Loree Steve Potash

Loree and Steve Potash

Loree and Steve Potash of Bentleyville have made a $7.5 million gift to establish the Steve and Loree Potash Women & Newborn Center at Ahuja Medical Center in Beachwood.

The center will be part of Ahuja’s $236 million second phase at the hospital, which opened in 2011.

Steve Potash is on the board of University Hospitals and said he was inspired by the leadership of UH CEO Thomas Zenty III, who is retiring at the end of January, as well as the research initiatives at the hospital system.

“All of us have benefited from having the Ahuja Medical Center,” he told the Cleveland Jewish News Jan. 5. “I’ve been a UH patient for many years, and Loree and I have benefited from the UH system.”

The nearly 49,000-square-foot center will take up the entire top floor of Ahuja’s new, 216,000-square-foot three-floor pavilion, and will include nine labor and delivery rooms, two Cesarean section operating rooms and 23 antepartum-postpartum rooms. There will also be a neonatology intensive care unit of 12 rooms on the floor.

The groundbreaking is planned for this spring, 2021, with opening in 2023.

“We had a strong request from the community to consider (expanding our) labor and delivery capabilities,” Patti DePompei, president of UH Rainbow Babies & Children and UH MacDonald Women’s hospitals, told the CJN Jan. 6. “So, we’re absolutely delighted to do so.”

She said Ahuja will be capable of delivering about 2,400 babies a year in the center, adding to UH’s current capacity to deliver about 10,000 babies system-wide.

“Aesthetically, it will be absolutely beautiful,” DePompei said. “The rooms will be incredibly large and spacious and quiet.”

DePompei said the center at Ahuja will be able to accommodate women who have a range of needs and preferences, including those with health issues and those wishing to have a midwifery experience.

The Potashes’ gift will extend beyond Ahuja to each of UH’s campuses in the form of a literacy program. Each newborn and mother will be sent home with a library card and a bag of books in a literacy campaign. DePompei said that initiative will launch in 2021, starting at UH Rainbow Babies & Children and UH MacDonald Women’s hospitals in Cleveland.

“We look forward to expanding the opportunity for all babies born across the UH Health System to have access to their first book, which is a really cool component of this project, but also a lifelong relationship with their local libraries,” DePompei said.

“Steve and Loree are passionate and inspiring leaders in our community and their commitment to our patients and families is unwavering,” Dr. Cliff A. Megerian, president of University Hospitals, said in a news release announcing the gift. “Their extraordinary philanthropy will ensure moms and babies get the high-quality care and specialized services they need, in the compassionate, family-focused environment they deserve. Their book program, though, is perhaps their ultimate gift, setting children on a path to discovery and learning from their first days. It’s an incredibly meaningful and impactful investment into our community.”

The Potashes, both children of Holocaust survivors, are members of Park Synagogue in Cleveland Heights and Pepper Pike.

Steve Potash is CEO of OverDrive in Garfield Heights, which he and Loree founded in 1986. The couple’s three adult children all work at OverDrive as well.

The Steve and Loree Potash Family Foundation funds and operates believeinreading.org, which funds a variety of “programs dedicated to the teaching and encouragement of reading for all ages anywhere in the world,” according to its website.

Steve said the literacy initiative at UH dovetails with the couple’s passion to support literacy worldwide.

“Reading, improving literacy improves everyone’s outcome,” said Steve, adding the book bag families will get also includes information families need about UH resources as well as books designed to be read to the baby. “It’s not only supporting the wellness and health of women and children, but also helping promote everyone getting off to the best start by appreciating the unbelievable free resources, underutilized, called your public librarian.”

Both Cuyahoga County Public Library and Cleveland Public Library have signed onto the program, he said.

He said librarians helped him create the vision for OverDrive, which created a digital reading platform used by schools and libraries worldwide. After two prior sales, OverDrive was sold in June 2020 to New York-based private equity firm KKR for $575 million.

Loree Potash is a board member of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland in Beachwood and of Park Synagogue, Kol Israel Foundation in Beachwood, Gross Schechter Jewish Day School in Pepper Pike and is active in other Jewish nonprofit organizations.

DePompei said she first met Steve a few years ago during a discussion about the strategic vision for UH’s women’s and children’s services.

“What struck me at that time was just his insight into the need for families in our community as well as his passion,” she said. “He asked incredibly detailed questions. I was just struck by his obvious intellect but also his compassion and desire to contribute to better health within our community.”

She later met Loree and said she was “struck by the relationship the two of them have.”

“Both are incredible individuals,” DePompei said. “But also at their core you get this sense of a desire to give back and to do good.”

The couple met at a dance at the former Cleveland Jewish Community Center in Cleveland Heights when they were high school juniors. He graduated from Cleveland Heights High School in Cleveland Heights and she from Brush High School in Lyndhurst.

The two both graduated from The Ohio State University in Columbus and from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in Cleveland. In addition, Loree received a master’s degree in library sciences from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

“Ongoing discussion around the program and (the Potashes’) questions have led us to think thoughtfully about other components that we want to add as it relates to services,” DePompei said. “So again, really meeting the needs of a very broad and diverse community has been important to them, so whether that’s accommodating and making allowances for dietary preferences, for appropriate family accommodations, they’ve added great input.”

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