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Cleveland chef cooks up recipe to empower women

Uncovering life's ingredients for success
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Posted at 4:48 PM, Dec 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-01 19:37:27-05

CLEVELAND — A Cleveland grandmother is stepping up to say no more. She's on a mission to help women in Cleveland shift their focus onto themselves.

"We neglect ourselves for our husbands, for our partners, for our children, our families and we are last,” said Yolanda Ramos.

Ramos started her mission by showing women in the Latino community how they could make their favorite ethnic dishes healthier.

“There was a huge gap of understanding these fundamentals. They were drawn to me and I was drawn to them,” Ramos said.

It was the foundation of a company Ramos created with her daughter called Freshly Rooted.

“It’s little tiny tweaks that we can do,” said Ramos.

The change-up in ingredients eventually went well beyond what’s on the plate.

“It’s more than food. The main thing that I witnessed was the lack of education on spirit, mind, body,” Ramos said.

Out of that void came SEEDS, an acronym for Support, Empower, Engage, Develop and Sustain.

It's a nine-month program broken into three parts:

  • 12 weeks of personal development: mindfulness, nutrition and lifestyle coaching.
  • 12 weeks of professional development, including working with a professional mentor.
  • Then 12 weeks of social development, like community work and volunteer opportunities.

Ebonie Randall-Joiner was among the first group of women from the Clark-Fulton neighborhood to take the course, which is offered at no cost.

“Be open for change,” said Randall-Joiner.

SEEDS armed Ebonie with what she calls a "bible for life."

“Not just for your physical body, but for your spiritual body,” said Randall-Joiner.

The 36-week course empowers women by giving them the tools and techniques for better self-care.

“We’re really investing in the woman in who she is. Find her true self and her true identity beyond everything else around her,” said Alysha Ellis.

SEEDS and Freshly Rooted were firing on all cylinders when COVID-19 hit.

“I’m self-employed, I’m an entrepreneur, we have a small team,” said Ramos.

With the pandemic making their in-person outreach impossible, Ellis pushed her mom to host their sessions virtually.

“There’s no way you’re going to come in and destroy or even disrupt at a point what we are working towards,” said Ellis.

While SEEDS started specifically in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood, there are now 40 slots available for women across Cleveland.

“It’s critical that we have these services,” said Ramos.

For Ebonie Randle-Joiner, SEEDS gave her a greater sense of purpose.

“Be ready to unpack your bags. The way that I see myself now is grand dame beast in these streets and nothing can stop me — not even myself,” said Randall-Joiner.

For this mother-daughter duo, it is that transformation that keeps them going.

“I see those women still applying what they learned in those nine months is to me, that’s the value of what we do,” said Ramos.

It is outreach that is now making a positive impact well beyond the women who take the course.

“We’re now hearing that they’re doing it with their children, and how this is becoming a ripple effect,” said Ellis.

This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.