Foundation Triples Funding for Collaborative “Promise Neighborhood” Planning

The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland has tripled its funding to plan effective educational support systems for children in the city’s Central neighborhood.

The foundation, which was unsuccessful in attaining a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education, is moving forward with a planning effort for a Promise Neighborhood in Central by increasing its funding commitment from $65,000 to $195,000.

“The federal Promise Neighborhoods grant program was very competitive, with only 21 awards out of 339 applicants nationally,” said Susanna Krey, president of the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland. “While federal funding would have been great, the true benefit of our application was that it catalyzed organizations across Cleveland to help create a Promise Neighborhood here. We are appreciative of our partners’ support and we are moving forward with a significant commitment.”

Adapting the model
The federal Promise Neighborhoods program is inspired by the comprehensive anti-poverty efforts of the Harlem Children’s Zone, a neighborhood-based program that provides disadvantaged children a chance to succeed academically by providing a “pipeline of programs” – a seamless series of free, coordinated programs that focus on the needs of children at every developmental stage, including ensuring proper prenatal care. The Harlem Children’s Zone also provides programs to improve the children’s family and neighborhood environments.

“The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland’s plan to develop a Promise Neighborhood is commendable to say the least,” said Eugene Sanders, Cleveland School’s CEO. “The time has come to rebuild and revitalize our communities, our youth and our city.

“It is apparent that the Sisters of Charity recognize the timeliness and importance of a project of this nature, and CMSD is grateful to have it being developed in collaboration with three of our schools.”

The federal program offered a total of $10 million in competitive planning grants to help design a pipeline of social, educational and health supports in poor communities across America. The 21 chosen communities were awarded as much as $500,000 each to design their own initiatives.

“Although we are disappointed that we did not receive the grant, the work of Promise Neighborhood is really what the Sisters of Charity Foundation is all about,” said Geoffrey S. Mearns, provost of Cleveland State University and chair of the board of directors of the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland. “We believe that where others see hopelessness, others see enduring promise, and that is why we are still moving forward.”

Envisioning a plan for Central
Committed to addressing root causes of poverty, the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland continues to bring together a number of local organizations to plan a Promise Neighborhood for the Central neighborhood of Cleveland, where three quarters of the nearly 5,000 children live in poverty, 66 percent of the residents live in subsidized or public housing, and the three pre-K through 8th grade schools are in academic emergency.

The Foundation has focused on the Central Neighborhood, already working to reduce health and education disparities in that community. The Foundation selected Central because of the commitment of its sister ministry St. Vincent Charity Medical Center, which has provided health care and services in this community for more than 140 years.

The portion of Central neighborhood identified for the Promise Neighborhood is defined as East 22nd to East 55th streets and from Euclid to Woodland avenues in Cleveland. Initial programs will be designed for the children going to three Cleveland elementary schools in the Central neighborhood: Marion Sterling, Carl and Louis Stokes Central Academy and George Washington Carver.

“Receiving support for planning a Promise Neighborhood is an exciting step toward enacting real, tangible changes that will lift up Cleveland and give Central neighborhood children a fair and equitable opportunity to achieve their dreams,” said Mayor Frank G. Jackson of the City of Cleveland.

Next year, the foundation hopes to compete for potential funds from the U.S. Department of Education to help implement the programs and activities planned to improve the academic success of the nearly 1,500 children attending the three schools.

Collaborating for change
The foundation’s funding partners in this effort include The George Gund Foundation, the Cleveland Foundation, Cuyahoga County, the City of Cleveland, RPM International, Key Bank and US Bank. Collectively, the foundation raised $332,500 in support and is now asking its partners to commit those funds to the continued effort. The Department of Education had required organizations to raise at least $250,000 to be eligible to apply for a $500,000 planning award.

“As the founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone has noted, improving the odds of underserved children is hard work — it takes dedication, determination and a clear sense of where you’re going,” said Krey. “We are devoted to working together with our partners to support the Central community with resources and opportunities to help children of Central achieve their full academic promise.”

The collaborators have put together a 32-member advisory board, including Central neighborhood residents and youth, who will spend the next year developing programs to promote children’s school success. Participants on the board include local foundations and organizations and agencies that have successful programs, such as Cuyahoga County’s Invest in Children, which offers home visiting for expectant parents and for families with children younger than three years old, as well as offers services and programs, like Head Start, until kindergarten to prepare children for school.

The new board will also work with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District to help the transformation school plan succeed, which includes improving local schools in this neighborhood and also offering “wrap around” programs for children before and after school to improve academic achievement.