After 23 years of youth and community development, I joined OPEN M in August of 2019 to return to a passion of my early career…assisting motivated individuals who are ready to change with economic success through learning, overcoming challenges, sustained employment with fun but firm support. As a kid in poverty, I relied on God, mentors and non-profit organizations in East Cleveland to survive. The best ones gave me nothing that I did not earn and taught me to grow away from my reliance on them. Moving 5 times in 6 years in elementary school, life at home was a struggle that I only survived with fun, firm and caring guidance. Since obtaining a social work degree in 1996 at Malone College, I have served as a caseworker in both the mental health and foster care fields, in juvenile justice as a Director of a nationally successful community re-entry and employment program for juveniles ages 17-21 in Massillon, OH, as the Director of Planning and Community Outreach for SARTA in Canton, OH and as both a Club Director and the Director of Operations/Programming for the Boys & Girls Clubs in Akron.
A perfect day off of work is a Fall day that starts with prayer to God for blessing me and includes a morning indoor basketball court with 7 college age ballers who are all slower than me and need 1 more to play 4v4 full court. Add some old jeans, a sweater/scarf, my drum set, my headphones, my daughters, a Reuben sandwich with seasoned fries, vanilla candles, a long CVNP hike when the leafs are 6 different colors at dusk while listening to “This Woman’s Work” by Maxwell on repeat, half of a German chocolate cake for dinner with a small glass of Apple Crowne Royal neat, a game of Spades where I run a Boston on my best friends and then every song from the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill playing with my boots or bare feet by a firepit or fireplace at night.
Personality type: ESFJ “The Consul”
Three things people would be surprised to know about James include:
"1. I met Denzel Washington and Misty Copeland once at a national conference. Once Misty Copeland started talking about the poverty/racism challenges that she overcame to become the best ballerina on planet earth, I forgot that Denzel was even there. She and Harriet Tubman are my heroes. 2. I ONLY wear used clothes, coats, suits and shoes. I will always have a “That cost way too much!” frugal mentality unless Jay Z and Beyonce come to town. 3. I bought front row seats when Jay Z and Beyoncé came to Cleveland last summer. Not sure if it was cooler to have them both looking at me and singing/rapping for hours…or to have to look behind me to see all famous people in the crowd.”
The mission of OPEN M, a Christian ministry, is to provide pathways out of poverty for all by feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, and strengthening the community.