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Innovations Fight Issues from Illiteracy to the Heroin Epidemic

Five central Ohio nonprofit organizations targeting issues of homelessness, poverty, the heroin epidemic, the spread of HIV—and the health and wellness of the LGBTQ community, illiteracy and early childhood education have been named “5 Nonprofits to Watch” in 2016 by one of the nation’s largest community foundations.

The five nonprofits recognized by The Columbus Foundation illustrate the vast and diverse needs of the community and the increasing sophistication of organizations trying to meet those needs.

“These organizations are addressing many of the most pressing issues facing our community,” said Douglas F. Kridler, president and CEO of The Columbus Foundation, the nation’s seventh-largest community foundation. “They have an immeasurable impact on our neighborhoods and the people who live in them. This year, we believe they are poised to expand their imprint.”

The five organizations are AIDS Resource Center Ohio, Columbus Metropolitan Library, Community Properties of Ohio, HandsOn Central Ohio, and Maryhaven. Each was given a $5,000 grant from the Foundation.


From left: Patrick Losinski, CEO of Columbus Metropolitan Library, Ernest Perry, CEO of HandsOn Central Ohio, Isabel Toth, President and CEO of Community Properties of Ohio, Paul Coleman, President and CEO of Maryhaven, Bill Hardy, President and CEO of AIDS Resource Center Ohio

“We’re very fortunate to have such tremendous nonprofit organizations working to benefit the people of this community,” Kridler said. “I can’t imagine where we’d be without them.”

The Foundation began identifying five nonprofits to watch two years ago as a way to inform its 2,000 donors of new ways to make a positive impact on the community, and to better inform the community at large. The Foundation has also made its interactive Giving Marketplace, PowerPhilanthropy®, available to the public at

The nonprofits are recommended by the Foundation’s Community Research and Grants Management Department from the thousands of nonprofit organizations working to improve life in central Ohio. Researchers identified about two dozen nonprofits that best met key criteria, including those who are most innovative, collaborative, have strong leadership,and are responding to a critical community need, according to Lisa S. Courtice, Ph.D., the Foundation’s executive vice president.

AIDS Resource Center Ohioundefined

In its review of the AIDS Resource Center Ohio (ARC Ohio), Foundation staff were taken by the ARC Ohio’s continuous evolution and vision. “We’ve come so far in the past 30 years with disease management,” Courtice said. “But it doesn’t mean people aren’t becoming infected. They are. What’s exciting is watching this organization evolve and be progressive as the disease has been increasingly managed.”

ARC Ohio has grown from a staff of 70 and a budget of $6 million, according to Bill Hardy, its president and CEO. Today, it has a 235-person staff and a $44 million budget. After merging in 2011 with the Columbus AIDS Task Force and Ohio AIDS Coalition, the nonprofit began to evolve from an organization that mainly helped people manage HIV to one of outreach, with offices in 10 Ohio cities and medical center/pharmacies in Dayton and Columbus.

Adding medical centers and pharmacies “was absolutely transformational for us,” Hardy said, because it allowed the organization to elevate its care.

“In April, we will adopt an expanded mission,” Hardy said. “We will continue to provide the HIV specific services we have provided since the 1980s but we will expand our services to provide primary care to the (LBGTQ) community, as well as other individuals who are looking for patient-centered services. We’ll provide primary care for those who have unmet medical needs. We want to be the gateway to good health for those who are at risk.”

Not only is ARC Ohio evolving in its mission, it will change its name in April to better represent that mission, Hardy said.


Columbus Metropolitan Library


Historic changes are underway at the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

An unprecedented investment of more than $130 million is being made in renovating and constructing new buildings in the 24-building library system, including $30 million at the flagship Main Library building, 96 S. Grant Ave. Two of the projects are express libraries, being built in old schools in Canal Winchester and Marion-Franklin; three buildings are being renovated, and seven are being replaced with new structures.

“It is a unique time in the history of our library,” said Patrick Losinski, library CEO. “We’re doing something very special – I don’t know that it’s been done to this extent since the late 1980s. To be working on 12 new buildings simultaneously, including the renovation of the Main Library is monumental.”

Kridler said the impact the libraries are having on the neighborhoods they serve cannot be overstated. “We’re watching our neighborhoods be revitalized through the libraries. No longer are the buildings warehouses for books; they now have become community gathering spaces.”

If the massive physical overhaul wasn’t enough, Columbus will be host to the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions international convention, drawing an estimated 5,000 attendees from 120 countries. Columbus competed with cities such as Seattle and Washington, D.C., to host the international conference this June.

“They just keep hitting it out of the park,” Courtice of the library system.


Community Properties of Ohio


By the end of this year, Community Properties of Ohio will open three new buildings on East 17th St. that will be home to the Columbus Scholar House. Ten units are already in place on Long St. near 17th, and this expansion will add 28 units.

The program, a partnership among Community Properties, the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority, Ohio Capital Corporation, the YMCA and others, is an innovative housing concept placing low-income families in safe, affordable housing with critical services. As a condition of living there, the parent must be attending an accredited Ohio college, maintain a 2.5 GPA, and have custody of at least one child.

Isabel Toth, CEO of Community Properties, explained that the programming needed for the initiative to be successful wasn’t available with the first 10 units because space wasn’t available. The second phase includes the facilities and programming for child care and early childhood learning opportunities.

This two-pronged approach reaches two generations: The parents, who are now pursuing a college degree, and their children, who will see the importance of education.

Community Properties has about 1,000 Section 8 housing units in central Ohio, and Toth hopes to expand this type of programming to as many of them as possible. She also plans to use Scholar House as a beacon of hope for tenants who can’t see a bright future.

The innovative, two-generation approach, coupled with the extensive collaboration involved in creating Scholar House, made it stand out to Foundation staff.

“These are people who don’t have a support system who are getting support from others who are in the same position and have had similar experiences,” Courtice said. Their shared experience: “This is so hard to go to school. I have no money. I don’t have a support system. I’ve never been to school before or I’ve never been successful in school before,’ and we’re doing this.”


HandsOn Central Ohio


In the past, some of those families at the Scholar House may have called the community’s 211 hotline to seek housing and food assistance. The organization that runs the hotline, HandsOn Central Ohio, is another group being recognized by the Foundation as a Nonprofit to Watch in 2016.

Foundation staff were inspired by the increasing sophistication of HandsOn in using the data it collects from those using its services.

Ernest L. Perry Jr., president and CEO of HandsOn, explained that information is gathered each time someone calls in for help – food assistance, emergency housing, etc. – as is required for families in need. The primary goal will always be providing assistance to those in need as quickly as possible, but Perry said gathering the underlying data is tremendously important for the community as a whole.

“We collect data on what the needs are in a community, we collect geographic or locational data on where certain issues have the most density or are the most acute. We collect data on the relationship between individuals and service providers. We collect system capacity data – how much is available, how much is used and unused. We collect a range of data on the system as a whole and individuals collectively to create the opportunity to paint a clear picture of what is happening in our community.’’

This data can help anticipate where future needs will be, and to better align resources with need. That’s part of their strategic plan, and one of the reasons the Foundation recognized HandsOn.

“They have a strategic plan now and they’re going to be launching this effort to clearly be able to understand and analyze their data, to inform the community and be a predictor,” said Courtice. “They want to make themselves far more relevant. If the organization went away or wasn’t high performing, our community would be in trouble because we’d have no coordinated system for finding food and shelter.”




Maryhaven has been operating since 1953, making it central Ohio’s oldest and most comprehensive provider of behavioral health.

Paul Coleman has been there for the past 25 years, and he’s never seen anything like what he is witnessing today with the growing epidemic of heroin and other opiates.

“In 2002, 38 percent of Maryhaven patients told us opiates were their drug of choice. In 2015, it’s 75 percent,” said Coleman, president and CEO of Maryhaven.

As result of this problem, Maryhaven is operating over capacity. Cots are used as a way to accommodate more people. To address the growing need, Maryhaven embarked on a $2 million capital campaign to expand its physical space by 9,000 square feet. To date, $1.8 million has been raised.

The soaring need coupled with the strategic move to expand grabbed The Columbus Foundation’s attention. “They are performing very important work for our community and addressing a critical need,” Courtice said. She noted that Maryhaven assists those suffering from gambling addiction, too.

Some 9,365 patients were served by Maryhaven last year at its nine locations in six nearby counties. With the expansion, an additional 350 patients will be served per year, if not more.

The physical expansion means Maryhaven will offer eight more beds for detoxification, four additional inpatient beds, and expand group rooms and offices for outpatient treatment of those with opiate addiction.


“The volume and quality of work being done by nonprofit organizations in our community is remarkable,” Kridler said, noting the Foundation’s recognition is aimed at helping people appreciate the need and recognize there are innovative organizations working hard to solve problems.