Cleveland Angels Connection
ORDINARY PEOPLE MAKING AN EXTRAORDINARY DIFFERENCE
ORDINARY PEOPLE MAKING AN EXTRAORDINARY DIFFERENCE
when it all changed
the year of covid-19
It has been about one year since we all faced the biggest change ever experienced in our lives, Covid-19. Looking back, we are amazed at the way this community came together and all we were able to accomplish despite the challenges of, and also in response to, the pandemic. Cleveland Angels was able to safely provide care for its kids, youth, and families in need. Those were, and still are, tough times for youth impacted by foster care, and it is imperative, now more than ever, that they know that they are loved.
Throughout the pandemic, our Love Box leaders were still delivering Love Boxes while following the CDC social distancing guidelines. The Love Box leaders would deliver these boxes of goodies and necessities to the family's doorstep and would see smiling children peeking through the windows eager to receive their boxes.
In 2020, Dawn signed up to be a Love Box leader and soon formed a strong relationship with long time foster mom, Ms. Winnie and the 2 children in her care. Dawn went above and beyond and stepped in to help care for the kids when Ms. Winnie was unexpectedly hospitalized. Dawn provided the children with Christmas gifts, extra groceries, and guidance.
"This year, the girls have had to navigate Covid and online school, on top of having jobs. When their foster mom was hospitalized, it resulted in yet another housing change.
Many children and families experienced greater needs this year, which is why Cleveland Angels created an Amazon wish list where our community could purchase and provide for emergent needs of our families. Community members were also able to drop off purchased items through no contact donation drops that were scheduled at the Cleveland Angels office. This idea arose once we realized that the pandemic had led to a host of new needs that not all foster parents had the capacity to provide for their families. In addition to meeting immediate needs, teens at Metro Health received well-being and hygiene bags, kids received summer fun boxes, and families received special deliveries from Love Box leaders.
Angel Relief campaign
The Angel Relief Campaign was launched specifically to help families during Covid-19. This campaign gained many followers, donations, and an overwhelming amount of support, which we are so thankful for. The rate of newborns coming into foster care in 2020 was quite large, which led to the creation of the Angel Relief Campaign. Along with the no contact drop offs and an Amazon wish list, the Angel Relief Campaign received several donations from the community to help provide extra support, care, and financial relief for foster families in need. Throughout the campaign, Cleveland Angels partnered with the Metro Health Medical Home for Foster Care and other volunteers to meet the immediate need brought on by the increased rate of newborns entering the foster care system, which included anything from diapers to cribs. We were grateful that Channel 5 news covered this campaign which helped us reach more kids in need. By meeting the needs of our newborns, foster families were able to say yes to a placement and say yes to giving a child safety and unconditional love. As you can see in the picture below, the community response to these needs was amazing through our Angel Relief Campaign. We are so thankful to be a part of this amazing Cleveland Angels community that came together to help our youth!
We are proud of what we have accomplished this past year and how many children we were able to serve despite these uncertain times. It is truly a blessing to be able to provide support for the children, youth and families in our community. We are excited to see what the rest of 2021 has in store for us, and because of our generous supporters, we look forward to serving even more children and families in our Cleveland Angels community!
An Interview with Executive Director, Gretchen Dupps, and President of the Board, Christy Rutkowski
Cleveland Angels recently celebrated three years of walking alongside children, youth, and families impacted by the foster care system and we could not be more proud of everything we have accomplished. This past year, in particular, presented many new challenges and obstacles, but our struggles taught us valuable lessons and helped us develop new strengths. As we enter our fourth year, we have made some changes to our leadership structure in order to improve the efficiency and impact of our organization. Our founder and Executive Director Gretchen Dupps still leads Cleveland Angels with passion and drive, but she is now joined by our new President of the Board, Christy Rutkowski. In this interview with Gretchen and Christy, they share their personal experience with Cleveland Angels, their new roles within the organization, and what they are looking forward to within their positions.
“I know what it is like to have the unknown and trauma brought into your home. There is secondary trauma and underlying stress for everyone in the home. It is so important to make everyone a family member, a part of your home, and a part of your heart. Providing support to the entire foster family (foster parents, children in care, adopted and biological children) is what I believe will change the face of foster care.” -Gretchen Dupps
Christy first heard about Cleveland Angels from our current Program Director, Apryl Rashid. After leaving the construction industry, Christy spent time as a stay-at-home mom homeschooling her two oldest children. During that time, she and her husband were active foster parents for 4 years through Cuyahoga County and adopted one of the young girls they fostered into their family. Christy and Apryl met through their foster parent training courses. Apryl shared with Christy about Cleveland Angels and a job opening within the organization. After having closed their home to more foster children, Christy saw that as the perfect opportunity to continue feeding her passion for educating others about foster care and advocating and supporting children and families impacted by the foster care system. Christy started her journey with Cleveland Angels by working as one of our first case managers but transitioned to our Church and Community Engagement Chair on the board in 2019.
As a foster parent herself, Christy knows the flood of emotions that comes with that title. The fear of the unknown, the daunting feeling of being lonely, the joy of creating a better life for children, and the love for the kids and the relationship you create. From personal experience, she knows how important it is to have someone to show up. Whether it be to provide goods, spend time with the kids, converse with the adults, and give the biological kids in the home some extra attention too. It is critical to value and see everyone equally.
“My drive is putting a face to what foster care is. To bring awareness and advocacy to these families. It is so important to have wraparound care for the family. I can remember incidents where my biological children were in need of something and they had to wait because there was something more pressing at the moment. It is important to me that our programs and mission, create an environment for everyone to be seen and everyone to be valued” -Christy rutkowski
For the first year of operation, Cleveland Angels was run by a volunteer working board who helped run the day-to-day operations, fundraise, build relationships and connect within the community. It was, and still is, an all-hands-on-deck community, but we were able to hire our first case manager, Apryl Rashid, in spring of 2019. Working in both roles of President and Executive Director, Gretchen, was managing board work and communications, training the new staff, running day-to-day operations, planning and executing events, and much more. With a growing list of responsibilities, Gretchen felt that Cleveland Angels would benefit from a new balance of leadership as she stepped down from her official position of President of the Board. Christy had become actively involved in many facets of the business and was more than qualified to take on the role of President of the board. Christy and Gretchen now work in tandem to help operate our growing organization.
As President, Christy now leads the board and continues to build relationships and networks within the community. In the role of Executive Director, Gretchen continues to run day-to-day operations, working closely with our case management staff, marketing team, and interns, executes events and outreach initiatives and helps to build our funding base. Gretchen and Christy will continue to work alongside one another; collaborating to build strategic growth plans to further our reach and serve more children. With a working board of 11 people, a growing staff, and large intern classes, Christy and Gretchen will work closely together to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Both Gretchen and Christy are filled with passion and dedication for the mission of the Cleveland Angels. Their commitment and determination are complementary to one another and they hold the staff and board to a high standard of work ethic. Working together, they will grow networks in our community, diversify our volunteer and donor base and increase the impact for children and families in Greater Cleveland.
We are grateful to have Christy step into this new role as President, and look forward to seeing this partnership continue to build and grow Cleveland Angels.
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Phone: (216) 206-7172
25935 Detroit Road
Cleveland, Ohio 44145