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Farewell and Thank You, VISTAs!

Today is the day. After dedicating a year or more of service in an effort to alleviate poverty and build capacity at community development organizations throughout Ohio, many of the Ohio CDC Association AmeriCorps VISTA members are now concluding their service.

Our VISTA Members have made significant contributions to their communities, and while these contributions cannot be simply reduced to numbers, there are many impressive quantitative measures that deserve highlighting. Over the last year, our VISTA Members have:

  • Recruited more than 900 community volunteers, who completed over 2,000 hours of volunteer service.
  • Organized or attended over 250 community events to support their organization’s services.
  • Raised over $700,000 in cash and in-kind contributions.

These measures are only a sample of the concrete efforts that our VISTA Members have made during their service year. As many of our VISTA Members head to school to complete advanced degrees or continue with their careers in community development, we have no doubt that they will continue to make a difference in their communities.

Some of our VISTAs were even hired on as full-time staff members at their site locations. These include Beth Combs at Supports to Encourage Low-Income Families (SELF) in Hamilton, Liz Weiler at Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization in Cleveland, and Lindsay Wheeler at Famicos Foundation in Cleveland.

In addition, several of our current VISTA Members are re-enrolling for another year of service. They includes Joe Linksy, currently serving at Slavic Village Development in Cleveland, Kristian Hunter at Collinwood Nottingham Villages in Cleveland, and Caitlin Joseph at East Akron Neighborhood Development.

OCDCA’s own VISTA, Patrick Creedon, will be leaving our office to serve as VISTA Leader at the Ohio Association of Free Clinics.

Wherever life takes the OCDCA 2016-2017 AmeriCorps VISTAs, we cannot say thank you enough. Thank you for your year of dedication, hard work, and commitment to your communities and your country.


Intensive vocational program gives grads hope of overcoming barriers

Rita Price of The Columbus Dispatch:

Never mind the curled hair and long eyelashes, the makeup and painted fingernails. Amy Reynolds, her mentors say, has a heckuva future in the construction trades.

“I’m a hard worker,” the 32-year-old said. “And I’m really grateful I got the chance to prove it.”

Reynolds and nine others were celebrated Friday as the first graduates of a pilot vocational program at IMPACT Community Action that immerses job-hungry adults in eight weeks of intensive, hands-on training in carpentry and building trades.

The aim is to help people move past barriers — felony records, poverty, skills deficits — that keep them from securing promising employment. No one becomes an expert in two months, but the training and certification set them on a path to wages they can live on, said Mitchell Thompson, IMPACT’s self-sufficiency coordinator.

“I think everybody here can get a job,” Thompson said during the ceremony at the Columbus Metropolitan Library branch on East Livingston Avenue. “But we have a real problem here in Columbus with underemployment. People aren’t making sustainable incomes.”

Read the whole article here.

Photo by mconnors at


The Dealership partners with ECDI, expands a unique local resource

Brandon Baker of Freshwater Cleveland:

“The Shaker Heights Development Corporation (SHDC) and Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI) operate The Dealership together at 3558 Lee Road in a new partnership that has boosted programming, membership and more since the year began. The new arrangement has ignited an array of new services for area businesses and the community at large, while the coworking space continues to be a unique resource for all Shaker Heights residents who need an office space that isn’t called Starbucks.

“There’s a lot of mission alignment between the two organizations,” SHDC executive director Nick Fedor says. “With SHDC focused on enhancing commercial districts here in Shaker and ECDI really focused on providing capital and resources to entrepreneurs and small businesses, it’s been a really good fit so far.”

The Dealership now has 29 members, up from 11 in January. Fedor says there are just two vacancies among the first floor’s 17 offices. The small business owners there include attorneys, accountants, web developers, caterers, property managers and others. With a 1,000-square-foot space in the rear of the building, the Cleveland Makers’ Alliance brings even more creative entrepreneurs to the hip and funky location with three-hour meetups each Tuesday that are open to the public.”

Read more about this awesome collaboration between two OCDCA  members.


Hillsboro simulation shows poverty is ‘hard work’

Via David Wright of The Times Gazette:

“A role-playing exercise in Hillsboro on Friday was designed to help average people understand what it’s really like to live in poverty.

About 50 people participating in a poverty simulation at the Hi-Tech Center in Hillsboro Friday were assigned names, ages, families, medical conditions and financial situations placing them below the poverty line, then told to pay all their bills and care for their children for four 15-minute intervals representing four weeks – a reminder that for an estimated 42 million people in the United States, poverty is everything but a simulation.

Highland County Community Action hosted the event, bringing in training personnel from the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies to give locals a hard look at what it means to live below the poverty line.”

Poverty simulators are events that happen all over the country. These important days really illustrate why it’s necessary to walk in another person’s shoes. Notable quotes from the article include:

““This was a very realistic presentation,” one woman said. “You gave me a headache and I’m very stressed right now.”

“Poverty is hard work,” another woman added.”

And the best, from Julia Wise, the director of Highland Community Action Agency, “I just want people to get rid of the stereotypes about the poor.”

Read the whole article here.



Summer meals for kids return to Erie County

Free summer meals have returned around the state, mostly through the multitude of community action agencies, for kids who need them.

It’s a program to ensure that children who receive free or reduced price meals during the school year can also get nutritious lunches during the summer months. It’s also a program that the Trump budget has called for implementing deep cuts to.

While it’s still funded, here is a lovely write up in the Sandusky Register by reporter Tom Jackson on the program ran by the Community Action Commission of Erie, Huron, and Richland Counties.



URGENT: Save the Ohio Housing Trust Fund Expansion!

Your strong support helped convince leaders in the Ohio House of Representatives to add our proposal strengthening the Ohio Housing Trust Fund to the state budget that passed the House last month.

Unfortunately, the Ohio Senate just stripped the proposal from its version of the budget.

Please call your Senator by noon on Thursday and ask him or her to support the Ohio Housing Trust Fund proposal!

Senators need to know that their constituents and community leaders care about this issue and are opposed to removing the Trust Fund proposal.

Find contact information for your Senator.

Talking Points for Calls to Senators:

  • We urge the Senator to restore the Ohio Housing Trust Fund/Recording Fee proposal in the budget.
  • The proposal is a key part of the solution to Ohio’s opiate crisis because it dedicates $6 million/year in non-GRF (general revenue fund) to help house people who are exiting opiate treatment.
  • The proposal stabilizes and expands the Trust Fund, the primary source of state support for homelessness and decent, affordable homes for seniors, veterans, and children.

This Home Matters to Ohio brochure has more information about the Trust Fund.

You will most likely speak to a Senator’s aide or leave a brief voice mail, but please know, these contacts are critically important. After you call, please send a quick email to marcusroth AT to let the coalition know who you contacted.

We still have time to get the Trust Fund proposal restored before the budget is finalized on June 30, but we need your voice!

Despite this setback, we are confident that our efforts will ultimately succeed in increasing state funding for the Ohio Housing Trust Fund.

Thank you for your support!

Nate Coffman
Executive Director
Ohio CDC Association
On behalf of the Home Matters to Ohio coalition


Affordable housing out of reach in Ohio

Borrowed text from our friends at COHHIO:

Ohio’s Housing Wage increased again this year to $15.00 an hour – the hourly amount renters need to earn to afford rent for a basic, two-bedroom apartment, according to a report jointly released Thursday by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio.

Every year the Out of Reach report updates the Housing Wage, an estimate of the full-time hourly wage that a household must earn to afford a basic apartment at fair market rent without spending more than 30 percent of income – the federal standard for housing affordability.

The typical renter in Ohio earns $12.87, which is $2.13 less than the statewide hourly wage needed to afford a modest two-bedroom rental unit. The Columbus metropolitan area has Ohio’s highest Housing Wage at $17.04, followed by Cincinnati at $15.50, Akron at $15.19, and Cleveland at $15.02. While housing costs in cities are higher, the difference between rents and incomes is considerably larger in many rural areas.

“This report shows the growing gap between what most renters actually earn and the cost of housing, and nowhere is that gap wider than in Ohio’s Appalachian counties,” COHHIO’s Executive Director Bill Faith said. “While rents are cheaper in Southeast Ohio, household earnings lag way behind other parts of the state. So President Trump’s plan to gut federal housing assistance will fall especially hard in places where people need it the most.”

Read more here.


Asian Services in Action will address mental health among elderly Asian Americans

By Mitch Felan of 89.7 WKSU:

(OCDCA member) “Asian Services in Action is getting a grant from the McGregor Foundation to provide mental health resources for elderly people in Cuyahoga County.

The group will use the money for its Asian Senior Empowerment Program, which connects low-income Asian Americans with limited English to community and mental health services.

The group’s CEO, Michael Byun, says his own grandmother is an example of how the program can help those who do not speak English well.”

This is a great example of the comprehensive work community development organizations perform throughout the state.

Listen to the whole story here.


What the U.S. Loses If Trump Eliminates AmeriCorps

We’ve been talking about AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National & Community Service for a while now. It clearly makes a huge impact, not just in Ohio, but to the country as a whole, as well as the individuals who volunteer their time to serve as an AmeriCorps member.

Still, it’s refreshing to hear others, especially CEOs of major corporations talking about its value. Read a sensible and smart piece in Fortune by Chris Policinski, David MacLennan, John Wiehoff, Doug Baker, all CEOs of major Minnesota-based companies.

A brief sample:

The administration’s perspective is clear and pointed. “Funding community service and subsidizing the operation of nonprofit organizations is outside the role of the Federal Government,” the budget states. “To the extent these activities have value, they should be supported by the nonprofit and private sectors and not with Federal subsidies provided through the complex Federal grant structure run by CNCS.”

As cost-conscious leaders of Fortune 500 companies, we have to disagree. We know a good deal when we see one, and the CNCS is a good deal. This is why we’ve donated to AmeriCorps programs such as College Possible.

While funding for the CNCS represents a fraction of federal spending (less than .02% in previous years), its demise would deeply harm hundreds of thousands of Americans.



What’s happening? State & federal budget update

A brief sample of our May newsletter: What’s Happening in Ohio Community Development?

Administration Releases FY18 Budget Proposal, Guts Community Development & Housing

The President’s FY 2018 budget request was officially released last week titled A New Foundation for American Greatness. The proposal, which largely mirrors the budget preview released in March makes steep cuts to housing and community development programs, slashing the overall HUD budget by $6.2 billion or 13.2% compared to FY 2017. View the historic HUD/USDA budget chart by program.

The bulk of the cuts are to community development programs, which are largely eliminated such as the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnership (HOME) programs. These proposed cuts, if implemented, would be devastating for communities.

Although the administration’s budget is largely a political statement that has been rejected by many in Congress, it remains important to communicate to your members of Congress the impact these cuts would have to your community: that the bulk of these programs have already been significantly cut over the last several years and that they need to be increased, not just protected.

To help tell the story of CDBG and HOME in Ohio, we’ve created flyers for these programs. View the CDBG flyer and HOME flyer. You can use these flyers when talking about these programs. The flyers are editable PDFs that allow you to enter your organization’s contact information on the back.

US House of Representatives – Click here to contact your representative.

US Senator Rob Portman – Click here to contact Senator Portman.

US Senator Sherrod Brown – Click here to contact Senator Brown.

Thank you for your advocacy!