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local creatives awarded for outstanding community arts work

A trio of local creatives, whose work in the arts ranges from entrepreneurship to philanthropy, have been acknowledged for the impact they make on the community.

Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio, a nonprofit that promotes creative learning through the arts for local children and teenagers, announced the winners of its 2013 Arts, Education and Entrepreneurship Awards late last week.

As part of its 60th anniversary celebration, the organization recognized those who have made a lasting contribution in the three key categories, says development director Jerry Smith.

The winners are:

* Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek, founder and director of Near West Theatre. Located in the Gordon Square Arts District, the theater was deemed by Young Audiences as a bastion for Cleveland youth struggling with their identities.

* Anna Arnold, director of the Florence O’Donnell Wasmer Gallery. An artist and educator, Arnold works with at-risk children, encouraging them to positively express their thoughts and values through art.

* Jeff Lachina, CEO of Lachina. The entrepreneur's educational product company recruits from Cleveland Institute of Art and other area universities to demonstrate to students that an active career in the arts can happen locally.

The three award-winners each will have an endowment established in their names, and be recognized during Young Audience's anniversary commemoration in September.

"They all reached out into the community in a unique way, touching the lives of people for whom the arts is not always readily available," says Smith.

SOURCE: Jerry Smith, Jennifer Abelson
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

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

jam for justice fundraising event ready to rock for a good cause

This summer, justice carries an axe.

This is not the tagline for a blockbuster film (although it should be), but the idea behind "Jam for Justice," a fundraising event in support of The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.

Four rock bands, all fronted by area attorneys and judges, will pound guitars instead of gavels July 11 at House of Blues. Among the acts are Rule 11 and the Sanctions, helmed by incoming Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association president Jonathan Leiken, and Judge Michael Donnelly's classic rock combo Faith & Whiskey.

"All the bands are great," says Melanie Shakarian, Legal Aid's director of development and communications.

Each act is rocking out to support Legal Aid's work in the community. The nonprofit organization assists low-income Northeast Ohioans in need of counsel. It has 45 lawyers on hand to give free help to the poor in cases involving evictions, divorce, loss of benefits and other civil issues. Legal Aid aims to counsel 26,000 clients in 2013.

Jam for Justice, now in its fifth year, moved to House of Blues this summer after outgrowing its previous space. Shakarian expects 500 philanthropic music fans to attend the concert. The group has a fundraising goal for the event of just under $20,000.

A concert is not the typical venue to find a congregation of lawyers and judges -- and that's what makes the event fun while also supporting an important cause, says Shakarian.

"The show appeals to more than just the legal community," she says. "We always get a diverse cross-section of folks from across the region."

SOURCE: Melanie Shakarian
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

fifth third to roll mobile bank into underserved communities

Fifth Third Bank wants Northeast Ohioans who might be anxious about walking into a financial institution to get on the bus.

The bank has partnered with local community organizations to bring the Financial Empowerment Mobile, or eBus, to nine locations in the region from June 19 to June 29. The eBus is a rolling classroom providing credit counseling, financial literacy, home ownership assistance, and access to banking services directly to where people live, says Rob Soroka, retail executive at Fifth Third.

"People coming on the bus are struggling with their finances," says Soroka. "This is a place where they can get unbiased advice and direction to improve their financial life."

The mobile classroom is equipped with computer terminals for instructor-led or self-directed home ownership and credit counseling programs. Fifth Third community development officers, mortgage professionals and retail banking staff will be riding along to offer financial advice in a relaxed atmosphere.

Now in its ninth year, the theme of this year's program is realizing financial dreams, be it owning a house or starting a business, says Laura Passerallo, Fifth Third director of marketing. The eBus venture, which counts the Call & Post Foundation and The Word Church among its partners, will serve upwards of 1,600 people this summer.

Fifth Third will also hold large community events to introduce people to the eBus. A June 28 get-together at the Hispanic Business Center aims to provide a festive atmosphere for folks curious about what the 40-foot-long bank-on-wheels provides.

"People who need help may be intimated to come into a traditional financial center," says Soroka. "With the eBus, that intimidation goes away. That does some good for the community."

SOURCES: Rob Soroka, Laura Passerallo
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

united way, riders gearing up for charitable cleveland-to-akron bike tour

Northeast Ohio cyclists better gear up, because two local chapters of the United Way are counting on them to take in the local scenery for a good cause.

United Way of Greater Cleveland and United Way of Summit County are partnering to host the third annual RideUNITED bicycle tour June 23. The charities are expecting about 700 cyclists to travel either the Towpath Trail or city streets for this one-day, Cleveland-to-Akron-and-back event.

A variety of route distances have been implemented to accommodate all cyclists, with options ranging from a 12-mile jaunt for novices up to a 100-mile century ride for experts, says Michelle Carver, special events manager for the Cleveland chapter of United Way. All routes are round-trip except the 40-mile ride, which ends at the University of Akron.

The tour is expected to raise up to $80,000 to advance United Way programming in the areas of education, income and health. Last year, more than 500 cyclists participated in RideUNITED, raising more than $54,000.

This year's ride will take participants on a bike-friendly course past such Cleveland landmarks as the Rock Hall and the newly renamed FirstEnergy Stadium. Towpath riders, meanwhile, will get to enjoy the bucolic splendor of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Those who don't want to ride can still volunteer at rest stops along the way, notes Carver. Snacks, first aid and bike maintenance/repair will be provided to cyclists at Steelyard Commons, Thornburg Station, Boston Store and the Indian Mound/Botzum Trailhead.

"The idea was to bring the region together," Carver says of the bike tour. "We're inviting everyone to participate."

SOURCE: Michelle Carver
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

pop warner takes the field for northeast ohio youth

The proverb "It takes a village to raise a child"  has been transferred to the gridiron by Northeast Ohio Pop Warner, an organization inviting the region's children to participate either as football players or cheerleaders.

Kids aged 5-12 can play football, while the age range for cheerleaders is 5-13. The nonprofit is hosting two free preseason football and cheerleading training camps this month for the underprivileged children the program services. The local chapter of Pop Warner is an extension of a century-old youth football organization with over 350,000 kids taking part worldwide.

Mark Wilson is chapter president and coach of the 8- and 9-year-old football team. For its first year of programming, Wilson hopes to have between 100 and 200 children involved between football and cheerleading. The summer will be spent practicing and training, with an 8-game season starting in September.

"The feedback has been great so far," says Wilson. "I've met parents who said they've never experienced anything like this."

The local team will be named the Ohio Village Wildcats. The program is mostly aimed at inner-city Cleveland youth, but young athletes from all over the region are invited to try out. Pop Warner is designed to be an outlet for positive experiences both on and off the field. Along with football, the group hosts picnics and other family-friendly outings. It is also the only national youth sports organization that requires scholastic aptitude to participate.

The local team's name is no accident, either, Wilson notes.

"The mission is about keeping families together, not just showing up to do sports and go home," he says. "We're trying to make a stronger community, period."

SOURCE: Mark Wilson
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

female philanthropic circle forms to bring health care to uninsured women

All women have the right to quality health care, including a full spectrum of obstetrical and gynecological treatment. A network of area women have started an initiative to ensure those needs are met.

Summa Foundation Circle of Women's Health Philanthropists is led by a collection of female executives, professionals and social philanthropists. The group launched in April and has raised over $65,000 in pledges to bring pre-natal care and other critical medical advancements to uninsured or underinsured women, says Circle co-founder Julia Rea Bianchi.

The 15 organization members will choose from a wish list of medical needs by the end of the year, notes Shelley Green, director of principal giving with Summa Foundation. The funds may go directly into the operating budget of the Summa Center for Women's Health and the Women's Health Unit at Summa Akron City Hospital, or be used to purchase new bassinets or a fetal heart Doppler machine for the center.

Through the Circle's work, "there will be great stewardship of those [financial] gifts," says Bianchi, a Summa Foundation board member. "Coming together we can make a powerful and measurable impact."

The group was created in part from Bianchi's experience as a national founder of Tiffany Circle, a growing philanthropic venture affiliated with the American Red Cross. With the Center for Women's Health drawing 15,000 patients annually, Bianchi recognized an opportunity to localize that ambitious endeavor.

"It's tried and true and can work here," she says. "We know we can improve the well-being of women without access to quality health care, and it can done right here at Summa Health System."

SOURCES: Shelley Green, Julia Rea Bianchi
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

kulture kids arts program gives cleveland students a 'presidential' surprise

A local nonprofit arts program gave a group of Cleveland students a White House-sized thrill earlier this week in the form of a letter from President Barack Obama.

K-2 pupils at Andrew J. Rickoff Elementary School received the presidential missive on June 3 for their work with Kulture Kids, a group of artists affiliated with Young Audiences of Northeast Ohio that provides programming for schools and organizations. Over 250 students obtained a copy of the letter commending them for their involvement with the program.

"It was a nice surprise for students who have been working hard all year," says Robin Pease, founder of Kulture Kids. "The kids were in shock."

The initiative collaborated with pupils on the concept of citizenship. Different classes worked on variations of this theme, with second-graders learning about employment and how technology has impacted citizenship. All students utilized the arts to bring the subject to life.

The Commander in Chief got word of the program from a Kulture Kids' artist, who sent along a photo of a student dressed as the President himself. Washington wrote back with a letter of encouragement, and group officials made copies for every student involved.

Kulture Kids just finished its third year of residency at A.J. Rickoff. Young participants put on a program in March, an event that included dance and original songs. A letter from the leader of the free world is a pretty good payoff for a little bit of creativity, Pease believes.

"These kids will remember this forever," she says.

SOURCE: Robin Pease
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

volunteers needed for tall ship festival sailing into town this july

The Tall Ships are sailing back into the Cleveland harbor this summer, and are going to need some volunteers to stay afloat.

Okay, nobody will be hoisting the mizzenmast or lifting any bales, but there is a call for greeters, ticket takers, crowd control marshals, hospitality workers, docents, and more once the four-day event kicks off on July 3.

The Tall Ships Festival, returning to the lakefront for the first time since 2010,  is being organized and presented by the Rotary Club of Cleveland with support from the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority. Some 500 enthusiastic volunteers are needed to ensure everything runs swimmingly, says Rotary Club member Edward Thomas.

"We can use people to carry water, help people get off and on boats, and drive ship crew members to the grocery store," Thomas says. "Virtually anything that's needed to be done, a volunteer is needed to help out."

Volunteers need to be 18-or-over and available for a minimum of two shifts between July 3 and 8, note festival organizers. Applicants can sign up on the festival website.

The family-friendly happening will bring a dozen replica historic vessels, showcasing the Great Lakes' great past and allowing visitors to experience the heritage these historic ships symbolize, says Thomas. Officials expect about 100,000 visitors for the event.

"It's always good to be around something where there's lots of energy and excitment," Thomas says. "It will be a great experience for those willing to help us bring life to the lakefront."

SOURCE: Edward Thomas
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

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

black achievement the topic of foundation center's first 'rising tide' event

When every sector of a populace thrives, so does the community as a whole. The local chapter of a national philanthropic organization plans to shine a light on this and other issues during a series of programs in 2013.

Philanthropic support of black male achievement will be the subject of the Foundation Center's first Rising Tide program on May 22, says director Cindy Bailie. Nearly every major indicator of economic, social and physical well-being shows that black men and boys in the U.S. do not have access to the structural foundation and opportunities needed to succeed. However, a flood of philanthropic support and social innovation is addressing these challenges head on.

"There's work happening locally aimed at black men of all ages," says Bailie. "This is our chance to change the situation."

The program will consist of three speakers and a panel discussion. The center has also launched a website to spotlight the topic. Connecting people to those working on the problem is only part of the plan.

"We want people to leave inspired," says Bailie. "This is a call to action."

The New York-headquartered Foundation Center is a source of information on U.S. grantmakers. Locally, the organization acts as a library/learning center for those seeking knowledge about the nonprofit sector.

The black achievement program is the first of a planned series of quarterly events "showcasing new ways of solving old problems," says Bailie. Future events could touch on such topics as the impact of arts and culture on the community.

"These [programs] aren't just conversation-starters," Bailie says. "What will you do to keep the conversation going?"

SOURCE: Cindy Bailie
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

organization's eclectic mix of programs 'scoring' points with cleveland students

Soccer, creative writing and volunteerism might seem like an odd mix, just don't tell that to the students helped by America SCORES Cleveland, an organization that has been providing unique after-school programming for almost 10 years.

The local chapter of America SCORES, which launched in 2004, serves more than 500 youths in 10 Cleveland public schools. The program is designed to create "poet-athletes" through an innovative triple threat of soccer, poetry and service learning, says executive director Debi Pence-Meyenberg.
The tri-curricular approach creates well-rounded students, maintains Pence-Meyenberg. Soccer was chosen for its accessibility and minimal equipment needs. Writing and performing poetry, meanwhile, gives youths an emotional outlet and promotes creative thinking. Finally, volunteerism instills in children a sense of compassion, social responsibility and personal worth.

"We want urban youth to lead healthy lives and be involved in their community," says Pence-Meyenberg.

Public school students in grades three through eight can stay engaged through sports and creative writing, notes the chapter head. Participants also choose their own neighborhood-based service projects, like working at a community garden or raising money for Haitian earthquake victims.

On June 22, Cleveland's student-poets will collaborate with Cleveland artists during an event at 78th Street Studios. The Inspired Art Project will showcase the poetry of local youths through original artwork from Cleveland creatives, with sales of these items going to America SCORES. The program, along with the other activities America SCORES offers, can have a positive impact on the culture of an entire school district.

"Our kids and becoming healthier and more engaged," Pence-Meyenberg says.

SOURCE: Debi Pence-Meyenberg
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

united way calls for volunteers to help with cleveland schools transformation

United Way of Greater Cleveland has been a steady supporter of Cleveland's schools for years. The charity organization is now looking for some outside assistance as the city works to change the fortunes of the struggling district.

United Way is inviting volunteers to invest their time and talent in conjunction with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District's initiative to transform its underachieving schools. The CMSD volunteer opportunities have not yet been defined, but United Way president and CEO Bill Kitson knows help will be needed once the new school program launches in the fall.

"We're taking names and we'll get back in touch with people this summer," says Kitson. “We need our entire community to wrap around our kids, their families and their schools.” 

Enrichment programs, mentoring and after-school enrichment opportunities are just a few of the changes afoot for the 13 Cleveland schools impacted by the strategy, the first part of The Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools.

Interested volunteers can sign up online or call United Way 2-1-1. The organization will contact potential participants when opportunities fitting their skills and interests arise. Helpers might be needed to walk to children to school, or to assist with neighborhood cleanups around school facilities.

"There are so many ways to utilize the community," Kitson says.

United Way officials would like to get a couple of hundred volunteers engaged as soon as the schools open. The group views education as a key to the city's success, and publically supported CMSD's 15-mill levy that passed last November.

"Getting a neighborhood involved in its schools goes beyond education," says Kitson.

SOURCE: Bill Kitson
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth

organization asks parents to pledge allegiance to their children's education

 About 2,000 days pass from when a child is born to the moment he or she enters kindergarten. Officials from The Centers for Families & Children believe every one of those days is critical in preparing a child's educational future, and have created a new campaign to back up that point.

The 2,000 Day Pledge asks parents already involved with The Centers to keep their kids in an early learning program for as many days as possible within the first 2,000 days of that child's life. It also requests parents choose a high-performing elementary school compatible with their young student's learning needs, with graduation from high school being the long-term goal.

Those 2,000 days are a window to prepare children for success in school and life, says Sharon Sobol Jordan, president and CEO of The Centers. "We have this same amount of time with our parents to help them get ready to be good advocates for their children," she says.

Kids who enter kindergarten lacking a solid educational foundation are at risk of falling behind peers who have those advantages, says Amy Martin, the organization's vice president of marketing and communications.

"The gap widens in elementary school, and by high school you start to see the drop-out rate rise," says Martin.

While the new campaign is mostly aimed at existing clients, The Centers' officials hope word about the pledge spreads to expectant mothers and other members of the community.  In addition, The Centers doesn't just ask parents to pledge, but considers the campaign a shared commitment between itself and participants.

"We want to help parents fight for the education of their children," Martin says. "We're partners with them every step of the way."
SOURCE: Sharon Sobol Jordan, Amy Martin
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth
186 Social Innovation Articles | Page: | Show All
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