January 2023 Community Partner Spotlight: Famicos Foundation

CWRU's Julian Rogers and Jesse Honsky receive 2022 Famicos Foundation Parntership Award from Famicos' Tara Mowery

Famicos means "families in cooperation." And that's precisely what the Famicos Foundation, a Hough-based community development nonprofit and Case Western Reserve University partner, has been fostering for more than 50 years. 

Whether it’s providing affordable housing, neighborhood revitalization or integrated social services, Famicos is dedicated to improving the quality of life for Greater Cleveland residents, paying particular attention to the Glenville, Hough and St. Clair-Superior neighborhoods. 

The organization has grown considerably since its founding by Sr. Henrietta Gorris in 1969. Sr. Gorris began Famicos as a volunteer charity to help Hough residents rebuild their homes after the Hough Riots, which led to the deaths of four Black residents, many injuries and substantial damage by fire and gunshots to homes and businesses. 

Today, Famicos employs a 55-member full-time staff and is governed by a 14-member Board of Trustees. The organization provides a robust offering of services including help with housing, health and wellness initiatives, small business support, youth enrichment programs and opportunities, career-related assistance, environmental sustainability efforts and lead-safe advocacy.

Famicos also relies on its own family—a network of local partners—to help achieve its mission. Famicos Director of Marketing Tara Mowery says that its partnership with Case Western Reserve has been especially helpful in recent years. 

“Case Western Reserve understands that we’re neighbors to each other and encourages students to interact with the community across campus lines,” Mowery says. “We really appreciate the university’s intentionality with that.”

In 2018, Case Western Reserve began its partnership with Famicos, collaborating with the Cleveland Clinic Foundation on a holiday giving program and the Newton Avenue Park, a playground and green space located on East 97th Street in Hough. 

That was followed by a partnership with the School of Nursing to help with lead screenings of children enrolled in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. 

Since COVID vaccines became available more broadly to the public in March 2021, Famicos has partnered with the university on vaccine distribution, hosting vaccine clinics on campus and at Famicos food distribution sites. School of Nursing students also helped to create informational videos to share with the community to combat vaccine hesitancy and organized vaccine clinics for seniors and Mandarin-speaking Cleveland residents. 

During the 2021-22 academic year, health and social work students in Collaborative Practice Class I engaged in a first-time, year-long project for Famicos. The project resulted in the development of a health equity strategy for the Glenville, Hough, and St. Clair-Superior neighborhoods. The document identified lead hazards, vaccine hesitancy, food access, opioid addiction and maternal and infant care as these neighborhoods’ most urgent health care needs. Importantly, this resulted in a $200,000 Ohio Health Improvement Zone grant that was awarded to Famicos for its health equity work. Famicos will use the grant money to implement the health equity strategy. For its partnership, Case Western Reserve University was presented with Famicos’ 2022 Partnership Award last fall. 

And finally, Famicos recently began a partnership with the School of Dental Medicine to host free pop-up dental clinics to provide oral screening, dental education and denture cleaning. “We did a health survey with community residents and data showed that an alarming number had not seen a dentist in the last five years,” Mowery explained. 

“Case Western Reserve is one of our partners that is most willing to step outside the box and really go out into the community and help,” Mowery says. “With the university, I always feel like just because we haven’t done something before doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to get a ‘no. It’s more like, ‘Let’s see what we can do to make this work.’ Those are the kind of partners we want.”

Sign up online to serve as a Famicos volunteer. Simply complete the volunteer form and a member of the Famicos team will reach out to you.