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.

Looking for a career in healthcare?

Do you live in Cleveland or East Cleveland?

Check out Step Up to University Hospitals, the neighborhood jobs pipeline that connects Cleveland and East Cleveland residents with jobs at University Hospitals. Positions available in environmental and nutrition services.

Join us at one of the following information sessions for details. Please arrive on time.

  • Thursday August 1| 10:30 AM |South Branch of Cleveland Public Library, 3096 Scranton Rd.
  • Thursday August 1 | 2 PM | Towards Employment, 1255 Euclid Ave., Suite 300
  • Friday August 2 | 1 PM | Langston Hughes branch, Cleveland Public Library, 10200 Superior Ave.
  • Monday August 5 | 10:30 AM |Rice Branch, Cleveland Public Library, 11535 Shaker Blvd.
  • Monday August 5 | 5:30 PM | Neighborhood Connections, 5000 Euclid Ave., Suite 310


  • Commitment to 2 weeks of unpaid career readiness classes
  • Already have a high school diploma or GED
  • Tobacco and drug free
  • Criminal backgrounds accepted on case-by-case basis
  • Work in a fast-paced environment that is critical to the care of hospital patients
  • Earn a competitive hourly wage with a local employer that is committed to staff advancement


Call 216-696-7311 to register for a session. Be sure to say you want to Step Up to UH. 

Hear from Amanda Harris, a Step Up to UH graduate, in this episode of “Neighbor Up Spotlight.” 


Show your Neighbor Up card & get a discount or special offer

We’re committed to supporting small businesses and building wealth in our communities. Many Neighbor Up members are also small business owners.

Show your membership card at the following businesses for a discount or special offer:

Working for economic justice

A few times every year you receive emails, calls and texts from us urging you to attend or spread the word about Step Up to UH. It’s an employment program to connect residents of Cleveland and East Cleveland with entry-level jobs at University Hospitals, one of our state’s largest employers. We’re not in the employment business, we’re about connecting people and building power to make change in our neighborhoods. So why are we so excited about Step Up to UH?

The answer is simple: Step Up is economic justice.

Economic justice is a element of social justice. The ultimate goal is for each person to be able to live a dignified, productive, and creative life.

The idea of economic justice kept coming up in conversations at Neighbor Up Nights in recent years, and people were frustrated. Large hospital systems and other institutions in our city were investing millions of dollars in buildings and expansion, but local neighborhood residents couldn’t get hired for entry-level jobs there – jobs with health benefits and the opportunity to advance, jobs that could help a person build a career and wealth for themselves and their family, jobs that could lift someone out of poverty.

A group of about 15 Neighbor Up members set out to make change, to create an on-ramp to help themselves and their neighbors get jobs within those doors. They connected with people working at institutions and nonprofits who were brave enough to take on the work and create something new. They found folks at Towards Employment, a nonprofit that helps people find jobs, and University Hospitals. University Hospitals had high turnover in entry-level positions and people there were interested in working on the project to see if they could lower that rate.

The group studied examples of neighborhood jobs pipelines in other cities and then created an easy on-ramp for neighborhood residents looking for entry-level work. The end result? The launch of Step Up to UH. The entry-level jobs offer: health benefits; ongoing employee support; a living wage; and room to advance and build a career at the hospital.

So far more than 175 people have been hired through Step Up and almost 80% stay in the job for a year allowing them to move up at the hospital system into high-paying positions.

And that’s why we get excited about Step Up to UH.

It shows that residents and local institutions can work together to make change when brought together in a well-designed space that values all voices and helps to build trust. And that’s what our work is all about: relationships, trust, justice. Neighbor Up!

If you’re looking to launch a career in healthcare, click here for details about upcoming Step Up to UH information sessions.

Hear from Amanda Harris, a Step Up to UH graduate, in 
this episode of  the podcast "Neighbor Up Spotlight."

Wealth, Equity & Happy Hour!

Neighbor Up members are committed to building wealth and working  towards economic interdependence. You’re invited to join us.

Connect! Happy Hour + Meetup for Entrepreneurs

Join us to connect with other entrepreneurs, contractors, artists and creative people; hear stories of success; and get mutual support in building your business. Last Thursdays every other month.

July 26, 6 to 8 p.m. @ 3rd Space, 1464 E. 105th St.

September 27, 6 to 8 p.m. @ Las Tienditas Del Mercado, 2886 W. 25th St.

November 29, 6 to 8 p.m. @ Brittany’s Record Shop, 6410 Fleet Ave.

Resources for entrepreneurs

Are you looking for employment or job training or help starting or growing your small business? Neighbor Up can help. Members are working to build wealth for residents in Greater University Circle so the area can be a place where everyone can thrive.

We have a wealth of information on vocational training, and anything you might need to know in order to choose a career and know how to pursue it. Visit us at, you’ll find the info you need there.

Here is a sampling of area resources for financial empowerment. Join us at a Neighbor Up gathering to learn more.

Entrepreneurs & Small Business Owners

Bad Girl Ventures

BGV enables bold women to start and sustain well-managed and profitable businesses through business education classes, guidance from mentors and coaches, and access to debt capital.


Through JumpStart’s Core City: Cleveland program, entrepreneurs and small business owners who live or own a business in an underserved area of Cleveland can work with JumpStart’s team of experts. Call or email to make an appointment during our weekly office hours.

ECDI Cleveland

ECDI provides training and small business loans to entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Operation HOPE: HOPE Inside Cleveland

HOPE Inside Cleveland provides complimentary financial education and empowerment programs and services that are designed to improve the economic quality of life of individuals, families and businesses. Programs focus on small business workshops, an entrepreneurial training program and individual financial counseling.

Employment, Training & Financial Literacy

Community Financial Centers

CFC is a network of professionally-trained managers dedicated to financial empowerment. We help clients improve personal finances and execute short- and long-term plans. The program includes personal financial planning, tax preparation and budget management.

Evergreen Cooperatives

Evergreen focuses on creating wealth by employing individuals in Greater University Circle neighborhoods at one of its cooperative businesses located in Glenville and Central.

NewBridge Cleveland Center for Arts & Technology

NewBridge prepares adults for good-paying jobs in the health industry. Training is offered at no cost to students, and includes instruction to become a Pharmacy Technician, Phlebotomist or Patient Care Technician. Also offered is a free, afterschool artsbased program for 9th to 12th graders with courses in ceramics, music production, graphic design and more.


Ohio Means Jobs | Cleveland-Cuyahoga County offers employment services including job search, placement assistance and resume development.

PNC Fairfax Connection

The PNC Fairfax Connection is a free community resource center designed to strengthen and connect the community by empowering area residents and businesses to achieve their goals and celebrate the community’s rich history and heritage. Daily workshops focus on financial empowerment, literacy, job readiness and youth and family engagement. Visit the center at East 83rd and Carnegie Avenue.

Step Up to University Hospitals

Get a full-time job at University Hospitals. Earn a competitive hourly wage. Applicants must be a resident of Greater University Circle, commit to 2 ½ weeks of unpaid pre-employment classes, and already have a high school diploma or GED.

Talent NEO

TalentNEO aims to expand employment opportunities for job seekers who have the required skills but lack the educational credentials or experience traditionally used to screen job applicants.

Towards Employment

Towards Employment offers a full range of career pathway programming for un and under-employed neighborhood residents. Specialized services for those with criminal justice involvement, young adults, and parents of young children available. Access to GED prep, job readiness, scholarships for credentialed training, placement and post employment coaching. Partner on Step Up to UH.

Urban League of Greater Cleveland

The Urban League of Greater Cleveland offers a variety of programs that train young job seekers and help them attain job-ready skills and employment.

Welcome to Fairfax

Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation offers the “Welcome to Fairfax Program” a workforce development partnership with the Cleveland Clinic and other employers to recruit residents from Fairfax & surroundings communities for employment.


Neighbor Up on Wealth Trip to Detroit

Earlier this month, a group of Neighbor Up members interested in supporting small businesses in Cleveland went to Detroit to research how black-owned businesses thrive there. In two days, we visited 11 black-owned businesses and interviewed seven entrepreneurs to learn about their successes and struggles, and to get their advice about being entrepreneurs in the post-industrial Midwest. We were particularly interested in the similarities and differences in the challenges that Detroit and Cleveland face as sister cities.  


We met Felicia of Flo Boutique, a creative and funky shop that has been in business for more than 10 years.

We talked to Robyn and ate at New Center Eatery, a delicious chicken and waffles restaurant that has thrived in the community for 13 years.

We met Sharon Pryor of Spiral Collective, an artist collective and incubator for black-owned businesses.

Janet, of Source Booksellers, was more than happy to talk about how her neighborhood has changed and how the independent bookstore has changed with it.

We also met Philip who runs The Baltimore Gallery as well as the Smile Brand. The youth he works with use the space to gather, speak and create.

Last, but not least, we visitied Sweet Potato Sensations, a staple in the community for more than 25 years. It is truly a family affair and thankfully they were generous enough to sit and talk with us about their vision for their business. The owners, Cassandra and Jeffery, started the business and are now handing it over to their daughters, Espy and Jennifer. This cooperative sells a number of other products through their storefront, from Drink Green, a green juice and smoothie company run by Ife, to Naturally Flyy Detroit, to locally-made peanut brittle.


  • The co-op incubator idea from Spiral Collective.
  • Inviting/welcoming atmosphere and attention to aesthetics (display and decor) in the shops.
  • Customer service and premium on personal relationships/loyalty (greet customers especially by name, help with new parking, etc.).
  • Collaboration and support of other black-owned businesses, interconnectedness and strong referral network.
  • Retail specialization and focus (not just a bookstore but a non-fiction bookstore; helps to be cooperative and support other small businesses if you don’t offer everything you can refer people out).
  • Multiple organizations focusing on supporting black entrepreneurs.

Next Steps

Go to the Business, Economics & Labor Department at the Cleveland Public Library to research the history/context & pull the numbers about how the landscape of black-owned businesses in Cleveland has changed in the last 50 years and what is the situation today? Paint an accurate picture. What’s contributed to the changes?

Schedule meetings with individuals and organizations supporting entrepreneurs in Cle. Determine who’s interested in innovating to better serve black entrepreneurs and business in Greater University Circle neighborhoods.

Interview six Cleveland entrepreneurs using the same questions and compare the answers.

Write a report/case study comparing Cleveland and Detroit complete with recommendations.

Together we will discover new ways to support/grow locally-owned and operated businesses in Hough, Central, Fairfax, Glenville, East Cleveland, and Buckeye! Interested in getting involved? Join us for our monthly Entrepreneurs Lunch. 

~ By Indigo Bishop, Neighbor Up member


Neighbors Help Neighbors Get Jobs at UH

Aristine Thomas felt like she was just a number. When she was furloughed in 2009 after 30 years of working at a pharmacy, she became one of the estimated 20,000 people living in Greater University Circle who were unemployed. If you’re lookign for advice from an experienced pharmacist from McDaids chemist stores, you can click on and find out!

It was like “a dark cloud came over Cleveland,” Thomas said when describing that time. “I hadn’t filled out a (job) application in 30 years. I got out of high school in 1970. It’s different now.”

Now, most job applications must be filled out online, and breaking through that virtual wall to get a job interview with a real person can be tough. Thomas tried, and even got some interviews, but no offers.

Two and a half years after being laid off, she was spending much of her time watching television, filling out job applications online and volunteering in her neighborhood. Then she heard about the innovative Step Up to University Hospitals program.

Thomas lives just 3 miles from the Euclid Avenue hospital system — one of Ohio’s largest employers. What she did next would get her inside its doors and change her fortunes.

A Neighborhood Jobs Pipeline

Step Up to University Hospitals is a unique partnership between University Hospitals, Towards Employment (a nonprofit that helps people find work), and Neighborhood Connections, the small grants and community building program of the Cleveland Foundation.

The goal of the program is to become a “neighborhood jobs pipeline” that connects people living just outside the hospital’s doors in Greater University Circle with good-paying, entry-level jobs inside that offer benefits and the opportunity for advancement.

According to a paper from the Annie E. Casey Foundation: “Poverty and unemployment aren’t spread evenly across cities and regions, but rather are concentrated in certain neighborhoods and communities. … Poor neighborhoods are often isolated, cut off from the relatively prosperous cities that surround them.”

That is the case in Greater University Circle where the University Circle neighborhood thrives — it is home to Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals with the Cleveland Clinic nearby — while unemployment surges in surrounding communities like Hough, Fairfax and Glenville.

“Pipelines help people get past barriers, get a foot in the door and get going,” the paper read.

Creating such a pipeline requires a strong partnership in order to provide the training and career coaching people need to succeed.

Danielle Price, of Neighborhood Connections, said the Step Up partners “operate as a network, each in our own area of expertise,” all focused on the larger mission of building wealth for residents of Greater University Circle.

“The only way to provide this range of support is through collaboration,” added Jill Rizika, executive director of Towards Employment.

How does it work?

Neighborhood jobs pipelines begin with deep and trusted connections to neighbors, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation paper. This is where Neighborhood Connections is able to have real impact in the Step Up pipeline.

“At Neighborhood Connections, we do authentic community engagement,” Price said. “We really get to know people. We know their strengths and their talents. We know that everyone has something to give.”

Neighborhood Connections’ role in the Step Up partnership is to recruit residents to attend information sessions and learn about the available jobs at the hospital. Staff do this by tapping into Neighbor Up, a network launched by Neighborhood Connections in 2012 that brings together folks from all sectors of Greater Cleveland to work together so all can thrive. At each information session, Neighborhood Connections staff provide light refreshments and music and greet everyone who comes. Those not already connected to Neighbor Up are introduced to the larger network.

“We’re trying to put the human back in human resources,” Price said.

Staff from Towards Employment lead the information sessions to tell neighbors about the available jobs. From there, folks may be chosen to attend a two-week pre-employment program at Towards Employment’s downtown office focusing on interview skills, customer service and job retention training. After completing that program, candidates are interviewed at Towards Employment by a recruiter from University Hospitals.

If selected by that recruiter, they go for a final interview at University Hospitals — after spending four days with a Towards Employment career coach doing mock interviews. Once hired, Towards Employment provides the new employees a job coach for the first six months of employment.


University Hospitals is Ohio’s seventh-largest employer with about 21,000 employees, according to 2012 data from the Ohio Department of Development.

The hospital’s Human Resources department receives about 12,000 job applications every month for about 300 available positions, said Debbi Perkul of University Hospitals. Wading through those applications to hire qualified candidates is a cumbersome and laborious task. Department staff typically interview about 12 people for every job opening, according to hospital statistics.

The Step Up partnership allows Neighborhood Connections and Towards Employment to do some of the candidate screening for the hospital. With the Step Up project, hospital HR staff have had to interview fewer than three people for every available position, statistics show.

The program “significantly reduced the interview-to-hire ratio, enhancing the efficiency for UH and creating new opportunities for residents,” Perkul said.

Staci Wampler, of Towards Employment, said people who go through the Step Up program not only are well-prepared to answer tough questions in a job interview, but they really understand what the job entails. This increases retention after people are hired.

With Step Up, they know “the job is a good fit,” Wampler said. “It’s a hard job. It’s not a cakewalk.”

Thomas said the program helped her to “keep it simple and stay focused” when answering questions during her job interview.

She got the job and is now a full-time employee in the hospital’s Environmental Services division.

“Without (Step Up), I’d probably still be at home on the Internet” looking for work, Thomas said. “You meet people … like everybody at Towards Employment, and they tell you all the good things you still have to give to the community. That kind of employment guidance is key.”

Information sessions about Step Up to UH take place monthly. You are invited to attend. For more information, call 216-361-0042.