Two Other Retirements that Will Hurt Social Justice

West Side Catholic Center has always been able to attract really good directors as well as staff who have remained committed to keeping the program as one of the top homeless services in Northeast Ohio.  Anita Cook, the current Executive Director, announced her retirement last week to take effect at the end of September 2017.  Anita has always found a great deal of patience and empathy for the residents of the neighborhood who seek help.  West Side Catholic is a gem in Ohio City and an essential service to those who need assistance.  Anita has steered the organization through the collapse of all transitional housing programs in Cleveland and the loss of long time staff Sue DiNardo. She has seen a renovation of the shelter and the addition of jobs programs to the programming.  She knows exactly what is going on over on the West Side and has offered the drop in center as a venue for any group offering help.  From the students at Ignatius helping with a meal to our outreach workers coming through looking for the next person on the housing list, West Side Catholic is open to help.  Anita reached out to partners when there were issues with US mail services, and hosted our Homeless Memorial Day in December. 

Anita has made homeless people feel supported and appreciated when placed in leadership positions.  They do not feel isolated, and Anita actively seeks their input.  She has vision and always selected a quality staff who are driven by the mission and not the money.  Anita has our respect and has earned the respect of homeless people in the community.  We will miss her, and hope that the Board picks another quality Director to lead this critical service in the community. 

Charles See of Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry is also retiring after founding the Community Re-Entry Program.  NEOCH began as a program on LMM, and when I was volunteering we were on the same floor as the Community Re-Entry program.  Charles was a good friend of NEOCH as the head of one of their pillar programs.  He was involved in criminal justice reform way before it was cool.  He cared about what happened to people being released from prison before most politicians and other community leaders did.  He was an early adopter of loudly complaining about the financial toll all of this rush to incarcerate people was doing to our society. He along with Rev. Dick Sering would tell anyone who would listen that this mass incarceration was a stain on our society.  Now everyone is saying what Charles See said 25 years ago.

See had to endure while all the re-entry specialists at the jails were defunded, and then deal with the results of these short sighted decisions on the Cleveland community.  He saw the pipeline straight from incarceration to shelters, and spent decades trying to get these guys jobs.  He expanded the group to include Women and worked with youth who were facing the messed up juvenile justice system.  He persevered through the good times and the bad.  He kept the agency alive during the era when no one cared about African Americans being sent to jail for drug offenses as well as the law and order times when all the money went to locking everyone up and no money went to helping people reintegrate into society.  It is amazing that he has worked on this issue for 44 years. 

Both of these retirements are going to be tough for the social justice movement.  Charles See has been a wonderful advocate for a group that is even more misunderstood than homeless people.  His voice in Cuyahoga County and down in Columbus is going to be missed.  Anita Cook is primarily a social service provider, but she has helped on a number of social justice causes such as voting and the inability to get identification.  She has always made her facility and her clients available to community organizers and social justice groups.  You may think this is a small thing, but I can't tell you how many places make it impossible or make us jump through an extreme number of hoops to get anything done.  NEOCH Board and staff wish them both much success in their next chapter in life.

Brian Davis

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Arrangements for Sue DiNardo

From the Plain Dealer obituary section today

(nee Patsey), age 62. Beloved wife of Joseph for 41 years; devoted mother of Tina Anghilante (Mark), Tony and Dante; loving sister of Cheryl Satow (Dave), Kenneth (Mary), Bruce and James (Jamie); dear daughter of the late James and Shirley; daughter-in law of Helen and the late Sam; loving aunt and great aunt. Family will receive friends at NOSEK - McCREERY FUNERAL HOME, 8150 BRECKSVILLE RD., BRECKSVILLE, OH. 44141 on Sun., Dec. 4 from 2-6 p.m. A Prayer Service will be held at the FUNERAL HOME, Mon., Dec. 5, 2016 at 12:15 p.m. followed by Susan's Mass of Christian Burial at St. Albert the Great Church, 6667 Wallings Rd., North Royalton, OH. 44133 at 1 p.m. Interment All Saints Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to West Side Catholic Center, 3135 Lorain Ave., Cleveland, OH. 44113.

Published in The Plain Dealer from Dec. 1 to Dec. 2, 2016

Sue DiNardo: Founding Board Member of NEOCH Passes Away

This is the kind of person Sue DiNardo was at West Side Catholic Center: there are over 500 Sue DiNardo from the West Side Catholic Facebook page 2014photos on the West Side Catholic Center Facebook page and only one of Sue.  (Even this photo seems to show her more concerned about her neighbor's well being over her own plate.) She has worked at the facility for nearly two decades and was never making speeches or calling attention to herself or evidently having her picture taken. I looked through around 7,000 pictures at NEOCH including Stand Downs, ribbon cuttings, Homeless Memorials, Annual Meetings and could not find a picture of Sue. She put her head down and got stuff done without a lot of fanfare or accolades.  She was a founding board member of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and signed our Articles of Incorporation back in 1987. 

She was in a leadership position on the NEOCH Board when I started here in 1994.  We would hold the board meetings at the Salvation Army where she managed the family shelter.  In all the years I knew her, she did what she was asked to do without complaint.  So, if there was a need for a co-chair of the Office of Homeless Services, she stepped up.  There was a need to take a leadership role at NEOCH when the director left, and Sue stepped forward.  She worked with the board and staff of the Cleveland Tenants Organization to keep NEOCH functioning during a rough spot, and she did whatever she was asked through four directors at West Side Catholic Center. 

She was not confrontational or loud or unsure.  She was full of compassion and wanted to get things done.  She worked at the Cadillac of shelters in Cleveland at West Side Catholic Center, and then took on the challenge of moving Family Transitional Shelter to a scattered site model for housing families called Zacchaeus House under the West Side Catholic umbrella.  She was steady and reliable and wanted everyone to get along to provide the best possible service to those struggling with housing. She dedicated her professional life to serving homeless families in Cleveland and was able to see the development of an impressive system of shelters and services.  In the early1980s, there were only a couple of services for homeless families mostly because it was so rare to see a family without housing before that. The number of families exploded in Cleveland, and Sue was working behind the scenes with religious groups to keep people safe.  Sue helped to create NEOCH and many other programs in Cleveland in an attempt to make homelessness a brief interruption for families and not a lifelong disabling condition. 

She touched the lives of thousands who may never have known her or were not aware that Sue's hard work made their life easier.  All the kids who enjoyed a meal at the shelter did not know how much Sue had done to make that possible.  All the men who got a winter coat and the hundreds of people that Sue's staff sat with while they filled out a housing application were lucky that Sue decided to bring her skills to homeless services.  She wasn't championing all that she did for Cleveland, but she worked tirelessly filling out grant applications and completing the truck loads of paperwork that the federal government requires to receive public funds.  She was a calming presence on our board when there was a dispute between the free speech folks and social service sector.  Sue DiNardo will be missed in the homeless community.  She was an unsung hero to homeless families; always trying to alleviate any suffering in Cleveland and accepting people with all their frailty, faults and failings. 

Brian Davis

Posts reflect the opinion of those who sign the entry