Since our beginnings over a century ago, in Cleveland, our service area has grown to include Akron, Canton, Youngstown, Northwestern Pennsylvania, and everywhere in between. These communities are our home and have always been the focus of everything we do. We are passionate about the people we serve, and we strive to make an impact on everyone around us.
The dialogue around equity and injustice has been front and center in recent years, and as we’ve listened and absorbed the conversation, our team has realized that we need to step up and expect more of ourselves. Serving our community isn’t enough: we need to integrate with our community. We need to take an active role in promoting equity and inclusion within our industry. We want to earn a reputation as an organization that leads an honest, earnest charge to provide opportunities for everybody, everywhere we work.
In 2020, we formed our Community Team with five members and a simple goal: educate ourselves on the needs, struggles, and lived experiences of people of color. Our family and neighbors in Northeast Ohio are incredibly diverse, and no one person can speak for everyone. It was important for us to absorb as many voices as we could so we could better understand the work ahead.
Since then, our team has grown to thirteen people, and our efforts have resulted in a paradigm shift within the culture of Ohio Desk. We’ve trained extensively on the fundamentals of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) with the Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio. We’ve met with Pastor James Knight, founder of Leading with Humility, and shared his mission of “building safe environments where everyone can thrive and bring their best selves.” We’ve even held a bi-monthly book club so all members of our organization can learn and grow together by reading first-hand accounts, teachings, and perspectives from people of all colors and orientations.
Ultimately, though, it’s not enough to say that we’re DEI-friendly: we need to prove it with our actions. We aim to embed the principles of inclusion in everything we do. That means expanding our search for new team members to include diverse sources and underrepresented groups. It means actively reaching out to minority-owned businesses for services like catering and supplies. It means keeping our focus at all times on providing a safe and welcoming workplace – and partner – for everybody in our community. Our roles and responsibilities in diversity, equity, and inclusion are constantly evolving, and there is always some aspect of our organization that we can improve.
Despite this increased focus on our DEI initiative, we have not slowed our efforts to actively assist our community. After all, diversity and inclusion are only part of our mission: we still have an obligation to the people in the communities we serve. To that end, we have worked hard to provide a variety of ways for our staff to interact with those in need throughout the year. Our Cleveland offices volunteer twice yearly with the Achievement Centers for Children and the Cleveland Food Bank. In Akron, we help feed families with the Ronald McDonald House. Our Youngstown team donates their time to local soup kitchens. We’re regularly involved with smaller grassroots efforts, too: this fall, our entire organization participated in Socktoberfest, a sock drive benefitting children through the Akron Children’s Hospital.
There’s a reason we’re called Ohio Desk, and it’s not just because of our geographical location. We have deep roots here and take pride in the communities we serve. The work is already in our DNA: honing our focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion is merely the next step in creating a better life for everybody in our communities.