Thank You Praxis

Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another”.

This year, I’ve been incredibly blessed to be a part of Praxis a faith based accelerator for non-profits that my good friend Joe Hansbauer (who now heads Findlay Market) introduced me to.  Praxis selects 12 non-profits to build into each year, and this year CityLink was one of those twelve.  This week is our final gathering as fellows.


It has been a privilege to walk with and learn from a group of fellows from across the US and world, who I now call friends.  These individuals are leading amazing organizations, following God’s call, and addressing critical social issues around the globe.  We were built into by a group of insightful and generous mentors who have stretched us personally, spiritually, and professionally.  I leave this program with new hope, strategies, and tactics for CityLink to further expand our mission to show God’s love to those in need by providing an integrated path to holistic well being.

Thank you to the Praxis team and network for an inspiring year.


MashUp is Back: Friday Oct 2!

MashUp returns to CityLink, Friday October 2nd! Tickets are on sale now for just $40 (and $50 at the door…if not sold out!)

Check out Soapbox Media’s recent coverage and learn more about the performances, awesome food and drink vendors and PURCHASE TICKETS on our Eventbrite page!


Red Bike and CityLink Partner to Provide Discounted Rider Cards

Red Bike LaunchWe had a incredible day at CityLink  yesterday! We officially launched our partnership with Red Bike to provide deeply discounted rider cards for our clients. Thanks to a grant from Interact for Health, we were able to fund the building of a station right in front of the Center.

We had 15 clients who were extremely pumped about activating their membership cards and learning the rules of the road from our friends at Riding Forward. Their faces were priceless! WCPO did a feature story with a hunger angle, and one of our awesome clients Nyah, did a great job of representing CityLink and her newly launched business at Findlay Market … we are super proud of her and what she’s accomplished in just the past year.

The $33,000 grant from Interact for Health was used to pay for the build out of the station, and Red Bike is selling it’s $80 memberships to CityLink for $20. CityLink is providing the cards to qualified clients for just $5. This alleviates our clients from not only the cost burden, but the need for a credit card to access a membership. But most importantly it provides another reliable, affordable transportation option which addresses one the biggest barriers many of our clients face as they focus on reaching their goals.

The CityLink station will connect our clients, volunteers and the entire West End neighborhood to places like Findlay Market, Government/Fountain Square, The public Library and Uptown, for example. One client that got her membership yesterday lives in Covington and she said she’s really looking forward to using her pass across the river as well.
 Check out Nyah’s story and some of the other news coverage:

Ohio Street Blog:

Subcommittee of the Ohio House Explores Social Service Integration & Co-location

On Tuesday, the Ohio House Community and Family Advancement Committee traveled to Cincinnati to learn more about CityLink Center and its partners to explore the social service integration and co-location model. The House Committee, chair, Representative Tim Derickson, (R-Oxford),  called CityLink:

“An organization he’d like to see established throughout the state…I’m grateful for your approach to the whole person,” Derickson said. “If I could pick you up and take you around the state, I’d plant you everywhere I could.” 

The Committee is holding a series of hearings across the state to examine the effects of poverty on families and the ways that the state can help contribute to the solution. Learn more about the valuable and productive hearing that featured testimonies from not only CityLink, but our partners at Cincinnati Works, Nehemiah Manufacturing, City Gospel Mission, Cincinnati State and others in the full Hannah News Report below:


image1 (1)Thursday, August 20, 2015

Traveling House Panel Explores Social Service Integration, Co-Location

The House Community and Family Advancement Committee traveled Tuesday to Cincinnati to see the work of the CityLink Center, which committee Chairman Rep. Tim Derickson (R-Oxford) called an organization he’d like to see established throughout the state.

CityLink was established in 2012 and began operating in 2013 with the aim of integrating the work of social service agencies in the region and is supported by educational, government, faith and philanthropic groups.

CityLink brings more than a dozen service providers together in one facility. Johnmark Oudersluys, executive director of the center, said putting all the agencies under one roof removes several challenges encountered regularly by service providers and those in need, including the emotional toll on those in poverty of seeking help. Without co-location, “We’re asking them to walk from door to door and repeat their story of why they’re in need,” he said.

Co-location and the center’s integrated case management also enable a “soft handoff” among providers to address a person’s entire range of needs and challenges. A standalone financial education provider faced with someone whose current wages will never meet his family’s needs is left in a bind, Oudersluys said. The provider can send him somewhere else for employment services and training, or can leave their area of expertise to try to help fill the need. That sparks a “culture of referral and scope creep,” he said.

The integrated model also creates economies of scale that enable a level of volunteer development and coordination that might not be possible for small agencies on their own, Oudersluys said. Churches spanning several denominations were involved in the center’s founding, and he said faith plays an important role in its work.

“This increased compassion and competency that volunteers bring is equally important. Clients routinely report to us that ‘This place feels different to me, that I feel the spirit of God in this place,'” Oudersluys said.

“I’m grateful for your approach to the whole person,” Derickson said. “If I could pick you up and take you around the state, I’d plant you everywhere I could.”

After the hearing, Derickson said the element of faith in CityLink’s work stood out to him as a strong theme of Tuesday’s hearing.

Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) asked how lawmakers can create a more consistent and supportive system that doesn’t create a “cliff effect” where moving off benefits into work leaves people worse off
financially than before.

“We see that we are financially disincentivizing people from getting employed and taking raises, period,” Oudersluys said. “As a fiscal conservative, that is not something I am proud of, that we are disincentivizing people from advancing their lives.”

The complexity of the interplay between work, wages and benefit cliffs can be paralyzing, he said, noting the importance of having a financial education provider on-site at CityLink to help people understand the system and make a plan.

Peggy Zink, president of Cincinnati Works, which focuses on preparing people to find and keep jobs, said the model at CityLink is “perhaps the closest” example of what lawmakers and the Kasich administration envisioned when enacting a new integrated case management system as part of the biennial budget.

“We are executing it without silos … there’s follow-up, there’s closure. I think it embodies and makes real the concept we are trying to promote at the state level,” Zink said. “The initial job placement is not where it ends … the importance of continuing to walk the journey with individuals as they build that stability and advance to higher levels of stability is an important part of the model.”

Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland), lead Democrat on the committee, asked Zink about the challenge of capacity, noting Cincinnati Works has served several hundred people in recent years. “You look at a place like Cuyahoga County and the Cleveland area, where we’re talking thousands, thousands of people,” Howse said.

“I think we’re all trying to wrap our minds around capacity,” Zink said, saying a mindset change among providers is part of the answer.

“Somehow we’ve got to get that long-term perspective and that holistic perspective built in,” Zink said.
Derickson, noting that Cincinnati Works has additional flexibility by dint of its private funding, asked how the state can do better with employment services.

Zink said while her organization is now accepting about 90 percent of those interested, they won’t accept everyone. “We don’t want to bring people in and not know that there are employers on the other end willing to work with them,” she said. For example, people with criminal records who apply might be excluded because of the likelihood employers won’t look past that record. Zink said any work the state can do to encourage employers to be more accepting would enable Cincinnati Works to assist more people.

Dan Meyer of Nehemiah Manufacturing gave the example of one business that is willing to hire those with criminal records, calling his outfit a “profit with a purpose company” that hires from a pool of people who need a second chance.

“When I say second chance, I mean so many challenges no one’s going to give them an opportunity. Most of them have a felony in their background,” Meyer said.

But Meyer said his company, now 100 workers strong, can’t hire fast enough to keep pace with how many people leave jails and prisons in the region each year, so they’ve started the Beacon of Hope Business Alliance, which encourages more employers to work with those who have criminal records.

Nehemiah depends on Cincinnati Works to get people job ready and ensure they’re motivated to work. “We have a pretty powerful ecosystem. We can’t do what we do without Johnmark and Peggy’s work,” Meyer said.

The committee started its day with a tour of Oyler School, oft-cited as the exemplar for the community learning center model, which embeds social and health services within a school. Lawmakers enabled expansion of the model this summer with passage of HB70 (Brenner-Driehaus).

Darlene Kamine, executive director of the Community Learning Center Institute, said after a long period of levy failures and declining enrollment, Cincinnati Public Schools used the opportunity of new school construction through the Ohio School Facilities Commission to restore schools as a center of the community and a hub for culture, recreation and health.

Kamine said two related points are key to success of the center model: community engagement and site-based governance.

“We believe this is absolutely the foundation. It is grassroots from the beginning,” she said. “That kind of governance at the site level ensures that we are continuing to be responsive.”

Howse asked about the importance of cultural competence in delivering services in the schools.

“Having a real understanding or being open to learning is really important,” Kamine said, describing Cincinnati’s neighborhoods as sometimes seeming to be their own countries.

Sherry Marshall, president and CEO of the Ohio Workforce Investment Board, offered caution on the state’s new case management policy, saying redirection of federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funding to the population served by federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs could put Ohio’s ability to meet WIOA benchmarks at risk.

Marshall also noted the importance of having willing job seekers to achieving success in job placements, describing the results of two recent pilot programs. The first trained eight 19- to 21-year-old young fathers for pre-apprenticeship certifications. All eight were offered positions with professional construction unions but only three accepted jobs and none are still working in their apprenticeships now. A second pilot focused on women in manufacturing. Of 204 women contacted, seven showed up and received high enough aptitude test scores to start the program, five then showed up for information and orientation and to start the training, four passed the program and were offered jobs, three accepted, but none showed up on the first day of work. “Their explanations were varied, but none were compelling,” Marshall’s testimony stated.

O’dell Owens, president of Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, said his institution aims to serve “those who are trying to work their way into the middle class,” noting the majority of his students have a job before graduation, and far more of them stay in their communities than graduates of four-year institutions.

Owens and Howse discussed the challenges of finding aid funding for students pursuing non-credit programs or certificates. Owens said one of his main goals is to ensure everyone leaves Cincinnati State with something, even if they don’t complete a degree. Having taken a computer skills or food safety course will provide some the opportunity to find a job, he said.

After the hearing, Derickson said the issue of Ohio College Opportunity Grant Funding for non-credit programs also stood out to him, particularly after it was mentioned at the committee’s previous field hearing in Cleveland. (See The Hannah Report, 8/12/15.)

Derickson said he anticipates writing a report from the committee’s field hearings that can serve as a reference for people involved in anti-poverty and workforce development efforts. He said the hearings weren’t launched with specific legislation in mind but will likely result in new proposals from members picking up on the meetings’ recurrent themes.

Derickson said the hearings should be helpful in crafting the grant criteria for state funding to local Healthier Buckeye councils. The recently signed state budget set aside $11.5 million to assist local efforts under the Healthier Buckeye initiative, a proposal from House Republicans to promote coordination within communities on social services and workforce programs.

The committee also heard testimony Tuesday from representatives from Cincinnati Arts & Technology Center, City Gospel Mission, Butler County Educational Service Center, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and the Partners for a Competitive Workforce.

Written testimony from Tuesday’s hearing is available on the Hannah News website at >Document Collections (lower right column)>Other>Library.
Story originally published in The Hannah Report on August 18, 2015.  Copyright 2015 Hannah News Service, Inc.

© Copyright 1986 – 2015 Hannah News Service, Inc. Columbus, Ohio. All Rights Reserved.


Per Scholas Gaining Momentum in Cincinnati

PrintCity officials, local tech firms and the White House have joined forces on a forward-thinking national education initiative meant to recruit more women and underrepresented minorities into the booming Information Technology (IT) field.

A local coalition of 14 diverse partners is collaborating to implement the “TechHire” initiative in Cincinnati, including Per Scholas Cincinnati who joined CityLink as a resident partner in March of this year.

TechHire, a $100 million initiative launched by the Obama Administration in March, is a bold, multi-sector effort and call to action to empower Americans with the skills they need through a combination of new tools and training models.

This is a testament to the impact Per Scholas has had in Cincinnati in its first two years here in the city. Their measurable results are getting noticed as they have an incredible track record of 85% of students graduating from the intensive 10 week course. Of those, 75% are landing living wage jobs (source). 

This year, Per Scholas will train and place up to 80 people – half of whom are women and minorities – into entry-level information technology roles. In Cincinnati, all Per Scholas students are CityLink clients that can take advantage of the other resources throughout the Center like money management, counseling, on-site childcare and more.

Read more about the exciting new Tech Hire initiative through the following links:

Rebuilding the City – The Story of Nehemiah

Taking on a massive challenge in the community is not a single sector issue…we can not merely point to the public or private sector, the for-profits or not-for-profits, the faith-based or the secular.  Issues facing our community are interwoven across business, education, and justice and we all have a role to play.

We are extremely fortunate to have a company like Nehemiah Manufacturing, led by Dan Meyer and Richard Palmer, who are doing great as a business by doing good.  CityLink and our workforce partner, Cincinnati Works, are excited to have businesses who are willing to open their doors to clients who need a second chance.  Read about Nehemiah’s experience in this recent op-ed  by Dan.

In the last 4-weeks CityLink held a presentation for 12 employers interested in learning more about a second chance and Nehemiah launched the Beacon of Hope to inspire more businesses to get engaged.  This is a great start.

It is time for our community to step forward and realize that if we give returning citizens no opportunity to engage in the workforce, our recidivism rates will only continue.  Great employment partners like CincinnatiWorks are ready to prepare and train individuals to re-enter the workforce but there needs to be a job on the other side of that training.

Nehemiah has proven that second-chance employment works.  We need more employers like Nehemiah, to learn more about these opportunities you can contact us at

Take A Bite Out of Poverty!

TAB FB cover4

It’s finally here! What your tastebuds have been waiting for….drum roll please…Get Ready to

 Take A Bite Out of Poverty!

Between Memorial Day and July 4th you can dine out at 18 local restaurants that are committed to taking a bite out of poverty. The inaugural Take a Bite Out of Poverty campaign will raise funds and awareness in support of CityLink Center and it’s six resident partner agencies including ChangingGears, Cincinnati Works, SmartMoney Community Services, Catholic Charities, Cincinnati Public Schools, and Per Scholas.

Each restaurant has chosen a day, weekend and some even the entire month of June to donate a portion of sales to the Take a Bite Campaign. How about eating at Eli’s BBQ at Findlay Market on Mondays in June, taking in a breathtaking view at Primavista on Tuesdays in June, or enjoying a slab of ribs from The Montgomery Inn Boathouse the week of June 22nd? Delight in delicious fare at Boca, Sotto and Nada the weekend of June 19-20th. Even Vegans can take their appetites to Park + Vine the week of June 8th and enjoy the CityLink “Burger” of the Week.  From Mariemont to Covington, restaurants have stepped up to support local families and individuals who are working their way of out poverty.

This week’s features:
June 1-30: Silver Ladle is donating to Take A Bite for every order of their famous Chicken Chili all month long!
June 1-30: Giminetti Baking Company is donating for every slice of their hand-tossed pizza all month long!
June 1-7: The Echo in Hyde Park is donating 10% of entire week’s revenue!
June 1: Eli’s BBQ at Findlay Market
June 2: Primavista will donate a portion of your meal to Take A Bite every Tuesday in June!
June 3: Sprout Mt. Adams will feature a new dinner item every Wednesday to benefit Take A Bite!

Check out all your tasty options at to Take Your Bite Out of Poverty!

Begin & End with Commencement

Last week our CityLink family began and ended with commencement.

One of our board members, Kirk Perry, delivered UC’s commencement speech.  CityLink is blessed to have Kirk’s guidance throughout our journey and he shared some words of wisdom with the thousands of graduates.

President of brand solutions at Google UC alumnus Kirk Perry gestures as he delivered his commencement address to students Saturday May 2, 2015 at Fifth Third Arena. UC/Joseph Fuqua II

President of brand solutions at Google UC alumnus Kirk Perry gestures as he delivered his commencement address to students Saturday May 2, 2015 at Fifth Third Arena. UC/Joseph Fuqua II

 Run with the Pack – the self-made man may make great headlines, but we were created for community.  In times of abundance and times of  challenge, we can walk with strength and purpose when we share that journey with others.  Leaning into others is a discipline which will bear fruit in our own life and the lives of those around us.

Take Bold Steps – stepping out in faith for new challenges and adventures will create opportunities for growth.  We seldom regret trying new things, it is better to learn from action than to atrophy in retrospect of what could have been.

At CityLink we are fortunate to be part of a city-wide movement that leans on expertise of our partners and leverages support of hundreds of volunteers and we get to witness our clients taking bold steps every day.

Melvin On Friday, PerScholas celebrated graduation of its first class at  CityLink.  Eighteen individuals completed the 8-week IT readiness  training program and were surrounded with friends, family, volunteers,  and staff to mark the moment.  Melvin Godfrey was the class  valedictorian and shares some inspiring words with the audience.  Melvin  reminded everyone that our worth established as children of God and that  our potential can be brought to light with dedication, determination and  support of those around us.

It was a great week of celebration and new beginnings for our community.

CityLink Seeking Full-Time AmeriCorp Support!

DON’T DELAY….APPLY NOW! Applications Due This Friday May 1st!


CityLink Center is seeking 5 AmeriCorps*VISTA members beginning  June 23, 2015 to make a year-long full time commitment. These roles are 40 hour a week paid positions with benefits. Build your resume and gain valuable experience while truly making an impact on Cincinnati.

CityLink Center is a city-wide initiative leveraging the strengths of various social service agencies in Cincinnati.  This is your chance to be part of an incredible team made up of some of the city’s best social service agencies,  staff, volunteers, and AmeriCorps*VISTAs supporting local programs and people working their way out of poverty. Volunteers In Service To America (VISTA) build capacity working with CityLink staff and partners to assist in eradicating poverty in our local community.

Use your knowledge and skills while gaining professional development experience + money towards college!

We are currently hiring for five positions. You can learn more and apply by clicking the links below:


email Paige Klein directly with questions:

Join the Movement!  Applications due by May 1, 2015.


Remember CityLink when you go Kroger’ing!


 Kroger renew Image

What an easy way to support of CityLink Center! The Kroger Community Rewards Program is raising millions for local non-profits and you help CityLink and our clients thrive just by shopping like you do everyday.

Many don’t know that you MUST RE-ENROLL EVERY YEAR after April 1st to ensure your Kroger purchases continue to benefit CityLink between May 2015 and April 2016. If you are already a participant in this program, please follow the directions below to re-enroll for the program.

If you haven’t signed up yet, there is no better time than the present! By shopping at Kroger and linking your Kroger Plus card to the Community Rewards Program, you can help us bring hope through a holistic path to economic self-sufficiency for more of Cincinnati’s working poor, unemployed and under-educated.

Sign up, and each time you swipe your Kroger Plus Card at checkout, CityLink Center will automatically earn money – up to $50,000 each quarter!! What a blessing that would be! Simply follow the instructions below.

REMEMBER, purchases will not count until you register or re-enroll your card! If you have any questions or run into trouble,  Call Kroger at 877-576-7587.

Thanks for supporting CityLink Center with your Kroger purchases!

To Re-enroll/Register for the Kroger Community Rewards Program:

    1. Go to
    2. Click on “sign-in” or “Create an Account” if you have never signed in previously
    3. Enter your email address and password, then click “sign in” -OR- Follow the Directions to create an account
      *To create a new account you will need your Kroger Plus card # and you will be asked to confirm your email before accessing your Kroger account.
    4. Once you’ve successfully signed in or registered your account be sure you are back on the page and Click “Enroll” or “View Your Rewards Details”
    5. Under  “Find Your Organization” type in “CityLink” and click the “search” button (our unique ID number is #82979)
  1. Under “Select Your Organization” click the button for “CityLink Center”
  2. Click  “Enroll” to save your changes
  3. That’s it! Remember you must re-enroll each year after April 1st and before May 1st for your purchases to support CityLink from year-to-year!