We recently spoke with Jonathan Gray and Steve Sokany from Trials for Hope. The HLF grantee discusses what Trials for Hope does for those in need in the community, and how they use the HLF grant funding to continue their important mission.


Jonathan Gray: Jonathan Gray. I’m the founder and the director of a nonprofit called Trials for Hope.

Question: Can you tell me what Trials for Hope is?

Jonathan: Trials for Hope is a nonprofit program that began with a donation of hygiene that was hotel size, trial size, which is where we got our name Trials for Hope. We are a nonprofit program that helps over 1300 people with over 18,000 pounds to suppliers a month for basic needs. We try to fill in different areas where quality is subsidized, and we would like to change that so we work with people that are in-house and that are unsheltered trying to add a little more to each person’s life.

Steve Sokany: And my name is Steve Sokany, and I am a grant writer supporting Trials for Hope. 

Question: Why were you looking for a grant and what will it be used for?

Steve: We pursued a grant from the Healthy Lakewood Foundation, because, as Jonathan Gray indicated, Trials for Hope does very important ministry in the Lakewood area as well as the western side of Cleveland, and felt that the mission of the Healthy Lakewood Foundation was directly in alignment with the mission of trials for hope. So that is why we pursued a grant through their community grant initiatives.

Question: How was the grant process and working with Kate and her team?

Steve: The Healthy Lakewood Foundation is a true pleasure to work with Katie Ingersoll is so passionate and so helpful. And her colleague, Lacey was very helpful with respect to answering or asking clarifying questions so that we could provide them with the most comprehensive information for their board of directors to make a decision. And obviously, in our case, they favorably received our request and made our grant. But it was a very easy process. They were very, they made themselves available. They are just a terrific organization.

Question: How will you use the grant? Have you used the grant already?

Jonathan: With the grant monies that we were allowed, we have already begun to utilize this blessing. We have been able to improve the quality of our community meals. That was one of the first things that we did in offering substance of nutrition and also improvements of what we were offering. It’s made a complete difference. 

At our meals, we also offer hygiene. The hygiene that we offer is not covered by food stamps. So that also has been able to be an improvement. We were doing that, but we make sure that we have this continually offered.

We have improved our pantry at Cove Community Center for the seniors who have aged, we make sure that they also have household along with their food, which is something that we added after the grant. 

We’re working on offering a pantry at Lakewood United Methodist Church for their community meal. But not food as much as basic needs. We have people that are unsheltered that are going to community meals, and they need assistance with other items that most pantries do not offer. 

And because of the funding, we’re able to start putting things in different tubs for people to be able to choose to discreetly instead of in the middle of the room where their business is out there. We also had a couple during the cold front when we were able to rent a room at Days Inn because fact that they were outside, and this helped them get through a weekend where they may not have been able to survive it. 

So the improvements from this grant have been truly truly amazing. We have people that come to the meals that have other needs such as–they’re needing transportation assistance. So we get bus passes. Other people might need clothing. And because of this, we’re able to accommodate the needs immediately, which is amazing.

Question: Tell us more about food insecurity and how it affects Lakewood.

Jonathan: The food insecurity right now is about one out of every six people or one of every four people do not have basic needs including Lakewood, and this is not okay. Because of this, we’re trying to offer more for the food insecurity, whether it’s hygiene or whether it’s even food. Our goal is to do something community-based in Lakewood because of this grant.