July 21, 2014

Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland’s health program director recognized as one of 30 “Cleveland People” by Scene Magazine

Cleveland’s Scene Magazine recently ran a special “Cleveland People” issue, celebrating people who are working to make Cleveland better. Teleange Thomas, health program director for the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, was one of the 30 people recognized.

In describing the focus of the special issue, the magazine website states: “From food to music, from sports to activism, from charities to fashion, from tech to art, Northeast Ohioans are doing brilliant things and, in some cases, without much recognition. We’d like to take this chance to correct that. They touch your lives, they make Cleveland better, they are your Cleveland People 2014.”

Commenting on her recognition, Thomas said, “It was awesome to be acknowledged as an individual who is contributing to the greatness of Cleveland and to be featured with other passionate, creative and talented people across the region. It was equally rewarding to be able to share the part of my story and journey that intersects with the mission and ministry of the Sisters of Charity.”

As seen in Scene Magazine:

The Charitable Heart: Teleange Thomas
Health Program Director of Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland

The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland is an organization that most people likely have heard of, though they might not be able to describe what it does. But as Teleange Thomas, the group's health program director, says, "poverty touches everyone," and thus the work of the Sisters graces all corners of Northeast Ohio life.

"We've been able to carve out an approach to addressing the root causes of poverty," Thomas says. "We address health and education disparities, ending homelessness and continuing to uplift the work of women religious." Thomas joined the Foundation in 2009 with the intent of working mostly with issues of health and health-care access in Cleveland neighborhoods.

As for a typical day, Thomas says there's no such thing. "What I love is that my work allows me to interface directly with the everyday resident who calls Cleveland home — particularly in some of our communities and neighborhoods where they're underserved or dealing with issues surrounding poverty," she says. "At the same time, I may be at City Hall having a conversation with the mayor."

Because issues like "the root causes of poverty" are so broad and amorphous, Thomas finds herself wrangling different levels of Cleveland society onto as level a plane as possible. Public policy can be a tricky beast, but Thomas points out that real opportunities for collaboration are fomenting.

"In some of these underserved neighborhoods — like Central, which is a neighborhood we work very closely in — with the housing bust and other areas of disinvestment, you're left with these large swaths of land," Thomas says. "Now we're beginning to build in policy opportunities where land can be reused and revitalized in a way that's meaningful for a neighborhood that not only meets an economic issue, but also a social issue like access to food."

Complex stuff, to be sure, and that last issue — access to food — has been explored more publicly recently as those neighborhoods deal with very basic problems, like where to buy fresh produce.

But Cleveland is more tight-knit than the average resident might admit: What goes on in neighborhoods like Central tends to have a ripple effect into surrounding areas, like, say, Hough or downtown.

"I've always been rooted in community development," says Thomas, who has lived and worked in Cleveland for 15 years. "The food space has really created this opportunity to talk about economic development in a very new way. Again, in an era where unemployment is high and people are losing their homes, it's been really great to find an intersection in the food access space."

That space and many more are where Thomas will be focusing her work in the year ahead. Poverty can be difficult to identify and assess, but Thomas and her work at the Foundation are addressing myriad concerns that truly do impact us all.

The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System.

 

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