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.

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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

WCPN’s Sound of Ideas features the new UH Women’s and Children’s Hospital and The Centers home visiting program

This morning, Elizabeth and Patti DePompei, Centers’ Board Member and President of University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital were on WCPN 90.3’s Sound of Ideas to share more about our unique collaboration happening in Midtown.

The Centers recently announced an expanded partnership with University Hospitals and PNC to strengthen services for expecting families in our community. The PNC Foundation awarded $708K to the University Hospitals Rainbow Center for Women & Children and The Centers to support expansion of our existing home visiting services to women participating in UH’s Centering Pregnancy program. 

This partnership, which will focus on the new UH Rainbow Center for Women and Children that just opened in Midtown, leverages the strengths and expertise of both of our organizations to support families and children during the prenatal to early childhood timeframe.  You can read more about this important work here: PNC Foundation awards UH Rainbow Center for Women and Children $708,000.

Emily Hoag talks with a young mother about The Centers’ home visiting program at the UH Rainbow Women’s and Children’s Center community celebration on Friday, June 29, 2018.

 

 

Workforce Client Profile: Devonna’s Confidence Helps Her Rise to New Heights

Devonna Pippens, Shift Supervisor at CVS in Parma, lives on the West Side of Cleveland

 How did you find out about The Centers’ workforce development program – El Barrio?

I found out about El Barrio and the services it offers through Youth Opportunities Unlimited (Y.O.U). Thank you, Y.O.U.! When I first got started, I hoped to gain a better understanding about the hiring process and the customer service experience. El Barrio exceeded my expectations. Not only do I feel like somewhat of an expert in customer service now, I don’t believe I would have obtained this knowledge anywhere else, despite 14 years of school, if it were not for the hard work and dedication of the staff at El Barrio. They are special.

What is a memorable lesson you learned? What is something you will take with you?

My instructor Cassandra Bogard helped me build confidence. We were at Dress for Success for professional interview clothes and the theme of the morning was building confidence: being confident in you, the way you walk, talk and dress. I was going though a tough time that day and did not want it to effect my time at Dress for Success . I confided in Cassandra and she treated me with respect and understanding. She gave me a big hug and told me that everything would be alright. She arranged a private shopping session at Dress for Success so I would feel more comfortable and she made me feel like I could trust her. Cassandra is a strong black woman that I am proud to look up to!

What do you like most about your new job?

What I love most about my new job is being in charge. In the matter of eight (8) months, I have been promoted not only to Shift Supervisor but cross training in the Pharmacy as well. I love my bosses and the people I work with.

 Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I see myself happy and at peace. I see myself in a beautiful house, supporting myself with or without a man or children, having my degree, making enough money to be stress free, just trying to get through another day.

I already recommend El Barrio to friends and family letting them know the amazing services The Centers offers to all. I am happy that another El Barrio graduate will be joining the CVS team at the Brookpark location soon!

Devonna, we are proud of you and are cheering you on. Reach for your dreams, you can do it!

To enroll in The Centers’ El Barrio Workforce Development program, call (216) 325-WORK.

To support the program, purchase a ticket to our upcoming Party with a purpose! Tickets on sale now for our most popular and festive event: Taste Latino presented by CVS Health on Monday, July 23 from 6 – 9PM at Cleveland Metroparks Merwin’s Wharf. Tickets are $75 and include an open bar, food and live music from The Rice and Beans Band. All proceeds benefit El Barrio Workforce Development program that helps Northeast Ohio residents to get great jobs. The event sold out last year! Tell your friends and purchase tickets today. See you there! Purchase tickets today! https://bit.ly/2JQXyLg

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.

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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

 

 

Our Gordon Square Building has a Brand New Look

Today we unveiled a colorful three-story mural at our Gordon Square campus located at 5209 Detroit Avenue. The vibrant mural, on the Centers’ Reinberger Auditorium, will welcome people to the neighborhood as they approach from downtown and the east.

Our mural is one of eight  recently installed as part of the Gordon Square Arts District’s work to infuse the neighborhood with art that is free and accessible to everyone. The murals appear along Detroit Avenue between W. 52nd Street and W. 74th Street.

“We’re thrilled to have the Centers for Families and Children as our largest mural location in the Gordon Square Arts District,” said Carrie Carpenter, President & Executive Director of the Gordon Square Arts District.

 

 Members of the Centers team put the finishing touches on the first half of the mural. Left to right are:  Kristie Persson, Carmen Gomez, Carly Crislip and Ken Eckstein.

 


Artists Katey and Jessie get ready for their first ribbon-cutting ceremony with Greg Peckham of LANDStudio.

 


Snip, SNIP! Katey, Jessie, Greg Peckham, Councilman Matt Zone, Elizabeth Newman, Carrie Carpenter and Matt Sattler make the gateway mural official.

 

“Elizabeth Newman has led the Centers for Families and Children to be an outstanding organization in our neighborhood. They not only serve over 2,000 children, adults, and families each year, but this mural demonstrates their wonderful commitment to the arts and the revitalization of the neighborhood,” added Carpenter.

The Gordon Square Arts District partnered with LAND Studio and Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization to coordinate the mural project. Funding from The Cleveland Foundation, the City of Cleveland Casino Revenue Fund, Cleveland Councilman Matt Zone, Hilton, The David and Inez Myers Foundation, American Greetings and Sherwin-Williams supports the project.

The mural was painted by artist duo Jessie and Katey.

“We want The Centers to be an anchor within the neighborhood and we are grateful to be a part of this extraordinary public-private partnership to bring this dynamic art installation to the Gordon Square Arts District,” said Elizabeth Newman, president and CEO of The Centers and Circle Health Services. “Our work to strengthen the community by providing life-changing solutions rooted in the health and success for every individual and family is reflected not only in the vibrant mural that will welcome people to the neighborhood, but in each of the remarkable images that will be located throughout the district.”

The other seven murals feature local Cleveland artists.

LAND studio worked with the artists and managed the mural installations. LAND studio has worked on public art projects throughout the neighborhood and is a partner in its arts-based revitalization.

“The neighborhood itself is becoming a canvas for the best and brightest of local and national artistic talent.  This summer’s mural art initiative takes Gordon Square’s creative energy beyond the walls of the neighborhood’s theaters and galleries.  This is just the start of creating a free, open air gallery across Gordon Square for everyone to enjoy,” said Greg Peckham, Executive Director of LAND studio.

Come by and see it for yourself and tag your pictures @thecentersohio with the hashtag #togetherforall.

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.

In the News: Elizabeth Newman Helps Families Build Better Futures

Our President and CEO is featured in the March issue of Currents Magazine as an Outstanding Northeast Ohio Leader. You can read the story here!

Heading up an organization operating mainly on government funding is no small feat in an age of healthcare upheaval. But Elizabeth Newman is not one to back down in the face of a challenge. “I’m so passionate about our mission and the impact we can have in the community,” says Newman, president and CEO of The Centers for Families and Children. “I know we’re making progress.”

Newman oversees an organization with 19 locations throughout the Greater Cleveland area and a staff of over 600 that reaches 25,000 people annually. Originally formed in 1970, The Centers joined forces with the West Side Ecumenical Ministry and El Barrio in 2011. In addition to its seven early learning centers, health and wellness programs, the El Barrio Workforce Development Center, family services and the Ease@Work employee assistance program, The Centers recently added an affiliation with Circle Health Services, formerly the Free Clinic.

“People don’t come to see us because they have one isolated issue,” said Newman. “The vast majority of people we see have several different issues. And we’re not focusing on just that individual but the people around them, whether it be a grandma, an aunt, a spouse or a partner.”  Newman was raised in Chardon as the daughter of two teachers. “I grew up in a household where we were taught to give back,” she said. “Serving others was something that was ingrained in me.”  After spending seven years working for KPMG Cleveland, Newman informed her boss she was leaving to join The Centers. “He told me I was always meant to do this,” she said. “I fell in love with The Centers and their vision of where they wanted to go. It was a perfect situation.”

With 70 percent of its funding coming from state and federal programs, The Centers has had to fight against potential cutbacks in recent years. “We’re in the middle of a lot of changes in healthcare and a lot of changes in early learning services,” said Newman. “Some potentially devastating cuts have been proposed. I’m in Columbus at least once a month and I’m in Washington D.C. quite a bit. We try to get our elected officials in here (Centers). We’re not partisan. We have an important message no matter who you are – mental illness knows no socioeconomic status.”

Newman hopes to strengthen The Centers’ Circle Health program this year. “With the opioid crisis that has taken hold, a big focus for us is expanding our addiction services,” she said. “It’s a problem that’s getting worse and devastating families.”  While the work is often emotionally draining, Newman keeps The Centers’ work culture as positive as possible. “If we didn’t laugh, we would cry all the time,” she said. “I continue to be pleasantly surprised how resilient our team is. Their ability to focus is incredible.”

And when Newman returns home each day, she has a tried and true method of unwinding. “I have two little girls who keep me very grounded,” she said.

–By Barry Goodrich

We are hiring! Join the team. Click here to see a list of the latest positions available for some of the most meaningful work you can do in our Northeast Ohio community. Life-changing solutions happen here.

Meet Johana and Kaliyah: My Daughter Absolutely Loves Her Teachers

If positivity could be a person, it would be 22-year-old Johana Steward, which is pretty amazing because she carries the weight of the world on her shoulders. At her young age, she’s somehow figuring out how to balance it all.

Johana grew up on Cleveland’s West Side with her mother and her sisters. She went to Louisa May Alcott Grade School and Barbara Booker Middle School. She graduated from John Marshall High School. “My mom was strict and hard on me, but looking back, I know it’s what she had to do. I am an A and B student, and I cried when I got a C,” Johana said.

Her father died when she was just one month old. “I’ve always been curious about my father, who he was, what he was like,” she said. “I finally found one of my stepsisters, her name is Antoinette. She’s 19 and we are becoming friends. I’ve looked for my father, too, and I finally found out where he was buried, at the Highland Park Cemetery. I haven’t been there yet. I wonder, am I really ready to meet this person I’ve been looking for all my life and when I find him, he’ll be in a grave.”

Johana’s lupus and spina bifida make it hard for her to get out of bed some mornings, but she almost always manages. “My Mom will see me struggle and she will want to help me, but she also knows I want to do it on my own,” she said. “She is always there when I really need her, and she’s even there when I don’t need her.”

Any day now, Johana is going to give birth to her second child, a boy named Khalil. Her daughter Kaliyah is two and has been coming to The Centers’ Gordon Square campus’ Early Learning Center since she was 8 months old. “She absolutely loves her teachers and feels so comfortable around them, I know they are good people. Everyone here has been such a huge help to me. When I’ve had to work late, a teacher will wait for me and keep the center open. The Centers’ staff is always helpful and encouraging.”

Johana wants to be a teacher herself one day and is working on her financial aid paperwork to attend Tri-C when Khalil is old enough to be enrolled at The Centers’ early learning program like his older sister. “I love being around children and I enjoy teaching them how to count and say their ABCs. I also love to read,” Johana said. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that her favorite book is a children’s story by P.D. Eastman: The Best Nest. It’s a story about a pregnant bird looking for the perfect home for her baby. She goes from place to place, not finding somewhere quite good enough for her child. Then, when she is almost out of energy, she discovers that home is where SHE is, and all is well.

Johana lives with her mother on the Near-West Side.

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. Thank you!