CWRU employee honored as unsung community hero for local outreach

Julia Brown-AllenJulia Brown-Allen, graduate coordinator in the biology department at Case Western Reserve University, is also Pastor Julia Brown-Allen, a founder of Cleveland’s Integrated Faith Assembly, who has reached out into the streets and shelters to help homeless and battered women and their children for more than 20 years.

Brown-Allen received a surprise visit earlier this week from Wayne Dawson, Fox8 news anchor, and R. A. Vernon, founder and senior pastor of “The Word” Church, to feature her on a segment of “Pay it Forward,” which honors unsung community heroes. They presented a stunned Brown-Allen with $500.

“She doesn’t even realize all the impact she’s making,” said Brenda Haddon, a lifelong supporter who nominated Brown-Allen. “Things we take for granted, these people don’t have…she has really made it happen for them.”

What began as a one-time Christmas donation of toiletries to a local women’s shelter turned into a weekly program—led by Brown-Allen—supplying the women with basic necessities, the skills to interview for and hold a job, life skills, furniture and places to live. Her program has expanded to reach teens and men in area shelters.

“It means a lot to me when they return to society,” she said.

Brown-Allen feels a calling to minister to the homeless, but praises donors and volunteers who fund the efforts and provide goods and services, including those at the university. She calls the help she’s received from the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences “instrumental.” Several years ago, the information technology department gave her 20 computers, which she used to train homeless women from all over the city.

“Without new skill sets, they’ll be back out there homeless again,” Brown-Allen said.

The population that sleeps in boxes and under bridges and fills the shelters has changed from mostly those with drug and alcohol problems to those put on the street when institutions closed, to working people who lost jobs in the current recession. But Brown-Allen has remained steadfast in her reach.

“She puts forth so much effort to do something on top of all the work she does here at the university—it’s inspiring,” said Laurie Dudik, managing engineer at the Electronics Design Center and a longtime donor and fundraiser for the women’s program. “She makes you feel good about helping in any way you can.”

And Brown-Allen reciprocates. When she learned Dudik was collecting used towels, blankets and sheets for an animal rescue shelter, Brown-Allen contributed 100 sheets to the cause, filling Dudik’s car.

The Fox8 segment aired Thursday during the 6:30 p.m. news and again will air during the 6:30 a.m. news Friday, the 6:30 p.m. news Saturday, Sunday between 7 and 9 a.m., and Monday at noon, or it can be viewed on Fox8’s website.