The Center for Community Solutions' history is an in-depth look at the history of health and social services in Greater Cleveland. In 2013, Community Solutions celebrated 100 years of serving Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. 

In 2013, Community Solutions celebrated 100 years of serving Cleveland and Northeast Ohio. This special booklet provides a historical review of a century of community service. A few highlights from each decade are included below.

Also In 2013, Community Solutions and United Way of Greater Cleveland, celebrated 100th anniversary of service with a Centennial Gala featuring Keynote Speaker Anderson Cooper (CNN), Master of Ceremonies Russ Mitchell (WKYC-TV3), and music from Apollo's Fire: The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra. 

100 Years--Honoring a Century of Service, an 8.5-minute video presentation with clips and photos from across the century, was prepared by American Greetings. Please enjoy it.


CCS from Early Years to the 21st Century

 The Early Years

In 1913, a group of community leaders set out to better organize and coordinate the efforts of charities in Cleveland. They included:
Edgar E. Adams, Mr. and Mrs. Newton D. Baker, A.D. Baldwin, Chester C. Bolton, Starr Cadwallader, M.A. Fanning, Sereno Peck Fenn, Mrs. Frederick H. Goff, Alexander Hadden, Homer H. Johnson, Thomas H. Johnson, Martin A. Marks, Samuel Mather, C.A. Nicola, Rev. T.C. O'Reilly, Henry Lindsay Sanford, M.D., Mrs. W.R. Warner, Edward Mason Williams. James DeLong Williamson

Those community leaders founded the Federation for Charity and Philanthropy in 1913, along with one of the first modern Community Chests in the United States, the Community Fund. The first Community Fund drive raised $127,000, which the Federation distributed to 55 social service and charitable member organizations.

The establishment of the Federation was big news across the country: on April 6, 1913, The New York Times published "Unique Attempt To Solve Philanthropy’s Big Problem: Cleveland has Organized a Federation for Charity and  Philanthropy Which Will Make a Concerted Appeal for All Charities and a Gift to It Will Make the Donor Immune from Separate Gifts to Institutions." John D. Rockefeller, Sr., praised the concept of "federated fundraising" by sending a significant pledge and stating, "I believe in the spirit of combination and cooperation...and that this principle will eventually prevail in the art of giving." The Saturday Evening Post declared: “Its new Federation for Charity and Philanthropy is the direct result of …nearly five years of as painstaking and serious investigation as any voluntary organization in the country can point to."

In addition to raising and distributing funds, the Federation educated the public about cutting edge health and social issues. Its first major projects included the Conference on Illegitimacy, a survey of people with disabilities, "baby week" in Cleveland, and the closure of substandard tenement nurseries. Another early role of the Federation was to administer the Cleveland Social Service Clearing House, which acted as a central registrar for the local human services community. A 1958 report examined the value and use of the Clearing House records.

In 1917, in an effort to improve the planning and provision of social services, civic leader Belle Sherwin initiated the merger of the Federation with the Welfare Council, an organization formed three years earlier to assist the city welfare department and serve as a clearinghouse for surveys and other social service activities. The new Welfare Federation of Cleveland and its role in, and capacity for, health and social planning became an example to communities across the country.



 1920 to 1929

During the years following World War I, Cleveland was an industrial beacon for African-American families looking for better jobs and housing opportunities. Between 1919 and 1920 alone, Cleveland's African-American population increased 325 percent from just over 8,000 to more than 34,000. Sadly, many arrived in Cleveland only to find housing shortages and vast unemployment. Sherman Kingsley, the Federation's Board secretary at the time, brought this matter to the attention of the Federation which eventually organized the Negro Welfare Association, today a chapter of The Urban League, to combat this situation.

In 1921, on the leading edge of professional social work practice, the Federation encouraged "group work" as a method comparable to "case work," making Cleveland one of the first cities to employ this approach. At the same time, the Service Information Bureau was formed to help people locate specific human services.

1930 to 1939

The Great Depression caused unprecedented suffering and greater demands on limited resources in the community’s human services agencies. In response, the Federation advocated for a welfare levy, which was placed on the ballot and approved by Cuyahoga County’s voters in 1932. This became one of two general purpose human services levies that continue to support health and human services today.



1940 to 1949

During World War II, while thousands of men were away from home, the Federation administered child day care centers to permit women to take war-related jobs, assisted the Civilian Defense agency in recruiting and training 50,000 volunteers, recruited foster "war homes" for 400 children, and supported the community’s efforts to combat the increasing problem of juvenile delinquency.
In 1943, the Federation held its first annual Health and Welfare Institute (now known as the Human Services Institute), an all-day conference on critical community problems and issues for professionals and volunteers. Toward the end of the 1940s, the Committee on Older Persons became involved in the creation of social and recreational activities for seniors, leading to the founding of the first Golden Age Center in 1955. Today, a number of Golden Age Centers provide services for thousands of Greater Cleveland’s seniors, and the Council on Older Persons still serves as a catalyst for improving services to older adults.

1950 to 1959 

Also during the 1950s, a number of community information and referral services were consolidated into the Federation’s Community Information Services. Thirty years later, the Federation’s information and volunteer services merged with similar community services into an independent organization. In 1988, First Call for Help became a part of United Way Services, where it continues to assist thousands of people with information and referral each week.

1960 to 1969 

In 1961, a monumental project - the Health Goals Project - was begun under the leadership of William C. Treuhaft. Over the next five years, the project prepared a "healthy community" model. The next two decades witnessed developments inspired by this landmark project’s recommendations, including the county’s move toward comprehensive health care services through the county hospital system, the establishment of neighborhood health centers, the inception of comprehensive health services in city centers, improvements in access to dental health services, development of family planning services for the poor, and the creation of a health "campus" where hospital services link with community social services.

As the Welfare Federation celebrated a half-century of work in 1963, it underwent a significant reorganization. A new, central planning board worked with an augmented planning and research staff. The Welfare Federation maintained five major Councils supported by the work of staff and hundreds of volunteers. This period of renewal contributed to its capacity to mobilize for a statewide campaign to create a community mental health services system overseen by local mental health boards.

1970 to 1979

The 1970s brought new initiatives to the community and the Federation. In 1971, the Federation facilitated the merger of five of its member agencies into one organization providing comprehensive services for families and children. That organization continues to serve thousands of Greater Clevelanders today as the Center for Families and Children. In 1972, an internal reorganization resulted in a new name, Federation for Community Planning, and a new focus on planning, research, community education and advocacy. The role of fundraising and allocation was taken on by United Way Services.

In 1973, the new Federation gave serious attention to the problem of abused and neglected children, developing a comprehensive, community-wide plan to control the problem. Over the next several years, implementation of the plan led to a wide range of programs, including a 24-hour hotline, a self-help organization, and educational programs to help professionals identify child abuse. Those services evolved into another independent organization—Bellflower Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse. (In 2011, Bellflower merged with another organization to become the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center.) Continuing its work on children’s issues during the late 1970s, the Federation worked with local human service agencies to help them address the implications of court-ordered busing to racially desegregate Cleveland’s public schools.

It was during this period that the Federation also became regional administrator of federal Title X family planning funds, a role Community Solutions played until the spring of 2013.



1980 to 1989

During the 1980s, several major Federation initiatives addressed the needs of specific population groups. One project worked to increase accessible facilities and services for people with physical disabilities, another looked at the various systems involved with juveniles who commit violent crimes or repeated serious offenses, and a major study focused on the use of community mental health aftercare services by discharged psychiatric patients.

Two human needs reached alarming proportions during 1980s: homelessness and HIV/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). The Federation formed the AIDS Commission of Greater Cleveland, which administered state-funded programs for community-based research, education, and outreach. As other organizations developed to address this public health problem, the Commission released a major report and community plan for addressing future needs related to HIV/AIDS before disbanding itself in the early 1990s.
To address the unmet health care needs of the homeless, the Federation established clinics at two homeless shelters where, in addition to acute health services, patients were connected with social service resources. After several years under the Federation’s umbrella, this project evolved into an independent organization - Care Alliance - that continues to provide for the multiple needs of homeless people. 

1990 to 1999  

During the 1990s, the Federation continued serving as a catalyst for improving health and social services on such matters as child immunization. In 1998, a community immunization registry to help ensure that all children receive preventive health care was developed by the Federation and implemented by the Cuyahoga County Board of Health.


The latter half of the 1990s saw the Federation focus its work on targeted issues of welfare reform implementation and linkages between local health and social service organizations and Cleveland’s public schools. The Federation took the lead in both areas by building formal and informal partnerships among public and private organizations and systems, with the goal of better serving Greater Cleveland residents. Those partnerships have become models for other communities. 

21st Century 

In 1996, the Federation changed its organizational structure and began to focus its resources on specific issues for specific periods of time; over time, the issues would change, while the skills of research, policy analysis and advocacy, and communication regarding health and social conditions would continue. These changes led to a decision to change the organization’s name in 2004 to The Center for Community Solutions.

From its beginning, Community Solutions recognized the importance of engaging public officials at the local, state, and national levels in social welfare issues. In fact, one of its first projects involved encouraging City Council to enact an ordinance banning overcrowded "mushroom nurseries" that kept children in unsafe environments. Throughout its history, Community Solutions has continued active in legislative advocacy, often taking the lead in efforts to change or create legislation to improve the lives of Ohioans.

Its legislative agenda has included such issues as welfare reform, nursing home standards, child and elder abuse reporting, patients’ rights, group home zoning, and health care for seniors. Significant ongoing attention is focused on government funding of human services and improvement of Northeast Ohio’s health, social, and economic conditions. Find more about our work in public policy today.


In 2013, Community Solutions and United Way—both having evolved from the Federation for Charity and Philanthropy—jointly celebrated their 100th anniversary of service. (Please enjoy the video at the top of this page.)


In 2016, Community Solutions’ Board of Directors and staff began implementing features of a new strategic plan intended to guide work through the next several years. Its priority focus areas include:

  • Strengthening the Health and Human Services Safety Net
  • Medicaid
  • Safety, Health, and Economic Wellbeing of Older Adults 
  • Improving Maternal and Infant Health
  • Improving Access to Behavioral Health Services
  • Adolescent Reproductive Health Education

For more information, please visit the Policy Focus page using the link at the top of this page.