Join Us for CityLink Conversations Inside Out: Life After Prison



Every year thousands of our fellow citizens are released from prison, and left with little to no family support, no money, few resources to gain self-sufficiency. Gaining employment in an already competitive workforce labeled as “offender” has made getting a job an incredible challenge and statistics show that a lack of employment is one of the driving forces behind recidivism. As a society it is important that we change this narrative.

On March 2nd CityLink will be hosting an open dialogue event, intended to educate members of our community on the pressing issues facing citizens returning home incarceration.  Join us for a panel discussion and viewing of ‘The Right Track’ a 25 minute documentary about the struggle between justice and redemption as experienced by people who’ve spent time in prison and re-entered society.We will be joined by CityLink Clients and the following panelists:

  • “The Right Track” film producer Rev. Noel Julnes-Dehner
  • Michael Taylor of Nehemiah Manufacturing
  • Grant Doepel of 4/7 Ministries
  • A representative from The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), a future collaborative partner of CityLink

Light refreshments will be provided. Limited free tickets are available for the event, click here to get your ticket now!

Meet Our Service Coordinator Team!




Meet our Service Coordination Team (from left to right): Cassie Kolkebeck, Leah Steverson, Monica Benton, Meggie Kingsley and Brittany Sisson

At CityLink, our Service Coordination Team plays an integral role in preparing our clients for success. When new clients enter our doors, the SC Team is responsible for supporting them in identifying their needs and desired outcomes. As the front line of CityLink’s unique service integration model, our Service Coordinators serve as a single and familiar point of contact for all CityLink services and partner organizations. Under one roof, our clients are able to access various resources while having the individualized care and attention of a highly compassionate and skilled social worker who knows their story and supports them throughout their journey.

Our SC Team took some time to share some highlights of their work here at the Center, the benefits of the model and the most rewarding part of their jobs:

How does the holistic approach work in favor of our clients?

“I think that clients benefit greatly from service integration because most of our clients don’t have a singular issue-like most people in the world. We have to look at a person more holistically because getting a job isn’t going to fix your life if you have mental health issues, or if you don’t have a car to get to that job, or don’t have childcare etc. The integrated approach is very important and I value the spiritual component of our services here because sometimes people need help tapping into their spiritual selves which is where they can find their success.”  
Leah Stevenson, MSW

How are you able to better provide services for clients in the integrated service model at CityLink?

“One of the advantages of working at CityLink and providing services under one roof is that we have access to partners who are providing services to our clients, which allows for easier and more consistent communication. This is particularly helpful when trying to address or problem-solve an issue a client may be having.  We also have been able to establish relationships with external or visiting partners. For instance, we just had a meeting with Regina Campbell from Legal Aid to educate Service Coordinators on additional services Legal Aid can provide to our clients, which helps us to serve our clients better when we are working collaboratively.”
Cassie Kolkelbeck, MSW

What do you consider to be the most important part of your job and what would you consider the most rewarding part of your job? 

“Relationship building is the most important thing that we do. If we don’t have a relationship with our clients then that means they can’t trust us, and if they don’t trust us then as individuals they can’t progress in trying to meet their goals. I feel like the most rewarding part about my job is when people actually make it here and see what this place is about, so that they can sit down and have a goal session and map out where to go from there.”
Monica Benton, MSW

Marching On Together



Photos of historic Women’s Marches and of the Women’s March here in Cincinnati on 1/21/17

The Women’s March on Washington gained worldwide attention as millions around the globe peacefully protested in the name of equality and justice for all women. Historically women’s freedom and rights have evolved and continue to face challenges even in 2017. American values at the core, represent the finest display of freedom by which our fathers founded this great nation upon.  However, in past decades women have struggled to obtain civil liberties matching those of men. The march was intended to show how differences in race, religion, and nationality do not separate us, but instead reflect our intersecting communities and diversity.

Here in Cincinnati, thousands gathered at Washington Park in unity with those around the world. One of CityLink’s own Americorps VISTA had an opportunity to join others at Washington Park. Here is what she had to say regarding her experience:

“Marching in solidarity on Saturday with thousands in Cincinnati was an incredible experience. Men, women, and child of all ages, races and beliefs unified locally, nationally and globally to say that equality and acceptance of all human beings is demanded. At time when it has felt as though true peace, equality and acceptance are unattainable, this march showed that there is hope and that America is still a place where people truly desire, welcome and celebrate diversity. I am proud to stand with the many who believe that beautifully diverse people and communities are the strength of our country.”
-Ashley Jacobs, 2016 Americorps VISTA at CityLink

The Women’s March demonstrated unequivocally our nation’s freedom in speech and protest. When confronted with issues regardless of age, color or religion each of us enjoys the First Amendment Right to allow our voices to be heard. Those voices are even louder when expressed in a peaceful and nonviolent forum. And while the struggle for women’s rights may be decades old, the need for change persists as we continue to strive towards the vision set forth in the U.S Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equally”and this notion is reflected upon in governing laws, policy, and in the heart and conscience of the American spirit.

Center Celebration February 9th!

 If you’re a volunteer, client or supporter around here, you’re invited to join us in celebration of some of the awesome milestones our clients are reaching along their journeys as well a number of volunteers who are making a big impact on our mission!


Meet Our New Volunteer Director, Becky Heisler



Here at CityLink, our volunteers are at the heart of how we carry out our mission. They’re a huge part of the CityLink family; over 400 passionate and talented people gave of their time throughout 2016 to support our clients and partner organizations. So it’s no wonder that our newest team member is a previous volunteer who began serving before we ever opened our doors in 2012. It is with great pleasure that we introduce our new Director of Volunteer Mobilization, Becky Heisler!

Becky wanted to share the following:

“ I am honored to be a part of the CityLink team as the new Director of Volunteer Mobilization and work with each of you. To share a little bit about myself as we are getting to know each other, I have been in the field of education for the past eleven years as both a kindergarten teacher and assistant principal. This past year my husband, Ric and I got married and we made the decision to move downtown because we are passionate about the change that is happening in our city and want to be a part of that change. Prior to joining the CityLink team I have always had a passion to help others through various volunteer opportunities, and now I am excited to continue this calling as a part of CityLink. I look forward to getting to know all of  my new CityLink family as we work together to create life-change in our city.”

– Becky

Becky brings with her a wealth of professional experience, leadership, and compassion for our city, our mission, and for each and every person who walks through our doors seeking support. We are confident in Becky’s authentic heart and her ability to provide thoughtful and strategic leadership as she works alongside our volunteers to bring help and hope to those seeking real life-change.

Please join us in welcoming Becky!

In His Own Words: MLK Continues to Lead

At CityLink, we are fortunate to have a team of AmeriCorps VISTAs who propel our work and our mission.   We asked that team of millennials to reflect on mlk-speech-1963, and share their reflections on his words in our modern age:


Federal holidays are often a welcome respite from day-to-day operations in offices, schools and organizations. However,the third Monday in January, is not simply a day off, but a time to reflect on the many teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. We live in a broken world. Amidst a time of great change, racial divide and overall social injustice, it is a time for us to be honest with ourselves and to look at where we have been, where we are now, and examine ways in which we can grow.

Over the past few years we have been challenged by events (locally, nationally and internationally) that have evoked anger, intolerance, and fear.  The riots and trials in Ferguson, MO, the attacks in Nice, France, a divisive election and other happenings have made us individually retreat into our own realm of safety and comfort.

We can refuse to challenge our own worldview.  We can refuse to listen to the needs of our neighbors. Or, we can choose to realize that the problems of “others” are our problems as well.  Dr. King knew this, taught this and preached this crazy notion that our lives are inevitably entwined:

 “…all life is interrelated… Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.  This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

Because our lives are connected we cannot sit idly by and accept the injustices we see every day. We must fight to step out of ourselves, confronting our own ignorance and the issues of our world. When we are fighting for justice for our neighbor, we are fighting for justice for ourselves. This is not a fight of hatred and violence but a call to unselfishly love one another. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. charges us to love others with an agape love:

“Agape is creative, understanding, redemptive good will for all men. It is an overflowing love that seeks nothing in return…When one rises to love on this level, he loves every man. He rises to the point of loving the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed the person does. I believe that this is the kind of love that can carry us through this period of transition.”

Just as this love propelled the actions of MLK Jr. and the civil rights movement, it can inspire and direct change in the challenges we are facing and will continue to face together as a community and as nation.  During this season of tension and conflict, we challenge you to not be passive. Lift your voice, use your gifts, question yourself and take an active role in loving your neighbors.

There is much work to be done, and while the road ahead may be long, arduous at times and riddled with struggle, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never loose infinite hope” in a reconciled world where poverty, pain, violence and injustice ceases to exist.

Holiday Portrait Project Continues to Bless Clients

Here’s a sneak peak at just a few of the amazing shots our families took home as their Christmas gifts this year thanks to our talented team of Volunteer Photographers. For the 4th year in a row, some of our community’s most amazing photo bugs donate their time to capture holiday memories for our clients and staff. Thank you to our awesome team of merry elves! David Slaughter, Tony Arrasmith,  Mark Nowak, Diana Kelly-Davis, and Todd Kough, Owen, Craig Reesey and everyone else we may be forgetting!

You continue to bless us with your generosity.


#GivingTuesday Kicks-off The Cincinnati Gives Challenge!

This year CityLink is participating in Cincinnati Magazine’s Cincinnati Gives  Challenge where local non-profits compete to raise the most support for their missions with the top teams winning over $30,000 in cash prizes.


We’re inviting you to be a part of our bold mission to rekindle the light of hope in our city. This campaign is about the multiplier effect where many hands make light work. Small gifts of $5, $10, $25 or even $50 from a community that believes that every person in our midst is born with inherent worth and deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential. Our work happens because of hundreds of volunteers, a handful of staff and thousands of dollars given by generous individuals.


If you believe in our mission help us spread the word about the Cincinnati Gives Challenge, Consider donating and asking your friends to donate even a small amount to help shape the tomorrow we’re striving for.


Click Here to Learn More, Donate or even start your own page 


It all starts on #GivingTuesday at 12 noon…where the first $1,000 bonus gift will be given to the non-profit who raises the most before midnight! Here’s more info about the bonus cash and prize calendar.


Weekly Bonus Challenges and Prizes:

The charity to raise the most online today, Giving Tuesday wins $1,000.

Start time: 12:00pm ET
End time: 11:59:59pm ET


The top 3 charities to raise the most money online this week will each win $500.

Start time: 12:00pm ET
End time: 1:59:59pm ET


The first 100 online donations of $10 get a $10 match.

Start time: 2:00pm ET
End time: 1:59:59pm ET


The two charities to raise the most online this week will play Rock Paper Scissors. The charity that wins will get $600 and the charity that does not win gets $400.

Start time: 2:00pm ET
End time: 1:59:59pm ET


Every charity to raise at least $500 online this week will get entered to win $500. For every $500 you raise you get an additional entry to win. And there will be 3 winners.

Start time: 2:00pm ET
End time: 1:59:59pm ET

Prevailing Heroism

Tonight our partner, the Tristate Veteran Community Alliance (TVCA) hosted Veteran Reflections: a night of story telling and honoring veterans.  We had the extreme honor of hearing living history from 9 brave men and women who served our armed forces from the landing at Normandy thru current engagements in Afghanistan.

The night focused on helping to close the widening gap between our military veterans and our civilian population.  In World War II about 11% of Americans served in the military and the collective consciousness of the war was at the forefront of daily life back home and abroad.  In contrast our modern day conflicts are comprised of 0.5% of our population and our national attention and news media cycles devote more coverage (literally) to celebrity break-ups than our longest lasting military engagement.

Each of the veterans (who service spanned every major conflict since WWII) shared their story, what service meant to them, what they took away from their time, and how their service has shaped their lives.  A common thread ran through the stories: a sense of purpose, a recognition of being a part of a greater cause, an immense gratitude for returning home to our nation, and a deep humility that pointed to other comrades who made immense sacrifices in their midst.

One serviceman read a blog from a friend, written days before a scheduled return home from Afghanistan, which was tragically never realized.  I encourage you to read this blog to gain insights to the lives of those who honorably serve.

We can thank our heroes by welcoming them home, asking to hear their experience (if they are ready to share), support their transitions home, volunteering with veteran focused groups, and urging our politicians to ensure the men and women in uniform are supported abroad and at home.  Learn more at

Thanks to my father and all others who have served our nation.

Freedom on the Inside

Monday night a community of hundreds of volunteers, public officials, our new partners from Center for Employment Opportunities, GreenLight Fund Executive Director, and friends came together at one of our church partners, Crossroads Uptown, for an event “Freedom on the Inside”.

The event was to mark a milestone of 1-year of engagement of Four-Seven Ministries which engages volunteers within the prison system to bring hope, community and the gospel to incarcerated individuals.


Director Mohr who heads the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections shared the challenges facing our state, we have been expanding prisons and prison populations while other states have been downsizing, the war on drugs continues to incarcerate minorities at disproportionate rates in our state, lack of adequate mental health and addiction recovery services leads to incarceration of individuals who need treatment and support.


As big as these challenges are for us as a community, the challenges facing individuals returning from prison is even greater.  With felony records individuals have massive obstacles to obtain the basics like housing and employment.

I was deeply encouraged by Director Mohr’s vision for true reform of our judicial and prison system, and as he said we can not rely on Government alone to solve this issue.  We have a unique moment in time where the four-seven prison ministry is flourshing, preparing men and women on the inside for their next steps.  CEO will join CityLink Center in the spring of 2017, providing a real and tangible next step for men and women who desire a new path.

To gain understanding of this systemic challenge, our CityLink team visited Lebanon Correctional Institute on November 5th.  During our visit we had the opportunity to see life in a cell block, speak with individuals who were nearing their release, and speak to the men and women who work within the prison day in and day out.  The experience was profound.  Physically entering a space where 220 men are confined for years or decades of their life brought a deep appreciation for my personal freedoms and an empathy for how serving time affects those in the justice system.  Our society needs justice.  We all are responsible for our decisions and there are consequences when we act outside the law.  We need law to preserve peace within our community.  We also need to reflect on whether we are a just society where 1 in 3 African American men between the ages of 18-30 will be incarcerated or probation or parole.

There are no simple answers or quick fixes but through relationships being formed through four-seven ministries and in the Spring through CEO, we ask that you join us in prayer and time and service to help address this pressing issue in our community.