Shop AmazonSmile This Holiday Season

amazonsmile black fridayFor those of you gearing up to take on the cold and crowds to score on Black Friday bargains, THERE’S ANOTHER WAY!  Instead of dodging elbows, get comfortable and shop Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals from your sofa and do some good while you’re at it!  When you shop with AmazonSmile and select CityLink Center, Amazon will donate .5% of the price of your purchases to CityLink.  AmazoneSmile is the same Amazon you know, making it really easy to make a difference AND put a dent in your holiday shopping.  Don’t risk getting frostbite.  Shop with AmazonSmile.

Moving from here to there

People are the lifeblood of communities and the way that people flow is critical to the overall health of a city.

The regional indicators report recently released analysis how Cincinnati compares to our peer cities regarding public transportation and subsequent articles have highlighted the findings.



The report highlights the challenges of accessing employment with only 58.9% of jobs within the reach of our public transportation system, compared to the leader in the peer group of Denver with 86.6% of their jobs reachable with transit.

So why is this important?  

Our goal at CityLink is to help individuals reach their full potential which includes living wage employment through partnerships with CincinnatiWorks and PerScholas.  With public transit limiting access to jobs, our clients’ employment options are limited, period.

The panel discussion at the report release highlighted that a key criterion for business’ decision to locate new operations (and new jobs) is employee access to public transportation.  The resulting circular reference hampers our region.  Lack of transportation connectivity creates difficulty in connecting potential employees to employers, that same difficulty inhibits job growth which is needed for critical mass, and critical mass is needed to add new transportation routes.

We were invited to participate in a task force evaluating options to improve our region’s connectivity and hope that the city continues to take bold steps to improve life for all of our community members.


Don’t Miss the Last Volunteer Orientation of 2015!

vol orientation picBelieve it or not, it’s already November and we’re getting ready to host the last volunteer orientation of 2015!  Join us on November 6th and explore the many ways that you can use your time and talent to support individuals and families in need.  You’ll hear more about how CityLink Center is fighting poverty in Cincinnati and how you can join the dedicated army volunteers who truly fuel the Center’s mission and vision for life-change in our city.  Come learn about the 25 different volunteer roles at CityLink and how you can make a difference – in whatever capacity, frequency, or duration you can.  We hope to see you there!

Sign up for Volunteer Orientation HERE!

“Those who can, do. Those who can do more, volunteer.” – Unknown

Smashin’ Success!

MashUp 20152

In case you missed it, on October 2nd, nearly 600 Cincinnatians showed up and flat out rocked CityLink’s third annual MashUp.  Talented local performers collaborated to create a series of incredible performances that illustrate the mission of CityLink Center and artistically convey why we seek bold life change to flip our city.  While taking in the sights and sounds of the gifted performers, guests enjoyed food and drinks from some of the city’s best restaurants and vendors.  MashUp 2015 was a blast, as well as a huge success in raising awareness and funds (over $60,000!) in support of our mission.  We’re looking forward to seeing you at MashUp 2016!

If you missed out on MashUp this year, it’s never too late to join the movement!

Make a donation.  Check out volunteer opportunities.  Keep on Praying for Cincinnati.

Per Scholas Celebrates Largest Graduating Class

In August, Per Scholas welcomed 24 determined individuals to begin an intense 8 weeks of IT training. On October 23rd, those same individuals graduated, 24 strong, as IT professionals. This graduating class, the third of 2015, set records for both class size (24) and graduation rate (100%)!perscholas grad

The event’s keynote speaker, Reán Young, discussed the exciting world of opportunity available to IT professionals in our rapidly changing culture. Young encouraged the graduates to be teachable and to continue on a path of lifelong learning.

In his valedictorian address, graduate R. David McClain expressed his excitement for the future of this class, taking a moment to share some of the unique gifts and talents of each one of his classmates. We share in the enthusiasm for the future of this bright class as they move on to join the nearly 100 Per Scholas graduates who have been placed in the IT field since Per Scholas began operating in Cincinnati two years ago. Congratulations to such an awesome group.

Per Scholas, a resident partner at CityLink, is a free IT training and certification program with a mission to break the cycle of poverty by providing technology access and education in under served communities while creating opportunity, closing the skills divide, and achieving diversity.


Per Scholas is accepting applications! Check out Per Scholas online or call 513-357-2000 for more info.

Plus, they celebrated their inaugural Toss for Techs Cornhole Tournament on Tuesday October 27th.
Check out all the fun pics here!

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: