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New hope on the horizon for non-profits in Northeast Ohio

Cleveland Black Equity & Humanity Fund fills void
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Posted at 6:35 PM, Aug 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-27 19:04:47-04

MEDINA, Ohio — Making mistakes is part of life.

"I got myself into some illegal activities and felt that was, you know, the way to try to make money," said Michelle Powell.

It's what we do after that defines us.

"Ended up getting evicted. Me and my two kids was on the corner, couldn't even find a place to live," said Powell.

For Powell, staying at rock bottom wasn’t an option.

"You know, I do believe God called me," said Powell.

Her comeback included a lot of company.

Powell started Let's Make A Difference.

"I don't think I was qualified to do any of this. But I'm here because I care and I have compassion to make a difference for these kids," said Powell.

The Medina-based non-profit gives children in the community a chance to succeed in the classroom by offering tutoring.

"I started noticing that kids started struggling with their homework," said Powell.

It also provides access to activities their families might otherwise not be able to afford.

"[Children] didn't have the money to go to the swimming pool, didn't have money to go to the rec, didn't have money to go to the movie," said Powell.

Finding the cash to keep this important program going, even after two decades, is still a challenge.

"We need a bus. A lot of our kids weren't able to participate because they didn't have a ride. And some of our parents do not have that transportation," said Powell.

It's programs like Powell's that will soon benefit from the new Cleveland Black Equity and Humanity Fund.

"We're not focused on a moment where you do something, and you're done. We're really focused on a movement," said Kevin Johnson. He said the fund was born out of an exhibit housed at the main branch of the Cleveland Public Library.

"One of the things that we wanted to do with the Soul of Philanthropy Cleveland is shed light on what giving looks like in the African-American community," said Johnson.

The pool of funding will be used to better position people of color facing social and economic challenges.

"How do we intentionally change some of the problems that have been sustained over such a long period of time? We believe that it's doable and we intend to do it," said Johnson.

Back in Medina, Michelle Powell continues to push ahead.

"There are days, many days that I want to quit and just walk away. But is that one child that I could come through here and they would say, Miss Michelle, are you going to do the program today? And I'm like, ok, I'm doing it," said Powell.

As she expands her outreach, Powell's constantly on the search for the money that will sustain her program.

"Help more children to be able to fulfill that their dreams. You know, every kid has a dream," said Powell.

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.