“You don’t have to be Oprah to give. Each of us can make an impact.” Celebrating the philanthropic leadership of Constance Hill-Johnson

Cleveland Foundation staff and board members join board chair Constance Hill-Johnson at The City Club of Cleveland, where she recently spoke with Cleveland Mayor Justin M. Bibb about the power of Black philanthropy (Pictured left to right): India Pierce Lee, Maria Spangler, Donna Johnson, Leta Obertacz, Connie Hill-Johnson, Ronn Richard, Megan Wilson, Paul Putman

As Black History Month comes to a close and we prepare to kick off Women’s History Month, the board and staff of the Cleveland Foundation recognize the inspiring leadership of Constance Hill-Johnson, who made history as the first African American woman elected chairperson of the foundation’s board of directors. Connie joined the board in 2018 and became chairperson on April 1, 2022.

Connie Hill-Johnson (pictured left) with Cleveland Foundation President & CEO Ronn Richard (pictured right)

“Connie is an incredible board member who exemplifies the foundation’s values of integrity, leadership and partnership,” said Ronn Richard, Cleveland Foundation president and CEO. “Her commitment to racial equity has helped to shape our strategic direction and reinforce that each of us has a responsibility to break down the systems and practices that have historically oppressed people based on race or ethnicity. We are thrilled to recognize and celebrate her work.”

Connie is the owner and managing director of Visiting Angels Living Assistance Services, a national franchise, in Cleveland. Visiting Angels is an in-home service provider assisting older adults to live as independently as possible by remaining safely in their own familiar home environment. Now in its 20th year, her business has successfully served hundreds of seniors throughout Cleveland and surrounding communities.

Once quoted as saying, “You don’t have to be Oprah to give. Each of us can make an impact,” Hill-Johnson is a philanthropist in her own right, establishing the Glenwood Fund at the Cleveland Foundation in 2009 with her husband, Kevin Johnson. The fund is named for Kevin’s alma mater, Glenville High School, and Connie’s, Collinwood High School. The couple directs the donor-advised fund to support health and human services, community and economic development, education, and other philanthropic interests.

Last Friday, Feb. 17, Hill-Johnson appeared with Cleveland Mayor Justin M. Bibb at The City Club of Cleveland to address the sold-out forum: Advancing Racial Equity Through the Power of Black Giving.

She asked, “We all want the American dream, don’t we?… We all want to begin life with a solid foundation through family and schooling, attain a good job, buy a home. ….Not a bad vision for productive life. Can these things really, really be a reality for Black individuals living in Cleveland?”

Giving of her time, talent and treasure to the foundation and across the community, Hill-Johnson has been working tirelessly for decades so that the American dream can be a reality for all people regardless of their race or background.

Hill-Johnson earned a Master of Public Administration with an emphasis in health services administration from the University of Southern California and also holds a bachelor’s degree in speech communications from Case Western Reserve University. In addition to serving on a number of other boards across Northeast Ohio, Connie joined the African American Philanthropy Committee of the Cleveland Foundation in 2009 and served as co-chair of the committee’s biennial philanthropy summit in 2014 and 2016 and as an honorary co-chair in 2020. She is a 2017 Crain’s Women of Note honoree, a 2020 YWCA Women of Achievement honoree, and was instrumental in bringing The Soul of Philanthropy Cleveland to Northeast Ohio in 2019 and establishing a permanent exhibit entitled “Celebrate Those Who Give Black.”

For those interested in giving, Connie says, “The important thing is to do that self-reflection and to think about what moves us. It can start with one volunteer act or a small financial donation. It’s really about building a relationship with the cause and an organization. Once you start nurturing and building those relationships, it’s amazing what we can do.”

In 2015, the Cleveland Foundation honored both Connie and Kevin with the Goff Philanthropic Service Award, named for the foundation’s founder Frederick H. Goff and one of the organization’s highest honors.