Lucas County, Ohio joined the City of Dayton Tuesday as the newest member of Welcoming America’s “Certified Welcoming” program.
According to the organization’s website, the “Certified Welcoming” program “formally evaluates and assesses your community’s efforts to provide an inclusive place for all.”
“Candidates submit an application; complete a self-assessment; and receive an evaluative site visit and a detailed final report that identifies local strengths and provides a road map for areas of growth,” the website states, noting that the certification process generally takes between six months and a year.
The “certification fee” for eligible cities is $12,000, but was discounted to $6,000 for 2019, according to the website. The “Certified Welcoming” label is valid for three years, and participating communities must continue to “meet the core criteria” listed in Welcoming America’s “Welcoming Standard.”
The Lucas County commissioners were joined by a representative from Welcoming America Tuesday for a press conference to announce the designation.
“When people come here, when people aspire to come here, when people work hard to come here, we are a welcoming community, and we have a certification to prove it,” Commissioner Pete Gerken said, according to The Toledo Blade.
Lucas County is the fourth community in the nation and the second in Ohio to receive Welcoming America’s “Certified Welcoming” designation. Both Cincinnati and Toledo are in the process of becoming “Certified Welcoming” along with nine other cities across the country, according to the group’s website.
“When we came here to audit for Certified Welcoming, we were truly impressed by the deep relationships that exist here in this community and that are able to really move this work forward to become a more inclusive and welcoming community,” said Melissa Bertolo, the Certified Welcoming manager for Welcoming America.
Commissioner Gary Byers said that “this certification recognizes what we have always known in Toledo and Lucas County.”
“Our diversity is our strength. Together, we do better as a community, as a government,” he added. Corine Dehabey, director of Toledo’s chapter of US Together, said that “it’s going to make the people comfortable, a little more at ease knowing Lucas County is certified.”
UPDATE: Brittany Ford, co-lead of Welcome Toledo-Lucas County, an initiative housed under the Board of Lucas County Commissioners, told The Ohio Star that Dayton and Lucas County received full scholarships for the program.
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