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MidTown : For Good

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endowment fund to boost midtown group's good works

The two square miles of real estate between downtown Cleveland and University Circle are bursting with development. A local nonprofit has established a fund to ensure that work continues to flourish.

On June 20, economic development corporation MidTown Cleveland, Inc. announced the creation of the MidTown Cleveland, Inc. Endowment Fund at the Cleveland Foundation. The fund, under the foundation's guidance, proposes to build a sustainable revenue source to secure continued activity in the burgeoning district. This will include promotion of the health-tech corridor, a three-mile expanse of hospitals, business incubators, educational institutions and high-tech companies situated within MidTown.

The growing tech corridor isn't the only project the fund will support, notes MidTown chairman John Melchiorre. The group plans to leave other "footprints" on the community as well, be they demolishing old buildings, planting flowers along Euclid Avenue or helping transform distressed properties into job-creating enterprises.

"The Cleveland Foundation has been a leading supporter of the revitalization of Midtown, so this is just the latest way our two organizations have joined forces for the betterment of that neighborhood," said Kaye Ridolfi, senior vice president of advancement at the Cleveland Foundation.

Founded by Cleveland businessman Mort Mandel and others some 30 years ago, MidTown Cleveland has helped develop the area into a business district home to 600 companies and 18,000 employees. Executive director Jim Haviland views MidTown as part of the city's renaissance, and believes the fund will sustain the region for decades to come.

"It helps us to continue the role we play" within the neighborhood, says Haviland.

 
SOURCES: John Melchiorre, Jim Haviland, Kaye Ridolfi
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

'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

clevelander's documentary offers real-life tales of rust belt revitalization

For some, the term "Rust Belt" conjures unpleasant images of empty factories, foreclosed homes and unhappy people wandering cracked streets, wondering when times will get better. But what's really happening in some of the Midwest's major cities, and how different is it from the way these cities are often depicted?

Jack Storey thinks he has an answer. The impassioned city advocate has created a documentary chronicling what he believes is a more accurate representation of resilient cities working on reinventing themselves.

"Red, White & Blueprints" is an examination of the strides being taken by Cleveland, St. Louis, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Youngstown, highlighting the most innovative initiatives, individuals and ideas coming out of these cities.

"It's a positive movie about the Rust Belt, which nobody is really doing," says Storey, 30. "We're showcasing another side of these cities."

Storey, founder of the grassroots community development organization Saving Cities, spent two weeks in the summer of 2011 traveling and taking footage with friend Rick Stockburger. He met steelworkers and autoworkers, entrepreneurs and politicians, all with their own ideas on how to boost their respective homes. Locally, he interviewed figures including Gina Prodan from Unmiserable Cleveland and Katie O'Keefe, better known as "the pink-haired tattoo girl."

Storey, of Collinwood, learned just how tough Midwesterners are. More surprising was how deeply the people he met cared about their city's livelihood. "It was the most educational experience of my life," he says.

"Red, White & Blueprints" debuted this week at Cleveland International Film Festival. (Screens tonight at 6:30 p.m. on stand-by.) Storey hopes the film gives viewers a truer vision of what it means to live in Cleveland and other less heralded parts of the country.
 
 
SOURCE: Jack Storey
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

program connects students with opportunities in own backyard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
SOURCE: Bob Yanega
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

nonprofit 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

education the centerpiece of cpl's african american history month programming

Education is on the forefront of Cleveland's transformation plans. The city is aiming to reform its troubled school system as well as increase the number of youth attending and graduating from college.

Cleveland Public Library (CPL) had Cleveland's goals in mind when planning its African American History Month programming for this year. Throughout February, the library will offer a variety of education- and educator-focused programming, music and events at its main facility and branch locations. 

"We try to focus on topics that resonate with the community," says CPL programming director Aaron Mason. "Education is the topic of the day."

Featured programs and events include:

* A showcase of student-produced music and videos created by Cleveland’s youth through the efforts of Reading R.A.M.M. (Recording Arts Music Media) founder Edward “Phatty” Banks. The February 9 event at the main library is designed to connect area children with reading and education through use of pop-culture-style music and media.

* A performance by Ralph Miles Jones and Baba Issa Abramaleem, otherwise known as "The Seekers of Truth Revolutionary Ensemble." Jones is a multi-instrumentalist and recording artist from Oberlin College. Abramaleem is a composer, visual artist, playwright and percussionist-guitarist. The duo plays CPL's Rice Branch on February 15.

* A free screening of the documentary "PUSH: Madison vs. Madison" on February 22 at the Martin Luther King, Jr. branch. The film covers the trials of a talented but dysfunctional high school basketball team.

This year's round of African American History Month programming is meant to look ahead rather than back at history, notes Mason.

"The library should be a place of learning and engagement," he says. "It's about exposing people to new ideas."
 
 
SOURCE: Aaron Mason
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

foundation looks to transform masonic space into technologically advanced media center

The imposing brick structure of the Cleveland Masonic and Performance Arts Center (CMPAC) has stood in Midtown Cleveland for a century. A local charity seeking to purchase the building sees a unique opportunity to harness CMPAC's historic legacy and create something new and distinctive. 

The Mason Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization structured "to promote the arts and academic excellence in Northeast Ohio," is working to buy the facility, which it would refurbish into a technologically advanced media center while also improving the performance space.

"We want to elevate the entire community," says foundation founder Gregory Mason, pointing to CMPAC's Midtown location as virtually equidistant to downtown and University Circle.

The foundation is now involved in engineering and architecture surveys on the site. The building's current owner is the Cleveland chapter of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, and Mason believes his organization will be ready to purchase the facility before the end of the year.

The centerpiece of the new venture is the "Towne Hall," a 24/7 data center and public space participants can use to access civic and library resources. Other plans include renovating CMPAC's "acoustically perfect" performance space, while the building would also host creative arts classes. Current tenants like the American Red Cross would remain and could even benefit from Mason Foundation backing, says the organization founder.

"We want to help nonprofits reach some of the resources they can't access now," Mason says.

Restoration will cost $30 million, a figure Mason hopes to accrue through grants, donors and private investors. The cost is worth it to unite civic, academic and arts resources in one place, Mason believes.
 
 
SOURCE: Gregory Mason
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

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

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

SOURCE: Carlton Jackson
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

cleveland bike advocates make push for bike-sharing network

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

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

 
SOURCE: Jacob VanSickle
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Source: Cindy Barber
Writer: Lee Chilcote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

creative fusion brings global artists to cleveland to leave lasting impression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Source: Kathleen Cerveny
Writer: Lee Chilcote
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