Toledo’s Cherry Street Mission provides training, education

Toledo’s Cherry Street Mission provides training, education

Cherry Street Mission Ministries partners with local educators and employers for providing training and education in the trade workforce.

(Left to Right) Derrick Parker, Derrion Boyd, Kiara Houston, Michael Bartley, Jaquan Overbey, Chris Braswell. Six graduates of the Workforce Development Program, receiving certificates through the Automotive Oil Change Association. Image courtesy of Tami Norris.

The Cherry Street Mission Ministries along with Northwest State Community College, Opportunity Kitchen and Owens Community College, started the Workforce Development Program. This provides training in areas of Office Specialist, Building Trades, Welding, Tool and Die, Manufacturing, Automotive Technician and Culinary Arts. Each of these training programs are tied to careers that are in demand in our region. Cherry Street collaborates with over 50 employers and job placement services in the area to build the bridge to employment.

On July 1, six graduates from the Workforce Development Program received certificates through the Automotive Oil Change Association. Together, Northwest State Community College and Cherry Street provide a combination of technical, hands-on training with the job readiness skills that will help them overcome the barriers that are keeping them from successful employment.

We spoke with a representative from the Cherry Street Mission Ministries to learn more about this program.

What led to having this program started?
The Workforce Development programs at Cherry Street Mission Ministries started around 2015 with our first classes graduating in 2016. The idea came as part of a holistic system we were building here at the Life Revitalization Center (LRC). Our goal is to come alongside people to help them build stability in housing, income, and relationships. Part of the income goal is a sustainable career that pays a livable wage. Often some type of education is needed for those jobs, not necessarily a degree, but hands-on training with some type of certification. The five programs we offer here are based on market demand and input from our employer partners and Ohio Means Jobs.

Why not just send them to a college partner?
Our college partners are a vital part of this training. The programs we offer here at Cherry Street have been customized to fit the needs of our guests and employer partners. In addition to the technical skills training, participants receive job readiness training to help them overcome some of the barriers they may have had to successful employment. These topics include emotional intelligence, prioritization, conflict resolution, avoiding self-sabotage, financial literacy, and more. Additionally, here at the LRC we offer job search assistance and tutoring in our skills lab. Cherry Street also has mental health service and meals being served out of the LRC so it becomes a hub of activity all under one roof.

The automotive program specifically started as we were hearing of demand from area employers for service technicians and quick lube technicians. These jobs did not specifically need ASE certification, but it was helpful for new employees to have a foundation in automotive topics such as tools, how the engine works, how to change brakes, oil, etc. This program was designed to bridge the gap to employment.

How did Northwest State CC and the Automotive Oil Change Association come into the mix?
Owens Community College and Northwest State Community College have been our educational partners since the inception of our Workforce Development programs. Northwest State had put together an automotive training program at the Defiance Dream Center in Defiance, Ohio that included the AOCA certification. They were able to modify the program under advisement from our employer partners Tireman and Yark Automotive to fit needs in the Toledo area that we could then offer here at Cherry Street.

(Left to Right) David Conover, Mike Kocinski, Jaquan Overbey, Derrick Parker, Kiara Houston, Michael Bartley, Devon Fitzpatrick, Jean Rowland-Poplawski. Image courtesy of Tami Norris.

What kind of demand for people in the trades are you seeing? Any particular industries more than others?
The programs that we offer were selected based on industry information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Lucas County In Demand Job List and input from our employer partners. We want to make sure that we are training for open positions, in encouraging/supportive environments that benefit the students and our community.

When I was in school (class of 2014), college and the military were the highest-encouraged postgraduate routes. When did you see the shift in encouraging students to pursue the trades?
I see the trades as a viable option. These jobs provide the opportunity for stable, entry-level jobs that provide opportunity for education along with the work. They are a great alternative for people who did not thrive in a traditional academic setting. To me, learning is a life-long adventure. Each person has a unique path, there is no one right way. Personally, I am somewhere in my 50’s and I am back in grad school at BGSU. Not a traditional path, but it is right for me. I am seeing more and more high school counselors embrace this idea that there are options and you have to pick what is right for you.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
The Workforce Development programs offered at Cherry Street are non-credit. We designed this intentionally as some of our guests do not yet have a GED or High School diploma. We encourage them to pursue completing that, but wanted to make sure it was not a barrier to them continuing their career-based education and employment. The college partners offer certificates of completion and the programs have an industry recognized credential that students can complete as part of the training.

For more information about Cherry Street Mission Ministries, please visit the Cherry Street Mission website.

Local agencies applaud county grant to fight homelessness

Local agencies applaud county grant to fight homelessness

For Ann Ebbert, CEO and president of Cherry Street Mission, the coronavirus pandemic has irrevocably changed the way her organization conducts its business. 

“The answer to all things is COVID,” she said.

The downtown Toledo agency is one that has seen calls for its food, clothing, and temporary housing services increase steadily over the last year as cases rise and those in need become even needier.

“All of the different things that have happened in our society recently have impacted those who are on the margins more significantly than others who have more resources,” Ms. Ebbert said. “For those people, there’s a fine line between successfully navigating their lives and falling into a crack.”

To help and prevent homelessness, Lucas County commissioners voted Tuesday to provide an additional $476,000 in housing assistance to support residents who are experiencing unexpected homelessness during the pandemic, the county announced.

The commissioners approved $376,000 in funding for the Housing Problem Solving program, an initiative of the Toledo Lucas County Homelessness Board. This program employs strategies, like pulling together the resources of existing aid organizations, in an effort to prevent or shorten the duration of homelessness for residents of Lucas County.

In a separate resolution, the commissioners authorized $100,000 for the Toledo Lucas County Homelessness Board to support its emergency hotel/motel service program. This provides up to 30 days of interim housing for the homeless and seeks to address the increased need that has complicated social-distancing inside shelters.

“We want to make sure that people facing homelessness are connected to the resources they need to find housing quickly instead of being placed on waitlists or entering congregate facilities,” Gary Byers, president of the commissioners, said in a statement.

Michael Hart, executive director of the homelessness board, said that with many area shelters full or on wait lists, the county’s announcement is all about addressing a need that has not waned over the last two years.

The Housing Problem Solving program gets at long-term issues, Mr. Hart explained, while the emergency hotel/motel service gets at short-term issues. Still, both initiatives fall under one objective.

“The goal here is to avoid evictions and ensure that people stay in their houses,” he said.

The Housing Problem Solving program is designed to use fewer resources to provide the necessary support for individuals and families to keep them from experiencing chronic homelessness, the county said. Since launching in August, this program, which is based on similar initiatives in Grand Rapids, Mich., and Philadelphia has served nearly 200 people.

To accomplish this goal, Mr. Hart said the county funds will provide for the hiring of navigators to guide citizens in need to the proper resources. This could take the form of legal assistance through the Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, or monetary rental assistance through city or county programs.

“The need is there,” Mr. Hart said of the Housing Problem Solving program. “Your situation should not have to become more severe in order for you to get linked with services, so we can do more upstream to be preventative and divert individuals who are present in the homeless system to those other existing resources that are appropriate to support them.”

To bring the various partners that combat the housing crisis in the area together, the Toledo Lucas County Homelessness Board espouses an idea called the “continuum of care,” on their website. This continuum holds that homeless individuals need an approach to care that takes them through the process from being homeless to fully getting back on their feet again.

The Cherry Street Mission is a member of that continuum. Ms. Ebbert said that the money from the county to the Homelessness Board will have a ripple effect on her organization due to its place in the process of care.

“If you think of the continuum as a big umbrella of all of the network of services, or a road map of different services available,” Ms. Ebbert said, “then Cherry Street is on that road map as a provider, along with Family House and Mom’s House.”

Since its founding in 1947, Cherry Street Mission has provided food, clothing, and temporary housing to those in need. Still, Ms. Ebbert feels that it is the “end condition” of people who leave the mission’s care, and the county money can improve how a place like Cherry Street Mission gets people there.

“When the continuum has appropriate opportunities for those who are homeless, or for those who are close to homeless, then definitely Cherry Street is stronger, as is every other shelter and the end user then remains in that condition of homelessness a shorter amount of time.” Ms. Ebbert said. “People can access our opportunities in a more efficient way and therefore, can process from poverty to health.”

In November, 2020, commissioners approved $100,000 in federal CARES Act funds to the homelessness board for unanticipated costs related to the agency’s response to the pandemic.

The agency also received $10,000 in support through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Public Assistance Program in June, 2020, to assist its efforts to provide meals for individuals and families in an isolation and quarantine center.