the farm-fresh foods. 

According to Simon, the event is part of a national movement towards fostering greater happiness in cities across the country. He cites the Happiness Institute in San Francisco and Life Labs NYC in Brooklyn as two comparable organizations.


Source: Scott Simon
Writer: Lee Chilcote

mayor jackson wants development projects to yield greater community benefit

Anyone who says that Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson lacks passion or verve when speaking in public hasn't seen him talk about the need to leverage urban development projects to create jobs and opportunities for Clevelanders.

Jackson recently addressed a crowd of 120-plus economic development officials, labor leaders and policy advocates to stress the need for urban development projects in Cleveland that "benefit the least of us and include everyone in prosperity."

"What are we doing for our children? How are we ensuring success?" Jackson asked the crowd. "If it's a matter of having kids who are willing to go into the building trades, well, I got a bunch of kids! I'm not trying to be onerous or impose anything on [developers]. We know that if people do things because they think it's the right thing, we'll get better results."

Jackson spoke last week during the Community Benefits Symposium hosted by the City of Cleveland and Cleveland City Council. Community benefit agreements are agreements between developers or project leaders and municipalities that ensure projects maximize local benefit. This might include hiring of local residents, workforce training efforts that involve youth from the area or other efforts.

The city already has requirements in place mandating that all projects that receive more than $10,000 in city funding must meet hiring requirements for a certain percentage of Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs), Female Business Enterprises and Cleveland-Area Small Businesses (CSBs). City projects over $100,000 must also comply with the "Fannie Lewis Law" mandating that 20 percent of construction worker hours be performed by residents.

Unfortunately, the city's existing policies aren't as comprehensive, effective or inclusive as many advocates would  like them to be, Jackson said. Too many private sector projects slip through the cracks, and the laws themselves only apply to projects using public funding. Jackson cited the construction of 300-plus apartments by Polaris Real Estate Equities on the Cleveland State University campus as one example where the city can do better. Some leaders were upset because the developer did not hire many workers who live in Cleveland.

The goal now is to take the city's existing community benefit policies to the next level, Jackson said. "What we're doing now is pulling the pieces together."

Exactly what that means is still being worked out, but the purpose of the symposium was to bring local leaders together to hear from national leaders in the community benefits movement. A key study of disparity in hiring practices is being released this month. Jackson said the city will be crafting a more comprehensive community benefit policy based on its results.


Source: Frank Jackson
Writer: Lee Chilcote

city of cleveland hosts sustainable economic development symposium

The City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County have invested millions of dollars in public money to help make urban development projects happen over the years. But do they provide the maximum benefit to the taxpayers paying for them?

Amanda Woodrum, a researcher at the liberal think tank Policy Matters, says that Northeast Ohio leaders have not always maximized the public benefits of development projects. Yet cities like Cleveland have a tool at their disposal called Community Benefit Agreements to help ensure the public gets the biggest bang for its buck when it comes to public subsidies.

"Community Benefit Agreements involve an economic development approach that balances the three E’s of sustainability: environment, equity and economy," says Woodrum. "One of the biggest things is ensuring that the workforce involved is hired locally. The second thing is that it is diverse and reflective of the population as a whole. There are other questions, too. Are we behaving responsibly towards the environment? Is there access to the development site for public transit?"

Woodrum adds, "The whole process is done in a very open discussion in which key stakeholders come together. There is a movement nationally to do development this way. In many cases, anchor institutions are voluntarilyy creating such agreements because they recognize that they have stake in community."

Woodrum stated that the City of Cleveland does not have a comprehensive policy towards creating Community Benefit Agreements with developers, and that the absence of such a policy can lead to inconsistent results. She cited the Horseshoe Casino as a potential model project due to its local hiring practices; on the other hand, a new housing development at Cleveland State University has drawn ire from the local building trades union for its failure to hire local workers.

To generate a discussion about Community Benefit Agreements in Cleveland, Policy Matters has helped to organize a daylong symposium with local and national experts at Cuyahoga Community College on Friday, August 3rd. The event is cosponsored by the City of Cleveland and Cleveland City Council.

"If the stakeholders coming to the table decide it makes sense, we’d like to move forward with building a policy that ensures whenever city subsidizes development in any meaninging way, we’re maximizing value to community," says Woodrum.


Source: Amanda Woodrum
Writer: Lee Chilcote
45 Little Italy Articles | Page: | Show All
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