“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
At the root of the work of the Women’s Wellness Foundation, an all-volunteer, faith-based mission and ministry in Cleveland, is a profound belief in second chances. Often women who are reentering society after incarceration need help with struggles with substance abuse and lack of education and housing. “The Women’s Wellness Foundation was established to help support women transitioning back into the community,” says Executive Director Cynthia Rios, who helped found the group after realizing first-hand the lack of services available to women post-incarceration.
In 2010, four women including Rios started meeting on Friday evenings to share experiences and support each other through the difficult transition. Little did they know that seven years later, the Cuyahoga Land Bank would help them identify a new home that they would renovate for their mission. Today, the group has grown to more than 30 women. “We provide invaluable mentoring, resources, and opportunities for clean and sober living designed to help residents regain self-confidence and find a path to realize their dreams,” says Rios. “These women are often told that this is who they are and they are never going to change, and that is just not true. It is important for women to know that you don’t always have to be what you are now. There are ways to better your life.”
On July 27th, the Women’s Wellness Foundation held a ribbon cutting to celebrate the opening of its Dinami House, a sober-living facility for women. Derived from the Greek word meaning strength, Dinami House will serve as a haven for up to five women at a time, each who will pay an affordable monthly rent.
The fully furnished two-family home in Cleveland’s North Broadway neighborhood has four bedrooms, plus a shared kitchen and bathrooms. The home was conveyed to the Women’s Wellness Foundation after sitting vacant in the Cuyahoga Land Bank’s inventory. Rios’ husband, who owns a home renovation business, completed the majority of the work, along with a board member’s husband and other volunteers. Local businesses donated supplies for the renovation, including WeatherKing Heating and Air Conditioning of Macedonia, which donated and installed two brand new furnaces in the home. Many of the renovations were made possible by grants from two local chapters of 100+ Women Who Care, a giving circle that supports local charities and non-profits.
While staying at Dinami House, each resident will work with a qualified case manager to develop a personal plan for successful transition. “Women are being released from incarceration or other correctional situations every day with nowhere to go, forcing them to return to unhealthy environments. We help them get back on their feet with career planning, counseling and support services,” says Rios.
“In our work at the Cuyahoga Land Bank, we find opportunities that allow us to support community goals and improve the quality of life for our county’s residents,” says Cuyahoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos. “Dinami House is a great example of a collaboration that will not only offer at-risk women a safe living environment, but also the tools and resources needed to transition successfully back into our community.”
“It was wonderful working with the Women’s Wellness Foundation as it expanded its services with Dinami House,” says Vatreisha Nyemba, Cuyahoga Land Bank’s Compliance and Monitoring Manager. “We could see early on that this was a focused and determined group. A project like this takes a lot of work and Cindy, the Board, and all its supporters were up for the task.”
“The Cuyahoga Land Bank was wonderful to work with, and I feel like we have formed a long-term relationship with its staff,” says Rios. “I love working with these women who are at their most vulnerable point and let them see through my experience that there is a way out.”