The Road to Success

In December of 2016, life had become difficult for Gerald. As a single father caring for his disabled adult son, he found himself without a car or a job. He came into CityLink for the first time with goals of obtaining employment, paying off all of his debt, and purchasing a car through ChangingGears.

When he first began his journey, Gerald did not qualify for ChangingGears. Without a steady job, he was not meeting the earned income requirements to purchase a vehicle. He began regularly meeting with his job coach at Cincinnati Works to work on his resume. Eventually, he earned a job through his resources as a military veteran. With this new job, Gerald continued to meet with his financial counselor, and was able to pay off all of his debt and get approved for ChangingGears. The day he received the keys to his car, he was able to pay off his entire car loan as well! Now, he no longer has to spend $300 per month ‘Uber-ing’ around town.

While working towards his ChangingGears goal, he was able to visit the onsite Health and Wellness Center, where he received optical appointments and a new pair of glasses. He says that his experience with the Health and Wellness Center was great – scheduling appointments was very easy, and there was never a long wait time for appointments.

Additionally, Gerald took advantage of clinical counseling through Catholic Charities, and was able to receive professional clothes for interviews through Clothing Connection. He says that having all of these services in one location is the best part about CityLink, and that he recommends CityLink to different people all the time.

Gerald’s hard work for over a year finally lead to him purchasing a car from ChangingGears and allowing him to easily travel to and from work. Gerald’s persistence paid off, it’s what the bible calls Chutzpah. That fire in our belly that keeps us focused on our goals.  Jesus likes that kind of persistence himself. He is impressed by the Gentile woman who argues with him until he heals her daughter (Mark 7:26). He also tells a parable of a widow who keeps pounding on the door of the judge until he hears her case (Luke 18:1-7). If an unrighteous judge will grant her request because she is persistent, how much more will a good and loving God answer her prayers! This is to teach us that we should always pray and never give up. Doing so shows that we believe in God’s power and His abundant love for us.

Dedication Pays Off

Before coming to CityLink, Tonya and her four children were living in an area that she felt was no longer a safe environment. She attended a first-time home buyer fair through the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA), where she applied for a house through Habitat for Humanity. Unfortunately, due to her debt, her application was denied, and Tonya felt stuck.

Monica, a service coordinator, told Tonya about the SmartMoney services that CityLink offers. Tonya came to an Information Session and quickly became engaged. She began meeting one-on-one with a financial counselor and worked incredibly hard to create a budget and a savings plan, with a goal of paying off her debt. She and her family experienced some ups and downs throughout this journey, and it was often times hard to stay focused on what she was trying to accomplish.

“I was just trying to keep faith in God,” she says. “That’s what pulled me through.”

Despite some of the difficulties, Tonya persisted, and was able to pay off her debt in four months! After submitting her Habitat for Humanity application, Tonya was approved for a four-bedroom home.  She broke ground on her new home in February.

Tonya says that SmartMoney taught her a lot of essential life skills. She learned how to budget and put money where it should be, which has made her more responsible and aware of her finances. Before going through financial counseling, she never knew how much money she had been wasting. Now, she is able to not only save money, but also have money left over at the end of each month.

Tonya hopes that her journey with SmartMoney and Habitat for Humanity will have an impact on her children. She hopes to teach them to persevere and go after their dreams instead of giving up, especially when someone says no.After her home is finished, Tonya hopes to help others with Habitat for Humanity. Her dream, she says, is to travel to other countries with her two oldest sons and help build houses for others.

“Going through SmartMoney and Habitat for Humanity has opened a lot of doors,” she says. “Now, I want to be able to help someone else.”

Transitioning Home

While staying at the Talbert House, Roland met a lot of the people that were taking advantage of the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) at CityLink Center. Those folks seemed to be doing well, and Roland wanted what he saw through his friends. Having a felony on his record made it incredibly hard to find employment, so he decided to check CEO out for himself to see if he could get some help. The first part of this program teaches clients important skills needed to secure a job.

“It definitely got me up to par on modern job skills I needed to be employable again,” says Roland. “It had been a year since I’d had a job. This class gave me all the new pointers I needed.”

After graduating from Life Skills Education, Roland began working with the work crew – a transitional employment opportunity designed to give clients work experience and a paycheck while they look for permanent employment. The work crew largely tackles manual labor jobs, which Roland enjoyed because he hopes to pursue a career in construction.

In addition to CEO, Roland has taken advantage of a huge amount of services that CityLink has to offer. He was able to receive optical services, and received a new pair of glasses from the on-site Health and Wellness Center. He received a few professional outfits, as well as some clothes for the work crew, through Clothing Connection. He also regularly engages with CityLink’s spiritual services by attending spiritual counseling and men’s bible study.

Roland says that spiritual counseling services have helped him be accountable and rely on God. They have also taught him some commitment skills, which have helped him stay engaged with CEO and work towards achieving his goals. He adds that he would definitely recommend spiritual counseling to other clients because he doesn’t believe he would be able to reach his goals without it.

Roland was recently returned to his home in Middletown and says that even though he is moving, he still plans to be engaged with CityLink. His favorite part about being a client has been meeting new friends and building new relationships. He adds that the CEO program is run by really great people.

“This place has helped me become rehabilitated and transition back into society,” he says. “It’s been a process, but it’s definitely benefited me.”

Relentless Pursuit

Our God is a God of 2nd chances. Just like in the book of Jonah, when God sends Jonah into a broken city to restore it, He too pursues each and everyone of us to restore our brokenness.

When he first walked through our doors, Anthony says that his life was very stressful and negative. He went through a lot of life-altering situations that nobody should ever have to go through. He experienced homelessness, got involved with dealing drugs, and found himself in the middle of gun violence.

Anthony started his employment journey never having learned how to create a resume or fill out an application. Cincinnati Works taught him how to apply for jobs, introduce himself to prospective employers, develop his resume, and present himself as a hard worker. After a few short weeks, Anthony landed a job with AK Steel in Fairfield, which he is very thankful for. He says that he feels very positive about his future, and he would recommend Cincinnati Works, specifically the JumpStart workshop, a thousand times to anyone who is willing to listen.

Although Anthony is grateful for his job, he knows he could have more of a career if he earned his GED, so he decided to enroll in Academic Solutions to further his education. Anthony has plans to go to college, where he hopes to pursue a degree in accounting. Anthony dropped out of school in 9th grade, and never had the chance to pursue a higher education. He says that earning his GED and starting college courses will be incredibly rewarding.

Anthony’s favorite thing about the program is working with teachers and tutors who really try to help students understand all the subjects. Every night, he does his homework, and if he gets caught up on a question, he can bring it into class the next day, and the teachers help him break it down.

“Academic Solutions is really helping me learn what I was supposed to learn when I was young,” he says. “This is stuff I was supposed to learn back in the 9th grade, but I never did.”He adds that it will fill a void in his heart, and he is also excited to be able to continue his education beyond his GED and pursue a career in accounting.

Seeing Change

Mark and Jeanne first came to CityLink with goals of going through the SmartMoney program and purchasing a car through ChangingGears. As they progressed through SmartMoney, however, they quickly became interested in Supporting Services as well. They were both in desperate need of glasses, and were thrilled to learn they could get them at CityLink through the Cincinnati Health Department.

At the on-site Health and Wellness Center, Mark and Jeanne were able to get their eyes checked, get a prescription filled,  pick up their brand new glasses, and even see a dentist! They said that all of their appointment experiences have been wonderful, and that the staff has been very friendly.

“They treat you really well,” says Jeanne. “You come in here and you’re welcomed so warmly. We’ve never had a bad experience.”

As an added bonus, clients are able to make dental or optical appointments for their immediate families, so Mark and Jeanne have been able to bring their sons in for teeth cleanings and eye check-ups as well.

Jeanne adds that it’s a blessing for CityLink to be around, as it’s unlike any other agency around. She says it’s often hard for people to get all the help they need, but CityLink’s integrated services have made it easy for her and Mark. Having a health center on site has made engaging in services even easier. They are now able to focus on their classes and financial counseling sessions without worrying about how to fit appointments into their busy schedules.

“If people want to help themselves, CityLink gives them the opportunity to succeed,” says Mark.

Both Mark and Jeanne are eager to continue meeting with their financial counselor at SmartMoney and keep moving towards their ChangingGears goal.

Inspired by Faith

Tyrone first heard about CityLink Center through a friend. For a while, he had been working 2-3 dead-end jobs at a time with no opportunities for growth. After hearing about CityLink, he decided to take that first step, and in 2016, he enrolled in Academic Solutions to earn his GED.

Tyrone credits his family and his faith for giving him the inspiration and the motivation to grow as a person and do better in life. Now that he is attending CityLink, he finally feels like he is working towards an end goal. After earning his GED, he plans to work as a janitor for a hospital at the University of Cincinnati, which will in turn pay for his college education. He looks forward to pursuing a medical degree from the University of Cincinnati and eventually becoming a surgical assistant.

The best part about CityLink and Academic Solutions for Tyrone is the atmosphere. “It’s a great environment; everyone is helpful,” he says. “You actually learn down here…it’s quiet, and you can focus.” He adds that the day he earns his GED will probably be the greatest day of his life.

Outside of his classes, Tyrone strives to be an advocate for CityLink every day. “God’s been showing me the way to better things,” he says. “Blessings keep coming, and I want everyone else to come and get blessed too.”

Tyrone also plans to come back to CityLink and volunteer after he earns his GED. He says that CityLink has given him so much, and he looks forward to being able to give back.

From Struggle to Success


During a very stressful time in his life, Charles had been attending Bright Star Baptist Church, led by Pastor Jim Strayhorn, who is CityLink’s Director of Spiritual Growth. Charles was in search for life change, but didn’t know where to start, and felt like he had nowhere to go.

Pastor Strayhorn challenged Charles to check out CityLink in May of 2017 – right when The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) became a resident partner.

CEO is a job-readiness program designed for people with felonies on their records. It focuses on people who have recently been released from prison, and offers a range of comprehensive employment services.Charles immediately became engaged in the CEO program, joining the very first class that was hosted at CityLink. He was touched by how helpful everyone was, and felt comfortable knowing that the staff and volunteers were there to help him throughout his journey.

Just a few months after graduating from the CEO program, Charles received a job as a cook at B&A Street Kitchen located in Over The Rhine. His job even has room for advancement, and Charles looks forward to earning a promotion to sous chef.

“I enjoy working,” he says. “It’s very challenging and fun. It’s fulfilling. I leave there and I can go home with my head held up. I can care for my kids, and my wife looks at me as a provider.”

One of the most exciting things for Charles is that he no longer needs to depend on other people – he now has the means to be self-sufficient.

“CityLink is doing the right thing,” he says. “Door after door keeps opening for me…[CityLink] allowing me the opportunity to change my life for the better has made me a better person.”

Charles stays in contact with his Service Coordinator, and plans to get involved with the SmartMoney program in order to build a budget and save money. He tries to be an advocate of CityLink every chance he gets by recommending the services to people who are looking for holistic life change.

Buck’s Journey Started With Faith

A few years ago, CityLink client, Buck, felt a strong calling from God that he and his family were being called to move from Columbus to Florida to start a church. They gave up their house, and Buck left a great job to make the move.  While in Florida, he found a car to drive with Uber, but just one week later, Uber was declared illegal in his city and he found himself unemployed and stuck with a car payment he couldn’t afford. “My family lost everything” he shared.

Buck wound up moving to Cincinnati for a job offer last year, but transportation was still a big concern for his family. When he came to CityLink in December of 2016, he began engaging with SmartMoney Community Services with the goal of going through the ChangingGears program in order to obtain reliable and affordable transportation. ChangingGears was established in 2014 with a mission to provide safe and affordable transportation for those working their way out of poverty.

ChangingGears helps individuals and their families obtain the transportation they need, allowing them to access better employment opportunities, manage family responsibilities, and complete daily errands efficiently. A client’s pathway to ChangingGears is through CityLink’s financial education partner SmartMoney Community Services. SmartMoney provides financial workshops and 1-on-1 financial counseling for CityLink clients to help them become more financially fit while working on long and short term, savings, debt and money management practices and goals.
The integration of services through SmartMoney and ChangingGears,  gives clients the tools they need to make more calculated and responsible decisions with their finances, setting each client up for success as vehicle owners.

In July of 2017, after working closely with both SmartMoney and ChangingGears (including investing “sweat equity” hours in the ChangingGears garage) Buck received the keys to his minivan! Today, he has reliable and affordable transportation with space for his whole family. Buck shared that his van even has enough room for them to go camping! Buck continues to be engaged with ChangingGears, and is optimistic about his future. He says that ChangingGears has been a blessing to his family, and he tells people about the program all the time.

We are proud of Buck for his steadfast determination, even in the face of adversity. Our collaborative partners work together everyday to support people like Buck with various aspects their lives to enable and encourage them towards their goals.