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Notre Dame College is marking its fifth annual InnerCitySaints Award in 2020 by offering members of the extended community the opportunity to become “secret” saints.

Each November since 2016, Notre Dame has recognized an individual who has made a meaningful difference in Cleveland’s urban communities with its InnerCitySaints Award. The College and community gather at a luncheon to celebrate the winner and raise money in their honor for the Notre Dame Caring Hearts Fund.

While the awards program will not take place this year due to the pandemic, the College is highlighting the impact of past contributions to the Caring Hearts Fund and asking those who have donated previously, as well as those who would like to become part of the tradition, to consider a donation to the fund this fall.

“Although we will miss the warmth and joy of being together to celebrate a 2020 InnerCitySaint, we would still like to honor an individual this year—you! Each of you can be a secret saint and help us celebrate being together spiritually,” said Ann Coakley, executive director of advancement at Notre Dame.

Saints in Spirit

With the help and support of the annual InnerCitySaints Award luncheon, Notre Dame has been able to quickly respond to the critical needs of more than 100 students with unforeseen emergencies that would otherwise derail their college career. Caring Hearts Fund stipends are used by students for things such as food, winter clothing, car repairs, child care, computers, books and crisis travel expenses, emergency circumstances that often force students in need to drop out or withdraw from the College.

In addition to giving to the Caring Hearts Fund in support of Notre Dame students, secret saints also can acknowledge and reflect on the extraordinary work of past honorees with their offering.

“We hope our InnerCitySaints will inspire you and encourage you to feel more optimistic about the future as we face more months of social distancing,” Coakley said. “Please take a moment to contemplate on and pray for these noteworthy saints.”

Contact Coakley at to make a donation or to learn more about Caring Hearts Fund. Patrons also can make a one-time or recurring monthly gift online. The contribution will go directly to the Caring Hearts Fund to assist a Notre Dame student.

“May we model the courage and compassion of each of our saints as we serve our families and others through this pandemic,” Coakley said.

InnerCity Honorees

The College’s 2019 InnerCitySaints Award recipient was Renee Jones, who for more than two decades, has ministered to the needs of victims of human trafficking and dedicated her life to educating the community on the dangers of this global epidemic.

Edward Plaspohl was recognized in November 2018 with the award for his volunteer work with the St. Ignatius High School Labre Ministry, which every week dispatches volunteers to Cleveland’s inner city to search for the homeless, provide meals and offer other assistance.

Notre Dame’s second InnerCitySaints Award in 2017 was presented to Father Jim O’Donnell, who helped establish the community of the Little Brothers and Sisters of the Eucharist, which for more than 35 years has provided a ministry of presence in the Central neighborhood of Cleveland.

The inaugural award was conferred in November 2016 to Sr. Rita Mary Harwood, SND, secretary for parish life and development with the Diocese of Cleveland, who established and has led the Diocesan Ministry to the Incarcerated since 1996.

“We look forward to gathering in person next year to honor a new InnerCity Saint,” Coakley said.

The Award

Notre Dame established the InnerCitySaints Award to shine a light on an individual who, through his or her humble service, dedication and presence, has made a meaningful difference in Cleveland’s inner city urban communities. Net proceeds from the awards luncheon benefit the College’s Caring Hearts Fund, which provides emergency financial support to Notre Dame students.

October 2020

About Notre Dame College

For almost a century, Notre Dame College has educated a diverse population in the liberal arts for personal, professional and global responsibility. Founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1922, the College has grown strategically to keep pace with the rapidly changing needs of students and the dramatic changes in higher education. But it has never lost sight of its emphasis on teaching students not only how to make a good living but also how to live a good life.

Today, the College offers bachelor’s degrees in 30 disciplines plus a variety of master’s degrees, certification programs and continuing and professional development programs for adult learners on campus and online. Notre Dame College offers NCAA Division II intercollegiate athletic programs for men and women and is located in a picturesque residential neighborhood just 25 minutes from the heart of Cleveland. Hallmarks of the Notre Dame experience include stimulating academics, personalized attention of dedicated faculty and staff, and small class sizes.

Notre Dame College is located at 4545 College Road in South Euclid. For further information contact Brian Johnston, chief communications officer, at 216.373.5252 or