Let’s Get Cooking

To prepare for the new culinary training program, the CityLink kitchen has gotten some upgrades.

A new hood, new range, new stove are in the process of getting installed.  Other equipment is being ordered.  The space will provide industry skills training 20-hours a week for the month-long training, while in-house partners will provide an additional 20-hours of life skills to set up the graduates for lasting success.  Once at full capacity, cohorts of 10 students will start each month, then graduate into the 3-month apprenticeship at Social OTR.  Thanks to Crossroads Church and the Emery Foundation for investing in these upgrades.

Be the Change – Job Openings

Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and get into the critical work of serving our neighbors at CityLink Center?

Two of our partners have openings which could allow you to jump full force into our collective mission to transform lives and our community.  Check out the openings at Changing Gears and CEO, click here to learn more and potentially start a brand new career.

Let your voice be heard

Peeling back the onion on all of the challenges that our neighbors face is complex.  On top of the immediate barriers of transportation, education, access to employment; there are institutional barriers that can literally prevent our clients from getting ‘unstuck’.  One of those barriers is access to banking and affordable lending but fortunately there is a chance that meaningful reform may happen in Ohio.

The AP reported that “On average, a payday loan takes 36% of a person’s pre-tax paycheck, Bourke said. ‘Customers simply cannot afford to pay that back and still afford their other financial obligations,’ he said. ‘This is why you see people ending up borrowing the loans over and over again.”

Furthermore, “Fifteen states either ban payday loans or cap interest rates at 36%. Without a limit on interest rates, competition among lenders does not tend to lower rates much, according to the research.”

“Currently Payday loans in Ohio are the most expensive in the nation, with an astounding typical annual percentage rate (APR) of 591%.   Ohio’s House of Representatives has passed House Bill 123 (HB 123) passed by a vote of 71-16 with bipartisan support for meaningful reform of payday lending.”  The bill has wide support and “builds on reforms that were approved in 2008 by approximately two-thirds of Ohioans who cast ballots. It would cap interest rates on payday loans at 28% and allow a maximum monthly fee of $20, providing affordable payments for borrowers and reasonable profits for lenders. The balanced legislation that passed the House would save Ohioans more than $75 million annually while preserving access to credit for borrowers.” according to the Ohio Community Development Corporation Association.

It is now up to the Ohio Senate, legislators who are in office to serve us, so let your voice be heard.  If you believe we should have sensible payday lending reform, let them know the simple message of support HB123:

Sen. Lou Terhar  – terhar@ohiosenate.gov           614-466-8068

Sen. Steve Wilson –  wilson@ohiosenate.gov       614-466-9737

Sen. Cecil Thomas – Thomas@ohiosenate.gov     614-466-5980




Getting from Point A to Point B

Lack of connectivity between good paying jobs and people who need them is a huge hindrance to our community.

The lack of transportation connectivity inhibits the ability for our clients to attain better wages at locations that are off the public transit system while stifling growth of businesses who are starved for talent.

This morning we engaged in two exciting conversations:

  • We invited Chariot to Cincinnati to engage with local businesses and organizations to evaluate their market driven, flexible solution for connecting employees to employers.  We learned about the company’s successful launch in SanFrancisco, Austin, Seattle, NewYork, and Columbus and hope that we build enough momentum for a local launch in Cincinnati.  This could open the doors to higher wage jobs and a broader talent pool for local corporations.


  • Beacon of Hope connects companies to hiring of individuals with criminal records, and continues to make great strides in expanding the benefit of 2nd chance hiring to more companies.  During their monthly update, several companies shared how individuals with felonies have become their most reliable and trusted employees.  This is not only a wonderful story of redemption but also an incredible story of economic opportunity as companies are forced to find new pools of talent in a tight labor market.


Opportunities to work with thoughtful and pragmatic organizations like these give us hope that our community will continue investing and supporting in the rungs of the ladder for our neighbors.  Systemic challenges of transportation and recidivism can be overcome….and we will lean into any effort to see innovative solutions brought to our community.

If not us, Who? If not now, When?

As we remember Martin Luther King, we need to rekindle the urgency to see his dream of people being judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

At CityLink, we get to see our neighbors take the brave steps towards reaching their full potential through the incredible partners we have in one location.  We get to see relationships form across racial and socio-economic lines, where those lines blur and people see one another as the beautifully inspired creation of God.

We have seen over 1,000 people in the last year engage towards a better life….and we need YOUR help.  You can become a part of the movement by taking the brave step to improve your own life or support a neighbor on their journey.  Join us now.


New Year, New Job?

Happy 2018!

We are excited to ring in the new year and also find that special someone to join our team in a client service role.

If you are interested (or know someone who is) in working full-time to support our mission, check out the job descriptions at: https://citylinkcenter.org/about-us/careers

Our team runs hard after God’s call and our opportunity to see our neighbors reach their full potential through providing holistic and client centered services.

All applicants should send a resume and cover letter to HR@citylinkcenter.org


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.


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.

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.


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.


“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.


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

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.