In November 2021, Brian Cash decided to take a walk from East Mount Zion Baptist Church, where he is the pastor, just across Euclid Avenue to the Health Education Campus (HEC). He’d heard about a press conference featuring Gov. Mike DeWine that was taking place and he wanted to join the audience. Afterwards, he found himself wandering for a bit to explore the HEC’s bright, airy spaces.
As he did, he saw a sign on a door that read, “Office of Interprofessional and Interdisciplinary Education and Research.”
“I’m a person of faith and I felt like the spirit was telling me to open the door and walk in to the office,” Cash explains. The people he met in the office that day were kind and shared a desire to engage communities—it was the start to East Mount Zion’s collaborative relationship with Case Western Reserve.
Since then, the church and Case Western Reserve have partnered to co-host two events for the community.
In May 2022, the HEC hosted a showing of the short documentary film, 100th and Cedar. The showing was supported by Case Western Reserve’s McBride Lecture Fund and presented by PNC Bank. The film was of particular interest to those living in the Fairfax neighborhood and to members of East Mount Zion Baptist Church because it featured one of its members, Carolyn Greene, who grew up in Fairfax, overcame addiction, and now works to give back to the community that saved her. The film originally had been shown as part of the Cleveland International Film Festival, but the festival’s downtown location wasn’t convenient for many church members and neighborhood residents. Bringing the movie closer to the church meant that more people in the neighborhood could see it. In fact, more than 100 residents and East Mount Zion Baptist members came to watch the free showing.
Then in July 2022, East Mount Zion Baptist and Case Western Reserve partnered once again, this time on a community health fair at the church. The community health fair brought together medical, dental and nursing students from Case Western Reserve to provide a variety of health screenings for anyone who visited. Cash says that beyond the fair’s health and community-building benefits, it was a success because multiple generations could interact in meaningful ways and in ways that he hopes will build a stronger sense of community.
Moving forward, Cash hopes to expand the East Mount Zion Baptist-Case Western Reserve partnership to create programs that develop people and improve the social determinants of health, especially for those living in the areas around the church.
“We have to reimagine what it means to be a multi-faceted essential resource—we can’t just say that we serve food or that have spiritual duties. We need to survey the needs of those in our communities and the needs of those we serve and then figure out how we can accomplish meeting those needs,” Cash says. “And we can all do this together because it’s not just one entity’s job—it’s collaborative work.”