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Concert to celebrate Community of Hope’s first year and the many lives transformed by the power of relationship: A Greater Cleveland

February 28, 2019

Concert to celebrate Community of Hope’s first year and the many lives transformed by the power of relationship: A Greater Cleveland

CLEVELAND, Ohio – During the past year, hundreds of volunteers from across Northeast Ohio have joined Community of Hope, gathering as “tables” of six to eight mentors in support of youth who have aged out of the foster care system. They’ve celebrated milestones in the young people’s lives. They’ve helped them find stable housing and employment. They’ve mentored and guided them. They’ve loved them like family.

And if you’ve been waiting for your chance to join Community of Hope or Cleveland’s Open Table movement, consider this your invitation.

On Friday, March 29, at the New Life at Calvary Church on Euclid Avenue, Community of Hope will host “A Night of Hope” in support of the nonprofit’s mission -- and in celebration of the dozens of young people who are on their way toward prosperity in adulthood on account of the transformative relationships they’ve forged through the agency.

The two-hour community gospel concert begins at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $25 and can be purchased at www.hopecle.org/events.

The choir, under the direction of Carlton Fellows of Cleveland Men of Song, also is still seeking singers. If you’re interested in joining the performance, you may drop in on the choir’s next rehearsal Monday night, from 7 to 9 p.m., at the church.

Community of Hope, founded last year by social worker Amber Donovan, is home to Cleveland’s Open Table initiative, a movement that assembles small groups of volunteers -- or “tables” -- who meet weekly for a year, to offer youths aging out of foster care the social support they need to set and achieve their goals.

Cleveland.com featured the Open Table model as part of its “A Greater Cleveland” series, chronicling the challenges that families face living in impoverished neighborhoods. In February 2018, more than 300 people attended an informational night on Open Table at cleveland.com’s headquarters. After that, Amber was inundated with applications from prospective volunteers. And within a few months she had formed Community of Hope and was gearing up to launch 10 new tables, joining the 11 that were already up and running through the YWCA of Cleveland.

Another branch of the Open Table initiative also has taken root at the MetroHealth System. The hospital system is the first of its kind to become licensed to administer Open Table and launched its first tables in the fall, serving individuals and families in the West Side neighborhood surrounding the hospital’s main campus.

In the past year, Community of Hope has launched 29 tables – volunteers bringing their own resources, networks and know-how to support Cleveland youth. The agency also has surveyed those young people who have “graduated” from the table experience, and 93 percent report that they maintain close relationships with their table members and regard them as family.

As a result, the youth who receive tables through Community of Hope are bucking the statistics for their demographic. According to federal data, 20 percent of youth who age out of foster care experience homelessness. However, Community of Hope reports that all of the youth the agency has served dating back to 2014 are housed. Nationally, half of the children of former foster youth are in foster care themselves, while 89 percent of Community of Hope’s young people are parenting their own children, with the social support of the table as an “extended family.” And while 60 percent of former foster youth nationally are working full or part-time, 79 percent of Community of Hope participants have joined the work force with 14 of the agency’s young people attending college while working.

In the past year, Community of Hope has created tables for former foster youth attending Cleveland State University and Cuyahoga Community College. The agency has launched job partnerships with employers, including the Cleveland Clinic, and has begun holding job readiness and resume workshops to prepare its youth for their next steps.

Each year, about 100 young people age out of the foster care system in Cuyahoga County. To build tables for more of them, proceeds from A Night of Hope will support the costs of scaling up Community of Hope’s operations and staff, Amber says.

“The table experience is about supporting the young person wherever they are, loving them for who they are, and using what we know to lift up the next generation, because somebody did it for us,” Amber says. “Everybody deserves a family – people they can count on, who love them unconditionally.”

A Greater Cleveland is a project of cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer, aiming to chronicle the lives of families living in Cleveland’s poorest neighborhoods. See the entirety of our project by clicking here.