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 to get the help they need. Having a health center on site has made even engaging in services 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.