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Posts Tagged ‘cleveland’

Photo: Douglas Trattner
A Cleveland co-op trains refugees and others for produce-growing jobs.

I continue to find it fascinating that so many people who are making products for sale are also intent on providing job opportunities for refugees, ex-offenders, and others with challenges.

Douglas Trattner writes about one such effort at Cleveland Scene.

“It’s a brisk late-winter morning in Cleveland, but inside the greenhouses of Green City Growers it feels more like Tampa. …

“At 3.25 acres, this site is one of the largest urban greenhouses in the country, and it happens to sit in the heart of the economically depressed Central neighborhood. Inside the state-of-the-art hydroponic greenhouse, some 300,000 plants at various stages of growth float in shallow pools of nutrient-rich water. There are leafy heads of butter lettuce, colorful mixed-green blends, peppery upland cress and fragrant Italian basil.

“Opened in 2012, Green City Growers has had a promising, albeit challenging, run. Part of the ambitious Evergreen Cooperatives, which includes Evergreen Cooperative Laundry and Ohio Cooperative Solar, the greenhouse was the only one of the three employee-owned companies to not be profitable. That should change this year, says Jeremy Lisy, VP of sales. …

“As a chef and former owner of the specialty produce company KJ Greens, Lisy reached out to his former colleagues to see what types of products they were interested in. He added different lettuces and blends and beefed up sales. This year, the company is expected to hit $3 million in sales, doubling what it was just two years prior. …

“Green City Growers provides 38 people with living-wage jobs and a path to ownership. Working with programs like Refugee Response and Towards Employment, the greenhouse employs many people who might otherwise find it hard to secure gainful employment. On the current roster are people with nonviolent criminal records and immigrants from Bhutan, Guatemala and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“After one year of employment, workers get to join the co-op, which includes benefits like credit management and car and mortgage assistance. When the company begins to turn a profit, that money goes to the worker-owners in the form of bonuses and savings for retirement.

“Laurie ‘Spike’ Cook did [time] in the state pen but she currently is the transplant supervisor at the greenhouse and she sits on the board of the co-op. After leaving prison she searched in vain for a job for a full year until she took a class with Towards Employment. A week later she had a full-time job.

” ‘I haven’t missed a day of work in over a year,’ says Cook, who arrives an hour and half before her shift begins every day.

This place gave me a second chance. It makes me want to do better, stay better and do the right thing. Without this job I might have messed up. This job, right here, is the reason I wake up every morning. I plan on staying here until I retire.’

More here.

Photo: James Alan Edward
The nonprofit Beautiful Day trains refugees for the US job market. But if a refugee has a learning disability, the speed of doing even simple tasks may be too slow for a future employer. Let me know if you have a Providence-area job for a cheerful but challenged refugee. There’s someone I’d like to help.

033017-BeautifulDayRI-trainees-photo-by-James-Alan-Edward

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At my former magazine we focused on lower-income issues, which meant we sometimes published research on topics such as prison reform, the criminalization of addiction, and job programs for ex-offenders.

Recently, I saw an article that reminded me of those efforts. It’s about an unusual fine-dining restaurant in Cleveland.

Jenn Hall covers the story at Paste, “Though the numbers vary by state, roughly three-quarters of ex-convicts are rearrested within five years, and more than half of those return behind bars. Ask Brandon Chrostowski about it, and he’ll tell you that it’s more than a problem. It’s a civil-rights issue — and that’s why he decided to do something about it.

“For diners at Edwins Restaurant in Cleveland Shaker Square, fine French cuisine is an initial draw. The setting is nouvelle-chic, befitting a Francophile menu that garners praise. Bar service is sophisticated, with a wine list that runs deep. But the reason to return goes beyond the plate. In almost every position, both front and back of house, ex-offenders are training to launch new careers.

“It’s the only white-tablecloth restaurant of its kind in the U.S.

“The trainees are part of Edwins’ six-month Restaurant and Leadership Training Program, of which Chrostowski is founder and CEO. (Edwins is a portmanteau of ‘education’ and ‘wins.’) Covering everything from mother sauces to white-tablecloth service, the program aims not just to equip ex-offenders with skills, but also to power them with the confidence to apply them.

“It’s a program borne of careful planning. Chrostowski first had the idea in 2004, secured approval to operate as a 501 (c) (3) in 2008, and then spent six years perfecting the pedagogy before opening the restaurant’s doors in 2013. Now, 20,000 diners visit Edwins each year.

“But job prep and a fine French meal is just one part of the story. Ultimately, Edwins is a support network for those determined to challenge statistics. So while participants indeed learn a perfect braise, they also get help with everything from reinstating their driver’s license to securing medical care. It’s a humanizing approach to a sobering problem, and perhaps that’s why it’s working. The Edwins-alumni recidivism rate stands at just 1.2 percent. …

“Asked what drives him, he says it’s about paying forward a break he was given. Growing up in Detroit, Chrostowski had a legal run-in and was lucky to land probation instead of a prison sentence. That ‘aha’ moment primed him to take stock, find a mentor and launch a fine-dining career …

“Though he reads like an optimist (and is when it comes to a belief in transformation), Chrostowski sees himself as a pragmatist. Given the chance, he says, many ex-offenders have the capacity and strength to rebuild. They just need that all-critical chance.”

To read Hall’s interview with Chrostowski, click here.

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In Helsinki, Finland, where young people traditionally leave home at 18 but can no longer afford urban rents, Millennials are applying by the hundreds to live with the elderly.

According to Kae Lani Kennedy at Matador Network, “Retirement homes are serving as more than a community for the elderly. These facilities are providing affordable housing for the city’s growing population of homeless millennials.

“ ‘It’s almost like a dorm, but the people aren’t young. They’re old,’ explains Emil Bostrom, a participant in ‘A Home That Fits,’ a new housing project that allows millennials to move into retirement communities. Bostrom is a 24-year-old kindergarten teacher, and though he has a steady income, it is not enough to compete with 90,000 other renters in a city that has roughly 60,000 affordable rental properties. …

“Bostrom, along with many other young adults, can enjoy discounted rent in exchange for socializing with the seniors in their community. …

“By interacting with a younger generation, the elderly involved with ‘A Home That Fits’ have the opportunity to be engaged in an active and diverse community, instead of being left behind in a forgotten generation.” More here.

And check out a post I wrote about the same phenomenon in Cleveland, here. Both initiatives sound like fun to me.

Video: Seeker Stories

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Here’s a good one from The Atlantic’s City Lab on how Cleveland is turning a traffic circle into a park.

Eric Jaffe writes, “To hear Clevelanders talk, Public Square is a place you pass through to reach somewhere else. When Moses Cleaveland laid out the town in 1796, he imagined the open area at its center as a New England-style commons: a gathering space for settlers, a grazing area for livestock. …

” ‘Over the years, it just turned into more like a series of big traffic islands,’ says the landscape architect James Corner. …

“Locals who find themselves in one of the quadrants have a tough time getting to another. If the cars aren’t enough of a hindrance, the lack of things to do or see in the area is: of the square’s 10 acres, more than six are paved over with concrete or asphalt. …

“By the time Cleveland engaged Corner’s help, in 2008, many ideas for how to revamp the square had come and gone.

“They all suffered from the assumption that traffic around the site could not be disturbed. Corner came in with a bold idea: if we can’t remove the streets, let’s build an elevated park above them.

“The hilltop-park concept didn’t pan out, because of the cost and complexity, but [Land Studio executive director Ann Zoller] says it got locals reimagining Public Square as a place prioritizing people over cars. A traffic analysis determined that the city could close one of the streets and narrow the other to a passage for buses, which could be rerouted during major events. Construction started this spring on Corner’s final design, which is estimated to cost $32 million.”

Read more here on how cities are thinking about improved public spaces.

Image: James Corner Field Operations
A rendering of the new design  for Public Square in Cleveland

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The New York Times had a story not long ago about friendships between young people and old people in Cleveland. How does it happen? They live in the same retirement home.

John Hanc describes a home’s musical evening: “Janet Hall grimaces as she hits an off note on her violin, one of the few heard here at Judson Manor’s Friday afternoon recital, held in the chandeliered ballroom settings of the first-floor lounge of this residence for older people.

“As an audience of 56 mostly older adults watches expectantly, Ms. Hall, 78, quickly recovers from the miscue. She slides her bow across the strings of her violin, drawing out the sweet and sonorous notes of a Gabriel Fauré suite.

“Looking on and smiling is her accompanist on piano, Daniel Parvin, a 25-year-old doctoral candidate student at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

“Over a half-century apart in age, Ms. Hall and Mr. Parvin share some things in common besides this duet. A home, for one: Both are residents at Judson Manor, formerly a luxury hotel, built in 1923, in Cleveland’s University Circle section. A love of music, for another …

“Here at Judson, young and old play nicely together, part of an intergenerational program that has led to harmonious relationships beyond the concerts. … The artist-in-residence program provides furnished one-bedroom apartments to three graduate students from the Cleveland Institute of Music at no charge, for the duration of their studies. In exchange, the students perform regular concerts at Judson Manor. …

“The students were required to submit a résumé and an essay. ‘Basically, “Why I wouldn’t mind living in a senior residence,” ‘ says [Richard K.] Gardner, a committee member.  …

“Experts say there is much to be learned from an intergenerational living program based around the arts like the Judson program. ‘We’ve heard people talking about doing something like this, but I’ve never seen it at this level, sustained and consistent,’ says Gay Hanna, executive director for the National Center for Creative Aging in Washington, a nonprofit organization designed to promote creative arts programs for older adults. ‘It’s a bellwether for the future.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Michael F. McElroy for The New York Times  
Tiffany Tieu, a violinist and student at the Cleveland Institute, talks with Peggy Kennell. “When I tell people I’m living in a retirement home, they think I’m joking,” Ms. Tieu says.

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Photo: Century Cycles 

In September, Mary Ann participated in the Neocycle night ride in Cleveland with 1,500 other cyclists and shared photos and enthusiasm on Facebook.

Joshua Gunter covered the story for the Cleveland Plain Dealer: “Glowsticks and headband lamps replaced headlights in eastbound lanes of the Shoreway on Saturday evening, when about 1,500 cyclists took over the road for the first NEOCycle Night Ride.

“The unique ride, which started at Edgewater Park and featured the Detroit-Shoreway, Gordon Square and North Coast Harbor neighborhoods, was a highlight of the weekend-long NEOCycle — Cleveland’s newest cycling event and the Midwest’s first urban cycling festival.

“Cyclists as young as 8 joined the casual ride, whose full tour covered 15 miles, or two laps of the 7.5-mile course.”

For tips on getting ready for a night ride, check out Ohio-based Century Cycles, here.

Photo: Joshua Gunter.The Plain Dealer 

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Photo: Thomas Ondrey/The Plain Dealer
Zumba instructor Kelly Perkins, center, leads a group dance-walking  through Shaker Heights on Friday. The local version of the craze was organized by Shaker resident Jennifer Lehner.

Mary Ann is one of Cleveland’s biggest boosters. This week she’s been posting on Facebook about a dance-walk outing she joined Friday.

Janet Cho at the Cleveland Plain Dealer interviewed dance-walk organizer Jennifer Lehner.

“The idea came out of a backyard barbecue,” Cho writes. Lehner “was chatting with her friend Karen Katz, wife of Fire Food & Drink’s Doug Katz, about the fun YouTube video where WNBC television reporter Ben Aaron convinces New Yorkers to strut their stuff with him down the city streets.

” ‘We should do that!’ Katz said.

” ‘About one hour later I went home and bought the dancewalkfitness.com domain, set up the website and the Facebook page,’ she said. ‘You know, that’s just how I roll.’ …

“Lehner envisions tying the dance-walks in with her monthly Flash Cashers events, since the group might end up having lunch at a local restaurant after the workout.

“Flash-Cashers summons consumers to descend upon a local Shaker Heights-area business to spend at least $20 each during the cash mob event, giving the merchant a welcome one-night boost and increasing awareness among residents who may never have stepped foot in the store before.” Read more at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, here.

And here is Ben Aaron, who started the whole thing.

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