Educating a diverse population in the liberal arts

For personal, professional and global responsibility

In the tradition of the Sisters of Notre Dame

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Notre Dame College will recognize 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, with its 2019 InnerCitySaints Award.

Jones will receive the honor during the College’s fourth annual InnerCitySaints Award ceremony at noon on Thursday, November 21, at the Tudor Arms DoubleTree Hotel Cleveland in University Circle.

About Renee Jones

In 1998, while employed full-time as human resources director at the Great Lakes Science Center, Renee Jones started a weekly empowerment program at the Bishop Cosgrove Center, a Catholic Charities facility. The program she administered on a part-time basis, called the Mastermind Alliance, was designed to get homeless individuals off the street, off of public assistance and back onto a path of dignity and self-sufficiency.

By the following year, 78 people had moved from homelessness to self-sufficiency.

Seeing the transformative change in these people that came from the investment of a single day each week, Jones envisioned creating a new community center to address the needs of this vulnerable population and to empower them to rejoin mainstream society. With the help of five partners and many dedicated volunteers, the Renee Jones Empowerment Center (RJEC) opened in October 2002.

As Jones continued her work with marginalized people, she began to meet an increasing number of human trafficking victims. In response to the urgent and unique needs of this population, the RJEC started Project Red Cord in 2008, a human trafficking prevention and awareness program for primarily at-risk teens and youth.

For 15 years, Jones led this outreach project to provide information about resources, programs and services available in the community and provide food and personal care items for women in need.

In 2019, Jones moved the Center its current facility on West 25th Street, a larger space that has allowed her to add more programs such as GED classes, therapy programs, legal advice and medical services all under one roof. Today, the Center focuses much of its efforts on advocacy and support for the survivors of human trafficking.

The RJEC also works directly with members of law enforcement, who connect adult victims to the Center. A majority of these women have chosen to work with the RJEC in rebuilding their lives. The Center likewise receives clients referred from juvenile court.

RJEC staff and volunteers provide free life skills coaching, benefit identification and services as an Ohio benefit bank site, support groups and group therapy, journal writing and art therapy. The Center also assists individuals with contacting social service providers, holds community open mic events and works to connect and coordinate allies—the FBI Task Force on Human Trafficking, the Rape Crisis Center, the Cleveland Council on World Affairs, Notre Dame College, Cleveland State University and the National Council on Jewish Women—in eradicating human trafficking throughout Northeast Ohio

About The Award

Notre Dame established the InnerCitySaints Award in 2016 to recognize individuals who through their humble service have made a meaningful difference in Cleveland’s inner-city urban communities. Past recipients include:

2018: 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. He also serves at St. Benedict Joseph Labre Ministry at Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, which he helped to establish.

2017: The second InnerCitySaints Award was presented to Father Jim O’Donnell in November 2017. O’Donnell 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.

2016: The inaugural award was presented 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.

Net proceeds from the event benefit the Notre Dame Caring Hearts Fund, which provides emergency support to students who are experiencing unexpected crises.

For table and individual luncheon reservations, and for sponsorship opportunities that are also available, contact Ann Coakley, Notre Dame College’s Executive Director of College Advancement, at 216.373.6532 or

October 2019

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