Beyond the struggles caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Hope Center sees an opportunity to help community members and businesses alike.
“What God has worked out here… is a double blessing,” said Hope Center Executive Director Becky Bolt.
The Hope Center recently received $250,000 in grant funding from Gov. Mike DeWine’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. The funding will be distributed over two years: $107,000 this year and $143,000 in 2021.
Bolt said the grant funding can only be used to provide educational opportunities and food for young people in the community.
But, she said “God gave me this vision,” to use the grant to help young people, while benefiting local businesses.
She said the Hope Center typically hosts summer camps within the building, but canceled them due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Instead, Bolt said the state funding will be used to instead compensate business owners and employees to host classes for interested young people. It will also cover the supplies needed to host classes.
“This is our way of giving back to the community,” Bolt said. “They have always given to us… they take care of their neighbors.”
Bolt said she does not yet have a complete list of classes that will be offered, they will cover a wide range of topics for young people with varying interests.
So far, she said business owners will teach classes including dance, art, CPR and first aid, crafting and sewing, and culinary arts. Bolt said the Hope Center, which regularly volunteers with The All-Ohio Balloon Fest, is even hoping to work with balloonists to teach young people hot air ballooning classes.
Bolt said she is continuing to seek “creative ideas and thoughts” from business owners who would be willing to share their skills with youth in the community.
She said the Hope Center is aiming to begin classes in July.
Beside the training offered by local businesses, Bolt said the grant will also be used to pay for driver’s education classes for 10 students in 2020 and 10 more in 2021.
Along with educational opportunities, Bolt said funding will be used to make sure young people have access to food.
She said the grant is designated as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, funding. For that reason, she said the funding can only be used to assist youth whose household income is at or below 200% of the 2018 state poverty guidelines.
In other words, families that qualify for assistance from the Department of Jobs and Family Services other than food stamps are eligible.
For instance, if a family receives meals at the Mobile Market hosted by the Hope Center and Mid-Ohio Foodbank, Bolt said her organization will be reimbursed for the meals provided to households with children who meet TANF qualifications.
“Our main goal is to help the youth in those families,” she said.
To reach those who may not have access to Mobile Markets or the Hope Center, Bolt said she also hopes to use the state grant to lease a refrigerator truck and cover mileage traveled.
She said it will be “like the milkman used to be,” and deliver food to those the Hope Center generally wouldn’t be able to serve.
“We’re now able to take this tragedy and just look at what good’s coming out of it,” Bolt said.
Although the grant creates new stipulations, she said the Hope Center will not turn away any child in need. She said they have never made anyone qualify for services, so “this is a whole new animal for us.”
Since the grant is distributed on a reimbursement basis, Bolt said the Hope Center will pay for any youth services and receive state monies just for those who qualify for TANF funding.
Bolt said she is currently working with DJFS to reach out to young people who may be interested in participating in the classes.
She asked that anyone who is interested in participating in or hosting a class, or knows someone who may be, contact her at email@example.com, (937) 303-4209 or stop by the Hope Center, 212 Chestnut Street.
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