New focus for Eye on Cleveland

With this post and with the next several posts between now and the end of December, EYE ON CLEVELAND is changing its focus. We will be highlighting programs and people in and around Cleveland whose extraordinary actions help transform lives in a positive way.

Having been on the earth now for nearly 61 years, I’ve learned that there are everyday heroes all around us. These are women and men who give of their own time, talent and treasures to help improve the lives of those less fortunate.

We found a large number of these heroes volunteering two days a week in West Park.

In my capacity as a ministry leader at Cuyahoga Valley Church, I became more acquainted with a tremendous non-profit outreach in Cuyahoga County titled Building Hope in the City, or Building Hope. Based out of Trinity Lutheran Church on West 30th Street and Lorain Avenue in Ohio City, Building Hope operates several life-changing ministries. Any one of them would be worthy of time and attention, but this winter’s focus for me and students in my JMC 2000 Digital Media Writing class at Cuyahoga Community College has been the Hope Center.

Hope Center operates out of Gateway West Church on Triskett Avenue near West 150th Street in West Park.  Both the U.S. Bureau of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) have certified Building Hope as a source for fee-based immigration and services.

Services are plenty. Volunteers there number in the hundreds. The main focus of the Hope Center is to give immigrants and refugees a place to belong, and to gain skills needed to advance their lives in the U.S., eventually becoming citizens.

Two volunteers at the Hope Center along with two students in the after-school program

The Hope Center opened in February 2015, and in less than three years it now cares for more than 300 refugees and immigrants every week. Utilizing a relationship-centered approach, the Hope Center  develops the God-given assets of the newcomers so they can flourish and contribute meaningfully to the vitality of Cleveland and NE Ohio.  Services there include:

  • Immigration Assistance
  • ESL Citizenship participation
  • Arabic Community Outreach
  • Economic Development
  • Coaching Congregations

Our world is in a tumult which few people comprehend. In 2017-2018, there are four times the number of refugees in the world as there were at the conclusion of World War II. Civil wars, famines, and other horrible situations are causing tens of thousands every day to flee, to find safe places and new homes for themselves and their families. One place they flee to is Cleveland.

“When they come here, immigrants can find it extremely hard for them to understand how to get along in this new society,” says Eileen Wilson, director of refugee ministries at Building Hope.  “The greatest need that they have is to know that the people here (in Cleveland) care about them. The great thing you can do (to help people such as refugees) is to just love people.”

Mary McHugh is of Chagrin Falls is one of the Hope Center volunteers.  “My grandparents were from Baghdad. When I saw the exodus of Christians from there I felt horrible,” she recalls. “I knew I could do nothing, but felt that I needed to do something.  I talked to different organizations, then I came to Building Hope and really connected with Eileen.

“Her heart, and her ‘giving it all for them attitude’ are amazing. Eileen’s strong desire to help immigrants become independent and able to live on their own makes all the difference,” Mary adds.  “I wanted to volunteer and have the joy of helping them. I love becoming friends with these refugees … praying for them, rooting for them. I love helping great people at the Hope Center like Eileen.”

hope center van
A Building Hope van helps get students to and from after school, ESL, Citizenship, and other programs at the Hope Center.

Here’s a link to the Building Hope in the City website.

Additionally, here’s a link to a video about the Hope Center.


John Kerezy

COMING NEXT – Stories about Hope Center programs

John Kerezy, associate professor of JMC and instructor of JMC 2000, digital media writing at Cuyahoga Community College, wrote this story for EYE ON CLEVELAND.


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