Christin Farmer always has the perfect quote in hand ready to inspire others.
Every Monday at 10:30 a.m., her staff at Birthing Beautiful Communities gathers for a weekly check-in at their office on Euclid Avenue just east of downtown. The 22 individuals assemble various chairs into a circle to set the tone for the week.
Then, Farmer shares the quote she has selected. On this Monday in early October, she reads an old African proverb: “If you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.”
“It speaks to our work,” reflects Farmer, the nonprofit’s founding president and CEO.
Staffed almost exclusively by black women, the organization has a mission to address and improve on birth inequities in Cuyahoga County, where black babies are currently dying at a rate seven times more than white babies. So each day, they train women to become community-based doulas and employ them to support pregnant women in their neighborhoods.
“Doing good is about collectivism,” says Farmer. “Yes, we’re individuals. But we’re individuals in a community and our voices together allow us to do even more good.”
And goodness knows, we need it.
If you spend any time on Twitter, watching cable news or driving in rush hour traffic on Interstate-480, you’re witness to all sorts of nastiness and division. The opioid epidemic, the scourge of gun violence and the effects of poverty and inequality are just some of the problems we’re confronting in Northeast Ohio. Add in a president whose rhetoric routinely includes lies, name-calling and fearmongering, and positivity can be tough to muster.
“The national climate may have the power to prevent people from working with each other,” says Stephen Hoffman, president of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland. “But in Cleveland, everyone always wants to work with everyone to do the most good possible.”
Cleveland’s propensity for goodness rivals any city in America with a history that easily dates back more than 100 years with the founding of the country’s first community chest in 1913 and its first community foundation a year later.
That spirit continues today with example after inspiring example of energy spent trying to make things better. Charity Navigator recently ranked Cleveland sixth in the country in philanthropic giving, including taking the top spot for financial performance. The Corporation of National and Community Service placed us among the top 15 metropolitan areas with the highest rates of volunteerism.
“The interactions of those doing good here in Cleveland is the classic case of two plus two equals seven,” says Hoffman. “This city keeps proving we are greater working together.”