United Way Receives Two Major Gifts To Fight Poverty, Lead Poisoning

United Way of Greater Cleveland
The KeyBank Foundation is making a philanthropic investment of $2.1 million to the United Way of Greater Cleveland to help families in poverty.The Cleveland Clinic committed $2.5 million to the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition for the Lead Safe Home Fund,a public-private sector partnership which provides resources to make homes lead-safe. [Annie Wu/Ideastream Public Media] 
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The United Way of Greater Cleveland announced Thursday it has received two gifts to help with efforts aiding families in poverty and protecting residents from lead paint exposure.

The KeyBank Foundation is giving $2.1 million over three years to support the United Way’s Community Hub for Basic Needs, which includes the 2-1-1, Center for Excellence in Social Services and Economic Mobility programs.

The hub is at the core of the charitable organization's retooled approach to distributing money in Northeast Ohio, which focuses on a few key issues rather than spreading funds far and wide.

“The focus is on basic needs: food, clothing, shelter,” United Way CEO Augie Napoli said, “those things that are going to help alleviate, not eliminate, but alleviate the effects of poverty on people's lives.”

Napoli said the poverty issues facing Northeast Ohio are obvious, with more than half of children in the City of Cleveland living in poverty, and a new approach is necessary to “move the needle.”

The Cleveland Clinic committed $2.5 million to the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition for its Lead Safe Home Fund, which offers financial help to property owners to remove lead paint hazards from their homes.

Napoli said  the Cleveland Clinic’s $2.5 million investment brings the total pool of money for the Lead Safe Home Fund to nearly $45 million. Or in other words, according to Napoli, the fund is half way there. 

“This is a problem that can be solved,” he said. “I mean, think about this. With $99 million dollars, we can make, in the city of Cleveland, every home lead safe. That would affect two generations of children living in homes. You know, not just homes that they own, but homes that they rented.”


The city this year began implenting a lead-safe law passed in 2019, but progress has been slow. In May, the Lead Safe Cleveland Coalition went to the city requesting $17.5 million from it’s America Rescue Plan allocation. At the time, Cleveland’s Building and Housing Director Ayonna Blue Donald told city council that less than a hundred homes had been certified as lead-safe, far fewer than the thousands of certifications expected in the first quarter.

Still, Napoli said, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and city council have “really stepped up” when it comes to removing lead from homes. 

“The mayor put $5 million city dollars into this, but he was very clear that this can't be just government alone,” Napoli said. “Could it have gone faster? Probably. Should we tolerate unsafe lead conditions and lead poisoning? Of course, not. But the fact is, let's look forward, not back. We're here, we're moving and it's working.”

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