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Annual Luncheon of Empowering and Strengthening Ohio's People (ESOP)

On Tuesday, October 17th, our event for the day was the annual luncheon of "Empowering and Strengthening Ohio's People" (ESOP) which took place on the fourth floor of the Ariel Center in Cleveland. We have attended these luncheons before and have written a lot about ESOP which is a HUD-approved provider of housing and financial counseling services. Its mission is to foster "the economic empowerment of disenfranchised communities through outreach, education and advocacy" and its vision is "a community in which everyone has economic opportunity and financial stability."

On this day we shared a table with our good friend, M. Isam Zaiem, the co-founder of the "Council on American-Islamic Relations" (CAIR) who told us that he was there because he really respects ESOP's goals and the work that it does. Other people who said at our table and believed the same were Ms. Lincinda Einhouse, President and CEO of "The Beck Center"; Mr. Andy Smith, Mortgage Sales Team Leader of "Huntington Mortgage Group"; along with Mr. Rob Curry and Ms. Johnasia Bey, who are respectively the President and Intertake Specialist of "CHN Housing Partners".

Welcoming remarks were given by Ms. Katherine Hollingworth, ESOP Board President, who thanked those that supported this event including "Third Federal Foundation" the presenting sponsor, "JP Morgan Chase & Co." the signature sponsor, and "Ocwen" the contributing sponsor.

This was followed by the opening remarks of Ms. Roslyn Quarto, ESOP Board President, she talked about the good works and accomplishments of ESOP in 2017 via its initiatives regarding affordable homeownership and senior financial empowerment, foreclosure prevention, and income tax preparation assistance. Ms. Quatro also expressed great optimism pertaining to the recent merger of ESOP and the "Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging" (BRIA) by stating that "this merger creates financial and operational efficiency which will enable ESOP and BRIA to provide better service to more people We continue to honor the legacy of our founder, Inez Tillman Killingsworth-a staunch advocate for older adults...ESOP will also be exploring innovative ways to help older adults age in place safely, with greater financial stability and access to other community resources".

The keynote address was given by Dr. Michael Roizen, Chief Wellness Officer at the "Cleveland Clinic" who talked about how health care costs are expected to become incomparably greater than they are even at this time unless people started to take more responsibility for their personal health in terms of cholesterol intake, sufficient exercise, and abstaining from unhealthy practices such as smoking. He then touched upon the "Healthy Choices" program conducted at the "Cleveland Clinic" which offers significant financial incentives to employees who engage in good health practices and how worthwhile this program has proven to be for the clinic, its employees, and the community. 

The "Inez Killingsworth Scholarship Award" was then presented to Miss Christian Smith, a senior at "Cleveland Central Catholic High School" performed many hours of community service on behalf of the Slavic Village Community.

This was following by the "Above and Beyond Award" which was presented to "US Bank" and the "Community Partnership Award" presented to "The MetroHealth System" for the initiation of such innovative projects as the 'Learn and Earn Account Program" (LEAP) wherein US Bank offers "a matched savings program where clients can earn up to $500 if they engage in financial coaching" and the "Lunch and Learn Workshops" at MetroHealth wherein its employees take part in workshops whose topics included debt management and understanding credit.

We were quite pleased when our friend Mr. Ian Andrews, Executive Director at "Lakewood Alive" was chosen to receive the "Inez Tillman Killingsworth Community Leadership Award" because under Mr. Andrews' leadership of "Lakewood Alive" such successful endeavors have been launched as the "Super Saturdays" workshops during the tax years which help the people of Lakewood prepare their tax returns and "Homebuyer Education" sessions which help people prepare/guide them through the process of purchasing a residence in Lakewood.

During his acceptance speech, Mr. Andrews thanked those who have assisted himself and "Lakewood Alive" over the years and mentioned that he had received a lot of his training during the foreclosure crisis of a few years back so he saw firsthand how important people's homes were to them and how devastating the experience of losing them can be.

We, ourselves, were happy that Mr. Andrews was honored because he has been an outstanding advocate on behalf of the immigrants and refugees that have moved into the Lakewood area. In fact, before the luncheon begin, we talked to several members of the ESOP staff who told us that their organization has assisted a small but telling number of refugees over the last few years who came to the Cleveland area from such places as the Congo and Senegal and are willing to assist even more should they be called upon to do so. 


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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