It is with great sadness that we share news of the passing of ESOP’s Founder Inez Killingsworth.  Inez died on Thursday, January 17th at Marymount Hospital after a courageous battle with cancer.  She was 75 years old.

ESOP Founder Inez Killingsworth

     Inez is survived by her five children, ten grandchildren, nine great grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.  

     In the late 1970’s Inez set out to get rid of stray dogs that were chasing children to school in her neighborhood.  It was the beginning of a long career in community organizing, saving homes from foreclosure and empowering others to take action.

     Inez was inspired by her father’s work during the civil rights movement. “He was making a difference in people's lives, and that's what I wanted to do,” Inez said.

     Her work in Cleveland’s Union-Miles neighborhood led her to found the East Side Organizing Project in 1993.  Soon after she began researching predatory lending and foreclosures, determined to bring national attention to the epidemic.  Inez led ESOP in using direct action organizing against banks engaged in predatory lending and abusive servicing and foreclosure practices.  In 2008 Inez testified before congress about the impact of predatory lending and the foreclosure crisis that was sweeping the nation.  “I told them it was greed that had snowballed. It wasn't just a few companies that were targeting poor people and people with poor credit histories for predatory loans; it was the whole financial system.”

     After retiring from Cleveland Public Schools in 2001, ESOP and other community work became Inez’s second career. Today ESOP is Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People with nine offices to help homeowners statewide.  She also served on several local community boards and national organizing boards, worked with Cleveland Police and was a Trustee of her church.  Over the last thirty years, Inez led many organizing campaigns on a variety of issues: education reform, CRA, FHA reform, predatory lending, and safety and day labor abuses.  

     In 2010 Inez won the Purpose Prize award from the national nonprofit Civic Ventures in recognition of her work preventing foreclosures in Ohio and her work at the national level in foreclosure matters. 

     “One thing’s for sure: She’s a fighter. A formidable fighter,” said Barbara Anderson, ESOP board member. “But she doesn’t fight without purpose. She’s my mentor. She has always encouraged me and worked with me.”

     Mark Seifert, ESOP’s Executive Director, marvels at her strength and dedication.  “The thing about Inez, aside from being my partner in crime for nearly 23 years, is that she walks the talk. Most people don't know how many hours each week she worked at the New Cleveland Food Basket or how she served as an Auxiliary Policewoman to watch over our youth. Nor do they know just how committed she is to the youth of our community. That is to say nothing of her dedication to her church and her God.” 

     Inez will be mourned by family, friends, church members, ESOP staff and fellow organizers across the nation.  Our hearts and prayers go out to the Killingsworth family in this difficult time.


Funeral arrangements have been finalized for this week for the passing of ESOP Founder Inez Killingsworth.  


Thursday, 4:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.

Friday, 9:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.

Gaines Funeral Home

9116 Union Avenue

Cleveland, OH 44105


Saturday, 10:00 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.


Saturday, 11:30 a.m.

Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church

3290 E. 126th

Cleveland, OH 44120


Condolences can be sent to:

Gaines Funeral Home

9116 Union Avenue

Cleveland, OH 44105

In lieu of flowers donations can be sent to:

Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People

3631 Perkins Avenue, Suite 4C-S

Cleveland, OH 44114

Memo: Inez Killingsworth 

     Our hearts and prayers go out to the Killingsworth family in this difficult time.