Gala to honor 5 for `Journey’



The Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio will honor five people with its inaugural Journey Awards on Saturday evening during its annual gala, “An Evening to Soar!”

SOAR is the acronym for League’s flagship job-readiness program, Solid Opportunities for Advancement and Retention. One of the five honorees, Richard Cunningham, is a SOAR graduate who then completed the League’s Construction Connections program – in which he earned certification in crafting, rigging, equipment operating and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA 10). Working now in construction and earning a living to support his 6-year-old son, Cunningham plans within the next year to start his own residential demolition company.

“I care deeply about the community and helping at-risk young adults to make better life choices,” said Cunningham, who puts his words into practice by frequently returning to the Urban League’s Avondale campus to speak to participants in the SOAR class.
The League’s gala and silent auction is the local affiliate’s largest fund-raiser of the year.

With presenting sponsor Macy’s, the gala – which supports work of the Greater Cincinnati Urban League and the Miami Valley Urban League – will begin at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, at the Duke Energy Convention Center. The first order of business is the opening of the silent auction. Doors to the grand ballroom will open at 7 p.m. The program will begin at 7:15 p.m.

The theme Evening to Soar “is quite appropriate,” said Donna Jones Baker, President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio, of which the Greater Cincinnati and Miami Valley urban leagues are subsidiaries. “It reflects of the great work that the Urban League does through its life-changing program offerings.”

Dinner music will be provided by the Deron Bell Band. The evening ends with a concert from noted jazz vocalist Rachelle Ferrell. Featuring her six-octave range, Ferrell offers her unique versions of standards ranging from Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me” to Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love.”

Masters of ceremonies are Mark Hayes, WLWT-TV Channel 5 morning news anchor, and Faith Daniels of WROU-FM in the Dayton market.

Other Journey Award winners are: Catherine Crosby, executive director of Dayton’s Human Relations Council, who started the Dayton Urban League’s Young Professionals group 25 years ago; Urban Leaders program graduate Gloria Samuel, senior projects manager with Messer Construction; Osford Ogis, founder and CEO of OCG Telecom and graduate of the League’s business development program; and Jordan Quinn, a Woodward Career Technical High School graduate who attended the League’s after-school program there, which he credits for launching him to enrollment at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio.

Tickets are $150 a person and are still available through the end of business Thursday, Sept. 10, at or on Friday, Sept. 11, by calling (513) 281-9955.

The Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio touches thousands of lives a year through its many employment and youth and business development programs. Its three primary workforce development programs – SOAR, ACE (Accelerated Customer Service Education) and Construction Connections – have trained approximately 5,000 people in the past 10 years; 4,000 of them graduated, and roughly 3,000 found and maintained full-time employment in a career track.

Media contact: Mark Curnutte, Urban League, (513) 487-6523, (513) 348-5237, or

The Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio is a United Way agency partner. Since 1949, one of its subsidiaries, the Greater Cincinnati Urban League, has provided industry-leading job-training, business and leadership development, and youth programs.

These Companies are Transformational Supporters of the Urban League’s Corporate Heritage Annual Giving Program.