Non-profit organization targets community center in Eastland Mall neighborhood

The nonprofit Directions for Youth and Families is delaying the grand opening of its new neighborhood social services center near Eastland Mall as costs for the project continue to rise.

The estimated cost to demolish Directions’ existing Crittenton Center at 3840 Kimberly Parkway and build the new facility has jumped 20%, from an initial estimate of $6.6 million in July 2021 to $8.3 million currently. , Duane Casares, the organization’s chief executive, told The Dispatch late last week.

Construction was supposed to start in October 2021, but that has been pushed back to March and now to the end of April as the group tries to raise more money. So far, Casares said, he has raised $6.5 million.

Market forces, including material and labor costs, play a role, said John Brody, the former chairman of the group’s board who remains on the board.

Casares said nothing has changed for what is planned for the center. This includes food; medical, mental health and housing services; workforce development, educational support, after-school programs, and kindergarten readiness.

Brody said mental health is the foundation of so much in our lives and the services of such a center can help communities recover. In the Eastland area, he noted, there is no Boys and Girls Club, no library branch and a lack of social services.

“How do you change the trajectory? Brody said. If you put kids on a better, healthier path, you can help break the cycle of poverty, he said.

Twenty nonprofit organizations have agreed to provide services at the proposed new facility, According to officials from directions including nonprofit homebuilder Homeport, Habitat for Humanity, Catholic Social Services, Ethiopian Tewahedo Social Services, IMPACT Community Action, Local Matters, Moms2Be and the Legal Aid Society of Columbus.

Neighborhood poverty statistics from the 2020 census will not be available until March. But in 2018, United Way of Central Ohio found that 52% of people residing in the 43232 zip code — which includes Kimberly Parkway and the area near Eastland Mall — live in poverty or near poverty, at the era the fourth highest rate. in the county.

“There is definitely a need for a community center here,” said Felicia Saunders, a member of the Middle East Region Commission, who represents the region.

“Anything they can provide is great,” she said.

Directions acquired the 4,432 square foot building – the former private K-Chalet country club – in December 2014 and has been using it for after-school and summer programs ever since.

Saunders said the Crittenton Center has served 88 families, but Directions for Youth and Families wants to increase that number to 300.

Until there, $6.5 million was raised for the center, including $1.4 million from the City of Columbus, $750,000 each from the State of Ohio and the Nationwide Foundation, and $500,000 each from the Osteopathic Heritage Foundations, American Electric Power Foundation and Directions from Youth and Families itself.

Five local breweries – Olentangy River Brewery, Parsons North, Lineage Brewing, Crafted Culture and Wolf’s Ridge Brewing – developed beers and hosted events in January and February to raise money for the center.

Casares said his group is committed to building the center.

“I’m not going to harm the community,” Casares said.

“It’s my priority. And my commitment to people.”

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Jill E. Washington