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The Columbus Foundation Selects 5 Nonprofits to Watch In 2020

Columbus, OH (March 19, 2020)— As a community, we must join together to prevail over these isolating and challenging times. The Columbus Foundation recognizes that our nonprofit organizations are on the front lines of holding together our community, helping thousands of residents stay healthy and safe, and providing critical resources for those who are struggling financially.

The Columbus Foundation honors these extraordinary efforts, as well as the incredible programs and services that help strengthen and improve our community each and every day, and is proud to announce its “5 Nonprofits to Watch” in 2020, for the first time, via a special video announcement made today.

The 2020 honorees were selected through a thorough vetting process earlier this year and are as follows: Columbus Fugees Academy, Columbus Works, Inc., Directions for Youth & Families, Lower Lights Ministries, and Ruling Our eXperiences (ROX). 

“These are difficult times. We are going to need to be extraordinarily resilient,” said Douglas F. Kridler, President and CEO of The Columbus Foundation. “Our community is about to learn, anew, how incredibly important our nonprofit sector is as we look to help the most vulnerable in our community. We thank our nonprofit leaders. And as is our tradition here, even in these difficult times, we will celebrate their excellence, compassion, and leadership.”

5 Nonprofits to Watch debuted in 2014 as an annual program of The Columbus Foundation. As part of the award, each recipient organization will receive a $5,000 grant to further its work.

More about this year’s honorees:

Columbus Fugees Academy
The Columbus Fugees Academy opened in August 2018 as a customized and rigorous academic approach to empower refugee children in Columbus. Fugees is a tuition-free school with an emphasis on including soccer into the curriculum as a way to unite its students from different countries. Because most refugee children arrive with little or no formal education, Fugees packs a normal K-8 education into three years of middle school. Initially launched in Atlanta, Fugees Academy relocated its headquarters to Columbus in 2018 as a first step towards nationwide expansion of its school model.

With more than 10,000 refugees settling in Columbus over the past 15 years, children often experience language barriers, social isolation, and educational gaps. The Columbus Fugees Academy opened, and continues to operate, in a church on Dublin-Granville Road. In fall 2020, it is anticipated that the school will have over 100 students. The organization is launching a capital campaign to support a new facility large enough for growth.

Columbus Works, Inc. 
Columbus Works, Inc. is a workforce development organization that was founded in 2016 as an affiliate of Cincinnati Works, which opened in 1996. It has established itself as a key component of the workforce development structure in our community—producing impressive employer partnerships and demonstrable returns on investment. Columbus Works serves two clients: job seekers (its members) who desire to work their way out of poverty, and employers.

In 2019, Columbus Works helped nearly 300 individuals from 27 Zip Codes, many of whom have struggled to find work because of a number of barriers in life. Through Columbus Works’ coaching model, individuals were able to experience greater than 80 percent retention in their new jobs, and increase their earned wages by more than 10 percent.

Directions for Youth & Families
Directions for Youth & Families (DFYF) is a resiliency-oriented, trauma-informed agency with roots in Columbus dating back to 1899. The organization serves thousands of local youth and their families each year by providing emotional, mental, and behavioral health services. DFYF also provides valuable training and support for teachers and others who work with children impacted by trauma through innovative community partnerships like the Family-Centered Community Change initiative.

Many of DFYF’s programs address some of the most difficult situations a child might experience—domestic violence, sexual abuse, physical abuse or neglect, grief and loss.  Community-based clinicians provide counseling for youth to develop safe and effective strategies to manage, regulate, and work through emotional responses. Additionally, DFYF operates two youth centers providing an environment that is safe, positive, and educational; both centers are located in neighborhoods with numerous challenges. In 2020, DFYF will be breaking ground on a new programming space at its Crittenton Center location near Eastland Mall, a widely underserved geography. The new community center will serve approximately 1,300 individuals annually, and will include a gender-responsive women’s center.

Lower Lights Ministries 
Lower Lights Ministries (LLM) is a faith-based nonprofit that supports individual, family, and community restoration efforts in Franklinton through transformative relationships, leadership development, housing and addiction recovery programming, and youth enrichment activities.

Founded in 1991, the first decade of the ministry focused on meeting the emergency needs of Franklinton families including food, clothing, and personal care items. LLM has evolved into a holistic community development organization, and, for nearly three decades, has served Franklinton’s most vulnerable populations, including female ex-offenders, at-risk youth, low-income clients, homeless families, and individuals experiencing drug addiction.

In 2019, LLM hosted its first Addiction Academy Conference, bringing together those affected by substance use disorders or passionate about recovery. The conference educated and empowered all to stand together against addiction in our city. Over 100 attendees took part in 15 different classes, taught by professionals in the field. The organization relies heavily on dedicated volunteers. An organization with a strong volunteer base, LLM saw more than 450 volunteers collectively spend 5,855 hours engaged in meaningful service in 2019. In addition, close to 1,000 hours were given by work groups and Family Meal providers.

Ruling Our eXperiences
Ruling Our eXperiences (ROX) is a national leader in programming, research, and education focused on girls. Established initially as a research study in 2006, ROX became a 501(c)(3) in 2011. Its mission is to create generations of confident girls who control their own relationships, experiences, decisions, and futures. By addressing issues of self-esteem, healthy relationships, sexual harassment, violence, social media, stress and leadership, their evidence-based program helps girls develop the skills they need to navigate some of the hardest challenges they face during adolescence.

There are 202 ROX programs throughout 143 schools in central Ohio, serving 2,624 girls. In total, the program currently serves more than 5,000 girls, including other areas of Ohio and throughout the country. ROX recently announced the launch of the world’s first multidisciplinary research and training institute focused on girls. Powered by its large-scale national research study, The Girls’ Index, The ROX Institute for Research & Training is producing cutting-edge research with girls and data-informed programming for the adults who teach, parent, coach mentor and inspire girls.

March 19, 2020