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Lakewood : 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

lakewood pizza shop to donate days' sales to cleveland kidnap victims

A local business wants to give some financial comfort to the three long-missing women found alive in Cleveland earlier this month.

Angelo's Pizza in Lakewood will donate 100 percent of its sales today (May 16) to kidnap victims Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. This includes dine-in, take-out and delivery sales. In addition, Angelo's employees will donate their hourly pay to the survivors.

The promotion was conceived by owner Tom Kess after learning that the Berry family ordered a pizza from his restaurant for a celebratory meal. Kess hopes to raise as much as $25,000, money he plans to split up and personally deliver to the impacted families.

"I expect to sell 400 pizzas an hour," says Kess. "I want to use my shop as a vehicle to raise money."

Kess was out of town when he learned about the escape and rescue, and was especially surprised and touched that one of the Berrys' first meals came from his establishment.

"I was so taken by that, I just wanted to reach out to these girls," he says.

Along with the one-day fundraiser, the effected families will also eat free at Angelo's for life. The father of a teenage daughter himself, Kess aims to send a message to the trio of young women who spent so many years in captivity.

"We're showing them there's people that care," he says. "I couldn't fathom what their families went through. I felt I had to help in any way I could. This is the least I could do."

SOURCE: Tom Kess
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

cleveland colectivo grants 'spark money' to bright ideas

Innovative ideas abound in Northeast Ohio, believes Judy Wright, founding member of The Cleveland Colectivo. Too often, however, those dreams are not big enough to draw the attention of the major grant makers in town.

The Colectivo was designed to fill that gap. A grassroots, Cleveland-based giving circle that pools funds to make contributions in the community, the group is inspired by the traditional practice of immigrant neighbors who invested in each other’s businesses to build a neighborhood.

"Our goal is to support small, innovative projects that need a little boost," says Wright, a Lakewood resident. She and a group of like-minded friends from the nonprofit sector created the Colectivo in 2004.

The group's grants range from $500 to $5,000. Funding supports a wide variety of projects, from enhancements to the kitchen at the Cleveland Hostel to a summer series of free music events at Edgewater Park.

"There's no focus area besides these projects having an impact on Cleveland," Wright says.

The next round of funding kicks off February 28 with the Colectivo's fast pitch presentation event at Shaker LaunchHouse. Up to 40 entrepreneurs and innovators will have two minutes to present their bright ideas, which will be voted on by attendees. The top 10 vote-getters will then move on to interviews conducted by group members. Registration to present at the fast pitch event opens February 25 at noon on the group's website.

Getting a roomful of people to network and be excited about their fellow Clevelanders' brainstorms is a side benefit of the effort, notes Wright.

"A little bit of 'spark money' can be hard to get," she says. "We're just trying to make the process easier."

SOURCE: Judy Wright
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

county residents have a vote in how cac will award $300k in arts funding

Northeast Ohio has a vibrant arts and culture ecosystem, so why not let its patrons be directly involved in growing that environment?

This was a question asked by nonprofit Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC) when putting to a public vote which large-scale arts or culture projects will receive funding through the organization's new Creative Culture Grants program.

Starting February 1, voters will be able to pick two winning arts projects from a list of six finalists chosen by an independent panel of arts and culture experts. The project finalists, among them a multi-media ballet led by Dancing Wheels, a multi-faceted light installation from LAND studio, and a community-wide arts collaboration between Cleveland's East and West sides, were chosen based on their creativity and prospective ability to impact thousands of Cuyahoga County residents.

"We wanted something that would be a stretch for these groups; something they may not have tried otherwise," says CAC executive director Karen Gahl-Mills.

The winning projects will get up to $150,000 each through the nonprofit's grants program. County residents can vote in two ways: Online up until 11:59 p.m. EST on February 20 or by mail until 4:30 p.m. EST February 15. Paper ballots will be available for download or by calling 216-515-8303. CAC will announce the winning projects on February 25. The chosen projects will take place between March 2013 and August 2014.

Gahl-Mills views the vote as the public's opportunity to have a real say as to where community dollars are going.

"Any of the six projects can be terrific for the region," she says. "We want the community to help make that decision."

SOURCE: Karen Gahl-Mills 
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

lakewood crossfit forms powerful partnership with cleveland big brothers big sisters

CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program designed for people of all ages and fitness levels. Jillian Neimeister and Tricia Tortoreti, owners of the recently opened Birdtown CrossFit in Lakewood, believe the program can empower the lives of Cleveland's teenagers in ways beyond physical prowess.

During a fundraising campaign to help purchase equipment for the gym, the pair promised to donate a one-year membership to the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cleveland for every $2,000 raised. The duo ended up raising $7,260 through their indieGOGO.com campaign, equating to three memberships for teens affiliated with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

"Our intention is to introduce teens to a larger community of people who are committed to health, and a network of Clevelanders who may encourage and support them," says Tortoreti, a "Big Sister" with the organization for the last five years.

"We're happy to engage a different audience around the benefits of mentoring," says Big Brothers Big Sisters president/CEO Gretchen Faro regarding the partnership. "Fitness is clearly a need for our community."

The business partners expect that participating teens will come to the gym with their Big Brother or Big Sister, but membership affords them use of all classes on offer. CrossFit is not a typical gym, relying more on jump ropes and barbells than elliptical machines and treadmills. The Cleveland-based CrossFit is located in the Lake Erie Building in Lakewood's Birdtown neighborhood.

Partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters was an easy call for Tortoreti. Her 14-year-old "Little" was eagerly searching for after-school activities that didn't involve video games or just hanging out with friends.

"CrossFit can do so much for you besides making you more fit," says Tortoreti. "We have a great community spirit here."

SOURCES: Jillian Neimeister, Tricia Tortoreti, Gretchen Faro
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

art of ornament event to benefit local habitat for humanity

A little imagination this holiday season could go a long way to building a home for a needy Cleveland family.

The Cleveland chapter of American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) is collecting homemade Christmas ornaments from local creatives during its Art of Ornament event on December 14. The decorations will be auctioned off at 78th Street Studios, with proceeds going to Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity, a Christian-based organization that constructs homes throughout Northeast Ohio. The only rule is that ornaments can be hung for display and use.

"It's an opportunity for the design community to get together and give back using their natural creative tendencies," says Maggie Durguner, president of AIGA's Cleveland chapter.

All community members can make an ornament for the free, public event whether or not they are employed by the local creative sector. Last year, AIGA collected $2,000 through the auctioning of 80 ornaments. Designs ranged from an intricate depiction of 18th-century women to a tyrannosaurus rex covered in glitter. 

"Some of the designs were incredible," Durguner says.

Ornaments usually sell from $15 to $100. A new element this year has AIGA's corporate sponsors matching the highest bid.  Every dollar counts, particularly when it "hits home" for Cleveland's underserved, says Durguner.

SOURCE: Maggie Durguner
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

cleveland salon promotes traditional, even-handed debates

Measured discourse is something that's not exactly commonplace these days, notes Jonathan Rodriguez-Lucas. Even this November's presidential debates had the two major candidates talking "at" each other rather than "with," he says.  

The argumentative atmosphere of last election season was a major catalyst for the launching of The Cleveland Salon, a seminar series where traditional, even-handed debate is the rule rather than the exception.

The "social experiment," created by Lakewood resident Rodriguez-Lucas and Andrew Samtoy, encourages participants to share their divergent opinions with others in a respectful manner. There have been two seminars this year, both held at Mahall’s 20 Lanes in Lakwood. The most recent, on November 29, touched on the role of the media and what effect the downsizing or loss of The Plain Dealer could have on local journalism.

Seminars are moderated by a facilitator, who kicks off the topic and then opens up the discussion to the group.
The rules of engagement are simple: "Someone can have a belief opposite yours; that doesn't mean they are wrong," says Rodriguez-Lucas, 28.

That means no shouting, finger-pointing or other unseemly behavior.  "That's always a concern, but it hasn't been an issue so far," says the co-founder.

The first Cleveland Salon was held this past summer at Ingenuity Festival. The idea was not to bring in a speaker to lecture for an hour, but rather allow non-experts to air their own constructive opinions. Rodriguez-Lucas looks forward to continuing the conversation during the next seminar in January.

"Everyone has a voice," he says.

SOURCE: Jonathan Rodriguez-Lucas
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
55 Lakewood Articles | Page: | Show All
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