The Refuge impacts lives via Access 180, backpacks
by CHRISTY ARMSTRONG, Banner Staff Writer
Jul 12, 2013 | 677 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Hidden Cleveland
THE REFUGE offers free classes to the community through its Access 180 program from this room in the Family Support Center on Blythe Avenue. The room features computers and desk space to hold the classes and allows the public a place to gain access to computers and other resources. Banner photo, CHRISTY ARMSTRONG
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Access 180 has helped approximately 75 local residents learn new life skills since it began in January.

Both a location and a program under the umbrella of a local nonprofit called The Refuge, it offers free classes on topics ranging from managing personal finances to performing CPR.­

The name of the program and the room in which it is housed were inspired in part by the organization’s mission statement, said Terry Johns, president and director of operations of The Refuge.

He said the goal was to give people who want to better their lives resources that would help them find a way to make a 180-degree change in direction.

“It became a place where people could have access to turn their lives around,” Johns said.

The Refuge’s offices and the Access 180 room are both located in the Family Support Center, a building that was once home to Blythe Avenue Elementary School and now houses several community service organizations.

The room itself houses rows of computers and work space for students in Access 180 classes. In addition, The Refuge also makes the space available for anyone who needs a computer to use for things like research or job hunting.

Classes that have been offered since the first sessions in January have included job and career skills classes, as well as classes that teach skills like couponing.

Upcoming classes in late July and early August include a money and banking class that teaches students how to better manage their finances, a CPR certification class and a class on how to use the Microsoft Word computer program.

Kelli Kyle, vice president and director of community involvement, said the classes offered change from month to month because The Refuge has been trying to offer training in a variety of subjects.

Teachers of the classes are often experts in their fields who donate their time to Access 180. For example, a local college professor has been teaching the computer literacy class, and a local bank vice president has been teaching the class on money and banking.

Access 180 also partners with those with organizations like the REACH Adult High School to assist those working toward the goal of earning a GED. While it is not a full-fledged GED program, Johns said Access 180 is able to offer tutoring and reviews of specific subjects like math.

“We found a way to fit into their needs,” Johns said.

All classes at Access 180 are free to students. Any costs associated with holding them are covered by donations to The Refuge.

While she admitted she did not know how every student felt, Kyle said the students who have told her about their experiences with classes at Access 180 have said they would recommend them.

“The ones who do give us feedback are all positive,” Kyle said.

She also said the money literacy class in particular has received “rave reviews” because the instructor makes a point of meeting with individuals and families apart from the rest of the class to help them apply what they learn.

Johns said all the classes are open to everyone, regardless of income or place of residence. However, he added that “99.9 percent” of all students so far have been from Cleveland.

“It’s mostly this part of Cleveland, too,” Johns said.

The building in which The Refuge and Access 180 are housed is located at the East Cleveland address of 1075 Blythe Ave.

Johns said the location has proven to be a convenient one for many in the immediate neighborhood, as many residents have been living on low incomes and looking for ways to find jobs.

To learn more about or register for classes through Access 180, call 584-5211 or visit