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Of Youth and Joy and Dreams Fulfilled

I recently attended a holiday open house celebration at East End Community Services in Dayton, Ohio. The celebration was two-pronged: to commemorate the organization’s completion of its 84th single family affordable home and to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the group’s expanded youth center.

East End is a multi-faceted nonprofit service provider, offering homeownership opportunities as well as supporting community development, youth development, and workforce development for residents of east Dayton. Launched in 1998, East End Community Services provides programming that is part of a holistic neighborhood transformation initiative meant to help each child succeed to the best of his or her abilities, in order to become successful adults who can give back to the community.

To achieve its goal, East End provides crucial support to both children and adults. Through their housing development, community building, afterschool and summer programming, educational initiatives, and services for teens, parents, single adults, and seniors, East End reaches more than 3,000 individuals a year. That figure rises to more than 4,000 when you count all the children from the families they serve.

A few things struck me that evening at the open house. First was the overall sense of community among those in attendance. Second, the diversity of attendees: community folks, local stakeholders from banks and foundations, East End staff members, various non-profit groups, government officials, even a former Ohio Governor came out to the celebration. And finally, the feeling of shared accomplishment for the East End and a genuine sense of joy at their success.

As I was leaving I spoke to Doug Thompson, chief financial officer for East End, and I want to share a little of our conversation. Doug recently participated in a meeting with the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington D.C. I won’t go into details about the meeting here—perhaps we can discuss that in a future post—but I wanted to tell you about Doug’s reaction to the experience. He told me he had to pinch himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming—he really was at the Federal Reserve in D.C. Doug considered it a privilege, being asked to participate in the meeting, and said he felt honored to share his experience working at East End. He called the trip to D.C. a highlight of his non-profit career, and said he appreciated that his opinion and expertise were valued by us.

It was uplifting listening to Doug tell me about his experience. For me it is always humbling listening to the stories of organizations like East End’s. Their mission and dedication are inspiring, but more important, their work is critical for those they serve and the neighborhoods they work in. Non-profit work is hard and at times slow going. That’s why it is fun to have a chance to celebrate a success story. It was a pleasure to be part of such an inspirational celebration for the East End community, dance team and all.

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