In 1998, Renee Jones started a weekly empowerment program at the Bishop CosgroveCenter, a Catholic Charities facility. The program, called the Mastermind Alliance, was designed to get homeless individuals off the street, off of public assistance, and back onto a path of dignity and self-sufficiency. By the following year, 78 people had moved from homelessness to self-sufficiency. Seeing the transformative change that came from the investment of a single day a week, Ms. Jones soon envisioned and created a new community center to address the needs of the vulnerable and to empower their restoration. With the help of five vision partners and many dedicated volunteers, the Renee Jones Empowerment Center opened in October 2002.
As Ms. Jones continued to work with vulnerable individuals, she began to meet an increasing number of human trafficking victims. In response to the urgent and unique needs of these women, the RJEC started Project Red Cord in 2008. Today, the Center focuses much of its efforts on advocacy and support for the survivors of human trafficking. The RJEC also works directly with members of law enforcement, who connect adult victims to the Center. A majority of these women have chosen to work with the RJEC in rebuilding their lives. The Center likewise receives clients referred from juvenile court. At its Gordon Square office, RJEC staff and volunteers provide free life skills coaching, benefit identification and services as an Ohio benefit bank site, support groups and group therapy, journal writing and art therapy. The Center also assists individuals with contacting social service providers, holds community open mics, and works to connect and coordinate allies—the FBI Task Force on Human Trafficking, the Rape Crisis Center, the Cleveland Council on World Affairs, Notre Dame College, CSU, and the National Council on Jewish Women—in eradicating human trafficking throughout NEO.