Dear Central Community House Family and Supporters,

My first month has been an exciting one, mostly spent learning from those who work or receive services at Central. There has been an incredible opportunity for conversation and enthusiastic brainstorming. July and August were filled with events, celebrations and small group learning sessions.

Summer camp has filled our Main Street office (and the larger community, see DISPATCH ARTICLE) with music, giggles, and sweet smells from the kitchen. Daily, I get the “warm fuzzies” as l listen to the supportive engagement occurring outside my door. And, it’s a pleasure to work late when, at 6:00 p.m., Kindergarten- and Elementary School-aged kids enter the building to dance to Mini Hip Hop.

One thing has been evident in everything “Central” I have participated in – community support and engagement oozes throughout all we do. It is not infrequent that a child stops by to offer a hug, a neighbor stops by to offer encouragement, or a partner stops by to proudly talk through the deep and rich history of Central Community House, our 82-year-old neighborhood hub.
As I made my first visit to the Carriage House on Bryden Road where Transit Arts is located, I felt like a kid in a candy story, overjoyed at the perfect example of mixed-income community-building, as children from across Columbus, income levels, and ethnicities create art and music together, forming deep bonds (proven to be lifelong) that alleviate trauma, anxiety, boredom and restlessness that may have existed outside of Transit’s walls. As I talk to the kids, themes of safety, family and growth consistently are embedded in the Transit Arts’ story. And all I can think is – we have so much to learn from these children and youth.

Just as Summer Camp ended, the parking lot outside of our Main Street office filled with 52 families, and 137 youth attending our Back to School Bash, and leaving with backpacks and schools supplies. The Central staff now thoughtfully plan for the Afterschool Program to begin.

Other highlights of my first month included:

  • A community dinner at Central, where I spoke for a long time with one of our Senior Group Members (we have two groups, one from the Southside, and the other the Near East). She told me her “story,” and spoke of her love of Columbus and its rich history, of which she taught me so much. Her 30-year career at the Parsons Avenue Schottensteins was filled with lessons, humor and a deep commitment to her family.
  • Participation in an Advocacy Committee who determined that the most important next step was engagement with Central’s neighbors and understanding their needs. This initiative will begin at our Big Table conversation on Aug. 29 at 12:30. Would you like to join us? RSVP here.
  • Watching the Transit Arts performance group “own” the sidewalks of Gallery Hop, listening to the true, sometimes hard narrative of their songs/poetry, and loving the smile on my daughter’s face as she bopped her head to BBX’s beat boxing.

Along with the excitement, come challenges…

  • Older youth spending more time in conversation with staff over the summer, using computers to apply for jobs, but missing the summer employment opportunity we had last year and its regular engagement with younger neighborhood children. This is a much needed that program we are working diligently to build back up through new partnerships.
  • Changes in the nonprofit and political ecosystem and some lost understanding of the value of the true Settlement House model. We plan to engage and educate more deliberately around our unique value-added model in the upcoming year.
  • A need for true mixed-income community engagement, not just passive waves as neighbors go about their busy, day-to-day lives. We have some ideas here as well, and look forward to discussing these with you as they develop.

Above all else, what has become most evident is the great potential that exists, and the deep thanks I have to Pam McCarthy for helping set a critical foundation made up of warmth, acceptance, inclusion, empowerment and multigenerational engagement. It is this foundation that will give us what we need to take on the challenges faced by Columbus’ Near East and Southside neighborhoods. Our continued objective in the upcoming year will be a safe and supportive environment that includes opportunity for all. I would love to get to know you and what your vision is. My door is open, and I look forward to collaborating.

Best regards,

Tammy Forrest
Executive Director, Central Community House

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