By Stephanie Davis
Photo by Jim Baron
As creator and manager of the operation of the charitable tour for 31 years, he is in the planning stages of hanging up his own hat on the Tour, but not without doing everything possible to ensure that the Tour outlasts him.
The Tour of Good Cheer, Clough’s way of celebrating Christmas for three decades, has helped to meet short-term practical needs of thousands of homeless men, women, and children in the greater Cleveland area. In one afternoon and evening in mid-December, the Tour makes eight stops that span Cleveland’s East and West sides, with the help of Lakefront Bus Lines, which provides transportation. Up to 150 people participate annually, helping distribute 9,000 sorted pieces during the Tour (and remaining donations later) to 1,500 people, including 350 children.
The Tour has worked as a personal charitable enterprise for many years. Current tour stops include: Lady of Mount Carmel; Redeemer Community Center; Garden Valley Community Center (coordinated by Cleveland Police Foundation/Community Policing); Procop House; St. Vincent Medical Charity Hospital (the only original stop on the tour); Joseph’s Home for homeless men; Front Steps; Community Assessment and Treatment Services; and an overflow shelter for Volunteers of America.
But now it’s time for a personal change, one that will impact its founder, who to date is still responsible for 95 percent of the Tour’s management and helps store and sort the goods collected throughout the year in the basement of the apartment building where he lives.
“About two years ago, I started pondering, ‘What is going to happen to the Tour when I’m ready to step down. Will I just stop it?’” he asks.
“I decided then that I’d like to have the Tour outlive me. It’s a legacy. These agencies we support are very much dependent on what we do. So I began to pursue ‘succession planning,’” he says.
He began scouting his pool of volunteers for those he could recruit to carry the project forward. “The biggest change is the transition from a ‘one-man band’ to a more traditional ‘collective effort.’
“Over the next three years, I’ll begin to step back from the heavy lifting. The project will become more corporate – a traditional nonprofit with a board of directors and a director. Most tasks I have been doing will be assigned to key volunteers,” he says. The plan is to have key individuals take over fundraising, marketing, and merchandise acquisition.
At press time, Clough reports that a yet-unnamed deputy chair has been designated to assume the Tour’s reins in three years.
The three-year plan is significant, because in three years Clough will turn 70, just days before Christmas.
“I plan to stay involved, but would have a lesser role until the program stands on its own legs,” he says. “As an entrepreneur all my life, I advise nonprofits. I need to follow my own advice. I’ve always done it my way. Now I have to learn to let go. The project will go on. It’s time to let others let their light shine and give them opportunity to give energy to the project without losing its mission.”
For more information: Contact Clough at firstname.lastname@example.org