Last call! More free masks and hygiene supplies for community groups available until July 9th

Our PPE distribution is coming to an end. The last day to request free supplies is Friday, July 9. We have hand sanitizer, cloth masks, N95’s and face shields available for grassroots groups to stay safe while doing community building work.

Order free bulk PPE for your community

Request PPE by filling out the request form here:

Availability of supplies is limited, and groups might not receive the quantity requested. Once you fill out the request form, one of our PPE Coordinators will email or call you. You must then respond by email or phone to confirm your pick up date, or we will not be able to complete your order. 

Since last year, we have distributed free PPE and hygiene supplies to grassroots groups and nonprofits serving Cuyahoga, Lake, and Geauga counties to help meet a need where families have been left without because of the pandemic. We distributed 2.5 million masks through this work.

Special thanks to our partners

Many thanks to our funder and partner the Greater Cleveland COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund as well as our partners Matthew 25 Ministries, MedWish International, May Dugan Center, Murtis Taylor Multi Services Center,  and The Cuyahoga County Emergency Operations Center for making it possible to ship, warehouse, deliver, and process these donations. 

Available now! Circular Cleveland Community Grants

The Circular Cleveland Community Grants provide financial assistance to grassroots neighborhood groups, faith-based organizations and small non-profit organizations (with an operating budget of less than $250,000) to support their community work related to the circular economy.


A circular economy diverts waste from the landfill and reduces pollution, keeps products and materials in use and restores and renews the natural system.  

For more information about the circular economy and Circular Cleveland, visit these Sustainable Cleveland blogs:

Watch this video explaining the circular economy and providing some national and local examples.



Before you begin your grant application, please make sure that this is the right application for your project by considering how this project contributes to transitioning Cleveland to a circular economy. If your project idea is not a good fit for this grant, please check out our other Neighbor Up Action Grants here.

Please answer the following questions to determine if your project idea is a good fit for the Circular Economy grant:

  • Is material being diverted from the landfill?

Some examples of how materials might be diverted are:

  • reuse 
  • repurpose
  • share
  • repair 
  • redistribution
  • redesign
  • repackage
  • restore
  • refurbish
  • remanufacture
  • recycle
  • upcycle
  • recover
  • refuse
  • rethink
  • reduce
  • other

If materials ARE being diverted, what are those materials? 

  • textiles and clothing including body shapewear
  • food
  • metals
  • electronics
  • plastic
  • construction materials
  • other
  • Or, is energy from fossil fuels being saved?
  • Or, is a natural system being restored or renewed?

If you can answer yes to some of the above questions, your project DOES contribute to the circular economy. Please read the Grant Guidelines below. 


  • Team members must all live, work or worship in Cleveland.
  • Applicants must demonstrate their connectedness to their community.
  • Proposals must be from grassroots neighborhood groups of at least three persons, faith-based organizations or small non-profit organizations (with an operating budget of less than $250,000).
  • Applicants must demonstrate their capacity to make change in their community.
  • Applicants must show the need in their community.
  • Projects must build off the assets in the community (wisdom, skills, talents, and networks of individuals in the community, civic groups, institutions, physical space, local economy, and/or community culture).
  • Only one proposal can be submitted by a group or organization at a time.
  • Groups and organizations with or without 501(c)(3) designation are eligible for funding and encouraged to apply. Groups and organizations without 501(c)(3) designation will need to find a fiscal sponsor. If you need assistance finding a fiscal sponsor, please contact us.
  • These grants do not fund individuals, large non-profit or large faith-based organizations, religious organizations for religious purposes, political campaigns, endowment funds, fundraising campaigns, for-profit entities, single businesses, or government entities.
  • Grant applicants will be notified of funding decision via email by early June. If approved for funding, you will receive an email letting you know, and you will be required to fill out some simple paperwork to receive your funding. If your proposal is declined funding, we are available to talk through the reasons why.
  • Funds are GENERALLY dispersed within two weeks from when approved grantees complete their paperwork. 
  • Grants will cover a 6 month period and will range between $250 and $3,000.


1. Watch this “How to Apply” video for more information about these grants.

2. Start the application process by clicking the ‘Apply’ button below.


If you or someone you know does not have access to a computer and/or to the Internet but wants to apply or if you have questions about the application, please contact one of the people below:



#CLEDocsAnswers: Will CDPH administer more vaccines to homebound residents via its “ice cream truck” model?

Documenter Kathryn Johnson attended the April 12 Health and Human Services Committee meeting. She learned that the Cleveland Department of Public Health (CDPH) used an “ice cream truck” model to distribute vaccines to 24 homebound residents. Kathryn wondered about plans to do more.

This edition of #CLEDocsAnswers shares what we learned.

Nancy Kelsey, then with the mayor’s office of communications, said the mobile vaccination service is available by request. Cleveland residents may call 216-664-2222 to reach the CDPH Vaccine Help Line and request a mobile vaccination.

The City of Cleveland said CDPH’s mobile vaccination program includes three clinical staff members and is part of the county workgroup referenced in this column by Leila Atassi. Cuyahoga County residents may request mobile vaccination by calling the Western Reserve Agency on Aging at 216-621-0303.

When Cleveland Documenters asked if there is a particular number of doses available for this program, the city said CDPH is currently able to provide a vaccine to “residents who requested service and meet the criteria for homebound.”

What’s the city’s criteria for homebound? Here’s what we learned:

CDPH has administered vaccines to 30,643 people overall as of May 15, according to last Friday’s COVID-19 Watch report.

Read Kathryn’s notes to learn what else the Health and Human Services Committee discussed on April 12, and visit our website for all Cleveland Documenters meeting notes and live-tweet threads.

NEO Youth Climate Action Fund

From our partners at The NEO Youth Climate Action Fund

NEO Youth Climate Action Fund is intended to support young people in planning and executing projects with a focus on climate and environmental resiliency. The project theme is “circular systems.” The fund aims to be accessible and all accepted projects will receive their funding up-front — students will never have to pay for anything out of pocket and be reimbursed later.

Who should apply?

Motivated young people between the ages of 15 and 21 can apply as a team of 2-5 people. If students don’t have anyone to apply with, they can let us know and we can pair them with teammates. Applications close on May 31, 2021 but we would like to move to a rolling application process without a single deadline.

What do teams need to provide?

  • Teams will provide a problem statement, solution, timeline, budget, and how they plan to measure their success, for which templates are available on the website. Advisors and Mentors will help teams fine tune their projects and stay on track.

Need some help figuring out a project?

  • Interested applicants can sign up for one of our Project Workshops. Whether they have a project ready to go or they need some help turning an idea into a convincing pitch, these workshops will walk prospective teams through the process of developing, submitting, and executing a successful project. Register for a workshop here!

#CLEDocsAnswers: How will the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections ensure Midwest Direct’s conduct is unbiased?

This #CLEDocsAnswers stems from questions that Documenter Mary Paxton asked after attending the April 5 Cuyahoga County Board of Elections board meeting. In that meeting, the board approved an $861,000 contract with Midwest Direct for supplying election ballots.

Some context: Midwest Direct made news for delayed ballot delivery during the 2020 Presidential Election and for flying a Trump flag at its Cleveland headquarters in the months before the event.

The board had an earlier contract with Midwest Direct that didn’t include an unbiased-conduct clause. The new contract runs through the end of this year. Want to see the new contract in its entirety? Here’s a link:

A screenshot of the unbiased-conduct clause.

Mary asked, “How is the Board of Elections monitoring Midwest Direct’s work moving forward and their adherence to the unbiased-conduct clause? What are the consequences if they do not adhere to that clause?”

Mike West, manager of community outreach for the board, told Cleveland Documenters, “If vendors that do business with the board violate terms of contracts or agreements, the board will take whatever action they feel is appropriate.” Cleveland Documenters asked how the board would monitor Midwest Direct’s conduct to make sure it was unbiased. West said via email, “We monitor all of our vendors and contracts, but it is routine and not newsworthy.”

The board did not answer why there wasn’t an unbiased-conduct clause in the previous contract. Linda Walker, an administrative assistant with the Democratic Board Office, said the clause is now a standard element in all the board’s contracts.

Want all the details from the April 5 board meeting? Check out Mary Paxton’s notes here. You can also read Documenter Dan McLaughlin’s live-tweet thread of that meeting.

Comb through all Cleveland Documenters meeting notes and Twitter threads right here.

Voices on the Vaccine: Cleveland Documenters Interviewed Community Members About Vaccines

Throughout March and early April, more than 20 Cleveland Documenters conducted 42 interviews to better understand how Clevelanders were approaching the coronavirus vaccines. The result of that work, Voices on the Vaccine, appeared last week as a three-story series in The Cleveland Observer.

The project was the first of its kind for Cleveland Documenters, which trains and pays people to document local government meetings. For the project, Documenters asked friends, family and other community members about their hopes and hesitations regarding the vaccines. Documenters also learned about what influences Clevelanders as they make vaccination decisions.

Cleveland Documenters hoped Voices on the Vaccine would feature voices that aren’t typically heard in media. Here are a few graphics showcasing the range of people interviewed.

A diverse group of interviewees brought a diversity of perspectives. Some residents were eager to get a vaccine.

Heather Russell, a 52-year-old Jefferson neighborhood resident and head of the Cleveland State University music school, had this to say to Documenter Leslie Bednar:

Other Clevelanders weren’t so sure.

Manuel Santiago, a 35-year-old Ohio City resident, told Documenter Kevin Naughton that people can fight viruses naturally. But, he worries he won’t be allowed to work, travel or dine out without being vaccinated.

Santiago also said that he agrees with how Ohio prioritized vaccine access. He said people with weakened immune systems, like his diabetic mother, should be able to get vaccinated first if they wish.

Beyond learning about Clevelanders’ vaccine intentions, Documenters learned about what influenced people. Science, history, and lived experience were three common factors. Rev. Leah Lewis told Documenter Kathryn Johnson that she based her decision on science.

Wondering what other Clevelanders had to say? Check out the Voices on the Vaccine stories in The Cleveland Observer:

Why Some Clevelanders are Still on the Fence or Not Getting Vaccinated

Clevelanders Share About Why They Got the Shot

Science, History and Lived Experiences Influences Choices of Clevelanders

Documenters who contributed to Voices on the Vaccine include Dorothy Ajamu, Leslie Bednar, Courtney Green, Sheila Ferguson, Gennifer Harding-Gosnell, Kathryn Johnson, Giorgiana Lascu, Sharon Lewis, Daniel McCarthy, Dan McLaughlin, McKenzie Merriman, Alicia Moreland, Kevin Naughton, Rosie Palfy, Angela Pohlman, Andy Schumann, Tina Scott, Janenell Smith, Chau Tang, and Candice Wilder.

Community Garden and Farmers Market Grants

Neighbor Up is offering one time grants for community gardens, farmers markets, and for garden art in the cities of Cleveland and East Cleveland. Grants will be reviewed on a rolling basis each week starting May 1st through June 15th. Groups and organizations may only be funded once during this time period. If your group or organization does not have a 501 c 3, you must find a registered 501 c 3 organization in good standing with the IRS to serve as your fiscal sponsor.

If you would like to protect your home from the sun, Alumawood pergolas by Royal Covers are a great choice for this purpose, you will be able to enjoy the light without being expose directly. 

Here is more information on the grants:

  • Garden and group must be in Cleveland or East Cleveland;
  • Grant request must be between $250 and $1500;
  • Grant must be used this spring/summer (by September 1, 2021);
  • Funds may be used for soil, compost, tools, plants, seeds, water, benches, raised beds, artwork, and/or using as a community gathering space.
  • If awarded funding, you must attend a Celebratory Gathering on Thursday, October 7th from 6pm to 8pm to discuss your initiative.


Contact Morgan Taggart.


Last call! Request free PPE until July 9th

Neighbor Up has more hand sanitizer, cloth masks, N95’s and face shields available for grassroots group to stay safe while doing community building work. The last day to request free supplies is July 9th.

Order free bulk PPE for your community

Request PPE by filling out the request form here:

Volunteers needed for outreach and navigating vaccine appointments regionally

We are partnering with the Cleveland Volunteer Vaccine Network to help people get registered for appointments at pharmacies and health clinics.

Volunteers are needed to do door-knocking, outreach at events, remotely signing people up for appointments, and staff a hotline. To volunteer, or to see how your group can contribute to and use the Cleveland Volunteer Vaccine Network, fill out this form.

Struggling to get a vaccine appointment?

And if you’re struggling to access a vaccine appointment, The Cleveland Vaccine Volunteer Network has trained volunteers that will work with you EVERY step of the way to get an appointment that works for you – including working through tech and transportation barriers.

If you or someone you know would like to request help, please fill out this request form: CVVN will also have a hotline number starting next week.

Hygiene, mobility aids, and medical supplies available for groups

The Local & Domestic Giving Program at MedWish International, one of our partners to provide PPE supplies, gets families and individuals the medical equipment and supplies they need to improve their quality of life. Local health care providers and community groups can request supplies including hygiene products, mobility aids, respiratory equipment and more. Please click here to learn more and to complete the application form.

Continuing in the month of April, MedWish has secured grant funding that will cover the normal fees associated with receiving supplies and/or equipment through this program. Questions? Please contact

Community building during the pandemic

So much of our work in the community requires us to be in contact with others, and community spread is still higher now than last summer.

In addition to wearing masks, one way to reduce this risk is to self-isolate after activities that put you at risk of exposure to Covid, and to get a free Covid test by calling 211 to make an appointment at the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, The Centers, Metrohealth (440-592-6843), Rite Aid, CVS, or Walgreens. Because there is currently less demand for testing, many facilities are returning results in 1-2 days.

More resources

February Arts & Culture Network Night

February Arts & Culture Network Night

Thank you to everyone who joined us for Arts and Culture Network Night on February 25th. We opened the evening with poetry by Neighbor Up Member and Adult Literacy Grantrecipient, Mansa L. Bey. Check out more of his work on Instagram @poet_mansa_l_bey

At every Arts & Culture Network Night, we have Business of the Network, a chance for anyone to host a 20-minute conversation. This month there were conversations about the ongoing adjustments to COVID, online engagement, and even a conversation about INTUITION. These conversations are one of the ways that Network Night inspires action and leads to new connections.

The Marketplace is another great way to make connections at Arts & Culture Network Night. Click this link to see all the requests, offers and declarations from the 2/25 event, or check out the collection of all the Virtual Marketplace matches here.

Ten-Year Housing and Investment Plan

We have joined the City of Cleveland’s initiative to create a Ten-Year Housing and Investment Plan. We know housing is an issue important to the members of our network and our community at-large, and being a part of this process allows us to ensure that residents’ voices play a role in shaping the recommendations that this plan produces. Once the plan is complete we can work with one another, the City, and partner institutions to make sure the plan is implemented.

New Microloan Program

Neighbor Up is working with a team of parishioners and community members at Blessed Trinity Parish to offer a new Microloan Program for grassroots entrepreneurs who want to start or grow businesses in the West Park area.

The new program offers very low interest microloans with manageable monthly payments and a simple, accessible application process for people who may have had no prior experience with business financing, or who may simply need some resources to help them get a project going. Designed to help more people build their own earnings, particularly those who may find challenges with employment, the Microloan Program will provide more than just finances – it will also bring entrepreneurs into a network of people who can provide support in a range of ways, from legal advice to help with marketing services, bookkeeping and business planning.

Documenting Cleveland’s Budget: What you need to know

Documenting Cleveland’s Budget: What you need to know

Cleveland is required by law each year to pass a balanced budget, meaning the city can’t spend more money than it has coming in. 

Here’s how the process works: 

  • The Mayor sends City Council a document that summarizes the administration’s budget recommendations. It has detailed information for each city department and city fund and includes estimates on how much money the city expects to collect through taxes and fees. This happens by Feb. 1 each year (yes, even during a pandemic!)
  • City Council holds budget hearings in February. Council committee members discuss, debate and ask questions about spending priorities. 
  • Council members can agree to amend–change–portions of the budget recommended by the Mayor.
  • Council publicly shares its version of the budget, which is written into an ordinance or law that Council votes on after hearings are completed. This is sometimes called the “2nd reading” of the budget. 
  • Council must wait at least 15 days after sharing the amended budget to do a “3rd reading” and vote to approve or not approve the budget. 
  • The City must approve a budget by April 1 of each year. After the budget is approved, it is posted online. 
  • At the end of the year, council reconciles the budget and decides whether to redistribute or save any money that was not spent. 

What’s different this year?

Normally, the city would hold its budget hearings and deliberations in the council chambers at City Hall. This year they will be held on Zoom and livestreamed on Council’s YouTube channel.

Mayor Frank Jackon explained his budget priorities for 2021 in this Facebook Live video. 

What is the purpose of the budget?

The budget tells residents what money the city is collecting and how it is being spent. The budget also makes it clear what the priorities of city leaders are. The Budget Book breaks the spending and priorities down by department (the highest level of organization) and by division (different sections of the departments.) City departments have directors and divisions have commissioners. 

In the Budget Book, you can see priorities laid out for each department. 

Find the current Mayor’s Estimate for the budget here.

Find the Community Development Block Grant Fund budget here. (More on CDBG money, how it can be spent and what it is used for below.)

Find past Budget Books here: 

2020 Budget Book

2019 Budget Book

2018 Budget Book

2017 Budget Book

How would you spend the money in Cleveland’s General Fund?

Refund Cleveland created this tool, which allows you to see how the city allocates more than $600 million in the General Fund and then to set your own budget priorities. 

The tool doesn’t include the Capital Budget, which pays for infrastructure and long term investment, the school district budget or for the city-owned utilities, which are supposed to be sustained with their own fees and charges. It does allow you to adjust the parts of the budget City Council reviews and votes on following budget hearings. 

How is the budget organized?

  • Two main parts are the Operating Budget and the Capital Budget. The Operating Budget is the money spent on things such as employees and supplies. The Capital Budget includes larger investments in buildings or street lights. The Capital budget gets discussed more in depth later in the year.
  • The money that is spent comes from a number of buckets. The major funds include: General Fund, Special Revenue Funds, Enterprise Funds and the Agency Fund. See definitions below! 
  • Money that the city receives from most federal and state grants is not included in the city budget funds because those grants are managed following different rules and often on a different schedule, called a fiscal year. 

Where does the money come from?

Cleveland collects money in the form of taxes: income taxes from paychecks of people who work and/or live in the city, and taxes and fees from businesses such as “bed” taxes from hotel rooms. 

What is City Council’s role?

The legislative body reviews, amends (changes) and approves the final city budget. 

Community Development Block Grant funds

The federal program provides annual grants to states, cities and counties based on a formula to help “develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing and a suitable living environment, and by expanding economic opportunities, principally for low- and moderate-income persons,” according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development often referred to as HUD. 

Places like Cleveland that receive the grants have latitude to decide how to distribute the money, though it has to be used for the purposes the federal government has outlined and the city and the agencies it works with have to report back to HUD in detail about how the money is spent. It also is aimed to benefit low-to-moderate income communities and individuals. 

Here’s the income guidelines for the area that includes Cleveland for 2020. 

CDBG grants were first handed out in 1975 with additional grants added in 1993 for housing needs. Cleveland received a high total of $40 million in CDBG money in 2002 but that amount has steadily dropped to an estimated total of $24 million in 2021.

Cleveland uses a portion of the money to support activities through its Community Development Corporations or CDCs. That is different from how other cities use the money. It also pays for city resources and contractors who carry out programs. 

Here are some more specifics from HUD about how those targeted grants can be used. The grants are based on a federal formula.

CDBG – 28 activities can be funded with this set of grants including: 

  • Acquisition of turnkey real estate investing
  • Relocation and demolition
  • Rehabilitation of residential and non-residential structures
  • Construction of public facilities and improvements, such as water and sewer facilities, streets, neighborhood centers, and the conversion of school buildings with help of local contractors you can also hire at
  • Public services, within certain limits
  • Activities relating to energy conservation and renewable energy resources
  • Provision of assistance to profit-motivated businesses to carry out economic development and job creation/retention activities

HOME grants can be used to increase home ownership and affordable housing 

ESG or Emergency Solutions Grants can be used to assist the homeless populations 

HOPWA or Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS are used for direct services and support for housing individuals with HIV or AIDS.

Here’s a Twitter thread about Community Development Block Grants from Jessica Trivisonno, Economic Development Director for Detroit-Shoreway and Cudell Inc. Community Development Corps.

Budget terms:

Appropriation: Money authorized by formal action, such as a city council ordinance, for a specific purpose.

Bed Tax: Money a hotel must pay the city for each room rented. 

Bond: An IOU or promise to repay borrowed money by a specific date. Bond proceeds are primarily used to finance capital projects.

CCA or Central Collection Agency: Entity that collects taxes.

Capital Budget: Money for internal or long-term investments in infrastructure. 

Capital Projects: The construction, rehabilitation or acquisition of fixed assets (buildings, bridges) or permanent improvements.

CDBG or Community Development Block Grants: Money provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) intended to help cities provide safe and decent housing and support economic opportunity for low-wealth residents. Money has specific rules as to how it can be spent. In Cleveland, each ward gets a portion of this grant money to spend on projects or activities. 

Debt Service: What it costs the city to borrow money for projects or services. 

Enterprise Funds: These are funds that hold money collected from bills or fees that are used to finance or support a public service. In Cleveland, this includes the Cleveland Division of Water and Cleveland Public Power. This money is kept separate from other general funds collected. 

General Fund: Most city services are supported from this fund including police, fire and EMS, the city’s recreation centers and garbage pick up. 

Fee: A charge to a person or business who is using or benefiting from a city service. For example, when a person applies for a building permit, that fee pays for an inspector to make sure the construction work is done properly. 

Fiscal year: A twelve-month period when a budget begins and ends. Cleveland’s fiscal year is Jan. 1 through Dec. 31. The federal government’s fiscal year is Oct. 1 through Sept. 30. 

Fund: Used to account for money. Must be balanced for money coming in and going out. 

Grant: Money from the state or federal government or a nonprofit organization that pays for a specific purpose or program. 

Property tax: Money that property owners pay based on the value of the property they own. Used to levy taxes for purposes such as funding libraries and schools. 

Operating Budget: Plan for how to spend public money. 

Unencumbered Funds: Money that isn’t appropriated or designated for a specific purpose.

Below are some examples of city funds and where the money comes from: 

Do you have comments or questions about our Cleveland Budget Primer? 
Are we missing something? Have an idea how we can make it better? Tell us here:

Get Outside Grants

Last summer we had informative conversations around public space, digital connection, and how we are getting around during the COVID-19 pandemic. We heard from residents about how it has become more important for people to access public space — a space where they can feel safe welcomed and connected. Not only from protecting ourselves from the enemies by thinking to buy guns & ammo from Palmetto Armory but also be safe from the infections of the COVID-19 as it is spreading so fast.

Despite the need for such space, many residents noted the continued existence of barriers that prevent them and others from fully utilizing these spaces. Discrimination against people of color and feeling unwanted in public space stood out as prominent roadblocks that discourage many from spending time outdoors.


Since those conversations, we’ve seen Clevelanders find creative ways to overcome these barriers and encourage people from all backgrounds to get outside, like Syatts activities aimed at increasing access to nature for Black youth.

We’ve also seen people sharing their favorite spaces around Cleveland using #OurSpacesAllFaces. The hashtag is the product of a social media campaign brainstormed by a group of residents over the summer to demonstrate that public spaces are meant for everyone, and it’s given us a glimpse into the places around our city where people like to get outside with friends, family and neighbors.

Now, as the days get colder and the pandemic continues to prevent us from safely gathering indoors, getting outside this winter has become essential to our mental and physical health!

Get Outside Grants

That’s why we launched the Get Outside Grants, to support Clevelanders and grassroots groups as they find new ways to use outdoor spaces on chilly days and share the benefits of getting safely outside with their community!

Grants ranged from $500 to $5,000. They were intended for grassroots groups interested in getting members of their communities outside safely this winter.

Grants were reviewed on a weekly basis through February 24th.

Find a list of funded projects here.


Fighting COVID-19 in Your Community

Join us for a special, virtual Neighbor Up Network celebration for grassroots community groups in Greater Cleveland (from Cuyahoga, Lake, Geauga, Summit, Medina and Lorain Counties) working on COVID-related projects in their neighborhoods.

Why are we coming together? Over 400 groups are supporting their neighbors during the COVID-19 crisis. This gathering is for neighbors to:

• Meet one another, share successes and challenges;

• Build love and power — problem solve, support one another, and act collectively to make change;

• Have some fun!

Join us:

Thursday, February 4th from 6:00 – 8:00 pm or Friday, February 5th from 1:00-3:00 pm

Click here to register.

After you register, you’ll receive an email with the information you’ll need to join the meeting. For more information contact Nicole at

Please note: Neighbor Up COVID-19 Grants Are Still Available

Groups and organizations that have completed their first grant can reapply

Neighbor Up is offering grants up to $5,000 for small non-profit organizations, small faith-based groups, and grassroots neighborhood groups to address the effects of COVID-19 by reducing social isolation, by providing for basic needs, and/or support neighbors in other ways while adhering to the current safety guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19. Proposals are being accepted from Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga counties. Visit us at for details.

Adult Literacy Action Grants

We’re thrilled to announce almost $60,000 in grants to support 12 projects focused on building adult literacy in a variety of Cleveland neighborhoods.

The Neighbor Up Adult Literacy Action Grants Committee composed of 7 community members with a variety of experience and passion for adult literacy made the funding decisions. A staff member from the Literacy Cooperative also joined the team. Committee members, who volunteered their time, included a former adult tutor, a Seeds of Literacy graduate, and someone who learned English as a second language. Grants of up to $5,000 each were available to support action projects in the field of adult literacy.

Funded projects

Here are the funded projects: 

  1. Adult Literacy Learners and Educators Network : The overall goal of the project is to bring adult literacy learners and adult literacy educators together in a common space, to co-create a series of networking events and grassroots projects that depend on the needs, guidance, knowledge, social capital, and expertise of adult learners as much as they depend on the education, expertise, and social capital of educators.
  2. Capturing Our Stories: Our team realized that it takes courage for an adult to go back to school, so we asked ourselves: What if we created Art with adult learners to change the narrative about adult learners? Ten Adult Learners who want to and are willing to improve their word power and reading skills will use Handmade Journals to record their journey. Each week participants will identify 10 words beginning with each letter of the alphabet, starting with the Letter A. The words identified can be words they already know or words they have not been exposed to. Participants will weekly create one piece of art inspired by at least one of the words from their weekly word list. No artistic skills are required. Participants may even use an online image or something from a book or magazine.
  3. Comics at the Corner: Comics at the Corner addresses low literacy by putting comics featuring Black and POC characters in the hands of as many residents as possible. We focus our efforts primarily in Buckeye-Shaker, Mt. Pleasant, and Woodland Hills. Our goal is simple: marry our love for comics and reading with the need to put something that people will want to read in the hands of as many neighbors and residents as possible.
  4. Green Movement Glenville: A book club focused on showing the rich history of African and indigenous Americans that hopes to create a “culture of reading,” encourage more reading and maybe get people to the point where they are willing to say “I’d like to read more.”
  5. Learners’ Empowerment Project : The Learners’ Empowerment Project is a mutual support project that will involve up to ten adult literacy learners and two facilitators. The facilitators will be trained by the Aha!Process in the Getting Ahead / Bridges out of Poverty program. This program puts learners around the table to discuss poverty, their own situations, resources needed to be successful, and where they’re lacking. It lets them investigate their own situations, and come up with solutions.
  6. Literacy Matters: Literacy Matters is dedicated to the celebration of literacy through creative writing workshops, community-based readings and zine publications. In an effort to create and sustain a culture of reading, writing and storytelling, the vision of this initiative is to establish a consortium that provides literary and literacy-based resources, workshop gatherings and events that will support a culture of literacy.
  7. Word Pool: Our mission is to use art to make literacy and learning less intimidating, inspire adult learners to want to learn more, and encourage self learning. We will launch an art project called a Word Pool. The goals are to establish a culture of reading and writing within our participants, develop public art, inspire participants to sign up for GED class as well as join the Neighbor Up Network, and to organize our cohort around literacy activism.
  8. Mind Over Matter: To improve literacy in the Collinwood community, we will partner with the Cleveland Public Library to have a virtual book club. This idea will be covid safe and fun.
  9. Put to Good Use: An English language learning group for residents 50 years of age and older who live in AsiaTown. Learners will receive a stipend for completing the course if they have good attendance. We will also plan celebrations to help build community between these adult learners.
  10. The City Social Club: A digital newspaper and book club focused on community information and learning about community engagement for millennials focused on the southeast side.
  11. The LIFE Ministry Life Skills Program: Reading and writing skills development through individual and group education sessions that will be held 2x per month from 10-12pm, Saturdays.
  12. Wounded Healer Book Project: This project will encourage adults to not only engage in reading but to participate in a self-published book which will highlight their personal stories of overcoming trauma. Our hope is that this will encourage people to continue on the journey of sharing their stories through, reading and writing. In doing so, hopefully will also improve literacy.

Neighbor Up Adult Literacy Action Grants Committee

A volunteer group that reviewed applications starting November 30, 2020 and made funding decisions.

  • Anne Morrison, retired Kent State University professor who studied the Cuba Literacy Campaign
  • Dan McLaughlin, former adult literacy tutor
  • Jan Thrope, founder of InnerVisions of Cleveland, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting catalysts for change with resources they need to help their community projects flourish
  • Margaret Bernstein, director of advocacy and community initiatives at WKYC Channel 3 and a champion of literacy
  • Margo Hudson, an adult literacy tutor nationally-recognized for her work
  • Xinyuan Cui, the AsiaTown Community Organizer at MidTown Cleveland with experience supporting grassroots community work

Laureen Atkins with the Literacy Cooperative also reviewed applications to determine which projects to co-fund. Supporting the committee were Neighbor Up members Lila Mills and Lisa-Jean Sylvia.

Have questions about Neighbor Up and adult literacy?

Reach out to Lila or Lisa-Jean or call or text 216-229-8769. And check out our blog post about the work of the Adult Literacy Innovation Team.