City's spirit, pride are 2nd to none


As I look forward to my new position in Cleveland, I can't help but think about my past seven years in Toledo. In a city that is often underestimated by much of the rest of the country, I had the priviglege of discovering what it means to be a Toledoan.

I want to thank a generous community. When I think about the work we did together and the challenges we worked through, I am reminded of the determination, resilience, and generosity of the people of greater Toledo.

In United Way's quest to focus on helping students graduate, through strategies in education, income, and health, we developed a more open relationship with Toledo Public Schools. TPS has opened its doors to United Way programs such as Social and Emotional Learning, Schools as Community Hubs, and Graduation Coaches, as well as to other programs from organizations across the community.

We don't take this for granted. We are humbled by the opportunity to provide support to educators who are already doing so much for our kids.

I have watched key neighborhoods around Toledo bubble up and rally around themselves. People in North Toledo have made incredible progress by banding together, and it's a privilege to have been part of some of their successes. The Cherry Street corridor is another neighborhood on the move.

The neighborhoods of central Toledo are starting to follow this path as well. Neighbors are recognizing the value and necessity of working together. A community forum is planned for the area in mid-July, in conjunction with the annual African-American Festival.

There is a cautionary note in this neighborhood work. As each group gets organized, it reaches out for partners. Unfortunately, our community does not have the capacity to work in every neighborhood at the same time. We need to focus, and to make the difficult decision to start in one place.

I believe I am leaving behind a United Way that has become more relevant to the community -- a place to which people and organizations know they can turn if they need help getting something done. Although we have focused on specific goals such as increasing the high school graduation rate, our model will allow us to tackle other issues.

I will miss the heart and spirit of Toledo the most. The pride Toledoans take in their community is second to none. As an avid sports fan, I'll miss the fun, excitement, and camaraderie of Mud Hens and Walleye games. It's been a pleasure to watch downtown Toledo regain its vibrancy.

The friendships my family and I have forged, and the relationships we have grown, always will hold a special place in my heart. We will miss our friends, but we always will have our memories of Toledo.

As I say good-bye, I look forward to the future with excitement. I look forward to hearing about the wonderful things that are still to come for Toledo and northwest Ohio.

I look forward to working in Cleveland. Most important, I look forward to unifying further the work of United Way across this great state.

Thanks, Toledo, for everything. It's been quite a ride.

Bill Kitson stepped down June 1 as president and CEO of United Way of Greater Toledo to assume the equivalent position in Cleveland.