Executive Director Announcement

West Side Catholic Center, one of Cleveland’s premier social service agencies, today announced its Board of Directors has selected John Litten as the organization’s new Executive Director.  The announcement follows a four-month search undertaken after current Executive Director Anita Cook’s announcement in March that she would be retiring in September of 2017.  Litten currently serves as the Executive Director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.  He and Cook will begin a one-month transition starting in September. 

“We believe that John will be a transformational leader for West Side Catholic Center as it continues to serve both the immediate, short-term needs of the clients and the long-term goals of putting them on the path to self-sufficiency,” says Christopher Koehler, Board President. “John immediately stood out as someone who has the experience in addressing the challenges that our homeless population faces on a daily basis.” 

“Anita has been a mentor to me for the past five years, so I know firsthand how good she is, and what a challenge I will have to rise up to the bar she has set for West Side Catholic Center,” remarked Litten.  “I welcome this opportunity with open arms, and look forward to working with the wonderful staff and volunteers.”

“I am excited to work with John as we transition the leadership of the WSCC,” says Cook.  “John is passionate about the work we do and will bring new spirit and energy to the organization. I am grateful to Chris Koehler, Board President, and the Search Committee for the time and effort put into this process. It was thoughtful and inclusive and resulted in an excellent choice.”

Prior to serving as Executive Director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Litten served as Director of Camp Christopher where he also was employed as Program Coordinator prior to being Executive Director.  Litten holds a Master of Public Administration from Cleveland State University and a bachelor’s degree in graphic design from Ohio University. The eldest of six children, this Cleveland native is a graduate of St. Edward High School and resides in Lakewood with his wife, Carrie Anne, and three children. He is Ward 3 Councilman in Lakewood and is a member of St. Luke the Evangelist Church.

For additional information, contact Jennifer Highfield at 216-631-4741.

CARF Accreditation

WSCC was recently awarded a 3-year accreditation from the Commission of Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF).

Founded in 1966, CARF International is an independent, nonprofit accreditor of health and human services in the following areas:

  • Aging Services
  • Behavioral Health
  • Business and Services Management Networks
  • Child and Youth Services
  • Employment and CommunityServices
  • Medical Rehabilitation

Achieving accreditation requires a service provider to commit to quality improvement, focus on the unique needs of each person the provider serves, and monitor the results of services.

A service provider begins the accreditation process with an internal examination of its program and business practices. Then the provider requests an on-site survey that will be conducted by a team of expert practitioners selected by CARF. During the survey, the provider must demonstrate that it conforms to a series of rigorous and internationally recognized CARF standards.

Based on the results of the survey, CARF prepares a written report of the provider’s strengths and areas for improvement. If a provider has sufficiently demonstrated its conformance to the standards, it earns a 1-year or 3-year CARF accreditation.

WSCC received accreditation for the following programs through July 2020:

  • Child and Youth Services
  • Community Employment Services: Job Development
  • Mentor Services
  • Rapid Rehousing and Homeless Prevention Programs
  • Service Coordination

Executive Director E-News 12.30.2016

2016 was a very busy year at the West Side Catholic Center. The final numbers are not in yet I know we continue to serve many meals, provide clothing, and shelter the homeless all in an effort to help our clients continue on their path to self-sufficiency. The work is difficult and we have many successes as well as challenges. Thank you for walking with the clients and staff of WSCC. We could not do our work without your support and prayers.

Our Giving Tree program provided new hats, gloves, underwear, socks, sweatshirts and full size toiletries to 481 adults and 955 children over two days before Christmas. While this is about the same number of adults served in 2015, 306 more children received a gift package is year.  Again, this would not have been accomplished without our many donors and volunteers. My most sincere thanks to Anne Cleary who led the Giving Tree project this year!

Last Wednesday, December 21 the WSCC hosted the 30th Annual Homeless Memorial Day. This vigil is organized in Cuyahoga County by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless. Similar events are held throughout the U.S. to commemorate those who died in the past year. The Resource Center was packed as we welcomed homeless providers, friends and clients.

Brian Davis, ED of NEOCH welcomed all and shared the history of the event. We were all honored with the presence of Senator Sherrod Brown. The senator visited with many of the clients. He also offered inspiring words about the importance of the work done in the provider community.

Opening prayers were offered by: Rabbi Joshua Caruso from Fairmount Temple, Pastor Doug Horner from St. Paul’s Community Church and Andrew Genszler, President and CEO of Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry.  We lit candles and Jennifer Kocan, NEOCH Board Treasurer read the names of the 103 homeless individuals who died in the past year. I was also able to say a few words about Sue Dinardo, Case Management Supervisor at WSCC who passed away suddenly on November 30th. Sue was an important and longtime member of the provider community and worked tirelessly to serve the homeless in Greater Cleveland.

The 103 names were almost twice as many as the 56 names read in 2015 and the highest in the 30 year history of the vigil. The following is a link to photos and a story in the December 22nd issue of The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Thank you to Brian and NEOCH, Senator Brown and all who attended this vigil.

Speaking of success – Cleveland.com reported that between 2011 and 2016 homelessness in Cleveland decreased by 25%. See the article here for further explanation. There are many nuances to the numbers but this is still great news. 

I can also report that we have raised over $1.8 million of our $2.0 million Campaign for the Future. The campaign will be completed in early 2017 and we anticipate work to begin later in the year. 

I wish you a Happy New Year and look forward to a busy 2017!

Anita Cook
WSCC Executive Director

Upcoming at the WSCC:

Wednesday, January 8 – 6pm. Board of Directors meeting and dinner. Location TBD.

Executive Director E-News 9.22.16

I have not written an Executive Director newsletter in many weeks; primarily I have just felt overwhelmed by the current social, political and economic  environment in America. This has left me with many questions and concerns about my part in this system and how can I change the system. After much reading, listening and research I have found much inspiration yet no answers so I guess it is time to get back to these bi-weekly newsletters. I am pleased to report some good news. Most of the following has been taken from the Children’s Defense Fund weekly newsletter.

POVERTY DECREASED IN 2015. The U.S. Census Bureau data released recently found 43.1 million poor people in America in 2015, 3.5 million fewer than 2014, but higher than before the recession began in 2007. The disheartening news is that one in three people in poverty is a child. Children remain the poorest age group in America, with more than 14.5 million poor, one million fewer than in 2014. Although the child poverty rate decreased in 2015, the number of poor children remains stubbornly high. 

Child poverty rates declined for White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian children and that is good news. Yet despite the good news, children of color are still disproportionately poor and comprise nearly 70 percent of poor children in America. One in three Black children and more than one in four Hispanic children were poor in 2015, compared to one in eight White children. They live in another America. In 2020, the majority of children in our country will be children of color, so when we deny them the basic necessities of life we are threating all of our futures.

The younger children are in America the poorer they are: in 2015 more than one in five infants, toddlers and preschoolers were poor during their years of greatest brain development. Nearly half of poor young children live in extreme poverty — at less than half the poverty level.

 Poverty hurts and the damage can last a lifetime. The research is so clear that the early years are critically important in laying a foundation for early childhood and adulthood. There is no more urgent need than ensuring a high equality early childhood development system for our children. 

Poverty is defined as an annual income below $24,257 for a family of four. Extreme poverty is half of the annual poverty level, or less than $12,129 for a family of four. There are more than 6.5 million extremely poor children in America — more than the combined populations of Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia. No family with a parent working full-time year-round should be poor in our nation. Yet in 2015, more than two-thirds of poor children had at least one family member who worked, and nearly one-third had at least one family member who worked full-time year-round.

Research shows children growing up poor are less likely to grow up healthy and succeed in school and more likely to be poor as adults. While the latest numbers show we have one million new reasons to celebrate, we must keep going and finish the job of ensuring a level playing field for every child. 

Closer to home we find that Ohio's poverty rate dropped and the median household income rose last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. There were about 111,000 fewer people living in poverty in 2015 compared to 2014. The poverty rate dropped to 14.8 percent in 2015 from 15.8 percent.

Despite the improvement, Ohio still had 1.674 million people living below the federally established poverty level. That compared with 1.785 million the previous year. The decline in Ohioans in poverty was a positive sign but there still a "tremendous" amount of work that needs to be done. The work continues at the West Side Catholic Center!

You read about the Capital Campaign in this newsletter as well as other printed material. To date we have raised $1.7 million of our $2.0 million goal. We continue to connect with supporters and donors to reach our goal. If you have not heard about the campaign please let me know and I will be happy to share our plans. This campaign is so important for the sustainability of the work we do at WSCC.

As always, thank you for reading, 

Anita Cook
WSCC Executive Director

Upcoming at WSCC: 

Thursday, October 13 – 7:30am – Advancement Committee
Saturday, October 15 – 8;30am – St. Joseph Church – S.O.U.L Race to benefit WSCC
Tuesday, October 18, - 7:30am – Program Committee
Wednesday, October 19 – 7:30am – Governance Committee
Thursday, October 20 – 8am – Mass in Resource Center, 
Friday, November 4 – 7:30am – Finance Committee
Saturday, November 5 – 6pm – Warm Hearts, Winter Nights – Downtown Cleveland Marriott


Executive Director E-News 6.20.16

Summer is in full swing at the WSCC. In addition to our regular volunteers we host many special volunteer groups especially youth groups. This week brought students from Magnificat as part of an “urban immersion” experience. As in previous summers we host a student from the Notre Dame University Summer Service Learning Program. This year it is Michael Kay who hails from Lakewood and will be a sophomore in the fall. These young people always add extra energy to the WSCC during the summer.

Today is the third Friday in the Weekend Food Program. This program was created because school is out and children that receive a backpack full of food every Friday during the school year don’t have that resource during the summer. And it is an important resource. While many efforts are made to provide meals Monday through Friday at various sites, most notably libraries and recreation centers, during the summer there is no backpack program at these centers. Our effort is a drop in the bucket but it is an important one for the children in our neighborhood. We will serve between 100 and 125 children each of 10 weeks this summer.

Every Friday a volunteer group comes to cook and serve a picnic for these children and their families. The first week brought a group from St. Basil the Great and last Friday we had a group from Holy Angels in Bainbridge. Today St. John Neumann will be here. Each week the children receive re-usable bags filled with oatmeal, cereal, milk, soup, peanut butter and jelly, ravioli, macaroni and cheese, pretzels and gummie bears. This is enough for 2 breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks for the weekend.  Several parents have privately told staff that the food we provide makes a real difference for their children over the weekend. My sincere thanks to Judy Kern, Director of Programs and Jeanette Mazzola, Youth Coordinator for leading these efforts. A special shout-out to Dave’s in Ohio City for providing the food at a very reasonable cost.

Please join us on Thursday, July 7th at 6:00pm in the Breen Center of Saint Ignatius High School for a celebration of this year’s Expressive Arts Project. Clients will present their artwork with some items available for sale. Creative writings will also be shared. It is a very special evening and always ends with refreshments! I invite you to check out the talents of the clients of the WSCC – you will be impressed. We are proud of the Expressive Arts Project (supported by the Cuyahoga Arts and Culture Council) and the opportunities it provides clients to engage in art, yoga, creative writing, drumming, music performances, theater field trips and gardening. Last evening a group went to see Phantom of the Opera with dinner before at Otto Moser’s.

Don’t forget about the 3rd Annual Sips & Swigs on Saturday, August 13th. This is a beer enthusiast’s event meant to educate the public in beer appreciation and beer quality.  Sips & Swigs will be held at St. Ignatius High School’s Kyle Field
from 3-7 PM. Stay tuned for more info on the breweries that will be represented.
This is a festive event put on by the Associate Board of the WSCC. This energetic, enthusiastic group of young professionals has put on two wonderful events and we are looking forward to this year’s event. We look forward to seeing you there.

On a final note, I have attended several meetings over the past few weeks to address the issue of the homeless in Cleveland and the RNC. There have been concerns that homeless folks who are shelter-averse will be displaced from their outdoor living spaces and that adequate services won’t be available to those in need. I am confident through the efforts of many agencies such as the Metanoia Project, NEOCH, St. Herman’s House of Hospitality, St. Paul’s Community Church and WSCC with the assistance of the Cleveland Police Department that those in need in our community will have access to critical services. I expect few, if any homeless will be displaced during the convention. It is good to know that while there may be inconveniences, even the least among us will be accommodated during the week of the RNC.


Executive Director E-News 6.3.16


I apologize for my absence from writing bi-weekly newsletters. Suffice to say it has been a busy spring.

I’ve written before about the book“$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America,” in which Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer write about the rise of extreme poverty in the U.S. The authors share many of the ways that those living in extreme poverty “get by” and one of those ways is Plassing, otherwise known as a paid plasma donation. There is a plasma donation center on W.25th near MetroHealth and I know that WSCC clients will sell their plasma on occasion. I had no idea about the Plasma Industry until I read the following blog from a Primary Care Physician practicing in Cleveland. Dr. David Margolius writes “Plassing and Poverty: One Doctor’s Dilemma” here: http://betterhealthpartnershipblog.wordpress.com/ . I urge you to read this blog.

The plasma industry is where people who have no other access to cash assistance go for cash because cash is needed to survive.  There may be other forms of assistance such as food stamps (now known as SNAP) or housing subsidies yet there is very little direct cash assistance. The only cash assistance program is TANF or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and that is limited to 36 months over the life of the recipient and is actually received by very few households. We all need cash. Those living in extreme poverty need it to pay for the same things we do; car repairs, medications, hospital co-pays. Dr. Margolius struggles with providing authorization forms that will allow his patients to donate plasma weekly.

The plasma therapeutics (drugs made with collected plasma) market totaled $11 billion in 2014. Plasma from paid donors in the United States makes up 70% of the world’s supply of plasma collections. Is this really how we want the poor to survive in this country?

There is still time to join us for the 11th Annual 5k Run/1 Mile Walk and Pancake Breakfast in historic Ohio City.  The race starts at 9:00am, walk in registrations will be taken at 8:00am.  This family friendly event is a fun morning and a way to see first-hand the amazing work done at the West Side Catholic Center and there will be PANCAKES provided by the good folks from Hyland, creator of OnBase.  Special t-shirt designed by GV ART + DESIGN to all participants. The forecast is for a beautiful morning. Hope to see you there.

As always, thank you for reading, 


Upcoming at WSCC ::

June 4–Saturday - 9:00am, 5K Run/1 Mile Walk & Pancake Breakfast

June 6 –Monday – 3:00pm – 6:00pm, Volunteer Training – Urban Community School

June 8 –Wednesday – 7:30am, Advancement Committee

June 13 –Monday -4:00pm – 7:00pm, Volunteer Training - Urban Community School

June 15 –Wednesday – 7:30am, Governance Committee

June 21 –Tuesday – 8:00am, Program Committee

June 23 – Thursday – 8:00am, Monthly Mass in the Resource Center

July 1 - Friday - 7:30am, Finance Committee

July 7 – Thursday – 6pm, Expressive Arts Project - The Breen Center

July 27 – Wednesday – 7:30am, Board of Directors

August 13– Annual Sips & Swigs – 3-7pm, See http://www.wsccenter.org for more information


Executive Director E-News 3-25-16 - Dorothy Day Award

Every year, we honor a volunteer or several volunteers with the Dorothy Day Award. This year, the selection committee of staff and former award recipients chose Pat O’Malley who gives her time at Moriah House.  Pat has volunteered for many years at WSCC and does so in such a kind, quiet, loving way.

The committee also chose to honor the nurses who serve in our twice weekly Nurse’s Clinics. The word quickly spread among the nurses that they were to be honored. Just as quickly, I received the following from Maureen Nally, one of the nurses. I share it with her permission as I think her feelings mirror what many of us feel when it comes to stepping out of our comfort zones.

Remember that Cat Stevens song "Tuesday's Dead?"  “If I make a mark in time, I can’t say the mark is mine. I’m only the underline of the Word.” That’s me, and my underline is not very straight!  I remember ten years or so ago when the clinic started.  I hesitated and held back for weeks because I was selfish and lacked confidence.  I had felt the call (I called it a nagging sensation) to do this for months, ever since a memo from our then CEO Mario Ciano about the need to give back when so much had been given.

I finally acted, but only after mustering enough faith and humility to get that it was not about me at all, but about the gift I had been given and where I was supposed to use it.  That simple.  I had no confidence in me, but great confidence in nursing.  I was likely the most reluctant volunteer ever, but found relief and much happiness and peace in the knowing and being in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing.  As per usual for me, received buckets more that I could ever give back to WSCC, and…. my employer……and my family, etc.

So deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve and to be a cog in the amazing wheel of life, learning, service, and love that is WSCC. I would tell anyone - that if the thought presents to volunteer, do not procrastinate, follow!!  (Oh gosh, another old favorite cover song 'I'll Follow The Sun' Judy Collins……..) Have a wonderful day.

Thank you Maureen! We're grateful for all our volunteers and we'll be honoring these wonderful women and celebrating all our amazing volunteers at the annual Volunteer Appreciation event on Thursday, April 21st from 5pm to 7pm at the Atrium of St. Ignatius High School. Invitations will be out soon.

I am also pleased to share that, once again, WSCC is a Community Partner for the 40th Annual Cleveland International Film Festival. We are supporting the film, 'God Knows Where I Am.'

The body of a homeless woman is found in an abandoned New Hampshire farmhouse. Beside the body, lies a diary that documents a journey of starvation and the loss of sanity, but told with poignancy, beauty, humor and spirituality. For nearly four months, Linda Bishop survived on apples and rain water, waiting for God to save her, during one of the coldest winters on record. As her story unfolds from different perspectives, including her own, we learn about our systemic failure to protect those who cannot protect themselves. I will be speaking before the start of each showing as follows:
                            Thursday, April 7, 2016 at 4:50PM

                             Friday, April 8, 2016 at 8:25PM

                             Saturday, April 9, 2016 at 1:30PM

If you are interested in purchasing tickets to see this film, or any other film, or for more information regarding the Cleveland International Film Festival, you can go to CIFF’s website http://www.clevelandfilm.org.

See you at the movies!


Executive Director E-News 3-11-16 - Open Table Model

Last week I attended a meeting sponsored by the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services, The YWCA of Greater Cleveland and The Lakewood Area Collaborative. The purpose was to share information about the Open Table Model and the plan to implement Open Tables for the 120 youth aging out of the Foster Care System every year in Cuyahoga County. There are 1,500 religious congregations in Greater Cleveland and appeals will be made to these groups to form Tables but you don’t have to be part of a congregation to form a Table. The organizers are hoping that 120 Tables can be formed every year to support these 18 year olds who are supposed to be adults when foster care ends. Most of the 18 year olds I know would find it incredibly difficult to be completely on their own on their 18th birthday.

The Open Table Model is based on the idea that communities – called Tables – can transform their vocational and life experiences into tools that people impacted by poverty can use to develop and implement a plan to help move his/her life towards self-sufficiency.  The group-mentoring model is intended to
create safety and stability in the life of a person in poverty. It is not a program. The primary mode of change is through friendship, relationship, and connection.

Each Table consists of 6 – 8 people who meet for one hour, every week for one year. It is a significant commitment but the stories that I have heard about the Tables is that they are transformational for both mentors and mentees. There have been several Tables piloted in Cuyahoga County for Youth Transitioning out of Foster Care and there were positive testimonials from both mentees andmentors.

I have heard about this program before as it began 12 years ago in Arizona. I am intrigued as it aligns with our beliefs at WSCC that relationships are one of the most important components for clients to become self-sufficient. Also, our Passages program which involves volunteers mentoring a Zacchaeus family for one year is very similar to the Table concept. If you are interested in becoming a Passages mentor please contact Allison Morford at amorford@wsccenter.org . Allison will provide more information and contacts for program.

Once again the Friends of the WSCC had a wonderful event last Sunday at LaCentre. The WSCC as well as the women and children of Moriah House are blessed to have such an amazing group of women in their corner. My sincere thanks to ALL of these women.

As we did in 2015, the WSCC is a Community Partner for a film at the Cleveland International Film Festival. “God Knows Where I Am” is the story about a well-educated wife and mother and the extraordinary events that lead to her death. Although I have not seen the film, I am guessing that it could be a story similar to that of many of our clients. There will be 3 showings: Thursday, April 7th at 4:50pm, Friday, April 8th at 8:25pm and Saturday, April 9th at 1:30pm. The Festival is one of my favorite Cleveland events so please come and see the film.

Executive Director E-News 2-26-16: A Children's Agenda


I’ve been doing some “decluttering” in my house and came across a book called “Cleveland’s Child – A Challenge for our Future.” Published in 1994 by The Junior League of Cleveland and the Children’s Defense Fund Greater Cleveland Project, the book is a 40 page compilation of important statistics about the state of children living in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County.  The book was intended to be a call to action. It was to be a first step in ensuring that a children’s agenda became the community’s agenda.

I was curious to see if any change had occurred. Here is sample
of what I found:

Child Poverty Rates (Cuyahoga County)

1988 19.7%

2011 29.0%

Infant Mortality (City of Cleveland)

1988: 16.9 deaths per 1,000 live births

2013: 13 (national average is 6)

Ninth Grade Children to Graduate from High School in the City of Cleveland School District

1990: 36.1%

2011: 63%

Cases of Child Abuse or Neglect (Cuyahoga County)

1988 – 9,842

2012 - 13,160

Some improvement is noted yet much work remains to be done. We still need to ensure that a children’s agenda is the community’s agenda. As I looked at the photographs of the children in various community settings, I wondered are any of these children now adults and clients of the WSCC. I suspect there are a few.

Final Reminder: The Friends of the WSCC is a group of very committed women who raise funds for Moriah House, the Women and Children’s Shelter and provide other needed items to the residents. This year they are holding their 28th Annual WOMEN HELPING WOMEN event on Sunday, March 6th at LaCentre Banquet Facility. There is a boutique, silent auction, amazing baskets, and raffles. It is always a wonderful event. Over the past 27 years the group has raised almost $1,000,000 for Moriah House. Reservations are available. For more information call Evelyn Allen at 440-871-6681.  

As always, thank you for reading.