He is often the first person to greet Step Forward clients when they visit the Central Neighborhood Opportunity Center.
Sherwin Lea Clark, the owner of Ohio City Security, occupies an office on the South side of the building at 1801 Superior Avenue. He is constantly watching surveillance monitors and patrolling the property, but most people know Clark because of the smile he always has on his face.
“I want to be recognized as somebody who helped people and to be loved by somebody” he says. “They’ll say, ‘Oh, I remember him!’”
It’s difficult not to remember Clark. He is friendly, has an outgoing personality, and is always willing to help others.
“If today was my last day, I would be a happy person,” he says with a shrug.
Clark was born in Lynchburg, Virginia. He describes what it was like, growing up on a farm.
“We didn’t have much,” he said. “I came from a very humble position. In my life, we were poor.”
Clark knew early on that farming wasn’t his passion. Instead, he joined the job corps and got a trade and in 1986, enlisted in the military. Clark spent a few years in the service, and afterward, moved to Cleveland, Ohio. Clark bounced around working for different jobs and different industries, but eventually found his passion in security detail. In 2016, he was contracted to work at Step Forward, then known as the Council for Economic Opportunities in Greater Cleveland. He worked on the executive side until he was relocated downstairs to the security office. There, Clark noticed the agency was offering financial literacy classes and teaching people how to start their own business.
“I would get the materials and read them, and I just started getting into it! Like, oh, this is easy, I can do this!” Clark said. “It tells you how to get your credit together, how to do your resume and how to talk to people. I just started reading it and reading it. Then, it tells you how to get your license, so I started getting my licenses. Anything I didn’t know, I would just ask.”
Clark said when he applied for his business license, he didn’t think he was going to get it. He was pleasantly surprised when it was approved.
“Then I said, ‘OK, I got my license.’ I presented it to Step Forward and they said, ‘OK, well next time we come up for a bid, why don’t you bid for an opportunity here for the contract?’ I bid for the contract. Got it!”
Clark said he was overwhelmed when the agency informed him he would need to supply the security for eight different buildings. He started hiring right away. In fact, Clark recruited some Step Forward clients who were looking for a new career.
“I went from a security guard at 47, 50-something, making $10 or $12 an hour, to maximizing $10,000 every two weeks,” he said.
Clark navigated his new business, Ohio City Security, through the pandemic. Now, he says, he wants to give back.
“I want to give back like I have seen Step Forward give back,” he said, inspired. “All the things Step Forward has stood for, and they say they do, they do. I love everything about Step Forward because they help people. They genuinely help people.”
Clark continued, encouraging people to sign up for Step Forward’s professional development programs.
“It only takes a little determination and a little commitment. You just have to do it! You have to have the initiative to do it, want to do and your life will change,” he said.
If you are interested in learning more about Step Forward's professional development programs, click here.