News Release

Lifeline for the Empowerment and Development of Consumers, Inc.
PO Box 496, Painesville, OH 44077
Contact: Carrie Dotson | (440) 354-2148 |

Lifeline, Inc. Honors Lake County Residents, Organizations at 2016 Annual Awards Dinner

June 1, 2016
PAINESVILLE, Ohio— Lifeline, Inc., Lake County’s Community Action Agency, is pleased to announce its 2016 award winners and to recognize agency volunteers and community partners for their commitment to Lake County’s low-income citizens. The awards were presented at Lifeline’s Annual Dinner held on May 18 at the Pine Ridge Country Club in Wickliffe.

“We gave out four different awards to numerous recipients this year,” said Carrie Dotson, Executive Director of Lifeline. “We are so excited to be able to recognize those who support Lifeline and its programs, and our community.”

The 12th Annual Mildred P. Wilson Award was presented to Joe & Ali Hughes, who have demonstrated outstanding service and dedication to Lifeline. The Mildred P. Wilson Award is named for the late Mildred Wilson, a dedicated Lifeline employee for many years. Mildred’s commitment and service to both Lifeline and Lake County’s low-income community were remarkable. This award was established in 2004 to honor an individual who goes above and beyond the call of duty in working to benefit Lifeline and the consumers we serve.

Previous recipients have included William Margalis, past Lifeline Board member; Barb Crabtree, fiscal consultant; Janet Gockel, Lifeline volunteer; Rita C. McMahon, Lifeline Board member; Donna Zabarsky, past Lifeline Board member and community partner; Bob Zaluski, past Lifeline Board member; Mark Alderman, Ohio Development Services Agency Field Representative; Gwen Corban, former Lifeline Executive Director; Cate Hearn, former Lifeline staff member; Jeremy & Vanessa Iosue, past Lifeline Board member and volunteers; and
Elaine Waytes, Lifeline volunteer.

Willoughby residents, Joe & Ali Hughes, have been involved with Lifeline’s shared Dancing Under the Stars event from the very first season, right up through this coming year. Ali has co-chaired the event twice, including its most profitable year in 2013, and is co-chairing for a third time again this year. She was a celebrity dancer in the very first event in 2009, and again for the All-Star year in 2014, where she won the Judges’ Choice Award.

In other years she’s chaired various committees for the event.

Joe has served as the event photographer every year, taking all of the pre-event publicity photos at the cocktail parties, taking photos at celebrity rehearsals and covering the event each year. Last year, Joe participated as a celebrity, winning the Judges’ Choice Award and making the Hughes’ Lake County’s first family of dancing!

Together, Joe & Ali have raised nearly $7,000 for Lifeline & Family Planning over their three seasons of competing, in addition to the countless hours they have donated through their volunteerism! While so many folks are committed to Dancing Under the Stars, Joe & Ali have worked tirelessly in all facets of the event.

The Outstanding Community Spirit Award was given to two groups for their commitment to Lifeline, Inc.’s mission and the clients that we serve, as well as their support of the community. The awards were given jointly to the Painesville Credit Union and the Lake County Employees Federal Credit Union, as well as to the Eastlake Women’s Club. The award The Community Spirit Award is bestowed upon a local business or organization who displays outstanding dedication and service to improving the quality of life for Lake County’s low-income families.

The Painesville Credit Union is a full service financial institution offering consumer loans, deposits, micro business loans and mortgages. The Painesville Credit Union was founded in 1942 and serves all of Lake County. They currently have approximately 3,700 members and $27million in total assets. The Lake County Employees Federal Credit Union is also a convenient full service financial institution with broad financial services that provides a safe haven for its membership, offering competitive rates with innovation, steady growth, promoting personal, friendly, family service. Founded in 1960, the L.C.E. Federal Credit Union has assets of $33 million and a membership of 5,400.

Last summer, these two local credit unions banded together for a friendly, month-long competition to hold a drive to raise money and supplies to benefit participants of Lifeline’s Homeless Crisis Response Program (HCRP). Participants in Lifeline’s HCRP program are homeless, and are referred to Lifeline from shelter and street environments, so that we can help them transition into safe, stable and permanent housing. Being homeless, these clients typically come with very little in the way of personal items and are often moving into empty apartments.

Because of the supplies and funds raised by Painesville Credit Union and the Lake County Employees Federal Credit Union, HCRP participants in 2016 will receive a ‘welcome home basket’ full of cleaning supplies to help them transition into their new home. Their kindness and generosity make lasting impressions that strengthen our community.

The second recipient, the Eastlake Women’s Club, is a member of the State of Ohio and the National Federation of Women’s Clubs. Their pledge reads “I pledge my loyalty to the Junior Club women by doing better than ever before what work I have to do by being prompt, honest and courteous. By living each day trying to accomplish something, not merely to exist.”

The Eastlake Women’s Club has been very helpful in supporting Lifeline over the years in several different ways. Each year, a group of their members, plus their spouses, would volunteer at Lifeline’s annual March Mania fundraising event. This really helped the event to run smoothly and took a lot of the burden off of the Lifeline staff and Board. In the past, the ladies of the Eastlake Women’s Club have also helped Lifeline to sell raffle tickets for our spring fundraiser. Several times, the Eastlake Women’s Club has also held book drives for Lifeline. Each time, they’ve collected several boxes full of childrens books for us to stock our lobby play area with.

As they work to continue to understand the needs of Lake County and Lifeline’s role in solving them, they’ve invited Lifeline’s Executive Director out to speak to their organization several times about Lifeline’s programs and services.

In addition to the work they’ve done on behalf of Lifeline, the Eastlake Women’s Club also donates a $500 college scholarship each year to a senior from Eastlake, donates a scholarship to the Willoughby Fine Arts Association, collected coupons for armed service families and collects needed items for a selected Eastlake school. The group also runs an evening program with the Eastlake library each year for kids and donates items and gift certificates to Eastlake families whose homes have damaged by fire. The women also run Eastlake’s Christmas with Santa night and take pledges and walk for St. Jude’s Hospital.

The Eastlake Women’s Club welcomes a speaker each month at their meeting so they may expand their understanding of events and organizations in Lake County. They earn money for their projects by assisting with parking at the Lake County Captains games and hosting fundraisers.

The Outstanding Community Partnership Award was presented to three collaborations this year. The awards were given to the Ashtabula County Community Action Agency’s Action in Motion Program, the Lake County Reentry Coalition and the Code Blue Winter Weather Emergency collaboration. The Outstanding Community Partnership Award recognizes a program or collaboration that shows both innovation and results in helping low-income families achieve self-sufficiency.

Ashtabula County Community Action Agency’s Action in Motion truck driving academy has resulted in a partnership was created to provide opportunities for clients to receive education and employment support in the truck driving industry. Lifeline and Action in Motion is a partnership that has shown the community that clients can succeed in achieving self-sufficiency when new innovative collaborations are created.

In the beginning of Lifeline’s partnership, Action in Motion went above and beyond to welcome our clients by offering personalized onboarding and a promise to work with a client where they are; adjusting the learning schedule if needed. Their staff helped with prescreening applicants prior to starting classes as well as actively partnering with client to obtain gainful employment. The director, Kreigh Spahr, met with Lifeline staff to set up a strategic plan to eliminate barriers such as transportation, criminal backgrounds, and other special accommodations. These barriers may have previously prevented a client from beginning this process.

The collaboration began in 2015 and since then has graduated five Lifeline clients who earn a combined $180,000 annually. Action in Motion works with over 50 employers that hire their graduates after each earn their Commercial Driver’s License. Lifeline has been impressed with Action in Motion’s dedication to matching Lifeline clients with jobs that meet their needs; their goal is to have every student employed at graduation. This extra support has been invaluable to Lifeline clients who often struggle with finding employment due to lack of soft skills and confidence.

Collaborating with Action in Motion is instrumental helping Lifeline to fulfill our mission to empower our residents to achieve self-sufficiency. Lifeline looks forward to continuing our partnership and giving more clients a chance to move out of poverty with sustainable jobs and income.

The second recipient, the Lake County Reentry Coalition, is comprised of local nonprofit agencies, public entities, law enforcement, correctional institution staff, and community members, including Lifeline. Together, they represent the county’s dedication to addressing the needs of offenders when they return to our community, as well as public safety. Lifeline has held a leadership role in the Coalition since its inception. Michelle Mezaris is the Coalition’s Co-Coordinator with Julie Hammond from Beacon Health. Michelle shares information she receives from the Ohio Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to group members, attends events hosted by other area coalitions, and takes the primary planning role for events.

The Coalition developed a five year strategic plan beginning in 2013 that lays the groundwork for the various initiatives and projects. There are nine key domains within the strategic plan that are identified areas that influence the success of an offender such as employment, education, housing, mental health, substance abuse and family issues. The strength of the Coalition is its members are diverse and bring their specialized knowledge to plan and implement projects that are leading the county’s reentry efforts.

In October of 2015, the Reentry Coalition partnered with United Healthcare Community Plan to host its first community event, the Lake County Reentry Coalition Reentry Resource Fair. This event, held at Beacon Health, included more than 30 community agencies and groups who want to actively participate in Lake County’s decision to make positive changes to increase an ex-offenders opportunity to become a productive citizen in our community. The event included agency booths, interactive education sessions as well as the HOPE CHANNEL.

The HOPE CHANNEL interviewed agencies and participants and created a DVD that showcased the community spirit to welcoming home ex-offenders and working to reduce barriers that prevent success. This DVD is available at the Northeast institutions for inmates to view. The event feedback was overwhelmingly positive from participants and agencies. That day, the Reentry Coalition was able to reach more than 50 individuals and their families. The Coalition is planning a Reentry Employment Fair in August where the focus will be on educating employers on the various incentives for hiring ex-offenders and providing support for ex-offenders with creating resumes and improving soft skills. At the Fair, linkage between employers and job seekers will open the dialogue about real job opportunities within the community.

The final recipient, the Code Blue Winter Weather Emergency Protocol, was a collaboration born out of the Lake County Continuum of Care (CoC), the group of agencies given the task of working on issues related to homelessness in our community. In past winters, St. Mary’s has operated a warming center when the nights got unusually cold or snowy and provided an incredible service to our homeless residents. However, their resources were stretched very thin and there was no formal process or protocol involved.

In early fall, representatives from the CoC, including Lifeline, met to discuss how we could expand the efforts this winter to offer some relief to St. Mary’s, while also expanding to offer daytime shelter and transportation assistance. We also knew that if more partners were brought on, a structured, formalized protocol would be needed. CoC members researched what other Ohio and regional communities were utilizing for protocol and developed a comparable system that is now in place in Lake County. Now, when the temperatures are below 10 degrees, or the wind chill will be at or below 0, or when the National Weather Service issues a winter storm warning, the Lake County CoC calls Code Blue into effect to provide both overnight and daytime sheltering in an effort to save lives and prevent injury from the severe weather.

A plea was made to Lake County’s faith community and their response was overwhelming—we had well over a dozen churches who wanted to be involved in some way. Stepping up particularly, were Lifebrand Cowboy Church, who worked with St. Mary’s to alternate overnight shelter, and St. James Episcopal Church, Lifespring Christian Church and Erieside Church, who both offered to open their facilities for daytime sheltering. 2-1-1 Lake County acts as the voice and referral source for all Code Blue information. Code Blue came together this winter in a way that Lifeline and other CoC members only dreamed of thanks to the volunteer efforts of the faith community in Lake County. As winter comes to a close, we know that we’ve made every effort to help keep Lake County’s homeless population safe from the most severe weather.

The Outstanding Achievement Award was given to two Lifeline program participants, Iysha Trout and Bryan Harris, to recognize their significant progress in achieving self-sufficiency.

Iysha Trout was referred to Lifeline by Project Hope in May 2015. Iysha was homeless and overwhelmed with her circumstances. She was only 24 years old at the time and pregnant with twins. Iysha enrolled in Lifeline’s HCRP program and was able to secure independent housing just in time before welcoming her twin boys one month earlier than expected. After spending a few weeks at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, Iysha was able to bring her babies home – and not return to a shelter. Not only was she a first time parent, but this also marked the first time that she had lived independently. She was able to focus her energy on her babies and
seek positive connections within the community.

In October 2015, Iysha enrolled in Lifeline’s Supportive Housing Program. She is currently attending nursing school full time and is planning on returning to work now that her boys are approaching one year old. Iysha has always demonstrated motivation to rise above any personal and/or financial circumstances to create a better life for her and her children. She follows through with home visits and actively works toward her goal plan. Iysha is learning budget management skills, organization techniques and overall management of a busy life.

“I have been amazed by her motivation and determination to provide better opportunities for herself and her boys. She not only secured housing, but has now returned to school to pursue a nursing career as she greatly enjoys being able to help others,” said Angela Wrana, Iysha’s case manager. “I’ve seen such an increase in both Iysha’s self-esteem and self-confidence since she began participating in the Supportive Housing program.”

Bryan Harris has demonstrated hard work and dedication in successfully completing Lifeline’s Employment Training Program while striving toward self-sufficiency.

After being disabled for a period of time due to a neck injury, Bryan, a 45 year old Lake County resident, had been out of work for two years. Bryan found himself in need of emergency assistance with his electricity and applied for the HEAP program offered at Lifeline. At that time Bryan notice a flyer for the Employment Training Program offered at Lifeline. In May 2015 Bryan decided he cannot afford to live on a monthly disability payment and would like to return to work and so he applied for the Employment Training Program.

The Employment Training program assists local residents that are unemployed and seeking to gain skills to become more employable.

The Employment Training Program pays for non-credit classes toward a certificate/non-degreed program at a local vocational or educational institution, or corporation. From the very beginning of the application process Bryan had already researched the available five week CDL training program provided by Action in Motion in Ashtabula, Ohio. Bryan expressed that he was anxious to start.

After completing the eligibility process and career assessment which helped identify his strong skills and responsibilities to the related job title, Bryan was highly recommended with a bright outlook. In July 2015, Bryan successfully completed his training, received his CDL, and gained full time employment at Trans Am Truck Line Inc. nearly tripling his monthly income.

“I am very thankful for a well-deserved opportunity to have a career that I love and now I can sustain affordable living,” said Harris.

This year Lifeline’s Annual Dinner and Awards Presentation were held in conjunction with National Community Action Awareness Month and featured remarks by both Lifeline Board President, Pam Morse and by Dotson. Dotson says that because Lifeline, Inc. is such a locally-based organization, they work to recognize those who have made an impact locally with these awards.

“As a Community Action Agency, we are obviously a community-based organization. Last year we served nearly 7,000 households from nearly every community in Lake County with our community services programs and answered nearly 40,000 calls for information and referrals through 2-1-1,” said Dotson. “We’ve strived to continue that effort by recognizing local individuals, organizations and program participants who have been successful in the past year.”

Lifeline for the Empowerment and Development of Consumers was founded in 1973 with the mission of helping Lake County residents by providing them assistance and life skills programming that is designed to increase self-sufficiency. In 1980 Lifeline became a participating agency of the United Way of Lake County, UWLC, and in 1987 was designated a community action agency by the Ohio Development Services Agency, ODSA. In 2008, Lifeline was designated as a mental health agency by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and
Addiction Services.

Today Lifeline continues with the same mission of helping Lake County’s low-income residents break the cycle of poverty and make the transition from agency-dependency to self-sufficiency. Lifeline’s current programming includes services in the healthcare, housing & energy assistance, information & referral services and consumer education & job training areas. Our motto is ‘helping people, changing lives.’ Lifeline is currently funded by the UWLC and by grants through the ODSA, the Lake County Board of Commissioners, the Lake County ADAMHS Board, Lake County Department of Job & Family Services, the City of Mentor, the Western Reserve Junior Service League and through private donors.