#GivingTuesday Kicks-off The Cincinnati Gives Challenge!

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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:
GIVING TUESDAY: NOVEMBER 29

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

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

BONUS CHALLENGE #1: NOVEMBER 29 – DECEMBER 6TH

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

BONUS CHALLENGE #2: DECEMBER 6TH – DECEMBER 13TH

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

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

BONUS CHALLENGE #3: DECEMBER 13TH – DECEMBER 20TH

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

BONUS CHALLENGE #4: DECEMBER 20TH – DECEMBER 27TH

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 www.tristatevca.org

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.

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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.

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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.

CEO Coming to Cincinnati & CityLink Center

A year ago, GreenLight fund an innovative venture philanthropy organization decided to come to Cincinnati.  With strong support from the local start-up community and funders, they began their process of assessing the Cincinnati landscape to understand our strengths and opportunities.  After understanding the landscape, GreenLight researched best practices around the country and identified promising organizations that can fill opportunity areas in our community.

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Simultaneously, CityLink staff, volunteers, partner agencies, and church partners had been struggling with our inability to immediately engage individuals returning from prison on a path to employment and prosperity.

Local efforts have been growing through the Beacon of Hope Business Alliance, led by Nehemiah Manufacturing, to build awareness and the business case for local employers to hire second chance employees.

All of this has culminated with an incredible new partnership and opportunity in Cincinnati.

GreenLight identified Center for Employment Opportunities, a national program founded in NewYork and now in 4 states across the country, as a leader in recidivism prevention.  Their innovative and proven program engages individuals returning from prison in a 4 day Life Skills workshop and then immediately engages the clients in a transitional job crew, where each individual receives a paycheck at the end of a days work.  Individuals can work up to 75 days on the CEO transitional job crew during which time they are shoring up other aspects of their life and preparing for permanent employment.  Each day on the work crew, participants are receiving feedback that they can bring to a future employer to show their track record on the job.  This model provides key missing pieces of immediate earning for individuals released from prison, time to stabilize aspects of their life while in transition, and an employment record to obtain their permanent placement.

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“What makes this model unique is that it provides individuals with immediate access to transitional employment,” explains Tara Noland, Executive Director of GreenLight Cincinnati. “Their track record for success in reducing recidivism is unparalleled, and when that cycle can be broken for good, the community saves tremendous resources and struggling families can rebuild.” A 2012 cost-benefit analysis demonstrated up to $3.30 in benefits (cost savings from criminal justice expenditures and value of transitional work crews to government agencies) for every $1 spent on the program.

We believe that the power of the CEO model will be amplified within the context of the CityLink collaboration.  CincinnatiWorks will leverage their local expertise in job coaching, employer relations, advancement, and retention supports to amplify the success of CEO participants.  Participants will benefit from support from Catholic Charities and SmartMoney workshops and counseling, access barrier removal services through Health Department, Changing Gears, and other partners.  Some will engage to complete their GED with Cincinnati Public Schools….the possibilities are incredible.

As our team of local pastors who provide guidance to our mission highlighted in this spiritual-advisory-council-letter-of-support-ceo, why it is so important for us to have this opportunity to engage those who need a second chance.

A team from CincinnatiWorks and CityLink had a chance to see the program in action at their Philadelphia office, I was inspired by this client’s exploration of how they are seen, how they see themselves, and how they see their future.  Together with CEO joining the collaboration at CityLink, we can support individuals journey from their past to their future.

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Target launch for CEO in Cincinnati is March of 2017, join us in celebrating this good news!

Your vote and why it matters

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We have heard the debates and seen campaign commercials, and now it is finally time to vote. Election Day is less than two weeks away! This election, featuring Donald J Trump and Hillary Clinton, has widely become one of the most closely watched elections in recent memory. With so much at stake in any election, it is unfortunate that so many people do not exercise their right to vote. It has historically been proven that an individual’s socioeconomic status is often indicative of how likely it is for a person to vote. At CityLink we collaborate with our partners, for the benefit of our clients, to find solutions to pressing needs within our community that result in the hardships that poverty brings. It is these same hardships that often discourage voting among those who live in poverty from voting in the most important election in our country, the presidential election.

Voter turnout is low among those who are unemployed, those who have a high school diploma or less, as well as individuals who fall at or below the national poverty level. For further information on the socioeconomic breakdown related to the 2012 presidential election, check out Wall Street Journal’s “Who we are, How we vote:  Mapping the U.S Electorate” for unbiased insight as to how many people in our local community are voting in Hamilton county based on socioeconomic facts.  What accounts for low voter turn is not clear, however the importance of voting cannot be understated. Your vote, regardless of level of education, income or anything else, is an important part of the democracy and freedom our founding fathers laid forth in the constitution. Your vote is your voice and it does matter.

See below for a list of resources to get educated about the local issues on the ballot that will affect our community and neighborhoods.

Presidential Candidates, Ohio Supreme Court, Court of Common Pleas (Ballotpedia.org)

https://ballotpedia.org/Main_Page

Tax Levies

Issue 44 – Proposed Tax Levy Cincinnati City School District

Issue 52 – Proposed Tax Levy – (Replacement) Great Parks of Hamilton County

Issue 53 – Proposed Tax Levy (Renewal) – Hamilton County

Sample Ballot (Hamilton County Board of Elections)

http://boe.hamilton-co.org/voting-on-election-day/where-do-i-vote.aspx

Winter Hours of Operations

 

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With Thanksgiving, the holiday season, and cold weather quickly approaching for the winter months, it is certain our clients will need their Saturdays to spend time with their loved ones. In the upcoming months, CityLink will temporarily suspend Saturday services until Spring 2017. This change in the hours of operations will go into effect starting November 1st.

 

 

 

 

Breaking Through at MashUp 2016

mashup_2016_logo-01This year’s MashUp was wildly successful and sold out before we opened our doors to the public last Friday night!  CityLink is appreciative of all of our volunteers, sponsors, and guest who made this event possible.

This year’s artistic performances inspired and wowed our crowd of nearly 600! Not to mention perfect weather for our Beer Garden, fire pits and a ton of incredible food and libations from our city’s top destinations. However the real stars of the night shined bright in our client testimonial video that was featured in our finale performance, Breaking Through. If you missed the event or just want to see the impact our partners and people like you and me are having in the lives of our clients, check it out:

 

Thank you again to our incredibly generous sponsors, guests and volunteers who helped us raise a record-breaking $93,000 in addition to nearly $14,000 in donated food and services. We hope you will support these families and businesses that choose to generously support their community: Prasco, Vito & Laura Peraino, Bounty, HI5, TriHealth, PNCBank, Construction Process Solutions, LTD, Frost Brown Todd, LLC, Model Group, StarTek, Scott & Hannah Hudson, Johnson Investment Counsel, Cinevita Films, PONES Inc, TOAD Productions, Dinsmore, Keystone Graphics, and The Birdsall Family. We were also provided with tons of delicious food and desserts from the following food and beverage sponsors: MadTree, Tramonte & Sons, Nada, Nation, Dutches , KeyStone Bar & Grill, The Dessert Table, Buskens , Pneuma Coffee and Allyns Café.

A full review and photos of each of our performances (Out of the Dark, Come to Together, Identity and Breaking Through) are coming soon along with a time lapse video of our Interactive Art Project where our guests literally “broke through” a physical representation of some of the lies that hold us back from reaching our full potential and the incredible plans God has for each of our lives.

MashUp was once again nothing short of amazing and we remain grateful and humbled by the continued support of our community to rally around our clients and the life changes that are happening within our walls. Thank you to each of our guest, volunteers, sponsors and performers for the role you’re playing in our mission to take back our city, one life at a time.

Client Milestones: Something to Celebrate

 

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We recently held our first Client Celebration event. While we often celebrate achievements like a clients landing  jobs with a ‘Bell Ringing’ at Cincinnati Works or a title hand-off for a client paying off their ChangingGears car loan for example, we haven’t had a formal way of celebrating those brave milestones that are reached along the way to achieving the big goals.

We gathered nearly 200 people made up of clients and their families, volunteers, and staff to celebrate the important milestones clients have reached in their journeys and the perseverance demonstrated on an everyday basis.  We celebrated 39 people for improving their education level, passing a portion of the GED or obtaining their GED.  We honored 139 people who secured steady, full time employment and reached 3 months, 6 months and 1+ years on the job. And we commended 19 folks who put themselves on a Smart Path towards a brighter economic future through securing their finances with the help of SmartMoney (paying off debt, buying houses, cars and more).  And lastly, we celebrated two special volunteers that have been journeying with CityLink from the very beginning.

We are incredibly proud of our clients and volunteers everyday but this was an especially beautiful moment to witness a room filled with the pride and hope of so many that comes from a belief in oneself.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”  Ursula K. Le Guin

 

CityLink Introduces New Hours

CityLink piloted Saturday hours this summer due to client demand and saw a positive response. So much so that CityLink will continue bi-monthly Saturday Programming through October and will resume again in Spring 2017.  CityLink and our partners are fully committed to finding a solution that will resolve the challenges our clients face, including the challenges of our employed clients. Many work long hours to support their families and face time constraints, transportation barriers and other obstacles that interfere with meeting their day to day needs.

Current and incoming clients have embraced the opportunity to attend services at the Center on Saturdays and we found that we engaged more clients over the weekend than during weekday evenings. Therefore, as of September 1st, CityLink Center will discontinue Tuesdays and Thursday evening programming, with Wednesday evening Information Sessions and a robust offering of services remaining for those who find it convenient to engage at CityLink during a week night.

Our New Operating Hours are as follows:

Monday: 8:00-5:00 p.m.
Tuesday 8:00-5:00 p.m.
Wednesday 8:00-8:30 p.m.
Thursday 8:00-5:00 p.m.
Friday 8:00-5:00 p.m.
*Saturday 9:00-2:00 p.m.
*Offered the 2nd/4th Saturdays of the month April-October

Our Country & Our Choices

This past week has been heartbreaking as we have seen the continued senseless loss of life play-out across national airwaves.

In times of tragedy we can respond with anger or apathy, we can feel overwhelmed or emboldened, we can move towards a common understanding or retrench towards ideological positions.

On Friday morning, a meeting with leaders of two neighborhood social service agencies turned to the topic of the shootings which had touched each of our hearts.

As a father of two sons, I was utterly saddened to hear from my respected peer how she has had to address each of her sons and identify the ways that they may be misinterpreted in an encounter with law enforcement.  Her concerns of them not coming home at night aren’t from a traffic accident but from a traffic stop, simply because her sons are a different color than mine.   It is a reality in her and other families’ lives across our country, it is a reality that I can never fully appreciate as a white man, but it is an opportunity.

As people of faith, we can all recognize the inherent worth of every life created by God.  As people of faith, we can all recognize that there are incredible men and women who enlist to serve and protect us as public officers.   As people of faith, we can all recognize that a continued pattern of lost black men’s lives in encounters with law enforcement does not reflect the standard of justice and equality we aspire to.  As people of faith, we can all recognize that responding to injustice with violence will only further division and lead to more senseless waste of life.

So what can we do?

I was once told that we can dig a well while we pray for rain.  We can take on personal accountability, while advocating for larger change and importantly asking God to intercede on behalf of our nation.

At CityLink, we have a beautiful cross-section of our community coming together across socio-economic and racial divides.  These relationships can start to bridge chasms of misunderstanding and lack of awareness about the situations of neighbors who live only minutes from us but whose life experiences are miles apart.  Through relationship we can learn how to act as a community, love our neighbors, and act from love.

The first commandment is to love God. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself.

Join us in praying for our nation, our city, and our neighbors.