Remembering Charlie Ault
Cleveland Heights recently lost a hero. Charlie Ault died on Aug. 31. You might not know who Charlie was, but you have undoubtedly benefited from his work and passion. He was a founding member of the Forest Hill Church Housing Corporation, which eventually became the Home Repair Resource Center (HRRC). Ault and fellow parishioners began fighting social injustices and shady real estate practices during the 1970s, starting with a house remodel and sale. Cleveland Heights was changing, and Ault and his newly founded group were advocating for peoples' rights, their community's values and the strength of neighborhoods.
The establishment of a line of credit with a partner who would provide much needed finances was of primary importance in the organization’s effort. With his experience, maturity and business acumen, nurtured through his practice of law, Ault approached the Cleveland Trust Bank, and established what would be become the Challenge Fund. His foresight cannot be understated. Let me share some staggering numbers to show how his perseverance and determination has helped our community. The Challenge Fund's growth has enabled almost 1,000 loans with an approximate value of $5,500,000 worth of repairs.
But Ault's passion was not focused on the financial impact of the HRRC, but on the social justice and equality he and his partners so richly valued. His mission was one of empowerment, education and compassion.
I had the pleasure of meeting Charlie and his wife, Janice, at this year's HRRC 40th Anniversary Celebration, coincidentally in the same space where he negotiated the original loan with Cleveland Trust Bank. I'm convinced our beloved Cleveland Heights would be different if not for Charlie's work. I've served on the HRRC board for nine years and the Challenge Fund is vitally important to our organization and the health of Cleveland Heights homes. Its relevance is even more heightened with the recent housing crisis. Simply stated, it gives deserving people an opportunity to maintain their homes.
Charlie Ault will be missed tremendously, but his legacy of social justice, housing rights and home maintenance will be carried on by the HRRC. Although he is not here to share our successes and future, I would like to think he looking down at us and guiding our next moves.
Alex Pesta is president of HRRC's Board of Directors.