CLEVELAND — Shanelle Smith-Whigham wanted a better Cleveland, and she wanted to be involved in making it. Like many millennials, she has accumulated quite a bit of student loan debt.
“I never thought I would be able to own a home with the amount of student loan debt that I have. I have an MBA and a master’s degree in political science,” Smith-Whigham said.
During her search for home ownership, she found out about The Famicos Foundation, a local organization that aims to improve quality of life in Greater Cleveland through revitalization, affordable housing and social services.
A recent study from the Greater Ohio Policy Center found The Famicos Foundation is making a big difference in our neighborhoods.
Over a five-year period, it contributed more than $73 million to the economy, generated more than $7 million in taxes, created or sustained more than 400 jobs and generated more than $19 million in labor income.
Famicos also connected Smith-Whigham with Huntington Bank, which introduced her to an opportunity to buy a house in a moderate to low-income space.
"I was offered a little glimmer of hope," Smith- Whigham said. "They're building a new development down the street, Glenville’s part of the mayor's Transformation Plan."
Famicos helped overhaul her home. Smith-Whigham said the bank promised to help with upfront costs.
“The American dream is well and alive,” said John Anoliefo, the Executive Director of the Famicos Foundation. “It’s about helping people, it’s about seeing those people begin that journey of accomplishing the American dream.”
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 .