February 8, 2019
By Adrienne Mundorf, MPH, senior program director at Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland
As we look forward to the winter thaw and the promise of a full and enriching 2019, I spent a moment reflecting on a few highlights of 2018. My hopes for this year is that we at the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland (SOCF) continue to build on and learn from our success, and that of our partners.
- First, our partners are doing amazing work in this community, and it was a year for celebration. In all of our program areas, we have the privilege to collaborate with committed partners whose work aligns with our mission to improve the lives of people living in poverty. Over the course of 2018, several of our partners gathered for milestone events, and SOCF joined in the celebrations.
- In March, I had the pleasure to recognize Catholic sisters and their innovation at the National Catholic Sisters Week event at Magnificat High School. This year’s National Catholic Sisters Week event will be March 3, and I’m looking forward to the sisters’ discussion on civil discourse.
- I was also proud to join Enterprise Community Partners as they celebrated 30 years in Ohio transforming communities and improving lives. Enterprise honored SOCF with the Community Partner of the Year award for the committed investments we have made to end homelessness through the Housing First initiative.
- Perhaps the most memorable celebration was the evening we spent in November at Friendly Inn Settlement House for the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood’s Champions of Central ceremony. There, 25 individuals from partner organizations across the Central neighborhood were honored for their contribution to making Central a vibrant community of choice for Clevelanders.
- I remember how important it is to always listen, listen, listen. A guiding principle of the foundation is to connect by listening to understand the needs and concerns of the underserved. I had the chance to share the table—both literally and figuratively—and listen to the community through Healthy Eating, Active Living partner events.
- In June, my four-year-old daughter and I, along with 4,000 others across Northeast Ohio, participated in Common Ground, sponsored by the Cleveland Foundation. Food Access Raises Everyone (FARE), a project of The Food Trust, hosted a meal at Ka-La Healing Gardens, where we talked about what a healthy community means to each of us. We learned how much we all had in common, regardless of what community we live in, and even wore buttons that encouraged us to “listen to understand” and “value all voices.”
- Later in the year, and again accompanied by my daughters, I attended a screening of Cleveland Food Stories, a production of StoryLenz and Blue Heron Productions, at Garden Valley Neighborhood House. The screening was also hosted by FARE and included an incredible meal prepared by the FreshLo Kid’s Kitchen and an opportunity to connect and listen to several residents and community activists featured in the film through a panel discussion.
- Policy decisions contribute to inequality and poverty, but they can also contribute to promoting equity and advancing opportunities for economic stability. At the end of 2018, I attended several forums that highlighted policy solutions that could advance equity and economic stability in Ohio.
- One of the foundation’s Innovation Mission fellows, Hazel Remesch, is launching the Housing Justice Alliance through the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. To inform her work, Legal Aid convened a panel of New York and Cleveland city councilmembers at City Club last November to share innovative policy solutions to ensure fairness when evictions and housing conditions threaten a family’s well-being.
- In December, I joined a group of Philanthropy Ohio members to visit the Undesign the Redline exhibit at the Mount Pleasant NOW Development Corporation. We were guided through the interactive exhibit by a Cleveland Neighborhood Progress staff member, who helped us understand how systemic racial housing segregation policies have created an inequitable legacy that persists today–and highlighted the potential of new equitable policies and practices.
- Also in December, I attended the What Works to Increase Self-Sufficient Employment forum, convened by Health Policy Institute of Ohio. There, a diverse group of stakeholders explored state policy strategies that could strengthen supports for Ohio learners and jobseekers, potentially increasing the likelihood that Ohioans with low incomes will find better employment opportunities and eventually become self-sufficient.
- Finally, as a strategic partner and community member, we see success in collaboration. We’ve seen incredible impact through collaborative efforts.
- As part of a statewide coalition with more than 90 partners, SOCF has supported Groundwork Ohio’s efforts to make high-quality early childhood learning and development top priorities for Ohio’s leaders. At the Ohio Kids Leadership forum, I witnessed both 2018 gubernatorial candidates present platforms to prioritize Ohio’s kids.
- Likewise, the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking, an intercongregational collaboration led by Catholic sisters, has been a partner of SOCF since its inception in 2007 and the convener of over 40 partners participating in Greater Cleveland’s Coordinated Response to Human Trafficking. The collaborative has made great strides in educating policymakers on policies to help end the practice of human trafficking.
- Beginning last year, the foundation partnered with several other organizations convened by Mt. Sinai Foundation to join efforts to end child lead poisoning in Cleveland. These efforts led to Mayor Jackson and Cleveland City Council’s announcement early this year of the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition to address lead exposure through public/private accountability and legislation. Several of the foundation’s partners, including Environmental Health Watch, Case Western Reserve University’s Poverty Center and Enterprise Community Partners are among the organizations leading this coalition.