Deaconess Foundation was formed from the sale, in December 1994, of Deaconess Health Systems which operated, among other things, Deaconess Hospital of Cleveland. For 71 years, the hospital was a significant community asset located at 4229 Pearl Road in the old Brooklyn neighborhood of Cleveland. The proceeds of the sale were used to establish Deaconess Foundation in February 1997.
At the time of its sale, Deaconess Hospital of Cleveland had strong ties with the United Church of Christ due to the fact that its founding father was one of the predecessor denominations of the United Church of Christ, the German Evangelical Church. Deaconess Foundation continues to honor and sustain its relationship with the United Church of Christ through a Mission Outreach Fund that supports mission outreach activities of United Church of Christ churches located in Cuyahoga County.
For the Foundation’s first 16 years, its grantmaking focused on empowering people to become self-sufficient. In 2013, responding to shifts in philanthropy and the human service environment, Deaconess Foundation embarked on a strategic plan, which resulted in a new Mission, Vision, and Values.
DF’s entry into the employment space was guided by a Learning Plan that helped the foundation focus on specific areas within the broad employment space. The Foundation focused on job preparation, barrier removal, and longer-term supports. Each of these areas positioned DF to leverage its established relationships with and understanding of the human services sector. In addition, DF selected Legal Barriers to Employment as a key learning area to explore.
In 2017, DF began implementing a new strategic framework for its employment work. The Foundation’s work is now guided by the objective to help individuals enter into and advance along career pathways – established, progressive routes to family sustaining wages.