You can't miss Margaret Mitchell's influence at Cleveland's YWCA. "We are in the cradle to career business," she says. Her work is through social programs for homeless youth, preschoolers and ladies in leadership.
"I think my focus was always on being an influencer. And less about the title: President and CEO," said Mitchell. "We have to reach out into relationships with women who don't look like ourselves. Build those relationships and be encouragers across lines in which we look visibly different."
The YWCA is about empowering women, and eliminating racism.
"We have to realize that we all win together, or we're all going to fail together. And racism is an issue that affects everyone. No one is unaffected by it," she said.
In Cleveland, where both of her missions are works in progress, Mitchell sees hope.
"I see a completely different Cleveland [than when I arrived eight years ago.] I just see a city that recognizes what a jewel it is.The unique features, and the challenges that are here and the struggles that are here, but it's a city that we are embracing all of it, and continuing to look for solutions so that everybody can be lifted."
We're starting a new series Thursdays on Channel 3 News at 6 about the women in Northeast Ohio's communities who make things happen. These are women who see the possible, women you'd like to have in your group, women we’re bringing into Sara’s Circle.
"I think empowerment is so much about being able to be in the center of your own life and drive it forward. That you are empowered. It is an action. That you are literally able to move and grow and go and do, what it is you desire to do."
Men can help break the "glass ceiling"
"In my lifetime, I've seen the advances of women just flourish. And I fully believe that we will continue to see women advance and it's imperative that we engage men in this understanding of women being able to advance, women being able to make choice about roles, that men are just as involved in all of those actions and decision making as women are."
Faith plays a big role.
"For me, my faith is a tremendous part of who I am and where I go to, what fills me up, and how I am able to be encouraged every day. My hope comes from the Lord. That is my priority and my focus. And also the reason that I do the work that I do."
Complex issues demand complex solutions on policing and race in Cleveland.
"We want to see a region where we are thriving, both economically, and people have opportunity. And when you continue to have racism as a negative detractor as part of your city, no one wins. It’s devastating to see and read about the losses of so many young people, so many young boys, it’s just…it’s heartbreaking. Where do we go from here? We have to continue to demand that we each search our hearts and understand how we as individuals can make a difference. And we also have to be willing to engage politically to say that we demand a police department that is not only putting their life on the line, but continues to grow in their development and understand of individuals with mental health...These complex issues demand complex solutions."
Family encouraged her to make a difference.
"I was raised in a family that was very active and they were advocates for people. It really is a very natural fit for me. My uncle, Samuel Mitchell, was one of the first black Supreme Court state judges in North Carolina. My Dad was an engineer. I’ve been really grateful that I was raised in a family that was very much focused on service and service for others."
Marriage gives me the wings to fly.
"[Husband Les Green] is the reason I'm able to fly. He gives me those wings...Marriage is probably one of the most difficult things you can be committed to, it isn't easy. It's not for the faint of heart. Or the weak minded."
"This is a man who literally knew me when I was 21 years old and so now at 55, he’s just seen me through my life. It’s just so exciting to be able to look into this man’s eyes and know that he really does know me and encourages me and supports me. There’s no one that I’d rather have a disagreement with, there’s no one I’d rather have a conversation with, about what’s happening, there’s no one who’s advice I seek more than my husband."
I love digging in the dirt.
"I love digging in the dirt. I’ll pull up the driveway, kick my shoes off, and immediately put my hands in the dirt. I love to weed. There’s just something very therapeutic about it. It’s like weeding your heart. And I just find that very relaxing...During the winter, I love having a fire. It just says home to me. It is just so inviting and nurturing. You have to pay attention to it, but it gives you warmth and I just really enjoy the whole process. I enjoy the quietness and the solitude. It’s meditative."
YMCA versus YWCA
"I think people often think we have a pool in our building, and that we have workout equipment in our building. That would be the YMCA and I love telling people that we’re divorced. We’ve been divorced for years. It’s a great divorce. We are definitely separate agencies. We work in the social service space with homeless youth and families and we also do incredible work in the area of racial justice. Then we also have a focus on women’s leadership and empowering women in business and corporate organizations to continue to develop. To be able to have choices and opportunities wherever that ladder takes them."
Her best advice to her three adult children:
"I always say it's your exit that says everything about you. So we all enter relationships and jobs and situations in our life beautifully. But the exit, that's what really says who you are."