Columbus Is My Neighborhood
Acknowledging the unsung heroes of the Neighborhood of Columbus.
Columbus Is My Neighborhood is giving a face and voice to community leaders who have devoted their lives to their neighborhood in order to highlight their activism and commitment.
Black and white portraits of these leaders will be displayed on the IKE Smart City kiosks located throughout Columbus, OH on October 8-31, 2021.
Please click the Our Heroes button below to learn more about each of our twelve community heroes.
About Columbus Is My Neighborhood
Kendra Asiedu (she/her, of Westerville, International Studies and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies) and Tori Burton (she/her, of Dublin, Bioengineering) are 4th-year students who are participating in the Nonprofit Immersion Program at The Ohio State University. As Columbus natives themselves, Kendra and Tori are partnering with the Neighborhood Design Center to complete an art project called Columbus is my Neighborhood, which aims to highlight Columbus natives for their contribution to their communities.
The Nonprofit Immersion Program is a cohort of students who are paired with nonprofit organizations in Columbus. Students serve as non-voting members of the organizations' boards for one year, where they learn about, and get hands-on experience in, the inner workings of a nonprofit.
The mission of the Neighborhood Design Center is to promote economic prosperity and an enriched quality of life through the rediscovery and revitalization of the built environment in underserved communities in Columbus.
Although Columbus, OH is extremely diverse and is made up of many unique communitites, it is a special place to live— a city with neighborhood charm. No matter which community you belong to, we are all part of the Columbus Neighborhood.
There are many Columbus natives who have devoted their lives to making their neighborhood a better place without receiving the recognition they deserve.
Columbus is my Neighborhood will give a face and voice to these leaders in order to highlight their activism and commitment to their communities.
Black and white portraits of these leaders will be displayed on the IKE Smart City kiosks located throughout Columbus, OH in October 2021. These portraits will be accompanied by a social media aspect which will also include their stories.
View the CBUSISMYNBHD News features
Kendra Asiedu (The Ohio State University)
Tori Burton (The Ohio State University)
Lisa Snyder (Neighborhood Design Center)
Shelbi Harris (Neighborhood Design Center)
Jehan Daugherty (Jehan LLC)
Aaron K. Hopkins
“In the community in which we live, there are challenges and barriers that exist. You need to identify what the barriers are and how you can move past those barriers that others have put in place.”
For the last three decades, Aaron Hopkins has lived on the South Side with his wife of 39 years, Antoinette. He is an area commissioner and civic president of South Side Community Action Network, and a minister at the Family Missionary Baptist Church. As a minister, his focus is on community outreach and “lifting the voices of the marginalized African American community”, as well as bringing resources to those who need it. One of the most needed resources on the South Side is fresh fruits and vegetables. Driven by his mother’s love of gardening, Minister Hopkins was able to use his background in construction to create and build the South Side Family Farms in an effort to replenish the food desert that exists on the South Side.
Since founding the farm in 2014, Minister Hopkins has reached hundreds of families in the South Side community. He likes to work with the younger generation in order to inspire positive goals and give them new experiences— such as using a drill or reading a tape measure— that they might have never done without access to the community garden. His passion is to provide education about the science of agriculture, aquaponics, and engineering so that people in his community may feel empowered to start a garden in their own backyard. Minister Hopkins hopes to “pass the torch” to his community so that they may experience the rewarding feeling of growing their own fruits and vegetables, and he encourages his neighbors to know their options so that they are not dependent on outside resources. Beyond the farm, Minister Hopkins hopes to give the children of the South Side a new avenue for success by providing these opportunities to learn responsibility, commitment, and passion about a project that they get to help build. The South Side Family Farm also provides a space for people to socialize and connect with their own neighbors while making a positive contribution to the community.
Minister Hopkins has found that land access for farming is a big challenge, especially for communities of color. Minister Hopkins’ recently established Seedlings of Change Plants for Progress, LLC with the goal of growing South Side Family Farms to include a nursery that would allow them to market to the South Side community. South Side Family Farms recently gained land in Johnstown, OH which will be used to start this new project. Minister Hopkins also has goals to venture into an indoor location where he can incorporate hydroponics and vertical gardens into his urban farming network.
De Lena Scales
“I'm a professional connector. That's what I do.”
DeLena P. Scales is an exceptional professional connector! Born in Fort Knox, Kentucky on an army base but having her family reside on the northside of Columbus, so much so she had a relative on each corner, DeLena calls Columbus, especially the northside, her home. She grew up between those two neighborhoods going to school at Mcguffey, Linden and graduating from Mifflin High School. Though her educational life occurred all over Columbus, all her other “first” happened in the heart of Linden. “But all my first take place there, my very first job was at the McDonald's on Cleveland Avenue, which is now tore down. Every summer I worked at Ohio State Fairgrounds, before you were old enough to work, they would hire people to sell ice, and me and my friends would walk over there and sign up for our three week summer jobs and take our checks and go shopping for school clothes. So I just have great memories in that space...I remember a Linden where I went to the doctors in Linden, I went to the grocery store in Linden, because Kroger was in Linden back then, I went to a laundromat in Linden, I didn't have to leave Cleveland Avenue do any of the things that I want to do wanted to do or needed to do. Now I've been in this space where I get to create that same limit all over again”.
Seeing the revival of Liden, this is how DeLena describes her neighborhood in one word: “I will say resilient, because it seems so much has changed. I'm older, and I'm proud to say that I'm older, right. So to see, 46 when others didn't see 18, didn't see 19, so to sit here before you having 46 years old, and watching the community go from a thriving African American community to a deserted space where crime was able to come and live and breathe to now this pulse being pumped back in two weeks. Resilience is the right word for Linden, and the north side. Change, even when it is good, comes with some sort of grief, and they have constantly overcome everything that's come at them. Whether it is disinvestment, whether it is historic homicide rates, whether there's infant mortality, whether there it is being a food desert, all these things that could destroy a community, and it didn't destroy many, it still stands strong. And to me, when I see images of resilience, and we have this little flower coming down to see man, that's what I think about my community, just resilient.”
In the past, she served as the chair of the Southwest Area Commission, with her heart being in the “CelebrateOne” initiative. “CelebrateOne” is an initiative to reduce the high rates of infant mortality in Columbus. Starting her neighborhood work in the capacity as a community health worker, working with expecting and new parents and families to make sure their babies celebrate their first birthday. DeLena voiced her passion for this initiative, “In the African American community our babies are two and a half times likely to die before their first birthday, and I was one of those individuals who lost a child. So again, just turning those pains into passion”. With her passion, she was able to align with the City of Columbus, Mayor Andrew Gunther and St. Stephen's Community House, which is also in a community that she works with, and connect those resources.
Currently, DeLena serves as the Neighborhood Liaison for the Department of Neighborhoods to Columbus. She has three neighborhoods that she has the privilege of working with in the Area Commission's, civic groups, the neighborhood groups, as well as the faith leaders and community based organizations. The three neighborhoods she serves are Northland and South Linden and Northeast area. Mrs. Scales says, “I really love working in those spaces, because I grew up in these neighborhoods. So I get the pleasure of working in the areas where I live, worship in play and learn that as a child”. Recognizing the resilience of the Linden community, DeLena has a hand in the creation of the “Celebrate Liden” app. In collaboration with Neighborhood Design Center and Warren Warhol on Wall Street, the “Celebrate Linden” app is a community mobile app that connects residents to resources and rewards them for participating in the community.
Additionally she works as the African American family navigator for DSACO, which is the Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio. Mrs. Scales involvement with DSACO holds a deep importance to her and her family. “I have a six year old daughter with down syndrome, and I was finding it really hard to connect with black families in this space of representation, especially since it means so much in this world. I want my daughter to have that [representation] so when the opportunity came, I stepped up to the plate. I just recently started in that role and had my first event yesterday with like four or five families. It was really exciting”.
Her Support System
Donna Bates was born and raised on the South Side of Columbus and has lived there her whole life. Following in her mother’s footsteps of collaborative activism, she has humbly dedicated her life to making her neighborhood a better place and has been involved in countless community organizations.
She currently sits on the board of directors for the Reeb Avenue Center as the community leader and is the secretary of the Steelton Village Civic Association. In these roles, Donna is able to work together with her community to serve those who have limited access or knowledge about available resources. She is involved in the Southeast Lions Club and is passionate about her work with the Central Ohio Lions Eye Bank which aims to connect donors to transplant patients through collaborations with Ohio State University. Donna also serves as the minister of music and the secretary of her church which allows her to serve her family, friends, and community through love and faith.
In one of her most prominent roles, Donna served as the President of the Parsons Area Merchants Association and now contributes as a trustee. PAMA works hard to support the South Side by promoting local business and healthy living to its community members. Donna is especially proud of her work with PAMA to bring scholarships to the students of South High School, her alma mater.
Ed Amos started his tennis teaching career with his son. When his son started to show interest in tennis, Ed could not imagine anyone else teaching him but himself. With this start, he then got certified as a tennis instructor, and through community encouragement, there was an urge to start a community- wide tennis program.
The ACE With Love Program was established 26 years ago, prior to the current established group, ACE with Love was the Wolfe Park Tennis Club, which was founded in 1976 in Columbus. To discuss the history of social organizations and tennis in the Black community, one must look back to the late 40s. Prior to Wolfe Park, there was another Black tennis club called Baiting, which was founded back in 1949. It served the African American community with grassroots tennis instructions and social organization by Black tennis players. Majority of them played at the park during the late 40s, 50s, and 60s, and then the transition went to Wolfe park where everybody started playing, which continues to be the hub of Black tennis and the city.
The Wolfe Park program started off primarily as an adult program, but groups Ace with Love started to cater toward juniors.
The ACE With Love program covers the physical, mental and academic health of the players. A program that grew from six players in its first year, to 80-100 students now, and a staff of tennis certified coaching volunteers, the program has flourished in exemplary ways. Incorporated in the physical aspect of the ACE with Love program, is that academic sect called the "ACE Program". Centered on awarding students for their academic accomplishments, the program for the last four years has increasingly awarded academically gifted students. By Mr. Amos’s own account, “We started off with probably six the first year then we opened it up and all of a sudden that jumped from six to 12, then 12 to 16. In the last four years, we've had 28 straight 'A' students in our program. I like to brag about the fact that we hardly have any disciplinary problems. Our kids are pretty smart, they're pretty strong kids. Once you get that many kids are academically gifted together. You don't have a problem presenting information and they absorb like crazy, very smart kids, and very good tennis players”.
Ed loves to acknowledge the accomplishments of the students and professional team behind ACE with Love. At the end of September, 15 staff members of the ACE program were acknowledged for their work in the community by the Greater Columbus Tennis Association.
Frederick V. LaMarr
“My passion has been in Columbus.”
Pastor Frederick LaMarr was born and raised in Columbus on the southeast side, a graduate of the famous East High School, he then went to CBU, Columbus Business University, now Columbus State, taking their Business Management course, graduating and going to Big Bear Stores. During his 24 years at Big Bear, he obtained his pastoral education and in 1997 he was installed as pastor at the Family Missionary Baptist Church. Pastor LaMarr’s advocacy appears in little ways. Purchasing his first home in the 80s, where he still lives, he purchases housing in the community, additionally, he makes sure that the community sees him, “I stay on the same street, just a mile and a half away from where I work at the church. So I walk to church, every Sunday, I don't drive. So walking to church, people in the community see me as a vibrant part of the community. So just trying to stay connected to the community to try to bring about change”.
Pastor LaMarr has been married to his teenage sweetheart for 37 years.. They have one daughter together, met when she was 14 and married in 1984.
Frederick even had a television program on Bounce television called, ‘Pulse of the City’. He would highlight people in the community who normally get a chance to be on television promoting the good work they did.
Pastor LaMarr’s church is presented as a vanguard for the southside community, a place of connection and engagement. “I geared it [the church] into outreach, because I felt that if a church has to be in the community. The church has to be actively engaged in the community and the church has to be like a lighthouse to the community. So since 2004, we started doing outreach and engagement similar to Min. Hopkins, we have always shared in both of the outreach. The main thing was to really engage a connection between the community because I saw a disconnect between elderly and young people. We've been trying to show that bring that connection back in, we have committed ourselves as the vanguard of the Southside community”.
An event hosted monthly by the church is the “Ministries 4 Movement” March. LaMarr details this impactful event as such.”So everyone comes back to the assembly, and then at the seminary, talk about what are the issues and concerns. So we do that every first Sunday, and next Sunday and it will be our 12th year doing it.. Every first Sunday we march, we have drums and it really started to become effective because when someone would die in the community, that community was known as homicidal pain, because so many young people were dying. So we took that, and we changed it from homicide of pain to homicidal healing, because we will bring about healing. After being around for a couple of years, ‘homicide’ [as a title] still doesn't sound good. So we took it from ‘Homicide to Healing’ to ‘Ministries for Movement’, okay. It's a movement to change the conditions and the quality of life of those who are living in that Southside community. We advocate for them, and we give everyone these bands as a part of the family”.
Another initiative that started recently with the church is an after school program. It is meant to target youth and child to encourage and monitor them in their educational life, as well as highlighting the importance of education. “There's two types of modes that young people grow up in: success mode or survival mode. So depending upon where you live, it depends upon what mode you're in. So inner-city kids are in survival mode. So you got to talk, we got to show them how to survive, and how important education is. It is showing the importance of education and trying to make sure they get to come through high school now in high school, into college and into a career”.
When describing what he loves about Columbus, Frederick says this, “Columbus has so many opportunities and is a lovely place to call home. As you can see so many people are moving to Columbus, so Columbus is the heart of it all. I just love it here, and I love serving here. My favorite thing about Columbus is the connectedness of community. I just like walking through the community and see elderly people sitting on porches and kids playing outside, their yard and all this stuff".
"I'm not the type of person to complain, and do nothing. So if there's a concern, and if I can help to address that concern, I'm going to step up".
Being born and raised in Linden and North Linden and obtaining both a master and bachelors degree in business administration, Jeffrey Carter started his career as a legislative aide through the encouragement of judge Eileen Paley and Nancy Sully.
Mr. Carter works as a legislative aide for the City of Columbus City Council. His position specializes in the cross communications and collaborations of Columbus community members, organizations and groups. Mr. Carter notes, “ There's a lot of great people in this city and there's people here who are doing really great work in our community. The sad part is that a lot of them don't know about each other. So everyone's doing redundant work, which is a good problem. But sometimes you can have a better program, if you collaborate with others who are in the same arena that you're working with. So for me, my job is to cross pollinate our community, let them introduce them to one another, and share the work that they're doing to allow them to build stronger connections to strengthen the work that they're doing”.
Jeffrey’s career touches every part of Columbus geographically, furthermore, it covers a wide range of people. Those who work, live, commute, and pay taxes in the City of Columbus have the right to be pointed in the proper channels to better their community. When having concerns about neighborhoods addressed, the city council is here for their residents. Those wanting change or answers can be connected to the proper departments related to concerns to ensure that issues are resolved.
Additionally, Jeffrey contributes to the Stonewall Columbus board. In 2017, noticing a diversity problem on the executive board, Jeffrey applied to be a part of the organization. After establishing he would be a great fit for the board, he now serves as secretary, with one more year left in his term.
When speaking on an area or location that represents Jeffrey’s work, he said the following, “So I really chomp at the bit to work on projects that are in our challenged neighborhoods, so Linden, the Near East Side, the King Lincoln district, Franklinton, the Hilltop. I like to do work in those areas, because there's a lot of folks in those communities that are not aware of the resources that are available to them. They're not really familiar with a lot of government services, so you have to really educate them, introduce them to our services, and try to open their mindset. So it might need a knock on our door or go through a community event that they're hitting with their ads to be able to share the work that We're doing so they can participate or just share their perspective.
When asked about a word that describes that work and neighborhood he comes from, Mr. Carter said, “It's a word that I like to say to everyone, to my family, my friends, my community. Not to sound redundant, but love. I make sure that I say I love you to the people I love, to my friends, sometimes people won't even see that I work with on a regular basis. I'm gonna give them a hug and say when they do something really great, or they break a barrier that they were uncomfortable trying to obtain or reach. I'm just like, you know what, I love you. I love the work that you're doing, and I appreciate you”.
To further elaborate on the amazing person who nominated him and his support system, this is what Jeffrey said about Lucy Frank, his mother Kathy Carter, his husband, and best friends, “Oh, Lucy Frank, she and I both work for Columbus city council member, Emanuel Remy, and we do a lot of great work together. We are always supportive of one another. I don't know why she necessarily nominated me, but I would say probably because of my positive energy, how we're out in the community, I'm always running opportunities, and chomping at the bit to speak to folks in the community, especially when someone is upset, especially if I noticed that maybe they have some type of developmental concern. I'm comfortable working with those communities, because I used to work with them in the past. So I'm always writing like, you know, I'll take care of it, I work with, I work with that difficult person, I'll work with that challenging person, and I, and I'll do my best. If I can't do anything for them, if I can't explain to them explain an issue to them in a way that they understand it, then I'll work to connect them with someone who can.
There's a village of folks who are around me to support me. I'm going to go ahead and say the first one would be my mother, Kathy Carter. She is just a beautiful person who's always looking to help folks as well. She works for Access Ohio, and she's helping folks in the community, find housing and find jobs and find resources for their mental and physical health. My husband will be the next one, Hunter Sully. He is a psychologist at OSU. I have a group of five best friends, Vincent Jimmerson, Maxine McKee, Raymond Balkan, and Anthony Marable. They are my circle. Then I have my boss, who was amazing to work for and thankful for the opportunity that I have, that's Councilmember Remy, Lucy Frank, you know, I love the work that I do, because I get to do it with them. Additionally, my mother in law, Nancy Sully, who introduced me to this field of work, big shout out to Nancy, I love Nancy.
Who's Jeffrey Carter's Favorite Artist? What superpower would he wish to have?
Pyramid Community Development Corporation (Pyramid CDC) is a 501(c)3
nonprofit. They provide two (2) pillar programs, SMARTNET, a Computer Technology and The Center Point., a Small Business Training and Technical Assistance Program. Pyramid CDC, located on the corner of 11th and Cleveland Avenue inside the Linden COTA Transit Center, provides training to youth, adults and seniors.
What created Linda's IT passion
Linda Nelson is an Executive Director at Pyramid Community Development Corporation (Pyramid CDC). The primary focus of Pyramid CDC programming is to serve as an employment gateway; a solution for the Tech Talent shortage in Columbus, Ohio; an affordable Basic and IT Certification training option; a STEM and robotic camp for youth and a Digital Literacy Training Program for seniors. Also to provide training and technical assistance to startups and expanding micro-businesses.
Describing the impact of Pyramid CDC in the Linden Community, Linda
said, “This past year, they were able to provide three (3) cohorts of basic IT training to seniors at the new Linden Community Center".
They provided a nine (9) week SMARTNET IT, Entrepreneurship and Sport Management Career Summer Camp at Milo Grogan Recreation Center for youth, ages eleven (11) through fourteen (14). The camp concluded with the youth designing and implementing a Dodgeball Tournament, using their business model for their peers. The students marketed; held fundraisers; designed uniforms and recruited players for the tournament.
In the conclusion of the program, each student received a Proclamation from the Columbus
When using a phrase to describe the impact of Pyramid CDC, Mrs.
Nelson said this, “It's building a new generation of IT end users. Our course is multi-generational. Pyramid CDC programming is multi-generational. By teaching a parent
or a grandparent computer technology skills, they would be likely to advocate a student's choice of STEM / IT as a career. It's building a generation of new IT experts. Many in the community of Linden do not have access to home computers
and Internet, which requires Pyramid CDC to meet them where they are educated when conducting our training."
With every career and passion, there are high and low points, this
is how Linda describes her high points: “Students completing CompTIA IT Fundamentals; CompTIA A+ and Front-end
Software Developer IT Certification classes, with little to no prior IT experience, is extremely rewarding to see them become Certified with an IT Industry standard credential.
It’s also rewarding to see our senior students thrive for more training
and our youth attendance at 89% throughout our summer programs."
If Linda Nelson had a superpower, this is what it would be; “I would
obtain funding and resources to assist Linden with building IT Infrastructures to support free Wi-Fi and a Technology Center to provide STEM / IT Training to increase the level of individuals obtaining a career in IT”.
In addition, Linda’s superpowers would include building technology
education programming that bridges a connection to the Columbus students; farmers and rural areas. After working for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for twenty-four (24) years, Linda has firsthand knowledge of Ohio’s broadband struggles in the rural
areas and lack of technology resources for farmers. "Having students from both the city and rural areas collaborates on agriculture science projects to research processing and products of food. Teaching them how to apply genetic improvement; the use of technology and development of specific properties of diverse cereals; fruits; flowers; forest trees and vegetables, as well as the handling of cultivations and native forests, would be a win-win for all parties involved."
A Conversation with Monique
“I'm a seed starter”
Monique Williams-McCoy grew up in Columbus, but would travel to North Carolina to help her grandparents with agriculture. “I grew up in Columbus, but everything that we done was from a little town in North Carolina, and we worked a farm and I worked the farm. I was 16 you know, so when everybody else was roller skating here in Columbus in the summertime Monique was working tobacco.” With the strong support system of her grandparents, mother and sister, Monique and her family are inspirational, encouraging each other to help others every step of the way.
Monique Williams-McCoy serves as the marketing manager for Veggie Van- Local Matters. In and outside of her career, Monique uses her food to intercede and bless her community in every way possible. She takes the time to cook for others, upon request or just when she is able, and will pass out hot cooked meals that the community loves. “I just love to cook. I love to cook. 2020 was a horrible year for me. I lost my son back in 2017, and then I had four major deaths in 2020. I can tell you selfishly, whenever I feel like I'm getting into a place of depression, I cook. One thing I have is the skill of cooking a lot of food and cooking it quickly to feed people. If I'm getting into that point of depression, I go feed random people. I'll make the plates and it sounds kind of weird for somebody to pull up in their white pickup truck and say ‘hey did you eat today! Come over and get this food’”.
Recalling a conversion McCoy had with one of her church sons, he details the impact and symbolism that Monique’s table has the in the community. “He came and said to me one day, ‘do you know how many people have eaten at this table?’ And I was like, ‘No, I don’t think about it’ but he said ‘Really think about it. We can't even count how many people that had a really huge table that was for 10 people’. He said, ‘Do you know how many meals and people really sat at this table?’ Continuing not to know the number, he's said, “that's such a compliment. Because some people will be like about six of us at our table, but there's been hundreds of people have come in here and sat at this table”. That's what you want in life. You want people to want to come and sit at your table, you know”.
The one wish Monique wished that could be granted is, “That wish would definitely be to have food access to everyone who needs good food to make their bodies healthy, and strong. And keep our kids smart. Because along with having grocery stores in those areas, you create jobs. You create community, you create wealth, you create health, you create people who have a first chance and first job with that pride. So if I could do anything that would definitely be putting grocery stores, all the communities for people to have access, and also had the resources to buy the access point. Food is really important to me. It is it really is”.
“Unless Life Is Lived for Others It Is Not Worth Living”
Mother Tressa quoted by Natalie Donnally.
Natalie Donnally grew up in Bexley and then transitioned to Forest Park. In the present, Natalie’s work and connections to the Columbus community touches all, but especially women. In her career and free times she serves the Columbus community in many capacities. She serves as a co-lead and co-manager at the Center for Cancer Health Equity at the Ohio State James Cancer Center. As well as a lead for at the Columbus Shelter Board COVID shelter for isolation and quarantine. She details her responsibilities and service as such, “Our division is responsible for engaging in the community, bringing access out into the community, meeting the needs of constituents and patients, making sure that they have access to preventative health, social services grant funding for the uninsured, making sure that their services are covered. We create health and wellness screening events, bringing out our mammogram, mobiles, our community coach, we're in the works of creating a lung cancer, CAT scan mobile, so we'll be able to do lung cancer screening. We bring our OSU culinary mobile out, so Jim and Katie do nutritional food demos, making sure that we're incorporating the healthy aspects of lifestyle, which includes nutrition, and we create those events with community partners, government and faith leaders.”
Outside of the James, Donnally contributes to the community in many ways. One commitment she describes is In Christy's Shoes. “I serve as Chair for In Christy’s Shoes. We’re a non profit that focuses on a mission to empower women from the sole up. Our goal is to raise funding so that we can give $150,000 a year to 10 community partners to continue having the resources to better serve these women. We have a fundraising celebration runway show every year. It is done in a fun atmosphere with DSW being our leading sponsor. We have over 750 attendees. Our goal every year is that our community partners, who have the same mission, to empower women who've been affected by unemployment, substance abuse, domestic abuse, cancer, human trafficking, that they're able to apply to our programs".
Natalie also serves as an advisory board member and chair as well, for “Dress for Success” and “She Has A Name”. Her work includes bringing her network of partners and to increase the availability of resources to these women. Additionally she serves as board secretary for the James Walter Mitchell Community Development Corporation, which is out of the city of Zion Church. The goal of the organization is to provide programming and resources to be a staple in the community, to empower people, create economic stability, education, stability, to create a space for them to have better education and kind of really decrease the disparity in social determinants.
Describing the community she serves, this is what Natalie says, “ I serve the whole city in different capacities— that is who I am, it's really important to me. Obviously, we serve the most high risk areas. So that's going to be Franklinton, hilltop, the Near East Side, Linden, those are the areas that we focus on the most. But I feel in the different roles that I am in, I serve the city as a whole. That's also part of my purpose is making sure that I'm reaching the constituents in a holistic manner. So I'm bringing everything in social services, nutrition services, rehabilitation, health services, insurance. Because again, you can't provide in a holistic manner, they were kind of doing a disservice to improve their quality of life”. In improving the quality of life in these regions, Natalie also loves to see how her community is growing. “My favorite part of Columbus is the feeling like we're always evolving. We're a great city with a multitude of different organizations, from community partners, government, faith leaders. As we have continued to go through different tragedies and pandemics and systemic racism, I feel like we're always evolving in some level of growth. So that, I think in the artistic aspect of Columbus, I think, is one of my favorite parts as well”.
Black Impact 100
“I live in Linden. So I'm wanting to contribute to Linden to be the very best that they can be; and I consider Linden to really be a jewel, a gem, within the City of Columbus”.
Ms. Peggy A. Williams has continued to contribute her time, dedication and self to the betterment of her community throughout her adult life. Instilled values of giving back to her community and God by her parent, Ms. Williams was born in Detroit, Michigan, but moved to Linden, later in life.
Ms. Williams, formerly an administrative assistant and childcare provider and area commissioner; she serves as a history interpreter with the Ohio History Connection. The former and current roles Ms. William’s serves, has her viewing the historical and current impacts of the Liden community and its betterment.
Appointed in 2011, and serving under the leadership of George Walker, Jr. and Carmen Allen, Ms. Williams served as a volunteer secretary for the local area commission. Able to attend city council meetings, receive in-depth training and view the governmental side of grassroot organizing, Ms. Peg admires the dedication and understanding that goes into bettering a community. Detailing her impact as zoning chair, this is what she said, “We as the grass roots, we need to go beyond that [just mailing neighbors]. The city is dependent upon our view, in order for them to make the very best decision to benefit that community that I live in, the community we live in, the City of Columbus, and Franklin County...I come to understand that we're grassroots politics, and we shouldn't be afraid or ashamed to say ‘I'm in the political arena’ because guess what? If you vote, you’re political. So I just tell people, you are political, period. Politics is just policy to establish rules. You don't want to have a say in rules that's being made that's going to impact your daily lives. So we have those kinds of things, so I had those conversations with my neighbor.”
Listening to her neighbors and community, Ms. Peg has led community efforts that responses to the wants of the collective, “My neighbors ask, ‘Why are you picking up that trash?’ I said because you, ethically, have a right to live in a clean environment. That's your right. The area commission finished a joint campaign with Answer Poverty, which is out of the Linden Life Fellowship Church and members of the faith based community. With parental permission to participate, we paid children and volunteers went around Linden cleaning the streets. The children were so stoked, but it has just been us, and just been me [cleaning]. It's just you getting out the show yourself friendly, and that you're interested enough to be the change.”
The element that pushed Peggy into community involvement is her experiences in childcare, “I saw a need as a commissioner. There was an occasion where I had to be taken out of the classroom in order to have a community leader conversation with the mayor, in my mind, while that may have been an isolated case, there might be more times when that would be necessary. So I saw the need to help children or prepare the future for children in this role as a commissioner, versus just being a classroom teacher.”
The support team that Ms. Peg has is wide and never-ending. “ Everybody. So many people have influenced and they've been encouraging to me, and I consider, I'm the one that's being trained. They have the expertise, they have the network wealth, they know the connections and they point me in the right direction. Not only do they point me in the right direction, they get up in my face, and they tell me the truth. We all need to hear the truth of the times in order to help steer you where you need to be doing your work and doing your service. So anybody that comes in contact with me,my support system because we're supporting each other whatever work that we're wanting to do.”
Ms. Peg is already blessed with her superpower, her love of people. Still present in her community, one can find her walking in her neighborhood.
Through community outreach and engagement to Linden, Weinland Park, Clintonville, the immediate community surrounding the Ohio History Center, is creating an initiative to further document the diverse history of these communities. Ms. Peg details what her character role looks like in documenting history.
The Impacts and Support of The Food Solider
“What makes each part of the community different is what makes us unique, but also brings us together”
Growing up on the southside, in South Field, Sergeant Roshelle Pate holds the love for her community on her sleeve. Sergeant Pate is an independent contractor and the founder and CFO (Chief Foodie Officer) for the Food Soldier 100 coalition.
In the amazing work Roshelle does, this is her support, “it's really funny because it's my entire community. So with the Food Soldier Network, I have really been blessed that as people come on to the [Facebook] page or the group, it's really a community. They give, even though they are in need themselves, they give, come out, volunteer and start giving back. So really those that are in my group are my support, aside from my family. It's just amazing how people you've never met before, after a while, become like you've known each other forever; and we're like family, sisters and brothers in service to others. I think it's a wonderful thing when you have a need, you get that need met, and then you give back to help someone else in need”.
This is the phrase and high points that the CFO would describe the impacts of the Food Soilder, “Neighbor helping neighbor, and I know that may sound cliche, but it truly is neighbor helping neighbor. There have been people that have found themselves in my group that literally lived on the same street and didn't even know each other, but through a group event, you now know they live a few houses down. So it really is neighbor helping neighbor”.
The highpoint of the power of the Food Solider, “The high point is interacting with the community. Face to face and being able to see a smile on a kid's face. Like today, we had a fresh produce giveaway drive thru. We had some cakes that were donated, some big sheet cakes, and a little kid came through with his mom. When he saw that cake, I mean, it was just his eyes, you know what I mean? lit up, and there's no way you can't even describe that feeling”.
The few final question we had for the sergeant, she graciously answered. “If I had a superpower, it would be to just sprinkle love for everyone. Love makes anything is possible. Regardless of where you come from, what you do, if you really, really truly encapsulate love, then this whole entire world would be a better place. So that would be my superpower. I always say that, not to get religious, but in the Bible, it says, hope, faith and love, and of these three, the greatest is love. So for me, that would be my superpower”.
Varsha Prabu has lived in the greater Toronto area, but is proud to call Columbus their home. She graduated from Olentangy Liberty high school and is now a third-year at The Ohio State University studying psychology.
Prabu’s amazing work stems in many area, but especially in Planned Parenthood and Hospice of Ohio, which is why they were nominated. During the interim period of her sophomore summer, they were a part of a group chat that called for Planned Parenthood interns. “I've always been a planned parenthood supporter from the sidelines, ever since I moved to the United States, abortion is healthcare. Then between the summer between my first and second year of Ohio State, I happened to be in a group chat that mentioned that Planned Parenthood is looking for some digital defenders or interns. I was like, Yes, I want to do this”.
The first initiative for Planned Parenthood that Varsha participated in was the “Get Out and Vote” campaign. “The first major thing that I did within Planned Parenthood was for their “Get Out to Vote” during the 2020 election. With weekly phone banks, calling people and letting them know, these are the people that you should look into voting to if you support these health care rights. With voting rights, I feel like a lot of people aren't educated on, who to vote for, or local elections; and I really appreciate being able to be the one to give them that information so that they can make the choices right for them. What you will find is Planned Parenthood doesn't directly say, hey, you should vote for x person, but they'll say, hey, if you support this, and this, then you should look into supporting experts. So we're still people giving people the autonomy to vote for who they want, just giving them access to the information”. They also view the impacts of their work on the university community, “Oftentimes, it's the university community that's most impacted by Planned Parenthood, especially receiving health care at birth control”.
Varsha’s experiences have routed her to the path of healthcare advocacy. After they graduate, she plans to take a gap year during which that time, they will be doing advocacy work, research and more activities with Planned Parenthood before they attend medical school.
Read Varsha's Personal Statement
Support System and Superpowers!
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