Bridging the Gap Program Making a Difference

February 15 was the launch for Bridging the Gap: Meeting Where You Are, a five-month mentoring and interactive project between 7th and 8th graders at Champion Middle School and senior residents of Poindexter Village and the Near East Side community. The title Bridging the Gap represents the intent to redevelop stronger relationship between youth and seniors.  

Every Thursday, a group of 14 students and adults meet after school in the art classroom at Champion Middle Schools to share a snack, talk and engage in an activity related to the arts.  The students eagerly participate in conversation sharing what’s on their minds and the adults talk about their experiences and what they have learned over the years living and working on the Near East Side.  The visual art activities are facilitated by master teaching artists Shelbi Harris-Roseboro (Shel10 LLC) and Richard Duarte Brown (Transit Arts) with assistance from Malik Carrington (Transit Arts apprentice).

When you walk into the room there is always excitement as the students and mentors interact with the artists and explore and express their ideas.  Participants are often surprised and delighted to learn more about each other as well as gain insight about the history of the King-Lincoln neighborhood and current events that are impacting the neighborhood.  

The group has created clay pots, watercolor paintings and they are working on creating a canvas mural that reflects the expressions of the students and adults.  As one student described it, “we’re recognizing and accepting our differences.”

The Bridging the Gap project was developed as one of the capstone projects for graduates of the Near East Side Neighborhood Leadership Academy. The NES NLA group members include: Belinda Baker, Tammara Bealer, Lauren Coleman, Monica Doss, Calvin Hairston and Tonya Lawson-Howard.

– Contributed by: Tonya Lawson-Howard

A Message from the Executive Director

Can you believe it is spring? The year is moving fast and so it is here at the PACT offices! We have had a tremendous first quarter and are looking forward to what the remainder of the year has in store. Here at PACT, with the support of our funding partners and our residents, we are working every day to implement the Blueprint for Community Investment. Our focus is to help the Near East Side prosper as a revitalized and diverse mixed-income neighborhood that builds on its important history and current residents while welcoming new and returning neighbors. Ensuring a diverse, mixed-income community is essential to the long-term vibrancy of any community. First and foremost, everyone deserves a safe, decent, affordable place to live. The Near East Side has a rich and diverse housing stock, offering a variety of housing options, for-rent and owner-occupied; single-family home and multi-unit communities.  Thankfully, we are also blessed with many long-term, affordable units.

Keeping with the Blueprint, we are pleased with the progress of our newly-expanded exterior home repair program. With support from Fifth Third Bank and the Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing, The Ohio State University and United Way of Central Ohio, we have committed to improving the exteriors of 20 homes in the 2017-18 program year. This work is well on its way and these 20 units will be complete by July 1 of this year.

And we appreciate your ongoing commitment to providing input on community safety in the PACT geography. Since September, we have convened members of the community for a series of conversations on the topic of community safety. From those conversations, three areas of focus emerged:

  1. Conduct a PACT Community Cleanup Day (to be held April 21; you can read more about this day later in the newsletter);
  2. Launch the “Take the Pledge” Community Safety Pledge Campaign (will also be launched on April 21; you can read more about this initiative later in the newsletter); and
  3. Implement a Neighborhood Safety Advisory Council (Summer 2018).  To learn more about our exciting work in the area of community safety and to express interest in being a part of our efforts, please contact us at

Finally, let me say thank you to the community. It has been a little over a year since I became executive director of PACT, and you have embraced me, shared your thoughts with me and continue to be a partner as we collectively work to transform the Near East Side.

Community Cleanup & Safety Pledge Launch Event

Save the Date: April 21

As part of our broader efforts related to community safety, a PACT geography Community Cleanup will take place April 21 from 9 a.m. – Noon. PACT invites all residents within the PACT geography to join us for a morning dedicated to cleaning up our community. Everyone with a live, work, worship connection to the PACT geography is invited to participate. The Community CleanUp will be led by local “Block Captains” responsible for specific zones throughout the PACT geography. Immediately following the cleanup event, we will gather at Second Baptist Church for a post-celebration from Noon – 2 p.m.  Free food, music and community resource tables will help set the stage for a wonderful opportunity for everyone to come together and celebrate the success of the cleanup drive. To sign-up to be a part of this exciting day, please click here.

Also, as part of our Community Cleanup Day activities, we will launch the PACT Community Safety Pledge, Take the Pledge campaign. The PACT Community Safety Pledge, as well as the Community Cleanup Event, are a result of our engagement and conversations with members of the community regarding community safety. We encourage community members to Take the Pledge and help us reach our goal of 250 pledge commitments on April 21. We will continue our PACT Community Safety Pledge, Take the Pledge campaign throughout the year. To learn more about our work in the area of community safety, e-mail us at:

Columbus Early Learning Centers Joins Fight Against Infant Mortality

On average 3 families per week lose an infant in Franklin County, and babies born to African American families are dying at twice the rate of white babies. These statistics are grim, and the city of Columbus is taking notice.

To work towards a brighter future for the youngest in our city, in June 2014, the Greater Columbus Infant Mortality Task Force ended its 6-month process with the release of eight recommendations to reduce the community’s alarming infant mortality rate by 40 percent and cut the racial health disparity gap in half by 2020.

CelebrateOne was created in November 2014 to carry out the Task Force’s recommendations and ensure Franklin County meets its ambitious goal.

Columbus Early Learning Centers (CELC), a high-quality early childhood education provider in the PACT geography, joined the fight against infant mortality last year. With funds from the City of Columbus’ CelebrateOne Initiative, CELC began the CelebrateOne intervention on the Near East Side, now known as the Cause for Joy program. Cause for Joy is an infant mortality prevention mentorship program centered around the experiences of the mother before and after giving birth. Through the program, 12 pregnant women from the Near East Side were paired with mentors to begin to work through the challenges faced by African American mothers and mothers-to-be living in poverty in the Near East.

“This program has been instrumental in identifying some of the root causes of infant mortality, such as home sanitation conditions, sleep environments, and health practices of the mother during and after pregnancy, said Dr. Gina Ginn, executive director of CELC. “The next challenge, though, will be working with community organizations to work to remedy these issues within homes, and connecting new and expecting mothers to health programs like smoking cessation, and mental health services.”  

The mentorship program officially ends in June, but CELC will not be giving up the fight to prevent the deaths of infants in the community.

“We are continuing to work with our community partners to bring resources into the community. If there is one thing we have learned in this program, it is that there must be trust established before women feel comfortable venturing outside of their homes for services available to them. Transportation to services is also a huge barrier for women in this community,” Ginn said. “There is still much to be done to help women and babies in the Near East Neighborhood.”

– Contributed by: Gina Ginn
Executive Director, Columbus Early Learning Centers

Woodland Park Residents Launch Little Free Pantry

The Woodland Park Little Free Pantry was built in partnership between BESA and Edgework Creative.  Working with graduates of the Near East Side Neighborhood Leadership Academy, Broad Street Food Pantry helped connect these groups to the Woodland Park Neighborhood Association to see if they could find a location that would best serve the community.  With the proximity to the Martin Luther King Library, Franklin Park, East High School and OSU Hospital East and a high amount of foot and car traffic, it was determined that the residence of 1530 E Long St would be the best site to serve the neighborhood.  Neighbors from Woodland Park, King-Lincoln/Bronzeville and Franklin Park all worked together to prep the site and get the Little Free Pantry installed near the sidewalk. 

The Little Free Pantry is available 24-hours a day, seven days a week to anyone who is in need and is stocked 100% by neighbors in the same way.  Partnerships have been built and donations received from East High School Student Council, St Philip Lutheran Church, PACT, Olde Towne East Neighborhood Association and neighbors from Eastgate, Franklin Park, King-Lincoln/Bronzeville, Olde Towne East and Woodland Park.  Since the box has been installed, thousands of food, pantry and toiletry items, along with new hats and gloves have been passed along to those in our neighborhoods who need them.  A list of items that are continuously needed and photos of the Little Free Pantry can be found here

-Contributed by: Kate Curry-Da-Souza
Resident, Woodland Park

Neighbors of the Near East Side: Carlotta

PACT interviews residents of the historic Near-East Side neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio. The neighborhood has a diverse and rich history of people, culture, and commerce. The Neighbors of The Near-East Side series is part of PACT’s effort to highlight our community and share some of the history and why this area is important.

VideoDavid FoustNeighbors
Executive Notes: Happy Holidays (Q4 2017)

Greetings and Happy Holidays to all. As 2017 ends and we prepare to celebrate 2018, let me say thank you for a tremendous 2017. PACT continues to drive the Blueprint for Community Investment and work on those core initiatives that matter to you:

Continuing to build upon the strong foundation and strength and momentum over the years, I am pleased to share a few highlights from 2017:

And finally, the hiring of two new team members helps us to build our internal capacity to help drive the work of the Blueprint for Community Investment. Meeting our goals and objectives is important to the success of our work. To that end, I am pleased to introduce two new PACT team members who bring a wealth of experience to the organization and complement the work of the full team.

Ohio History Connection Voted to Designate Poindexter Village as its 59th Historic Site

After years of political discussion, community meetings, visits and letters to elected officials, private upset, and public reconciliation, Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA), Ohio History Connection, City of Columbus, and James Preston Poindexter Foundation (JPPF) came to an agreement: the last 2 remaining historic Poindexter Village buildings would be saved to be developed as an African American museum and cultural center!

The news has been greeted with great relief by some and a little skepticism by others. Yet the spirit of hope and active community involvement has kept this long-shot project moving forward. Now, what was a possibility is becoming a reality.

“I had threatened to tie myself to that tree and hold a press conference!” exclaimed Reita Smith, a stalwart supporter and octogenarian leader of the movement to save Poindexter, in response to questions of commitment by Poindexter supporters. “It has been a long, hard struggle, but the Lord has been on our side!”

As chair of JPPF, Smith spent many hours writing letters, meeting with elected officials and community members to keep the goal of saving the historic buildings for community use. She was not alone in that nine-year effort, as JPPF members and other community supporters met weekly for over 2 years at the William H. Thomas Gallery discussing and strategizing about how to save “the Village” where gallery owner Baba Olugbala, among others, spent a happy childhood.

“It was like a true African Village,” noted Olugbala referencing the African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child.”

The Ohio History Connection, formerly the Ohio Historical Society, is a statewide public history organization with the mission to spark discovery of Ohio’s stories. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization chartered in 1885, the Ohio History Connection carries out history services for Ohio and its citizens focused on preserving and sharing the state’s history. This includes housing the state historic preservation office, the official state archives, local history office and managing more than 50 sites and museums across Ohio, including the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce and the Paul Laurence Dunbar House in Dayton. You can learn more about the Ohio History Connection at

“We are pleased to be able to preserve and share such an important site in the Near East Side and such an important story for Columbus, Ohio and the nation,” said Burt Logan, Executive Director and CEO of the Ohio History Connection.  “We look forward to working with JPPF and the Poindexter community on developing the new museum and cultural center.”

The project has made significant strides this year. An October 12th acknowledgment of Poindexter’s seventy-seven-year history allowed Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther the opportunity to rededicate the site. More recently JPPF and the Ohio History Connection held a community meeting on November 30th at the Poindexter Intergenerational Center on Champion Ave, fulfilling a promise Reita Smith made to the community. With over 100 attendees, the meeting allowed JPPF and Ohio History Connection members and staff to highlight their partnership and engage community input in the process going forward.

An early 2018 joint program of the partnership will be a reprise of the popular exhibition Poindexter Village: A Portrait in Stories initially hosted by Columbus Historical Society, housed at COSI, and curated by Bettye Stull. The new exhibit will open February 10, 2017 at the Ohio History Center. For details, please visit or call 614 297-2300.

Founded in 2014, the James Preston Poindexter Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization whose Mission is “to create an appreciation for the lifestyle and material culture of the African American community in historic Poindexter Village and Central Ohio in the 20th century.”


Toni Smith

Maroon Arts Group Creative Repurposing Drives Innovative Arts Programming

Maroon Arts Group (MAG) is excited to update the community about our program developments over the Summer of 2017.  What once stood as a vacant lot on the corner of Mt. Vernon & 17th in the King Lincoln District is now home to one of the most innovative endeavors in Central Ohio. With support from the Greater Columbus Arts Council and the City of Columbus’ Parcels to Places program, MAG & Willowbeez SoulVeg have placed three shipping containers on this lot to re-purpose for community use. This seasonal space entitled MPACC (Movement Pursuing Arts, Commerce, & Community) will open in May of 2018 for its first full season of outdoor programming. MPACC is now home to our community centered, outdoor performance space and art gallery.  The third container will be a vegan soul food cafe operated by Willowbeez Soulveg.


Although construction and weather delays consumed most of the summer we were able to implement some previews of our MPACC season.  Together with the support of the United Way of Central Ohio we hosted our first festival on the grounds.  

The community support was strong as most passersby and residents have been curious about the space. In late September we also had a preview of the Maroon Music Sunday series performed by the Ogún Meji Duo featuring DJ Krate Digga. This series has been imagined as a contemporary musical experience that incorporates beats, sounds, and chants taken from historical recordings of the music from Maroon societies. We hope to commission local artists to develop a 5-part series for 2018 for the community to enjoy.

The most exciting part of this summer was the many community residents that have reached out to be involved with MPACC.  Most notably a gentleman who lives within walking distance came by to inquire about the space.  He was excited because he is an artist who creates art from salvaged materials. After showing us photos of his work, he (surprisingly) brought us three pieces and left them with us. We placed them on the corners of the stage for each event thereafter. We look forward to many more community moments beginning in May 2018 when we will kick off MPACC monthly programming on the 3rd weekend of each month.  Watch our website ( and social media (FB, IG, TWITTER: @maroonartsgroup)for opportunities, events and happenings at the MPACC Space. Come out and join us…


PACT Open Houses for 2018

Open Houses for 2018

We appreciate all who join us for our monthly open houses – they are a hit! We encourage you to stop by the PACT offices, 211 Taylor Ave., during one of our open houses to connect. We would love to hear what is on your mind and we will provide you with updates.  Join us for the following First Quarter 2018 open houses:

  • Friday, January 26; 8-10 am
  • Thursday, February 22; 4-6 pm
  • Saturday, March 17; 9-11 am
  • Friday, March 23; 11 am-1 pm
Near East Side Neighborhood Leadership Academy Graduates Class of 17

On November 14, over 100 guests gathered at Broad Street Presbyterian Church to celebrate the graduation of the inaugural class of the Near East Side Neighborhood Leadership Academy. The graduating class consisted of 17 participants who live, work, and/or worship on the Near East Side, and completed the six-month, 40-hour program. The Near East Side Neighborhood Leadership Academy equips aspiring neighborhood leaders with the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to become transformative agents of change in their respective communities. A place-based adaptation of the United Way of Central Ohio’s Neighborhood Leadership Academy, the program includes a capstone experience, a community project which participants pursue as members of larger project teams.

In addition to a wonderful sit-down dinner, prepared by Chef Henry and the team at Creole Kitchen (1052 Mt. Vernon Ave.), guests enjoyed project presentations from each of the teams, as well as an inspiring keynote message from Rev. Dr. Johannes J. Christian, author of Face of Forgiveness: A Memoir. The highlight of the evening was the presentation of gifts to graduates celebrating the completion of the program. Each graduate received a custom piece of art – a painted brick from the former buildings at Poindexter Village. The bricks were painted by local artist Lanai Ashé and were uniquely crafted for each graduate. Graduates will spend the next 12 months actively engaged in the community, implementing their projects. PACT was able to offer the Near East Side Neighborhood Leadership Academy to the community thanks to the support of the United Way of Central Ohio and Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing. Applications for the 2018 program will be available via the PACT website beginning February 1.

PACT Welcomes Two New Team Members: Tuhru and David.

PACT Welcomes two new team members Tuhru and David.

David Foust comes to PACT from Ohio CDC Association where he served as program director. His primary responsibilities included managing the Ohio Microbusiness Development Grant Program, Ohio Microbusiness Recoverable Grant Fund, and leading an industry-wide marketing and branding initiative for the community development industry in Ohio. As a member of the PACT team, Foust serves as program manager for economic development initiatives and the Neighborhood Leadership Academy. He sees the Blueprint as a tool and strong roadmap for the future of the Near East Side community.

“I’m really looking forward to working with the community more directly,” said Foust. “I am excited to join the PACT team and look forward to getting out into the community and helping to transform the neighborhood while meeting the needs of our community.  

Tuhru Derden most recently worked at Nationwide Children’s Hospital as a project coordinator for community relations. During his tenure at the hospital, he helped to manage a number of housing initiatives. His experience in real estate, his background in architectural design and his understanding of community supports PACT’s mission and vision. As a PACT project manager, he assists in the implementation of the Blueprint, engage the community and help to envision ways to create a healthy, safe, and vibrant neighborhood.  He is looking forward to connecting with the community and continuing PACT’s work and long-term strategy for meeting the needs of the Near East Side.

“I believe that providing affordable housing, quality healthcare and education, a safe neighborhood, and a knowledge of the neighborhoods rich history will create the framework for the community’s continual development and success,” said Derden.

David's Corner - Fall 2017

Listening.  Learning.  Building relationships.  These areas of focus have guided my efforts during my nine months serving as the executive director of PACT. It’s my commitment that these three principles will continue to guide my efforts now and into the future. To do so requires constant engagement and accessibility and we are finding ways to continue to engage the community. 

Our e-newsletter reflects in-part that commitment as we share information and updates regarding PACT’s work in the community.  Earlier in the year, we hosted a series of open houses, again reflective of our commitment to engage with the community in a highly accessible manner. 

You told us you appreciated the chance to drop in and talk with us. As such, I’m excited to announce that we are holding monthly PACT open houses starting this month.  We look forward to welcoming you during one of these scheduled sessions, or any other time.  The door is always open.

PACT's Open House Is Back!

With the success of our Spring open houses, we are again opening our doors for you to drop in and share your thoughts with us. This is a time for us to connect, to hear directly from the community and keep you up-to-date on PACT happenings.

PACT office open house dates:

  • October 13 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • November 10 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.  
  • December 8 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Thank you to those who joined us on October 13, and we look forward to our upcoming open houses. We hope you can join us!

Fifth Third Bank Sponsors PACT Exterior Home Repair Program

PACT is proud to announce it is expanding the Exterior Home Repair Program thanks to a combined $147,500 in grants from Fifth Third Bank’s Strengthening Our Communities Fund, the Fifth Third Community Development Corporation and Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing to support the PACT Exterior Home Repair Program. Additional funders include The Ohio State University and United Way of Central Ohio.   

Representatives from Fifth Third Bank and the community were on hand to celebrate the expansion during a ceremony on October 12.

“The success of our pilot program helped us realize the importance of supporting our current residents as we continue to drive community transformation in the PACT geography,” said David A. Cofer, executive director of PACT. “This grant from Fifth Third enables PACT to have a greater impact on helping homeowners and families make needed repairs on their homes and helps us tackle the issue of blight head-on,” he continued.

Through the home exterior program, piloted over the last few years, PACT has repaired a total of nine homes. With funding from the Fifth Third Foundation, the program will be expanded to repair the exteriors of 20 more properties located on Long Street, Taylor Ave., and/or Monroe Ave, within the PACT geography.

“We view this as a continuation of Fifth Third’s commitment to help drive community development initiatives in the communities we serve,” said Stefanie Steward-Young, ‎senior vice president, regional director of community & economic development, Fifth Third Bank. “The PACT exterior home repair program helps to further support and complement existing redevelopment on the Near East Side and aligns with our mission of improving communities and supporting neighborhoods.”

All Near East Side residents within identified target zones are eligible to participate in the exterior home repair program. Typical repairs may include and are not limited to: roof repairs, new windows, siding, gutters and downspouts, front porch and/or deck repairs. Homeowners help to inform the scope of work for each renovation.  The program includes collaboration with Homeport and MORPC, both organizations providing valuable support to the initiative. MORPC provides expert repair consultation and trained technicians who meet individually with each homeowner to establish an individualized work plan. MORPC oversees the repair project and ensure repairs are completed properly and within the scope of work. The average value of each repair is expected to be $10,000.  Additionally, Homeport offers its technical expertise as a non-profit developer of affordable housing.

Repairs for the 2017-18 PACT Exterior Home Repair Program begin October 2017 and will continue through Spring 2018.

Health Sciences Academies Host Parent University

Are you looking for ways to help your child with school work? Parent University can help. It’s free and it’s just for you! Parent University offers information on financial literacy, how to create a college climate in the home, how to be a partner with teachers, leadership development and managing social media with your children. It also offers a session on preparing healthy meals on a budget and on the go!

The Columbus City Schools’ Health Sciences Academies in partnership with The Ohio State University, PACT and PNC will once again offer Parent University for parents whose children attend the Health Sciences Academies – . Be there Monday, October 30, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Champion Middle School, 284 N. 22nd Street. Dinner and free childcare will be provided. Visit our website to learn more and register.

Parent University is funded by the Franklin County Board of Commissioners and administered by Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services.

Meet Us at the Lincoln Theater for the Third Annual PACT Film Series

As part of its 2017-18 film series, Partners Achieving Community Transformation (PACT) is bringing great cinema and local food together at the historic Lincoln Theatre, 769 E. Long St. The series highlights five films – celebrating over sixty years of diverse cinematic contributions to American filmmaking. The beginning of every film screening will feature a video about PACT, our partners, or a brief documentary on an individual who lives, works, or plays in the community.

The goal of the film-series is to showcase feature films and provide those in the community and outside the community the opportunity to explore The Near East Side. This year PACT honors Legends of Black Excellence. This theme emphasizes black excellence throughout history. The series will take place from October 21, 2017 to February 3, 2018.  

We kicked off the film series October 21, with Ali (2001)

Remaining films are:

        • November 12, 3 P.M. doors open at 2 – Cinderella (1997)
        • December 3 , 3 P.M. doors open at 2 – Purple Rain (1984)
        • January 14, 3 P.M. doors open at 2:30 – Selma (2014)
        • February 3, 3 P.M. doors open at 2:30  – Hidden Figures (2016)
Connect with MORPC to See if You Are Eligible for Free Weatherization Programs

Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) offers Franklin County residents residential energy programs that will keep their homes warmer in the winter, reduce energy consumption, and save them money.

MORPC’s experienced energy efficiency professionals perform energy inspections and safety checks of homes year-round.

These services are free to income-eligible clients, who on average see a 28-percent reduction in energy bills each year. To be eligible, one must rent or own a home in Franklin County and his or her total household income during the previous year must be equal to or less than 150-200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

These programs and services are provided thanks to funding from the private utilities including Columbia Gas of Ohio and AEP Ohio along with federal funds through the Home Weatherization Assistance Program administered through the Ohio Development Services Agency.

For more information, or if you think you may qualify for these weatherization services, please visit or call 614-621-1171.

COTA 2017 Statewide Tribute to Rosa Parks

Mark your calendars for December 4, 2017 from 5:30pm - 8:00pm for the Statewide Tribute to Rosa Parks presented by The Honorable Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, Central Ohio Transit Authority – Emille Williams, and The Ohio State University – Dr. Michael Drake.   

For more information contact Diamond Zimmerman at

A Message from the Executive Director - January 2017

For those of you I’ve not yet had the pleasure to meet, I’m Dave Cofer and on January 9, I was blessed to begin my appointment as Executive Director of PACT. For those of you I have already met, thank you foryour generosity and hospitality as you have welcomed me into your community. I am so very appreciative to be with you here on the Near East Side, a community of diverse people and places and incredibly rich history and tradition.

We have recently concluded a six-week series of Friday open houses during which 60 or so of our neighbors, business owners, and other community representatives stopped by to visit, share perspectives and offer valuable insights about PACT and the community. For those of you who didn’t get a chance to stop by, please know we always welcome a visit from you.

Looking ahead, PACT is excited about our plans for 2017, which include expanding our existing exterior home repair program and implementation of the Near East Side Neighborhood Leadership Academy, just to name a few. Be sure to hold the date for our annual community meeting on July 18 to learn about our recent accomplishments and additional plans for the future. I look forward to our work together as we honor our heritage and build our future.