Even with volunteering down during the pandemic, Besa helps dozens of non-profits with people to keep vital services running.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Coming close together feels so distanced these days. For those who rely on critical in-person services, the past year has looked and felt different.
One central Ohio organization is helping dozens of non-profits make sure a change in services is not due to a lack of staffing.
Since 2012, Besa coordinates volunteers to fill voids, placing them in the right spots to make sure other organizations, and more importantly those that depend on them, do not see an interruption in service. At any given time, Besa has 30-60 different projects available for volunteers to get involved in, and depending on your comfort level, engagement can be in-person, virtual or individuals, according to its founder Matthew Goldstein.
“Even during the shutdown, services needed to be provided,” said Goldstein. “What we found is as people were pulling back, in terms of going to work and be at home, many, many people were still looking for powerful ways to support this community.”
New Salem Baptist Church has seen the power of volunteering first hand. Adam Troy, the chief engagement officer at New Salem Baptist Church says its Bread of Life Food Pantry almost reduced hours at the beginning of the pandemic, after seeing a need double practically overnight.
“They could shop for themselves and always tried to provide an environment that emphasized dignity,” said Troy. “When we had to pivot inside the course of a week, where we literally went from a high-touch situation to now, [where] logistically people had to show up in cars. We had to develop call systems, volunteers pool ran food back-and-forth and delivered it, and did it all while keeping the volunteers safe as well. We got down to an efficacy skill that previously didn’t exist.”
Troy says they now help about 200 families with thousands of meals per week. The church was partnered with Besa since 2016.
“They continued to show up consistently, which was big for our ability to plan appropriately for food distribution and the number of people throughout the community that we can absolutely serve,” said Troy.
Bread of Life was able to not only keep services running, but was able to expand other areas.
“People are still going hungry, particularly when there is job loss there is so much more need,” said Goldstein.
Statement regarding the Columbus City Council’s announcement of major amendments to the 2021 Columbus City Budget
Social Justice Empowerment Council, Community of Caring Development Foundation, New Salem Baptist Church
Columbus City Council announced major amendments to the 2021 Columbus City Budget. These changes represent all that is good about democracy and civic participation. The people of Columbus, in response to a year of trials and tribulations, marched, made phone calls, gave testimony, and most importantly, prayed for change. Our Council listened, and heeded our call for the following changes to help youth and families in Columbus and the Linden area:
The most important element is creating four (4) new funds of $10 million each to (1) support families [and non-profits that support families], (2) foster economic recovery and support small businesses, (3) ensure a strong COVID-19 response, and (4) reimagine public safety. These funds are priorities for the Council and will be utilized over the coming year for their distinct purposes. We also expect the city to allocate additional dollars into the community as new federal stimulus dollars become available.
Additionally, Council plans to hold the June police class until the currently active audit of police recruiting and selections is returned to the city with recommendations for improvement. The $2.5 million in savings from delaying the class will be invested into community anti-violence work as well as employment and programming for youth. As of now, this includes reinvesting in the neighborhood anti-violence grants recently discussed.
The safety of Linden residents is paramount to us and we applaud Council for making the tough decision to delay incoming police classes until recommendations for improvement are presented come. It is not fair to new officers, or the communities they will serve, to come into a broken system in need of reform.
The Columbus City Council voted 5 to 7, including Council President Shannon Hardin, to hold on the June police class. Because two councilmembers voted against the delay, the amendment was tabled; another vote is scheduled for Feb. 22. We want to voice our support for the delay and to utilize the funds to stop the violence and bring the hope of growth, prosperity, and safer streets to our communities.
Karla Coleman, Director, Communications
Community of Caring Development Foundation
January 18, 2021, COLUMBUS (OH) – For the homeless in America, staying warm during the winter months, and uninfected during the COVID-19 pandemic, is a double challenge to their survival.
In remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Community of Caring Development Foundation, in collaboration with the OSU Wexner Medical Center STAR Trauma Recovery Center, will deliver care kits and highly innovative “sleeping bag” coats to homeless men at the YMCA of
Central Ohio and Men’s Shelter on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. The weather-resistant coat, packaged as an over-the-shoulder bag, can transform into a sleeping bag or a coat. The care kits from New Salem Baptist Church’s Bread of Life Food Pantry and other sources will include food, personal items, masks, sanitizers, and more.
“We are seeing an uptick in homelessness and despair as more are affected by the pandemic and its economic and mental health toll on our community,’ said Adam Troy, CEO, Community of Caring Development Foundation in Columbus, Ohio, the economic arm of New Salem Baptist Church. The donation targets men who are leaving the shelter and prefer to stay on the streets. “We must be smarter and lean on innovation and technology to find ways to improve lives and support our people in need.”
Sixty percent of all people experiencing homelessness are male. As of January 2019, Ohio had an estimated 10,345 experiencing homelessness on any given day, as reported by Continuums of Care to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). According to HUD, prior to the pandemic, Franklin County’s homeless population had increased 6% over the year to 1,900, 18% higher than five years ago. But the pandemic is putting a new strain on homeless services systems.
“The Men’s Shelter, operated by the YMCA of Central Ohio, is proud to serve over 200 men experiencing a housing crisis,” says Tiffany Hale, Director of Social Innovation, YMCA of Central Ohio, Van Buren Center. “The Y believes in serving with dignity, compassion, and respect and we believe that providing our men access to coats that transform into sleeping bags will be preparing our guests for any stage of their homelessness journey. Our guests are the experts of their own lives, and we are committed to supporting them in their process.”
The YMCA of Central Ohio’s shelter services for adult men offers the assistance and support needed to stabilize and maintain independent housing while providing access to those support services needed to achieve the highest possible standard of living.
The United States has recently started to distribute approved COVID-19 vaccines to frontline workers across the country. Soon, the vaccine will be widely available to the public and scientists believe that as more individuals choose to become vaccinated, the sooner we can reach the goal of herd immunity. However, the speed in which the COVID-19 vaccine was developed, paired with uncertainty of the long-term effectiveness, has created skepticism within the African American community.
Medical experts believe that the COVID-19 vaccine is not only safe, but also effective. “[The vaccine] has absolutely exquisite levels — 94 to 95% efficacy against clinical disease and almost 100% efficacy against serious disease that are shown to be clearly safe,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci, American physician and Immunologist with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. However, Black minority communities are not convinced.
“History has not been kind to us in the black community in terms of health care, but with the rampant spread of COVID-19, we need to trust the science,” said Rev. Dr. Keith Troy, pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio. “Not only should we trust the science, but the scientists, many of which look like us. “The impact on our community is too devastating for us to refuse this vaccine or just wait and see.”
Public health experts like Dr. Fauci understand the hesitation around trusting the medical field and knows that rebuilding trust will take time. An important step in that direction is the news that one of the leaders in the COVID-19 vaccine development is a Black woman – Dr. Kizzmekia “Kizzy” Shanta Corbett. “So, the first thing you might want to say to my African American brothers and sisters is that the vaccine that you’re going to be taking was developed by an African American woman,” Fauci said. “And that is just a fact.”
A viral immunologist at the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health based in Bethesda, Maryland, Corbett is the scientific lead of the VRC’s Coronavirus Team, with research efforts aimed at propelling novel coronavirus vaccines, including a COVID-19 vaccine.
The concerns that African Americans have in trusting the vaccine are valid ones. History has shown that people of color have experienced racist, and at times dangerous, health policies and clinical experiments have disparaged particularly vulnerable Black and brown communities. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, in looking at the data, African Americans are 1.4 times more likely to contract COVID-19 and three times more likely to die due to complications of Coronavirus. The urgency for vaccination, and to achieve herd immunity, is real.
Herd immunity occurs when the majority of the population is immune to a virus. According to a recent survey by Pews Research Center; 42% of African Americans will get the vaccine, compared to 63% of Hispanics, 61% of white adults and 83% of Asian Americans who will choose to be vaccinated. If these numbers are accurate then a total of 60% of the nation’s population will choose the shot – however – experts stress that at least 70% of Americans must be vaccinated to reach herd immunity, which puts pressure on African American communities to change their minds.
“I’m planning to get the vaccine as soon as it becomes available to me,” says Rev. Dr. Troy. “For essential workers and people with pre-existing conditions, it is imperative, because you are on the front line, we can’t afford to lose you – or any others.”
The COVID-19 vaccine has been developed to save lives. The distribution of this life-saving vaccine is part of the national effort to protect all people, and global vaccine acceptance is imperative for everyone to return to normalcy. African Americans do not have to worry about being Guinea pigs of the vaccine or fear the outcomes of receiving it. Medical experts assure the public that months of clinical trials and research were executed by willing volunteers. The medical field has evolved since the Tuskegee trials in the past, and there are disclosures and consent regulations that have been developed to protect patients.
“As we work to forge a path forward, trusting science is the only way to end the unequal death toll in the Black community resulting from COVID-19,” says Troy. “Do your own research, then do your part by rolling up your sleeve and getting your shot!”
The community is reshaping with more housing; stronger neighborhood; good people
By John Mclaughlin
Although Danielle McKnight Zellner’s children have all grown up and moved away, she continues to live in the Linden community, where she’s been for the last 17 years. She works tirelessly in the community to assist the people of the Linden neighborhood through her position as a community service worker at St. Stephen’s Community House.
“A lot of times this community is just like a family, and that’s a big part of what keeps me here,” she says.
This sentiment seems to be a theme that runs throughout the Linden community— and is another one of the small but quietly beautiful surprises the neighborhood has to offer, with families staying in the same area, the same house even, for multiple generations.
“Our block is very unique. One house across the street, the grandparents lived there, now their grandchildren live there,” said one North Linden resident who wishes to remain anonymous. She and her husband bought their home in 1959, and haven’t moved since.
Thinking back on the years in her Linden neighborhood, she recalls block parties and social gatherings, as well as a neighborly friendliness that seems to be another hallmark
of the area to so many residents “I remember meeting neighbors out in the middle of the street to talk. In fact, we still have one who comes over to use our lawnmower.”
Most Columbus denizens, however, probably consider Linden differently, because if you’re familiar with the community in 2020, it’s likely not in a positive way. The historic neighborhood, which has existed since the turn of the 20th century but wasn’t officially annexed by the city of Columbus until 1921, became a bustling middle-class neighborhood in the 1950s and 1960s. Today, with the population of North Linden just over half of what it was 60 years ago, the area has seen its share of struggle, and is no stranger to crime and poverty.
Many residents—those who have lived, worked, and served there for decades—will paint you a much different picture than those shown in the media, and often it’s one of a community on the rise.
“What we try to make sure of is we want to encourage the media and people from the outside to get underneath the mascara,” said Adam Troy of the New Salem Baptist Church, a Linden community cornerstone. “Typically the mascara is really hiding the truth. And the truth is, this is a really wonderful community.”
Troy will also be the first one to admit the area has its issues it needs to overcome—there is crime; there is violence. The once-thriving Cleveland Avenue corridor, which slices north to south through the neighborhood and serves as its primary commercial area, is now littered with empty storefronts.
Over the last few years, though, a new energy has overtaken Linden. This isn’t just a community with good people waiting for a break anymore; this community is on the precipice of real change.
In 2018, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther launched the One Linden Community Plan, a comprehensive, multi-year initiative to reinvigorate the area and its residents, with a surge of funding, new development, and community support projects. It’s bringing a new, $20M community center to Linden, and investing an additional $18M in infrastructure and community programs. Even more important than these contributions is how the plan has galvanized a litany of nonprofits and community groups, each aimed at making Linden thrive.
And if you talk to anyone in the community about the One Linden Plan, you’ll pretty soon find out that it boasts nearly monolithic support throughout the community. This is because the Plan relied extensively on community participation to formulate its goals, spending 13 months between March 2017 and April 2018 engaging with Linden residents to understand what the area truly needs.
For those who personally participated in the plan’s formulation, like Zellner did, knowing her voice would help shape things to come was a major incentive. “To know that my idea is going to somehow affect what’s going to happen in Linden, that’s huge. I think programs like that give people a sense of being a part of something. They’re also realistic; they’re giving people what they want.”
Residents identified the creation of affordable housing as one of the area’s biggest needs, and one of the most important groups in the community right now addressing that front is Columbus Next Generation Corporation. The nonprofit group, which is legislated and funded by the city government, seeks out underutilized properties in Columbus neighborhoods and puts them to good use.
According to Director Boyce Safford, the group has identified and purchased two pieces of real estate in Linden where a pair of large-scale housing developments are underway.
One will eventually become a 41 to 45-unit affordable housing development, but Next Generation hasn’t yet selected a developer for the space. The second, Mulby Place, will stand at the southeast corner of Cleveland Ave. and Myrtle Ave. Construction is already underway on the 100-unit development of affordable living for seniors, in addition to 11 single-family homes and over 3,000 square feet of commercial space. It will likely be completed in 2021.
Another Columbus nonprofit, Homeport, was selected by the Next Generation board of directors to oversee the development of Mulby Place. Homeport is also in the process of constructing another critical affordable housing developments in Linden area, including 90 different single-family homes, and Kenlawn Place, which will hold 45 apartments for low to moderate-income families (in addition to five single-family homes) on the West side of the 2900 block of Cleveland Ave.
“The key with Mulby Place Key is that it’s right in the area which the Linden plan designated as downtown Linden,” said Homeport CEO Bruce Luecke.
According to Carla Gwinn, President of the Greater Linden Business Network and a business owner in Linden for 19 years (as the franchisee of Liberty Tax Service at 1406 Cleveland Ave.), these developments in new downtown Linden will likely pay lasting dividends to other areas in the economy.
Said another tenant of the One Linden Plan, “Development is important for there to be a framework of viable retail space and other development opportunities in the area,” she said. “Once you see development starting, you may encourage more.”
And it isn’t just housing coming to Linden.
Likely the most unique project to come out of the efforts stoked by the One Linden Plan is the combination of two Columbus nonprofits, The Charitable Pharmacy of Central Ohio and Community Development for All People, in taking over what was formerly Eagle Market at 1464 Cleveland Ave. This development, which was also facilitated by Next Generation, will offer free prescriptions for non-narcotic medication to low-income residents as well as free fresh produce.
Many other groups are involved across a number of platforms, such as Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which is addressing health-related tenants of the Plan by providing pediatric clinics and school-based behavioral health services at several Linden schools.
What’s more, the 614 for Linden collaborative, formed in late 2019, saw the city pair with a host of additional nonprofit groups and community partners, with the goal of advancing the One Linden Plan. It even saw an investment of $5M from JP Morgan Chase’s Raising Opportunity in Neighborhoods program, and a $500,000 donation from Huntington Bank for small-business development.
And while initiatives from the One Linden Plan rightfully garnered a large amount of attention, the area is built on a strong foundation of community programs that are still making a difference today.
One of these is St. Stephen’s Community House. The nonprofit, based on Linden’s Southside since 1960, first opened over 100 years ago as an educational and social hub for many of the city’s immigrants, and it continues that mission of service to this day. They offer programs for teens, seniors, families, and even run a food bank that has fed nearly 700 families a week during the pandemic, according to the director of marketing and development Natalie Atkins.
Anchoring community service programs on the Northside of Linden is the New Salem Baptist Church. The church, founded in 1909, is anchored by the Troy family, pillars of the community for decades, as they continue to extend after school programs, urban gardening, a large-scale food pantry, housing initiates, and even programs helping local businesses secure critical funding.
And it appears people are truly taking notice following the waves of support and development in Linden. A lot of people. Danielle Zellner has seen a significant spike in home owning and real-estate interest within the last few years.
“We definitely have noticed the growth. People are looking into homeownership now. That’s huge. Five years ago, people were not looking to buy,” she said.
What’s more, Linden neighborhoods are seeing a new influx of younger families moving in from other areas of the city, a definite sign that the arrow is pointing up.
Amy Miller, 37, grew up in Upper Arlington, and most recently lived in Clintonville, two of the city’s more desirable neighborhoods. Now, though, she and her husband Ryan are homeowners in the North Linden neighborhood of Kenmore Park.
The couple was turned on to the area after visiting friends who were located in Kenmore Park. When the time came to purchase their own home in early 2019, they found a good deal on a home they liked. Miller admits she had some misgivings about Linden before learning more about the neighborhood, but now the young family couldn’t be happier with their choice.
“I will say yes, I had a perception that there was more crime, definitely compared to UA there is more crime, and that made me nervous at first. But since coming here we’ve met so many people and really truly become friends with them in a short period of time,” Miller said. “The Houses are closer together, people are out more, and they’re more interested in chatting. There’s a desire to connect here more than any other neighborhood.”
“There are food trucks in our neighborhood every Friday and Saturday, and Tuesday evenings there’s a playgroup that meets at a grassy area in the neighborhood. And there are traditions, a movie night on certain Friday nights with a projector. It’s just a great community to be a part of.”
Ultimately Linden, like any community, is truly made or broken by its citizens. And if there’s one thing residents—of 60 years or 18 months—have sung the praises of, it’s the people.
“The Linden community is woven with a fabric of incredibly caring, hard-working people trying to provide for their family,” said Carla Gwinn. “I think the headlines undermine that, but the headlines don’t represent the everyday people I come in contact with; that doesn’t represent who we are.”
Natalie Atkins of St. Stephens agreed.
“This community is strong, it has the most involved community members that are proud of the history of this neighborhood, proud of where it’s going, where it’s been, and how far they’ve come,” she said. “It’s always going to be cautiously optimistic, but I think there’s this vibrancy now, it’s radiating through a lot of different facets of this community. You see the growth, and you see what’s coming.”
Join the Linden Clean Columbus Ambassadors — Earn Extra Holiday Cash
Columbus City Council, with the leadership of Councilmember Emmanuel V. Remy, will launch the Cleaner Columbus Employment Program on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. The Community of Caring Development Foundation is honored to have been selected as one of five organizations coordinating the cleanup efforts.
“As an extension of our ongoing Health & Hope initiative throughout Linden, we welcome the opportunity to serve in partnership with Councilmember Remy and the Columbus City Council as a vehicle for continued investment in the core asset of Linden, it’s people,” said Adam K. Troy, Executive Director for the Community of Caring Development Foundation.
According to a July study on the impact of COVID-19 in major US cities, more than half of residents reported experiencing serious financial challenges, said Councilmember Emmanuel V. Remy. The Cleaner Columbus Employment Program will provide employment to local residents experiencing financial hardships due to COVID-19.
Over the course of two weeks, workers will be paid a minimum of $15 per hour. The five organizations receiving the grant funds will prioritize enrolling residents who have experienced employment disruption.
The program offers residents in five neighborhoods the opportunity to have temporary employment for two weeks performing litter cleanup and neighborhood beautification. In partnership with the Community of Caring Development Foundation, the Linden Clean Columbus initiative is scheduled to kickoff on Saturday, Nov. 14. Please watch our website for registration — coming soon!
The following five agencies are accepting applications:
COMMUNITY OF CARING DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION
Focus Area: Linden
Phone: (614) 484-0911
FRANKLINTON BOARD OF TRADEFocus Area: Franklinton
Phone: (614) 398-2435
GREATER HILLTOP AREA SHALOM ZONEFocus Area: Hilltop
Phone: (614) 398-1230
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT FOR ALL PEOPLEFocus Area: South Columbus
AFRICENTRIC PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT SHOPFocus Area: East Columbus
2956 Cleveland Avenue
Columbus, OH 43224