‘Give hope, get hope’: Cleveland Hope Exchange combats poverty, human trafficking one project at a time

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) — Give hope, get hope.

Those four words are the basis of a faith-based non-profit in Cleveland that’s worked the past two years to break the cycle of despair that exists in some Northeast Ohio neighborhoods.

Whether it’s through donations of clothing and food or letters of hope sprinkled throughout the city, Cleveland Hope Exchange, with the help of its hundreds of volunteers, is working to combat that hopelessness by meeting the needs of the community.

“Cleveland Hope Exchange exists to break the cycle of despair that’s rooted in poverty,” said Megan Gallagher, executive director. “When we think about poverty, we know there is helplessness, hunger, human trafficking, homelessness and addiction. They’re all intertwined, and where there’s helplessness there is hopelessness. We believe we can actually break that cycle of despair by inserting hope into the situation.”

The group is in the middle of its annual Hope Week: seven straight days of volunteer and community work all over Northeast Ohio.

On opening day, the group partnered with the Indians’ Travis Hafner to hold a free baseball camp for 75 children.

Among dozens of other projects, they’ll help sort and package medical supplies with MedWish and food for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.

They’ll also build a ramp at the Alpha House in Oberlin, wash windows at the Women’s Recovery Center and mow lawns in the Fairview Park area. On Saturday, they’ll pay the first 100 guests $1 at a car wash in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood.

The week will wrap up on Sunday, when the group will give away 1,000 pairs of shoes to residents across the city of Cleveland.

The group is still looking for volunteers to help out this week and even after to help keep the hope moving.

“These random acts of kindness, I think people will just find invigorating. “It’s a ripple. We see it with Cleveland Hope Exchange, when we do that act of kindness…the person who receives it actually passes it on.”

Throughout the past two years, the group has completed volunteer projects in certain neighborhoods that they’ve “adopted.”

“Hundreds and hundreds of people show up every month,” Gallagher said. “We have a city that not only loves the city we live in but the neighbors that exist.”

One of the group’s most creative projects has been its Letters of Hope. When they adopted their first neighborhood, Clark-Fulton, they wrote letters of hope and encouragement and left them on park benches and sides of cards.

The reaction was heartwarming, and the group received thank yous and notes from those who found the letters.

“We realized the power of writing words down and leaving words of encouragement,” she said. “We’ve been doing it ever since.”

The group had a letter-writing party Monday and will leave them this week in Lakewood Park, Rocky River Park, downtown and on the east side.

“Leaving them is even more fun,” she said. “You get to sprinkle them in special places and realize someone will find it and it’s going to make their day.”

The week and being involved in Cleveland Hope Exchange is more than just volunteer work, she said.

“We really believe when you give hope, you actually get hope in return,” she said.

For more on Hope Week, including how to volunteer, click here.

The year 2020 is going to be remembered as a year of drastic change, from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to rallies and sometimes rioting in the streets protesting racial injustice. With that in mind, we here at Fox 8 News are striving to find uplifting stories of togetherness as part of our Voices of Unity project.

If you know of people or organizations working together to make our world a better place in which to live, send your ideas to tips@fox8.com. Please use the subject line “Voices of Unity.”

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