Ulysses Davis is Ready for a Bright Future

This was the summer Ulysses Davis (25) of East Cleveland was ready to get a better job. He just wasn’t sure exactly where to start, so he went to the Cleveland Public Library branch at East 30th and Central Avenue for some inspiration. He talked with the librarians about job training and one recommended coming to The Centers.

It was here that Ulysses met Nathan Aviles, our Midtown location Site Supervisor (above, right). “Ulysses is a really nice person. He’s quiet, polite and ready to work. Definitely one of the most determined clients we have. I had the pleasure of helping him to get ready for his first job interview.”

This will be the fifth week of Ulysses’ journey to a new career path in pharmacy. He’s hoping to get hired soon as a Pharmacy Technician Trainee and plans to become a nationally certified pharmacist one day.

Ulysses, you can do it and we are rooting for you all the way!

Your donation today helps provide life-changing care and support for residents of our Northeast Ohio community trying to live a better life. You can make a positive difference in the quality of life for an individual, a family and our entire community by donating now. Let’s make Northeast Ohio a better place to live, one person at a time.

Why I Love My Work – Ken Eckstein, Director of the Gordon Square Campus

Meet one of our Centers team members who has spent nearly 15 years working everyday to help members of our community to live a better life.  Ken Eckstein is the Director of our Gordon Square Campus who leads daily operations to make sure our team and clients get the support they need. It’s no small undertaking. Ken is pretty extraordinary. Take a moment to get to know him here and learn more about how you can become a member of our team and/or donate to The Centers so that we can continue to help people to be healthy and successful, one person at a time.

How would you describe what you do to improve the lives of those we serve?

My role as a Director is to help our staff help our clients. This involves a lot of problem solving, in the moment clinical decision-making, managing crises and helping staff prioritize and figure out what the next step is. Sometimes it’s identifying resource information and concerns about barriers they’re running into in the community. In general, I help them do their job in meeting their clients’ needs.

How many people’s lives have you touched in this time?

I’ve been at the agency for 14 years and I have worked at all 4 of the Health and Wellness offices. I would say I’ve worked with directly with several hundred over all of these years.

What is the best thing about your job?

When you hear of a client who has benefited from our services; counseling, case-management, psychiatry, pharmacy and primary care. I’ve seen many clients who came to us with very little hope and when they come to our judgement-free place, they realize that someone is here to help with their life issues, and I can see that the work we’re doing is making a huge difference in their life.

Who are your greatest inspirations in life?

I’m really lucky to have the parents I have. They’re so supportive and encouraging to me to grow. I see a lot of value with my connection with them.

If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be and why?

Barack and Michelle Obama. They are very inspiring to me regarding their role in history and how smart and down to earth they are.

Fill in the blank: “If we are going to solve the poverty issue in our community, we need to find opportunities to help people move forward in their education.  I have only been able to get to where I am through the opportunities for education I have had.

Here’s the artwork and quote that hangs in his office and inspires Ken, and this is why he painted it: “It represents a team effort. We support each other. You can’t underestimate the power of connection. It takes each one of us here to help one person.”

What is your favorite movie/book? Why?

Movie: Big Eden. Because it’s about celebrating diversity. It’s about a man who went back to a rural town and his family, and the townspeople rallied around him with unconditional love and acceptance.

*  *  *

Thank you, Ken for the vitally  important work you do with individuals, families and children here in our Northeast Ohio community. We are so happy to have you on our team!

Join us!  We’re people who care about people. And that’s who we want to hire. Visit NowHiringHeart.org for available healthcare and education positions. #togetherforall

Next Generation Pharmacy Leaders are Ready to Serve

Yesterday, we celebrated the graduation of the third class of our Community Pharmacy Residency program. Congratulations to pharmacists DeAndrea Abney, John Ahlborg, Allyson Beechum, Nicole Kepner, Jesse McDonald
and Christina Finn!

The Centers’ Community Pharmacy Residency develops a pipeline of pharmacy professionals prepared to serve individuals living with severe and persistent mental illness and able to provide clinical services beyond dispensing medication. Our Community Pharmacy Residency program is competitive and attracts applicants from around the country (and now world) to spend one year with our team to complete their training.

Over the past year, our residents helped to improve the client/patient experience by working closely with members of our integrated health care teams and also conducting home visits in the community.

This talented group will bring the knowledge and experience gained over the past year of training to enhance pharmacy services in a variety of settings (and states!) as they continue their careers.

Go forth and serve Class of 2018! We are so proud of you.

A First: Teaching Workforce Development Classes Via Distance Learning

This afternoon, The Centers’ El Barrio Career Coach Sely Mojica taught workforce development students at Adelante in Toledo via distance learning about the finer points of writing a cover letter that will get a candidate noticed. Sely encouraged students to take thoughtful time to consider what makes them a great fit for the position they are applying for. She also strongly recommended having a couple of people review cover letters to be sure to catch any potential typos or grammatical errors.

This distance learning track focuses on a career in pharmacy and is made possible by our partner CVS.

Adelante, The Latino Resource Center, is a Latino non-profit organization whose mission is to empower Latinos and the community at-large through supportive services, education and advocacy for children and families.

This is an exciting partnership on many levels and we look forward to growing our ability to deliver educational opportunities via distance learning!

To enroll in a class, or to learn more about El Barrio Workforce Development, please call (216) 325-WORK.


Why I Love My Work – Marissa Wood, Mental Health Specialist at The Centers for Families and Children

We are all thinking about the families and children that are frightened and living apart from each other at U.S. border. We know the first 2,000 Days of a child’s life are the most important, and that the experiences they have during these formative days and years last a lifetime. The children at the U.S. border are experiencing trauma and it is distressing to witness. We also know that mental health problems in children are real, common and treatable. Although one in five children in the U.S. has a diagnosable mental health problem, nearly two-thirds of them get little or no help.

Meet one of our Centers team members who works right here in our Northeast Ohio community with children who have experienced trauma and/or live with a mental health challenge. Marissa Wood is a Mental Health Specialist who works with families enrolled in our early learning program. She is on-call at our early learning program locations. She receives requests for help from parents, The Centers’ teachers and on some days, sees for herself where she needs to spend focused time with a child.

Marissa, tell us about what you do for the Centers team.

As a Mental Health Specialist, I provide clinical support to our early learning children and families. Once I receive word that a child is exhibiting a concerning behavior, I initially meet with the child in the classroom to begin to establishing trust through play. You can learn a great deal from how a child approaches you and engages in play. Once a trusting foundation is established, we will meet outside of the classroom one-on-one to work on social-emotional development and to assist in processing, history of trauma, attachment issues, self-regulation, and behavior concerns through play therapy and art interventions. Play therapy includes a 30-to-60 minute session depending on age, interests, and capabilities. The sessions are child-driven meaning they lead the way with my guidance. Through play the children can utilize animals or dolls to personify their emotions and act out what they may not be able to articulate, giving me an opportunity to model or role play problem solving strategies or relaxation skills. Through art interventions children can utilize different mediums to express their emotions which at times shows more than what they can verbalize.

I routinely meet with the teachers to assist in their professional development by teaching them skills and interventions to support the child in the classroom. I also meet with the family in their home to provide family therapy to address any concerns the child may be having outside of school. We have found that connecting school to home has been extremely helpful.

What is the best thing about your job? Why do you love what you do?

The best thing about my job is the children. Through the time I get to spend with them I have a window into their world which enables me to see the way they process their world.  I value collaboration and the relationships I have with the Early Learning team, children and families. I love what I do because I get to build connections and teach necessary skills  to build resiliency for these children and work to empower their support systems so that a child is safe, loved, and well cared for.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your work?

One of the most challenging aspects of my work is not being able to be everywhere at once. I will be in one classroom or working with a child and another child might be having a difficult day and I am unable to meet their needs or assist the teachers at that time. I do my best to follow up with the child and consult with the teachers to explore possible triggers and additional interventions to support the child in the future.

Who is/are your greatest inspirations in life?

This is a tricky question for me! My grandfather who I call “Poppyseed” has inspired me in ways I did not realize until after his passing and believe he has instilled values that have allowed me to be successful in this line of work. But to date, my greatest inspiration is my son, Henry J, who is only nine months old and carries on my Poppyseed’s legacy through his middle name. Since his birth, I have felt love and joy like nothing before, he inspires me to love and care for the children I work with as if they were my own.

Poppyseed and Marissa on right, along with her sister Lindsey.

Henry J and Marissa.

Fill in the blank: “If we are going to solve the poverty issue in our community, we need to… support and protect our children. Our childhood plays an instrumental role in who we become in life. If we can protect our children from trauma, teach self-help skills, provide social-emotional development, etc. I feel we will have a healthier society and in return decrease poverty.

What is a favorite movie? Why?

Little Miss Sunshine. It is a comical depiction of a family that an average person would think of as “dysfunctional” but their support for each other and strengths outweigh the barriers they face and in the end, they have each other. This movie melts my heart while making me laugh! There are always strengths-even within those who face the most difficult barriers.

Thank you, Marissa for the vitally  important work you do with children here in our Northeast Ohio community. We are so happy to have you on our team!

Join us!  We’re people who care about people. And that’s who we want to hire. Visit NowHiringHeart.org for available healthcare and education positions. #togetherforall

Why I Love My Work – Rozlyn Grant, Director of Curriculum for Early Learning

Each year The Centers works closely with thousands of Northeast Ohio children and families through our innovative early learning and family engagement programs. The first 2,000 Days of a child’s life are the most important years  – when a brain grows and develops.

This month, our Director of Curriculum for Early Learning, Rozlyn Grant is featured in the Spring 2018 issue of High Scope Magazine for her work in family literacy. Rozlyn and her team know that one of THE most important things you can do with a child, is read! You can read the story  Why Read-Alouds Matter here.  Learn more about Rozlyn and why she loves her work making life better for so many in our Northeast Ohio community.


What is the best thing about your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is supporting our teachers’ professional and personal goals. Together we can reach more children and more families and create lasting positive change.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
Here at The Centers we strive to serve others to the best of our ability every day. I find pleasure in serving staff through professional development/growth opportunities so that our children can realize their highest level of development, and their families can reach heights they’ve only dreamed of. We serve the whole family through our innovative, integrated approach.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your work? An example?
One of the most challenging aspects of my job is finding time to do everything that needs to be done. There are so many new things happening that are exciting and I want to help with everything. Unfortunately there are only 24 hours in a day…thank God there’s always tomorrow.

Who is/are your greatest inspirations in life?
My greatest inspiration is my mother. She’s one of the strongest women I know. She’s kind, loving, giving and intelligent. My mom believed in having a balance between working hard and having fun and she raised my older sister and I to never make excuses, to always work hard (mediocre work ethic was never good enough if she knew you could do better) and to treat others with respect.

If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be and why?
If I could meet anyone in history I’d love to meet President Obama. He is the epitome of wisdom, confidence, strength and love!

Give us your thoughts, complete this sentence:  If we are going to solve the poverty issue in our community, we need to… approach it as a community issue. Our impact must reach the entire family (generations).

What is a favorite movie? Why?
My favorite is “The Color Purple.” This movie displays such intense emotions. It’s a great mix of reality and history and is a warm and fuzzy family piece.

Thank you, Rozlyn and kudos! We are so happy to have you on our team.

Join us!  We’re people who care about people. And that’s who we want to hire. Visit NowHiringHeart.org for available healthcare and education positions. #togetherforall



The Centers + Circle Health to Host 24 FREE Fresh Produce Markets

Together for the first time this summer, The Centers and Circle Health will host 24 FREE fresh produce markets – The Centered Market – in neighborhoods throughout Northeast Ohio. The market season kicked-off on Tuesday, June 5th at the Centers’ Gordon Square campus located at 5209 Detroit Avenue.

Set up like traditional farmer’s markets, the fresh produce giveaways will feature white and sweet potatoes, onions, apples, carrots and more. Each bag of fresh food will include easy summer recipes for meals to prepare for families. All that is requested, is to bring a form of identification: for example a state-issued driver’s license or identification card.

In partnership with the Greater Cleveland Foodbank, The Centered Market is volunteer-driven with generous support from organizations and corporations including PNC, KeyBank, HumanArc and Principal. If your company would like to be involved, please contact Julia DiBaggio, Development Associate at (216) 302-3341.

The full market schedule is listed below. Please note: the food distributions are rain or shine, but may be subject to change, please check thecentersohio.org for updates.

Circle Health Services
12201 Euclid Avenue Cleveland 44104
Tuesday, June 19th 3PM
Tuesday, July 24th 1PM
Tuesday, August 21st 1PM

McMillan Early Learning Center
1941 S. Taylor Road, Cleveland Hts., OH 44118
Tuesday, June 12th 1PM
Tuesday, July 17th 3PM
Tuesday, August 14th 1PM

Bingham Early Learning Center
2421 Central Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115
Thursday, June 21st 12PM
Thursday, July 26th 12PM
Thursday, August 23rd 12PM

Clifton Early Learning Center
13889 Clifton Blvd., Lakewood, OH 44107
Thursday, June 14th 1PM
Thursday, July 19th 1PM
Thursday, August 16th 1PM

East Health and Wellness Center
4400 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44103
Tuesday, June 26th 3PM
Tuesday, July 31st 1PM
Tuesday, August 28th 1PM

West Health and Wellness Center
3929 Rocky River Drive, Cleveland, OH 44111
Thursday, June 7th 1PM
Thursday, July 12th 1PM
Thursday, August 9th 1PM

Gordon Square Early Learning Center
5209 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44102
Tuesday, June 5th 1PM
Tuesday, July 10th 1PM
Tuesday, August 7th 1PM
Thursday, August 30th 1PM

Debra Ann November Early Learning Center
5225 Library Lane, Maple Heights, OH 44103
Thursday, June 28th 1PM
Thursday, August 2nd 1PM

Why I Love My Work – Natalie Jernigan, LPCC-S, ATR

Today, Natalie Jernigan, Counseling Director for The Centers for Families and Children and Circle Health Services received the Helping Hands award from the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Cuyahoga County at their 2018 Annual Meeting. Natalie was recognized for her exemplary work with Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) with thousands of people across our Northeast Ohio community. DBT helps people learn and use new skills to develop a life that they experience as worth living. DBT skills include mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance and interpersonal effectiveness. Take a moment to get to know Natalie, here!

How would you describe what you do to improve the lives of the people The Centers and Circle Health serves?

I like to remain “present with the mission” by maintaining a manageable amount of work with a few individual clients and a therapy group. I also work to enhance the therapeutic development of counselors and counselors in training. This “train the teacher” model allows us to serve more clients with high-quality care.

How many lives have you impacted? (A rough estimate is great.)

I’ve worked for the Centers (and the West Side Ecumenical Ministry before the merger) for 18 years, and shelter care for six years. I would estimate that through individual counseling services, early learning classroom observations, having a transitory group of clients in and out of shelter care and groups of various sizes – I have directly served thousands of people. If I factor in indirect influence and count each staff I have supervised and their clinical caseloads, the number will be much larger.

 What is the best thing about your job? What is an example?

In my position as Director of Counseling Services, I have the pleasure of getting to know the supervisors and the counseling teams at other health and wellness locations throughout The Centers and Circle Health Services. I have the privilege of meeting really talented clinicians and am gaining a greater perspective of growth opportunities. It has been enlightening as I witness innovation daily in our work.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your work? An example?

I have a finite amount of energy to dedicate to client care and other responsibilities. I have a desire to be on 100 percent of my waking hours and often spend time outside of work solving problems in my mind. When working with people with severe behavior reactivity that could be life threatening, the balance of “just being” verses “doing” is an ever-present work in process. Though I possess effective boundaries, I also want to be available to meet the needs of clients and staff whenever a mental health crisis arises.

Who is/are your greatest inspirations in life?

I admire the wisdom that Buddhist principles teach and reference the Dali Lama as a means to get grounded and find balance in my life.

If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be and why?

I’d like to meet Mahatma Ghandi. He influenced the direction of my spiritual development by demonstrating that compassion and peace can be a means of getting things accomplished.

Fill in the blank: “If we are going to solve the poverty issue in our community, we need to…

… find tolerance for the socioeconomic differences among people and understand the causes. Training and educational opportunities to build a life worth living, to me, include enhancing work skills that fit a person’s innate talents and interest. We can provide childcare, transportation, an incentives such as enhanced medical access when a person contributes in a work setting as opposed to the current system of a person losing benefits should they reach a certain income bracket.

What is a favorite book? Why? 

My coffee table currently has Dialectics in Action written by my DBT skills trainer Charlie Swenson and Turtles all the way Down by John Green. I enjoy reading clinical text books to remain up-to-date on evidence based treatment practices specifically those related to DBT. I also find humor and irreverence in the writing of John Green who has a brilliant writing style that captures the adolescent mind in ways that highlight real world situations such as bereavement and social anxiety. He does it in a way that is non-threatening and interwoven with humorous statements even with events that may otherwise cause emotions of sadness.

Natalie’s educational background

Natalie attended Auburn University and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Art. She received her Master’s Degree in Art Therapy from Ursuline College and completed requirements to gain a counseling license. Natalie holds the LPCC-S (Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor with Supervisor designation) and ATR (Registered Art Therapist). Natalie was intensively trained in DBT and has had advanced DBT training with an emphasis in eating disorders. Natalie was intensively trained in Cognitive Behavior Therapy for psychosis.

Natalie is an amazing champion for our friends, family, and neighbors living with a mental health challenge in our Northeast Ohio community. We are so proud to have her on our team! 


Centered on Nutrition at the National Farm to Cafeteria Conference

Our team has been working hard to continue to bring access and education around healthy food to the Northeast Ohio community – and beyond.

Congratulations to Diana Rosa, Chief Operating Officer and Kerry Riter, Director of Food Services, along with our partners from Pennsylvania State University Better Kid Care Program and the Vitamix Foundation.

Last week the team presented our groundbreaking Healthy Teachers Initiative at the National Farm to Cafeteria annual conference. The National Farm to School Network nourishes kids and communities by restoring the connection between children, food, community and land.

The Healthy Teachers Initiative is a pilot effort to increase nutrition knowledge and awareness among our early learning educators to enable them to model healthy behavior for the children and families we serve. We are in the pilot phase of this initiative but hope this effort will become the basis for national replication.

The Healthy Teachers Initiative is another component of our strategic plan to promote the integration of nutrition education and access to healthy food within our services. In addition to Diana and Kerry in this photo, you will also see Carolyn Hightower, former Centers Board member and now Director of the Vitamix Foundation and Jill Cox from Better Kid Care at Penn State.

Kerry and the team also presented at the National Child Nutrition Conference in San Antonio, Texas.

Also last week, Centers and Circle Health Services Board Member John Corlett, President and Executive Director of the Center for Community Solutions, issued a new report “Hungry for Policy: Searching for solutions to food insecurity in Ohio Medicaid” that suggests connecting healthy food access to healthcare will increase successful outcomes for patients and the industry, including a decrease in overall healthcare spending. We are grateful to John for raising awareness on our new initiative and how it fits within the overall landscape of efforts to improve access to healthy food across the community. WEWS Channel 5 ran a story during the 5:30 PM newscast about the report’s findings and highlights our food pharmacy and partnership with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. Watch the segment here: Food as Medicine: prescriptions for hope to fuel the Cleveland community.

The Judy Peters Basic Needs Resource Center continues to take shape. Aysha Wilburn, Director of Service Integration continues to lead the rollout of our nutrition strategy across the organization with a focus on the BNRC and Food Pharmacy. Manoj Joseph, Organizational Inventory Manager and his team have been working hard to handle the logistics behind this exciting operation. The BNRC and Food Pharmacy are available to our clients now through a pilot period, but will open officially this summer.

Your donation today helps provide life-changing care and support for residents of our Northeast Ohio community trying to live a better life. You can make a positive difference in the quality of life for an individual, a family and our entire community by donating now. Let’s make Northeast Ohio a better place to live, one person at a time.

T.J. Grimm is Named Vice President of the Ohio Pharmacists Association

The Ohio Pharmacists Association (OPA) announced that The Centers and Circle Health Director of Pharmacy Operations Tod (T.J.) Grimm, RPh., MBA, of Cleveland was installed as Vice President at its 140th Annual Conference held April 20-22 in Columbus.

“We are pleased to have Tod Grimm on our Association’s Board of Trustees. He has been a valued member of the organization and the pharmacy community for many years, and we look forward to working with him in his new leadership position,” said Ernest Boyd, OPA Executive Director.

OPA, established in 1879, represents more than 4,000 pharmacists, pharmacy educators, and pharmacy students throughout the state. It is OPA’s mission to unite the profession of pharmacy and encourage interprofessional relations, while promoting public health through education, discussion, and legislation.

Grimm is the Director of Pharmacy Operations at The Centers for Families and Children and Circle Health Services.  Grimm started the organization’s pharmacy program that has expanded to four six locations, and serves as the program director of one of the largest national community residencies. In addition, Grimm launched an outreach vaccine/wellness program and is actively involved on OPA’s Legal & Regulatory, Pharmacy Economics, Public & Professional Relations committees, and Independent Special Interest Group. Grimm is a 1994 graduate of Ohio Northern University Raabe College of Pharmacy. He continued his education at Cleveland State University, where he received his Master’s in Business Administration in 1997.