Staff of The Hear Foundation
Cynthia L. Haines
President and CEO
A native of Pittsburgh, Cynthia Haines has been serving western Pennsylvania for more than 25 years through her leadership of community-centered programs that serve diverse, underserved populations, particularly in the areas of housing, early childhood development, food insecurity, mental health, substance use disorder and violence prevention.
Continue reading Cindy’s bio
Prior to joining The Hear Foundation as president and CEO, Cindy served for eight years as executive director of Focus on Renewal, a $4.4 million, 40-person, not-for-profit serving the Sto-Rox and surrounding community. Focus on Renewal’s programs provide support to help families become more financially secure, provide access to life-changing learning environments, promote optimal early childhood development, and engage community members through arts and culture. Working from a community-centered approach to neighborhood engagement and development and a mission grounded in body, mind, and spirit connectedness, Cindy oversaw The Father Ryan Arts Center in McKees Rocks, The Sto-Rox Public Library and The Community Resource Center, including its food pantry and violence reduction workforce programs.
Cindy also served 17 years as a community builder and senior management analyst with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In this capacity she coordinated Rapid Results Homeless Veteran Boot Camps, served as a liaison for homeless initiatives and programs, and chaired the Region 3 Interagency Council on Homelessness Operations and Communications Committee. While at HUD, Cindy was widely acknowledged as a national subject matter expert on federal grant writing, often traveling across the country to provide capacity building and grant writing workshops to under-resourced faith-based and community organizations. Her work with HUD also included technical assistance to external and community development stakeholders on fiscal survival and sustenance.
Cindy has served as executive director of Bridge to Independence, an organization providing community-based programs focusing on homeless women, infants and children. She raised more than $2 million in 18 months to create permanent supportive housing programs and workforce development programs and founded such programs as Families First, Family Focus, Peak Performance and Woman to Woman.
She was the former executive director of Tempering the Valley of Steel, where she led a prevention and intervention program, and designed and implemented community chemical dependency prevention, intervention and educational programs with students, community leaders and other stakeholders in McKeesport, Aliquippa, and Monessen. Previously, she held positions with Abraxas, Glenbeigh Hospital, Erie County Rape Crisis Center, and Lake County Center on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.
Cindy has served as a board member of P.O.W.E.R., South Hills Interfaith Movement, Gemini Theater, and Ohio Valley Hospital, and as a Collective Impact Fundraiser with 100+ Women Who Care – Pittsburgh, and the Southwestern Pennsylvania philanthropy group WOMEN (Women Organized to Mentor, Empower and Network).
Cindy holds a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement and juvenile justice from Mercyhurst University, a master’s degree in social science administration from Case Western Reserve University and completed an intensive executive certificate program in community organizing, contracts, and racial justice at Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Co-founder and Director of External Affairs
A native of Pittsburgh, Leon Ford is a celebrated author, social entrepreneur, impact investor, international speaker, and changemaker dedicated to driving positive change in his community and beyond. As a respected activist and mental health ambassador, Ford passionately addresses disparities by focusing on holistic wellness. His inspiring approach emphasizes the importance of resilience, transforming personal challenges into purpose, and creating a lasting societal impact.
Continue reading Leon’s bio
In 2012, Leon was tragically shot five times by a police officer during a traffic stop, leaving him physically paralyzed. Nevertheless, he has continued to positively impact his community, working with police officers on cultural competency and legislators on drafting policies to modify the use of force laws.
In 2022, Leon joined forces with former Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Chief Scott Schubert to co-found The Hear Foundation. This trailblazing nonprofit seeks to bridge the gap between residents, community leaders, and law enforcement in order to cultivate a safe and thriving community for all. In 2024, Leon became the organization’s director of external affairs, giving him the opportunity to focus full-time on fostering safety through police and community collaboration in Pittsburgh.
In recognition of its innovative approach, the foundation received the prestigious McNulty Catalyst Prize in 2023. Ford has also joined 150+ other leaders as a Founding Partner of Starts With Us – a movement to end the culture wars by fostering curiosity, compassion, and courage as daily habits.
Leon was recently named to Gov. Josh Shapiro’s Pennsylvania Citizen Law Enforcement Advisory and Review (CLEAR) Commission to bring state law enforcement experts and criminal justice reform advocates together to support public safety and ensure accountability for state law enforcement agencies.
In 2023, he completed a year-long national and international book tour to launch “An Unspeakable Hope: Brutality, Forgiveness, and Building a Better Future for My Son,” and in late 2023 was named recipient of the prestigious Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award.
As an influential figure in social justice and mental health, Ford inspires others through speaking engagements, mentorship, and fostering open dialogue. Through his work, he cultivates leaders, organizers, and social entrepreneurs, ensuring his vision for a compassionate and just society endures for future generations.
Ford’s accomplishments include executive producing the Cannes Film Festival award-winning documentary Leon (2019) and Breaking Bread: A Conversation on Race in America (2021), which won a Shorty Award; President Obama’s Volunteer Service Award (2017); The Root 100 (2018); Pittsburgh’s 40 Under 40 (2019); Forbes 30 Under 30 (2023); and National Urban League Community Service Award (2023).
As a member of The Aspen Institute’s Inaugural Civil Society Fellowship, Ford is devoted to nurturing the next generation of leaders and activists. He serves as an entrepreneur in residence for Bronze Investments, is co-founder of the Leon Ford Legacy Fund, and holds board positions with multiple organizations.
In addition to his activism, Ford has authored valuable resources for overcoming adversity and promoting well-being, including his memoir, An Unspeakable Hope (May 2023); Untold: Testimony and Guide to Overcoming Adversity (2017); and The Leon Self-Care Handbook: From Surviving to Thriving, offering practical tools for healing and personal growth.