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From Your CEO

Reflecting on a Strong Year

This is the time of the year usually reserved for reflection, downloading lessons learned and examining areas of growth. It is also a good time to celebrate accomplishments and goals.

This year, OUCAN and its member agencies excelled with record breaking and innovative programming, leadership and community partnerships. One of the high points was the network’s influence in the passage of the state’s 2024-2025 budget resulting in $2,500 per child state tax deduction, continuous funding of Ohio Housing Trust Fund and support for programs and policies to reduce racial disparities in wages and occupational clustering. These important pillars are part of the OUCAN Advocacy Agenda priorities: 1) Early Childhood Care and Education; 2) Workforce Development and 3) Affordable Housing.

As co-host of the 2023 Rally of Ohio’s Future at the Statehouse, we demonstrated our collective voices in solidarity with state advocates and leaders in urging the state Senate to restore funding for services and programs, so all Ohioans have access to healthcare, food, housing, childcare and other resources to be part of the state’s economic prosperity. Our efforts resulted in influencing state lawmakers to pass a budget restoring policy and funding to key services and programs to collectively provide opportunities for all Ohioans to prosper.

Alongside the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies, we openly opposed Issue 1 making it harder to pass citizen-led constitutional amendments by requiring 60% of voters instead of the current 50% plus one. Knowing our constitution must be protected by maintaining the existing mechanism for citizens to directly engage in amendment changes, we supported Ohioans and the basic constitutional right of majority rule.

The urban community action agencies are uniquely positioned to elevate all Ohioans and provide them with opportunities to succeed and enjoy the dream of self-sufficiency from their hard work. While our members serve 56% of low-to-moderate-income Ohioans, OUCAN strives to support them. Our signature training and educational webinars such as the Women’s Leadership Symposium, assembling more than 120 women leaders across the state proved to be a direct address to the needs of OUCAN’s and neighboring nonprofit organizations.

We also launched the inaugural OUCAN Men’s Forum: Strengthening Your MENtal Health after hearing the voices through evaluations and surveys from our male leaders. Many shared their interests in work-life balance conversations and their roles in the urban community action network. We are looking forward to expanding this initiative and adding other layers of content to the curriculum.

Between the signature conferences and statewide training, we successfully featured the local and collective expertise from our agency members and leaders in a wide range of compliance subjects and trending topics. This is the first year we achieved 100% support from all 10 OUCAN agencies resulting in about $2,500 of in-kind support.

I am also happy to share, OUCAN is now part of the Ohio Department of Development, Training & Technical Assistance agency roster. With a proven track record in training and professional development, we are positioned to increase our training curriculum in 2024 to include board governance, ROMA and CSBG standards. Stay tuned for more information.

In closing, thank you to the OUCAN Board of Directors led by Dr. Jacklyn Chisholm for your unwavering support and guidance. The network continues to grow stronger and more influential in the state and provides services with dignity and respect.

Most importantly, I mostly think about YOU! The urban community action staff, managers, directors and leaders. There are a lot of challenges and uncertainties during service delivery, and you manage each turn of events with compassion and grace, and we see you for it! THANK YOU for your fortitude and professionalism. Your service is backed with dedication and dignity allowing me to effectively serve as the representative and advocate of our network.

Wishing you a wonderful Holiday Season!