We Take Poverty Personally

Peggy Zink celebrating employment with a CW Member & her coach

After more than 20 years in the corporate world, I am serving as CEO of Cincinnati Works – an innovative nonprofit agency dedicated to eliminating poverty.

The social justice aspect of my faith has resonated with me from the time I was young. I’ve long wanted to make an impact in the area of poverty, and I believe my 20 plus year for-profit career was geared toward preparing me for this job. It’s the perfect position for me, combining my business acumen with my passion for social justice.

Our work is grounded in the fundamental belief in the value and dignity of every individual, no matter where they’re coming from or the depths that their life has taken them to. I take poverty personally. Everyone deserves an opportunity to earn a living and experience the dignity of work. Through Cincinnati Works, I’m able to touch the lives of some of our community’s most vulnerable members – those who live in poverty, those who work but cannot make ends meet, those who are chronically unemployed and under-resourced, those who find themselves on the margins of society – and my life has been enriched through these encounters.

Take Michelle for example. She came to us in 2009 and we’ve been working with her ever since to help her break the cycle of poverty. Raised mostly by her aunt and grandmother, Michelle came to us as a young single mother with one child. After our job readiness training, Michelle found a job as a teacher’s aide, where she stayed for a little over a year – giving her much needed stability.

With the help of her coach at Cincinnati Works, she mapped out a path toward a career in health care. While working as a teacher’s aide, she completed a State Tested Nurse’s Aide Program in 2010. Within a few months, Michelle landed a job at one of our employer partners, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, as a patient care aide where she is still employed. Still not earning enough to support her family, she showed perseverance as she continued her education at a local university while she worked, achieving an associate’s degree in nursing in 2013 and then a bachelor’s degree a few months ago. During this time, she also worked with a financial coach at Cincinnati Works to repair her poor credit and build her savings. This has enabled her to move out of her aunt’s home and establish a residence for herself and her child.

Her ultimate goal was to become a primary care nurse practitioner. In 2015, Michelle earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Cincinnati. Thanks to the one-one-one coaching and encouragement of Cincinnati Works, she is now employed as a registered nurse at the UC Medical Center and has reached financial independence, enabling her to provide for and be a role model to her daughter. I’m inspired by Michelle persistence, her hopefulness in the rough times, and her intense desire to provide and be a great role model for her child – to finally break the cycle of poverty. And there are hundreds more like her that we are blessed to work with every day.

One of my biggest responsibilities as CEO of Cincinnati Works is to represent our accomplishments and expertise to the community and to secure the resources to advance our mission. I never thought I would be good at or enjoy fundraising, but in truth, it’s an honor and privilege to tell our story, and I do so with tremendous pride. This work is made easier by the 37 talented colleagues I work with, many of whom have struggled on their own personal journey and are an inspiration in their own right. Again, my life is richer because of them.

The mark I hope to leave on Cincinnati Works during my time at the helm is growth and expanded impact. With over 30% of the Cincinnati population living in poverty, the acute need for our services is clear, and we are rising to the challenge. We’ve doubled in size over the last few years, with more growth planned this year. In the coming years, I hope to see that 30% poverty statistic fall, but more importantly I hope with every person we touch, that we are restoring their dignity and enabling them to participate in a just economy.

Peggy E. Zink

We take poverty personally at Cincinnati Works. After more than 20 years in the fight, we know well its devastating effects on individuals, families, and the community as a whole. We also know that with the right resources and one-on-one coaching individuals can pull themselves and their families out of poverty. Everyday we witness how gainful employment and personal stability can restore the lives of adults and create tremendous opportunity for their children. 

In 2017, we will continue to share this firsthand perspective on poverty from our many and varied constituents including employer partners, board, staff, investors, and Members. Please continue to check our blog, social media pages (linked in top right corner), and newsletters to hear more from those on the front-line of poverty elimination at Cincinnati Works.