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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

produce perks improve fresh food access for needy county residents

Cuyahoga County residents needing food assistance now have some healthy alternatives thanks to a new program developed by the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition.

Twenty farmers markets and two farm stands throughout the county are partaking in the “Double Value Produce Perks” initiative, which offers incentive dollars to customers utilizing the Ohio Direction Card. Produce Perks are tokens given to customers at participating farmers markets who use the card to purchase food. Customers swipe their cards at a central terminal, with the market providing tokens for the transaction in addition to Produce Perks that can be spent on fruits and vegetables. The incentive is a dollar-for-dollar match to every dollar spent (up to $10) using an Ohio Direction Card at the market.

The project addresses healthy food gaps in the region, says Erika Meschkat, program coordinator for community development at Ohio State University Extension-Cuyahoga County, one of the entities making up the local food policy coalition. In creating the program, the coalition has partnered with several Greater Cleveland philanthropies as well as Wholesome Wave, a national nonprofit focusing on food access in underserved communities.

"Some people don't feel comfortable using their Ohio Direction Card at a farmers market, or there's a perceived cost barrier," says Meschkat. "The program incentivizes them to have a good experience."

The impact of Produce Perks has grown since its inception in 2010. Last year, 16 farmers markets contributed to over $27,000 in Ohio Direction Card sales with over $18,000 in incentives redeemed to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.

"We want 2013 to be even bigger," Meschkat says.

 
SOURCE: Erika Meschkat
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

retro gaming fun the aim of coin-op cleveland crowdfunding campaign

Memories of flashing lights, digitized explosions, rock music and quarters being ritually plunked into plastic coin slots have a happy place in the minds of many folks of a certain generation. Two Clevelanders want to bring those sights and sounds back to the city this summer in the form of a pop-up arcade.

Coin-Op Cleveland is a Kickstarter project helmed by John Stanchina and Mike Scur. While arcade gaming collapsed in the 1990s with the ascension of home consoles, the duo believe putting an old-school retro arcade in a West Side neighborhood will attract people seeking to mash some buttons with a few nimble-fingered friends.

Put simply, the pair wants to create a fun, unique place to hang out away from the "barcades" that have a few arcade cabinets alongside the plentiful booze.

"The vibe is being a kid again," says Stanchina, an Ohio City resident. "It's about interacting in a different kind of space."

The $35,000 Kickstarter campaign, which ends at midnight on May 13, will fund the arcade's installation and 30-day operation in Ohio City, Tremont or Gordon Square. A large part of the cost will go toward purchase and maintenance of the arcade machines themselves.

The plan is to run the arcade for a month, but if it receives additional funding, a permanent installation is possible, says Scur of Parma Heights.

The two friends envision a community space that becomes part of the downtown Cleveland nightlife scene, just with neon lights, popcorn and rows of game cabinets instead of a bar.

"Arcades are all about the social element," says Scur. "They've always been a place to play games with people on the same wavelength."

 
SOURCES: John Stanchina, Mike Scur
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

ohio city rec league adds bowling to growing roster of youth sports

Last summer, the Near West Recreation League's t-ball league was a hit for Cleveland kids. Organizers believe a recently debuted bowling league will play a similarly big "roll" in the health of a community that didn't have much in the way of organized sports.

The bowling program, open to 70-plus youngsters between the ages of 6 and 10, launched February 16 at Corner Alley in downtown Cleveland. The league is part of a two-year partnership between Ohio Savings Bank and Ohio City Inc. to support recreation activities on the Near West Side. Downtown Cleveland Alliance is also a partner in the new program.

The bowling league was created for children from Tremont, Detroit Shoreway and other West Side enclaves, although similar to the t-ball league, kids have been coming from other parts of the city to participate.

"Sports are a great way of bringing people together at a young age," says Eric Wobser, executive director of Ohio City Inc.

They're also a method of keeping people in the neighborhood, maintain the rec league's leaders. Retaining young families in the 25- to 34-age group has been problematic for Ohio City and downtown. Sports can be another amenity that grows a neighborhood population, while also integrating a community of diverse backgrounds.

"It's improving the quality of life," Wobser says.

If the bowling league proves successful, the rec league will add other sports throughout the year. Plans for the remainder of 2013 include youth-oriented baseball, soccer and basketball. The league may "age up" as well, from young kids all the way to junior high students.

"We've struck a chord with the community," says Wobser.
 
 
SOURCE: Eric Wobser
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

educational fair to attract private, charter, public and parochial schools

The motto of the Near West Family Network (NWFN) is "Stronger Families, Stronger Cleveland." Good schools are an important means of bringing those families into town, maintains the volunteer group's founders, hence the forthcoming Near West Cleveland PreK-8 School Fair.

The fair takes place February 2 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at St. Ignatius High School. Sponsored by NWFN and advocacy group Ohio City, Inc., participants will get information about the private, charter, public and parochial schools found in Ohio City, Detroit Shoreway, Tremont and other Near West Side neighborhoods. School representatives will be on hand to provide information and answer questions.

"There will be a gamut of educational options available," says NWFN co-founder and Ohio City resident Norma Polanco-Boyd.

The mother of two daughters expects between 18 to 20 schools to be represented at the fair. "The goal goes back to the reason we started this organization [in November 2012,] says Polanco-Boyd. "We wanted to create a resource-based organization to retain families or attract them to these neighborhoods."

Along with the schools, Polanco-Boyd expects attendance from a handful of non-academic groups as well. These entities will provide yet another source of information for participating parents.

The NWFN website has a list of schools serving the Near West Side. Polanco-Boyd, a community affairs officer with a bank regulator, moved to Cleveland from Chicago with her husband, Joe. At the time, the couple didn't know anyone; Polanco-Boyd helped create NWFN for young families in similar straits.

The school fair is a critical to her group's mission, Polanco-Boyd believes.  "We want to grow Cleveland and help maintain its vibrancy," she says.
 
 
SOURCE: Norma Polanco-Boyd
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
53 Tremont Articles | Page: | Show All
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