Please join Toledo LISC in welcoming Victor Abla as the Regional Preservation Director for Detroit and Toledo. In his new role, Victor will work with Toledo partners to address the high volume of affordable housing projects that are reaching expiration and need a recapitalization in order to preserve their affordability.
Victor has served the Detroit LISC office for over 20 years in a variety of capacities, the latest as its Director of Lending & Portfolio Management. During his tenure, he has been responsible for underwriting over $35 million in lending, nearly $6 million in grantmaking, and helping to attract $55 million in LIHTC and NMTC equity to projects and organizations in Detroit. He also participated in the program design and implementation of the 0% Interest Home Repair Loan Program in Detroit. Prior to his time at LISC, Victor was a member of the first class of the LISC AmeriCorps program, placed at a CDC in Detroit.
Victor is excited to expand his affordable housing work into Toledo and connect with new partners in Ohio. He will work closely with National LISC while maintaining offices in both Detroit and Toledo.
LISC recently celebrated the graduation of our 15-16 AmeriCorps members! Members worked with over 1,300 volunteers who provided over 6,500 volunteer hours. This translates into clean-ups; art, welcoming, and sustainability engagement; youth and resident empowerment; and much more.
Partner sites are now recruiting for the 16-17 cohort! Sites currently accepting applications are listed below. Click on each site for the position description and for information on how to apply:
- Criminal Justice Initiative at the Board of Lucas County Commissioners – Community Engagement Specialist
- Lucas Resident Services Corporation (LMHA) – Community Engagement Coordinator
- Toledo/Lucas County Sustainability Commission at the Board of Lucas County Commissioners – Community Engagement Specialist
- United Way – Community Engagement Assistant – Leverette
- United Way – Community Engagement Assistant – Pickett/Scott
- United Way – Community Engagement Assistant – Reynolds
- Welcome Toledo-Lucas County at the Board of Lucas County Commissioners – Community Engagement Specialist
Kim Sanchez has become a master of creative placemaking. Kim is a Photographer and Videographer whose work aims to connect people and tell a story. As a returning AmeriCorps member, she also engages residents in telling their own stories. Kim is taking a lead role on an innovative project funded by the Kresge Foundation and LISC. Resident artists are provided with support in engaging neighbors to create and implement an artistic project in order to connect community members and draw attention to the neighborhood. Kim is currently working alongside two artists as they build their own projects and work with residents in North Toledo and the Junction Neighborhood. About her LISC AmeriCorps position at The Arts Commission of Greater Toledo, Kim says, “In this unique position, I’m able to offer my ideas, artistic talents, and leadership skills to help the community.” Check out this video she helped residents develop.
Kim has built bridges between The Arts Commission of Greater Toledo and numerous community partners. She is serving as a resource in strengthening arts programming and incorporating art into the rejuvenation efforts of neighborhoods. In her first term, Kim coordinated the final production of the Toledo Strategic Plan for Arts & Culture, as well as its launch to the community in the spring of 2015. Now, she works with partners to understand best practices for engaging residents and works directly with resident volunteers. Kim took the lead on a transformative beautification and painting project at Frederick Douglass Community Association, coordinating over 40 students, AmeriCorps members, and residents. In the words of her supervisor, Jennifer Jarrett, “Kim has a natural ability to connect the dots and the people to make projects happen. She was a lead member of the team coordinating programming for the Glass City Film Festival, which attracted film submissions nationally and internationally. She has become a valued member of The Arts Commission during her two AmeriCorps terms, always offering thoughtful suggestions and input. We look forward to the leadership roles in our arts community that she will no doubt continue to fill.” Following her service with AmeriCorps, Kim will be employed by United North as Manager of the Ohio Theatre and Event Center.
The first annual Glass City Film Festival (GCFF) kicking off today (May 19-21) is the perfect 2015-2016 season wrap-up for the historic Ohio Theatre and Event Center. The Ohio Theatre has experienced record attendance from a diverse audience during the 2015-2016 season, which focused on providing access to original arts programming– from storytelling to concerts to film festivals. This year was also remarkable for the Theatre in leveraging partnerships with local businesses. As a vibrant space linking creativity, culture, and business, the Ohio Theatre is clearly a driving force for the revitalization of the Lagrange Street Business District.
Beginning today, the Glass City Film Festival will offer an array of entertaining and thought-provoking films created by talented filmmakers from the region and beyond. For its premiere year, GCFF will feature 30 independently-made films from 11 U.S. cities, 8 countries, and across various genres. Not only will attendees view great films from around the globe, they will also be able to enjoy treats from local small businesses like Boochy Mama’s Probiotic Tonic and Antojitos Laredo Tacos. A unique element of GCFF – and a common thread in the Ohio Theatre’s programming – the festival intentionally includes building a more welcoming and inclusive community with an Islamic Understanding Film and Panel Discussion. The Islamic Understanding component leveraged other partnerships to make a more robust experience, including henna, jewelry vendors, and B-Bop Records.
The Ohio Theatre is known for its ongoing support of local businesses and continuing collaborations with community organizations and non-profits—like the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo—resulting in fresh arts programming for the community. One such example is Spoken Toledo. Launched last year, Spoken Toledo is now the Ohio Theatre’s premier quarterly storytelling event, featuring true stories told by Toledoans in combination with unique, locally sourced goods from area businesses. The most recent Spoken (March 2016) was a collaboration with the Toledo-Lucas County Sustainability Commission and Northwest Ohio Food Council. With the storytelling theme “you are what you eat,” the event leveraged food for patrons and prizes for storytellers, including selections from local farmer Josh Nicholson (popcorn), Humblebee Farm (cotton candy and gift certificates), Claudia’s Preserves (jams), Black Kite Coffee & Pies (gift certificates), and Jupmode (prize bags).
Another example of diverse arts programming incorporating small businesses support is the Ohio Theatre’s annual partnership on the Toledo International Film Festival (TIFF) with Welcome Toledo-Lucas County—a collaboration of partners working to build a more welcoming and inclusive community for immigrant and people of diverse cultures. The 2nd annual TIFF wowed the audience with an offering of compelling international films coupled with free food samplings from local ethic or immigrant-owned restaurants: Manos Greek Restaurant, Mi Hacienda Mexican Restaurant, Takacs Grocery & Meats, Koto Buki, and So Sweet Lebanese & French Pastries. In conjunction with TIFF, the theatre also received a significant donation to feature craft brews from a local distillery, Toledo Spirits.
These are just a few examples of how the Ohio Theatre is lifting up local small businesses, developing diverse partnerships, and leading the ONE Village neighborhood’s transformation through arts and culture.
For more information about the Ohio Theatre and to buy tickets for the Glass City Film Festival, check out their website: http://ohiotheatretoledo.org/.
Each year, the Toledo Financial Opportunity Center (FOC) Network coaches participate in the Ohio Benefit Bank (OBB) tax program as OBB Tax Counselors. During the 2016 tax season, the coaches in the Toledo FOC Network worked double-duty, providing one-on-one financial coaching services as well as free tax prep services for new and existing clients alike. In 2016 alone, the FOC network coaches prepared 1,085 free tax returns, resulting in over $1.4 million in federal tax returns for local residents.
This year also brought one of our local FOC partners state-wide recognition and resulted in a special shout-out to one coach in particular. The ONE Village Financial Opportunity Center of United North was ranked #6 in the Top 15 OBB Tax Site Locations this Tax Season! Financial Coach Nicole Reno with the ONE Village FOC was ranked #4 on the “Tremendous 12” Top OBB Tax Counselors this Tax Season list.
Nicole personally prepared over 300 tax returns while simultaneously providing one-on-one financial coaching and counseling services to her regular clientele and facilitating financial education workshops in the community. When asked about her tax-time feat, Nicole played down the recognition. “I didn’t even know there was a ‘Tremendous 12’ list. I just wanted to help as many people as I could keep their entire refund and not lose it to high-cost refund anticipation loans or outrageous tax prep fees. I’m just grateful to have made such an impact.”
“Our purpose for providing free tax prep through the Ohio Benefit Bank tax program is two-fold,” explained Michelle Wasylecki, FOC Manager at United North. “First, we provide these services to existing clients as a way to help them receive the cash infusion they need to achieve their goals. Second, we use the OBB tax program as a tool to engage new residents in the full array of FOC services—moving them from tax prep to income supports counseling, and on to financial and employment coaching and counseling.” According to Ms. Wasylecki, common uses of tax refunds by FOC clients include, securing transportation (both car purchase and repair), paying off debt, establishing savings, and making down-payments on home purchases.
For the full report, check out the Toledo FOC Network 2016 Tax Season Wrap-Up.
Kelly Dean is “Getting Things Done” in East Toledo, specifically in the Birmingham neighborhood! Kelly and her husband are both lifelong East Toledo residents, where they met and raised their children. Their children are now grown and because of Kelly’s involvement, their older daughter has purchased a home in East Toledo. Kelly hit the ground running in her LISC AmeriCorps service, as she has already worked to secure 10 vacant properties, facilitated 4 lot clean-ups, and coordinated the transformation of an overgrown sidewalk from impassible to inviting. Kelly has done an amazing job securing partnerships and is encouraged by how organizations, like the T. Whitehead Recover Center, and neighbors are invested in Birmingham. Kelly serves with East Toledo Family Center (ETFC), where she previously gained experience as a volunteer surveying houses, and is supported by the Birmingham Development Corporation. She has also surveyed homes for the Land Bank. Kelly says that through service she aims to “empower” so that individuals “can be more proactive on issues in our community.” Her supervisor, Jodi Gross at ETFC, describes how Kelly has been able to build bridges to the Birmingham leaders and neighborhood in a way that is strengthening the voice of all of East Toledo. Jodi explains further, “that Kelly is a down to earth resident who can relate to all stakeholders.” She understands that you have to be willing to work right along- side residents to get things accomplished. Most recently, Kelly played a key role in East Toledo’s Global Youth Service Day efforts, where almost 500 volunteers came out to help with clean-up.
By most any financial or program standard, 2015 was a banner year for LISC. Our total program activity for the year – measured by equity investments, loans and grants – reached $1.3 billion nationally, including $15 million in Toledo alone.
Check out the Toledo LISC 2015 Annual Report to learn more about the impact we were able to achieve in partnership with local, high-capacity non-profits and the support of our generous donors and funders.
Toledo LISC is pleased to announce an investment of $399,424 from United Way of Greater Toledo to support the work of the Toledo Financial Opportunity Center (FOC) Network. The Toledo FOC Network aligns with United Way’s Live United 2020 goals centered on advancing financial stability for individuals and families in Lucas, Wood and Ottawa counties.
“United Way of Greater Toledo is proud to make an investment in Toledo LISC, and the Toledo FOC Network Partners – East Toledo Family Center, United North, and Lutheran Social Services of Northwest Ohio –because they deliver results that create lasting change in the areas of education, income and health in our community,” said Karen Mathison, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Toledo. It’s a pleasure and privilege to partner with Toledo LISC and deliver results that change lives of people in our community.
Expanding on the Center for Working Families model developed by The Annie E. Casey Foundation, LISC developed the Financial Opportunity Center (FOC) model to build financial capability by offering families a suite of core services that attack each of these areas of concern—employment, income supports, credit-building and financial management—through programming offered at trusted community-based organizations. In Toledo, the 3 trusted agencies with a history of providing social and financial services in their neighborhoods that operate Financial Opportunity Centers are (1) East Toledo Family Center, (2) Lutheran Social Services of Northwest Ohio, and (3) United North. These partners provide integrated services to clients, creating a multi-faceted approach to income and wealth building.
In 2015, the Toledo FOC Network partners served over 1,470 residents, significantly moving the needle for over a third of those individuals engaged in one on one financial coaching. Key financial outcomes achieved among this group include: increased in net income, improved credit scores, and gains in overall net worth. In addition to one on one coaching services, the FOC Network provided free tax prep services to over 670 individuals— bringing over $1 million in federal tax refunds back into our community.
“We are excited to continue our partnership with United Way to strengthen Toledo’s neighborhoods. The FOC Network is a fine example of true collaboration among neighborhood-based community partners who are committed to creating long-term change and improving the quality of life of our residents,” according to Kim Cutcher, Executive Director of Toledo LISC. This year’s investment also represents an expansion of the Toledo FOC Network’s focus to include the integration of homelessness prevention services into the Lutheran Social Services of Northwest Ohio’s Crossroads FOC coaching and counseling service delivery model.
Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) is a national community development intermediary with a 35-year history of building the capacity of community-based organizations to revitalize their neighborhoods, provide affordable, safe and decent housing, increase economic opportunities, and create better places to live, play, learn and work. Nationally, LISC supports a network of over 75 Financial Opportunity Centers in 33 cities with grants, technical assistance, management support, peer-networking opportunities, and data collection and data management.
United Way of Greater Toledo, serving Lucas, Wood, and Ottawa counties, unites the caring power of people to improve lives. We are made up of problem solvers, difference makers, and opportunity creators. Together, we’re on a mission to change lives forever in our community by investing in programs focused on education, financial stability, and healthy lifestyles. We tackle the tough problems in these areas by funding and partnering with the most effective local organizations who create real opportunities and get results. You can give, you can advocate, and you can volunteer – that’s how to LIVE UNITED. For more information, visit www.unitedwaytoledo.org.
Meet LISC AmeriCorps Member Lindsay Akens!
Lindsay is a graduate of Bowling Green State University, where she studied Fine Arts, and of the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she received a Master of Public Affairs. Lindsay serves as an AmeriCorps Member with The Arts Commission and is facilitating resident engagement for the Old West End Neighborhood Initiatives (OWENI).
Lindsay calls the urban goat farm in the Old West End home, which allows her to combine her love of animals and passion for community development. As an AmeriCorps Member she is creating unique strategies to further involve residents. One stroke of genius she brought to fruition was converting the OWENI newsletter to hand delivery, drawing in youth and fostering neighborhood conversations in the process. Lindsay says she strives “to be a change agent in Toledo’s Old West End by interacting with my neighbors to promote positive change through artistic endeavors and volunteerism.”
Through her efforts, OWENI will partner with the CITE program, engaging youth and residents in the beautification of a water retention garden. Lindsay is excited about her recruitment of a University of Toledo class to photograph community development projects and is looking forward to seeing their finished work.
Lindsay’s AmeriCorps position is supported by the Toledo Community Foundation and she serves at the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo as part of their creative placemaking efforts. The Arts Commission is working in a number of neighborhoods engaging residents in creative solutions to strengthen and develop communities.
Jennifer Jarrett, Deputy Director of The Arts Commission said of Lindsay, her “wide range of skills and interests have made her an instant part of our creative placemaking team. She is willing to jump in wherever she sees a need and encourages when needed as well. She listens first to the residents in the OWENI neighborhood, offering many different options and
always seeking consensus for projects. It continues to be a pleasure to work with Lindsay, and we look forward to watching projects in the OWENI neighborhood develop into the summer.”
Since its inception, Welcome Toledo-Lucas County (TLC) has been asking what makes our community welcoming to immigrants and refugees and what can we do to be even more inclusive of our increasingly diverse population. We have heard from residents and leaders, and while more predictable responses like jobs, safety, and language access were identified, another consistent, perhaps unexpected need emerged: cultural competency. After working with partners – Toledo LISC, the University of Toledo, the United Way of Greater Toledo, and the Center for Nonprofit Resources – to respond to this need, Welcome TLC is excited about the concerted and intentional efforts being made and launched this month to becoming a more culturally competent community.
What is cultural competency? Why is it important?
Before defining cultural competency, let’s take a step back to talk about culture. While pinning down one definition of culture is elusive, culture can be described as prescribed ways of behaving; norms of conduct, beliefs, values, and skills; and integrated patters of human behavior passed on through generations (Lum, 2003). Culture is visible, but encompasses unspoken and unconscious rules as well. So everything from food and art (visible) to eating behaviors (unspoken) to standing at an arm’s length from your conversation partner (unconscious) are all a part of culture. Furthermore, a culture could include entire countries or regions (e.g., Midwestern or Southern), religions, racial or ethnic groups, socioeconomic status (i.e., class), or even be based on something like music, such as punk or hip hop.
Considering that every culture is dynamic and complex, being an expert in all cultures is a daunting and improbable task. So how can anyone be expected to interact with and provide services for individuals belonging to cultures other than your own?
Although it is a lifelong process, cultural competence – not expertise – is one such solution to working with people different than yourself. Cultural competence is a continuous and evolving developmental process that is based first and foremost on valuing diversity. It requires an understanding of your own personal values, norms, and beliefs (i.e., a cultural self-assessment) and the ability to manage the dynamics of difference when cultures interact. For organizations, this means developing the ability to work effectively cross-culturally and requires having policies or adaptations to service delivery that reflect an understanding of and respect for cultural diversity and meet social, cultural, and linguistic needs.
Cultural incompetence may not always have severe or long-lasting consequences, for example, the discomfort caused by an invasion of personal space. However, cultural incompetence can have severe effects on health or educational disparities and be a significant barrier to people seeking or being retained for services.
March has been an eventful month for advancing cultural competency in our community. First, Welcome TLC partnered with the Center for Nonprofit Resources to present an all-day workshop on March 10th. Welcome TLC was able to leverage a national partnership with Welcoming America to find a highly experienced trainer and practitioner, Suzanne Lelaurin, the Senior Vice-President for Programs of the International Institute of St. Louis and President of the Institute’s Community Development Corporation. Suzanne introduced the 40 attendees to evidence-based theory about cultural dimensions, as well as practical tools on cultural dimensions and how these tools can lead to more effective communications, interactions, and relationships. She recognized that cultural competency is an ongoing process that must constantly be (re)learned and practiced to be effective. The workshop ended with a challenge from Suzanne to focus on understanding, observing, and practicing just one dimension before moving on to the improving upon the next.
Another step forward for cultural competency is the release of the application for a six week workshop: Cultural Competency for Service Providers. A partnership of the University of Toledo, Toledo LISC, Welcome TLC, and the United Way of Greater Toledo, the workshop is designed to help direct service providers recognize and use culture more effectively when working with others. Participants will develop skills to recognize and build upon their own and others’ cultural frameworks to work toward achieving common goals. The course will foster awareness and understanding of culture and power, as well as the practical tools services providers can use to empower themselves and their clients/participants.
Cultural Competency for Service Providers will run every Thursday from April 14th through May 19th from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM at the United Way of Greater Toledo. The deadline to submit applications has been extended to Friday, March 25th by 5:00 PM to firstname.lastname@example.org. To access the application, click here.
As honing an individual’s cultural competency is a life-long process, so too is it for our community. And Welcome TLC and Toledo LISC are eager to continue this work with partners to help increase our competency, provide better services, and build a more welcoming community!
Reference: Lum, D. (2003). Culturally competent practice: A framework for understanding diverse groups and justice issues. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.