Author

Erin Laviola

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We recently introduced you to Franklinton Rising, a non-profit organization working to change the lives of teens and young adults by teaching construction skills and preparing them for full-time employment. The group is currently remodeling a home on Chicago Avenue. During my first visit to the house, I met 25-year-old DeVille Morrow. He has been with Franklinton Rising since March. My first impression of Morrow was of a soft-spoken, friendly guy who displayed a genuine love for building homes. But there is much more to Morrow’s story. The struggles he has had to overcome make his positive attitude and determination to succeed that much more inspiring.

Morrow moved to Columbus in 2011, but was born and raised in Chicago. He briefly told me about some of the activity he witnessed on a regular basis as a child– gang fights, shootings, drug deals, home robberies, and people dying. Morrow said he did his best to keep himself and his younger siblings away from the violence. He also said it was his older brother who taught him how to survive in such a rough environment. The reason that job fell to his brother was because Morrow’s father was not around to do it. He told me his father was convicted of murder when Morrow was just 3, and has been in prison ever since. The two have managed to sustain a relationship though, and his dad’s experience motivates Morrow to live a better life. “He always told me, be smart. To not let other people influence me… And I told myself, that if I had my own kids, I’d make sure I’m in their life. I’d show them a good path so they don’t have to go through struggles.”  

Morrow has stayed true to that promise. He has 3 young sons: DeVarrion, DeMonte and Dekhai. He’s raising the boys on his own. Morrow told me the children’s mother developed a cocaine habit in 2015. “My kids are perfectly healthy, I made sure of that… We see her every few months, but only if I take the boys to see her. Because she doesn’t make any effort. She doesn’t do what she needs to as a mother.”

Morrow described the difficulties that followed after his ex-girlfriend stopped helping with their sons. Morrow says she dropped the boys off one day in 2015 and never came back for them. Soon after, he lost his job because he didn’t have anyone to help look after the kids. The young family ran out of money, and had to go to a shelter. “We spent 1 month and 6 days in the shelter, before I was able to get an apartment.” 

Fast forward to today– Morrow is dedicated to sticking on an honest path in order to keep his family together. Morrow says he was briefly involved in some questionable activity around the time he joined Franklinton Rising; he needed the money to feed his kids. But Franklinton Rising enabled him to get off that path entirely. “If I would’ve kept going the other route, I probably would’ve ended up messing up, and having to start over… I made sacrifices taking on my 3 kids. I didn’t want them in different places. I made sure they were together, with me. I save as much money as I can, even if it’s just $10 per paycheck. I gotta work my way up… I’m trying to set a positive example for them, trying to make a good living and make stuff happen, so that they don’t have to resort to illegal ways to make money.”  

Morrow will complete his training by the end of November. Franklinton Rising is assisting in his job search.

Property taxes are dense, complex and not very much fun to calculate. But voters in Upper Arlington and New Albany need to pay attention to those pesky rates because they have school levies on their ballots on November 7. So, I spent a couple hours scouring the Franklin County Auditor’s website to save you the trouble!

Here we go:

Upper Arlington is asking voters to approve a combined 10.67-mill Bond Issue and Operating Levy.

  • The 6.92-mill Bond Issue would generate $230 million over 38 years. The money would be used to build a new high school, new elementary schools, to renovate existing school facilities, and to improve athletic facilities.
  • The 3.75-mill Tax Levy would help cover current day-to-day operating costs, like paying teachers’ salaries.

Now, how much would this cost you, the taxpayer? One mill is equivalent to $1 in taxes per $1,000 in taxable value. If you’re like me, trying to decipher the value of mills can be tricky and confusing. To make it easier, here are some property values to give you an idea of how much you would be paying if the Bond and Levy pass. All of these numbers are according to the Franklin County Auditor website, and are available to the public.

Property Examples, Based on 2016 Market Values:

Value: $106,200

  • Net annual taxes: $2,523.90
  • The new bond and levy would add $396.60 to this homeowner’s tax bill.

Value: $362,900

  • Net annual taxes: $7,819.88
  • The new bond and levy would add $1,273.04 to this homeowner’s tax bill.

Value: $620,000

  • Net annual taxes: $14,000
  • The new bond and levy would add $2,318.37 to this homeowner’s tax bill.

***Important note:*** The auditor’s site makes these calculations based on your home’s 2016 market value. If the value of your home rose in 2017, then your tax liability will have increased as well.

New Albany is asking voters to approve a 1.25-mill Permanent Improvement Levy, which would be in effect for 5 years. The money would be used for general maintenance and repairs.

Property Examples, Based on 2016 Market Values:

Value: $111,600

  • Net annual taxes: $2,562.52
  • The new levy would add $39.21 to this homeowner’s tax bill.

Value: $354,300

  • Net annual taxes: $10,480.76
  • The new levy would add $155.00 to this homeowner’s tax bill.

Value: $903,100

  • Net annual taxes: $26,714.52
  • The new levy would add $395.05 to this homeowner’s tax bill.

Crime victims have certain constitutional rights here in the Buckeye State. In 1994, 77% of Ohio voters approved Amendment 2, which is still in effect today. The law requires officials to inform victims when a suspect has been arrested, or when a convicted felon is eligible for parole. Victims are also promised “reasonable protection.” And the amendment requires that victims be given a “meaningful role in the criminal justice system.”

But what is a “meaningful role?” Critics argue the Amendment’s language was too vague, and did not go far enough. That is why there is now a call to strengthen victims’ rights and add more specific guidelines to the Ohio Constitution. This is where Issue 1 comes in.

The statewide ballot issue known as the “Crime Victim Rights Initiative” is a type of Marsy’s Law. It would replace current language in the Ohio Constitution and expand the rights of crime victims. The most significant changes include:

  • The right to refuse discovery requests by the accused
  • The right to be present and heard at all court proceedings, including the right to petition the court to protect the victim’s rights
  • The right to restitution

Let’s break this down. The “right to refuse discovery request” is a possible hiccup with the legislation. It means that the victim could not be compelled to turn over potential evidence, or submit to an interview request by the defense team. Opponents say this could disrupt and slow investigations. Ohio Public Defender Tim Young wrote the official argument against Issue 1. He makes the case that the legislation “conflicts with essential guarantees in the Bill of Rights, including double jeopardy, confrontation, and speedy trial – rights fundamental to our Founders. This amendment will result in increased litigation, increased costs to taxpayers, and will delay cases, only hurting victims.”

Moving on to the “right to be present and heard at court proceedings.” This bullet more clearly explains the victim’s right to have a “meaningful role” in the case. This change would allow  victims to have input on plea bargains offered to the defendant, and be able to speak up when the defendant is eligible for parole. Victims would also have the right to confer with the prosecuting attorney.

As for the “right to restitution” clause– it gives victims the right to sue the defendant for money, NOT the government. And that is what opponents of Issue 1 have a problem with. Tim Young writes, “The problem in Ohio is not the absence of victims’ rights, but the lack of a remedy when the government fails to carry out duties owed to victims.” To give an example: Imagine your house was robbed, and the culprit assaulted you during the attack. The criminal is arrested and convicted. Fast forward a few years, and the defendant is paroled. The government is supposed to inform you, the victim, that that person is now free. But if officials don’t inform you… nothing really happens. You, as the victim, are not entitled to restitution from the government, for failing to notify you that your attacker is out of prison.

Election day is Tuesday, November 7. 

Top Photo by Robert Hickerson on Unsplash

“The car was blown apart; it was in a billion pieces all over the shop. I’d never seen a car so torn up like that. I wanted so badly to see how it got put back together.”

Colton Saunders spotted the busted 1978 Monte Carlo in the lot at the City Life Center in Franklinton when he was 12 years old. Without that car, his life may have taken a very different course.The damaged Monte Carlo was one of dozens of vehicles donated to Youth for Christ’s “Wheels” program. The name has since been changed to “HireLevel Auto.” Founded in 2001, it gives teenagers the opportunity to learn how to repair vehicles. The fixed-up cars are sold for about $3,000 each; the profits are reinvested back into the program. (A donated car is tax deductible).

I met Saunders at the City Life Center’s auto body shop. He has been a permanent presence there for nearly 10 years. As a kid, he went straight to the shop after school every day and begged to be put to work. Saunders had to beg because he was actually too young when he first arrived; he was 12, and the program was meant for teens 15 years and older. But his excitement was infectious, and the staff allowed him to begin learning. Saunders was proud to tell me about the number of hours he spent at the shop. He was there so often that the supervisors had to create a separate time sheet just for him. It didn’t take long for his skills to surpass those of the older trainees. He simply could not get enough. “It gave me a passion to do something meaningful, to use my hands, to work on something and fix it. It gave me a good work ethic.” 

Colton Saunders, age 14

HireLevel Auto is about more than just teaching kids mechanical skills. Saunders also talked about how the program gave him a sense of community. “There’s a good family environment here, good unity and good trust. There’s a sense of security. It’s something to look forward to.”

That’s a sentiment Youth for Christ executive director Scott Arnold echoes. “The greatest deficit in an urban neighborhood is not economic. It’s relational. Most of these kids (at the City Life Center) grew up with huge relational deficits; they grew up without dads, or they’re not close with their mothers. They don’t feel emotionally secure. We want to help the kids connect, and give them a restored sense of community.”

Saunders, who is now 23, currently works as Head Technician at HireLevel Auto. He was very matter-of-fact when I asked him what he might be doing had he not gotten involved with the program. Saunders believes he’d have a couple of kids, and would be unemployed. He says his family did not instill any sense of responsibility in him. “I had a whole family unit– Mom, Dad, Grandma and two younger sisters. But there was no authority. I could stay out as long as I wanted and no one would yell at me. My mom was always out partying, and my dad and grandma worked all the time.” Saunders told me the City Life Center felt like his real home. “My house was just a place to sleep.”

Saunders now dedicates his time to training and mentoring teenagers in the program. He could be earning higher wages as a full-time mechanic; Saunders chooses to stay because of his desire to give back. “Wheels gave me direction, it gave me a future to look forward to… I could care less about making a whole bunch of money. My bills are paid. I want to stay because I know what the program did for me, and I want to help others through it.”

Oh, and the destroyed Monte Carlo that served as Saunders’ motivation to get involved in the program? It’s still there, hanging from the ceiling. Students spent six years on repairs, and it’s now on display as the shop’s show car.

 

Just a couple of miles away from the upscale apartment buildings and trendy restaurants that make up downtown Columbus and the Arena District– there is the near South side. The neighborhood faces major challenges. An estimated 28.5% of the community lives below the poverty line. More than 17% of homes are vacant. The infant mortality rate is nearly twice that of the rest of Franklin County. The local public high school posts average graduation rates of just 58%. (The state average is 89%). 

This is where the Stowe Mission steps in. Stowe is a non-profit organization that’s working to uplift those in the community who need help the most. The group’s services include:  

  • A food pantry
  • Community kitchen
  • Weekly medical services by volunteers from Mount Carmel
  • Dental clinic
  • Eye care clinic
  • Pregnancy resource center
  • Tutoring services
  • Job placement resources

I spoke with Director of Operations and Development Jimmy Stiving. He told me the Mission served more than 100,000 meals in 2016. And while their 2016 donations added up to about $434,000, they managed to provide $1.27M worth of services– thanks in large part to volunteers. (Most of Stowe’s funding pays for operational costs. For example, dentists volunteer their time, but Stowe has to provide the equipment the clinic needs to operate).

The wide expanse of services is what drew the attention of pro golfer Jason Day and his wife Ellie. They are the founders of the Brighter Days Foundation, and have been associated with Stowe for the last two years. The cause is near to both of their hearts. Jason came from humble beginnings in Australia. Ellie is an Ohio native. She was born and raised in a small, blue-collar town in Richland County, near Mansfield. When they began looking around for an organization to partner with, they both knew they wanted to stay local; it was important to them to impact real change in their adopted hometown.

I spoke with Ellie at a fundraising event at the Columbus Zoo. She first heard about Stowe through her church. She told me that within the first few minutes of her site tour, she knew she wanted to be involved with Stowe. “I was blown away by all they were doing with so little. They just cover so many things, and I just thought, there is such an opportunity to grow with them and make a direct impact on the community.” Ellie, being a mom herself, said she was especially struck by the young families she met at Stowe. “We went into the soup kitchen for lunch and I saw mothers, pregnant women and their little kids. And I thought, wow, this is only 30 minutes from where I live. These kids don’t have the same opportunities my children have. This is crazy.”

The Stowe Mission and the Days are determined to turn that around. The Mission partners with Columbus Works to help connect residents with jobs. They are also planning to offer a GED course and adult literacy classes. This is what Ellie meant when she talked about wanting to grow with Stowe– it’s about helping people make lifestyle changes, as opposed to solely providing meals. “One of my biggest priorities was to get to a place where we are doing more, and getting (Stowe) the organizational help to get to the next level– to help people find jobs. The change won’t be overnight. But we’re going to get there.”  

There are skeptics who criticize the people who depend on Stowe’s services. In 2016, the American Enterprise Institute and the Los Angeles Times released a survey on Americans’ views on welfare. 54% of those surveyed felt that welfare benefits encourage people to be dependent and to remain poor. 87% believe welfare recipients should be actively looking for work or be part of a training program if they are physically able to do so. I asked Ellie how she would respond to critics who may view welfare recipients as lazy. She emphasized that while the goal is to give people access to education and job training, it’s tough for a person to focus on learning new skills until their immediate needs have been addressed. “Their need right now is that they’re hungry. Or they have a medical problem. You can’t move on to the next phase (like finding jobs) until you’ve solved the first problem.”

The Brighter Days Foundation hosted a fundraising dinner at the Columbus Zoo and a golf Invitational on October 8-9. The total amount raised is still being tallied; we will update this page when final numbers are available.

Peace+Love+Bling is a small jewelry company in the Short North. Its physical footprint may be small– less than 600 square feet of space. But its outreach is expanding across the globe. Its mission: Benefit as many women as possible, both here at home and overseas.

Marketing Manager Sarah Ivancic explained to me that founder LeAnne Johnson Absalom was inspired to start the business while living in Beijing. She met a group of women who designed their own jewelry and sold the pieces on the street; they did this in order to support their families. LeAnne fell in love with the decorative designs, and wanted to create a long-term solution that would help these women succeed financially. Upon her return to the U.S. she founded Peace+Love+Bling in her attic, selling pieces made by the Beijing women. Today the company works with women from around the world, collecting materials to be used in unique jewelry pieces, like silk ribbons from India and beetle wings from Thailand. 

Back here in central Ohio, Peace+Love+Bling is working to empower women through its Workforce Development Program. They teach women job skills and prepare them for full-time employment. Three times a week, workers come to the store and are trained how to make the jewelry. In addition, Ivancic says the employees are taught “how to run the inventory and how to ship out orders. We also teach other skills that they may have not had the opportunity to learn– like being prompt and on-time, and how to handle conflict.”

Peace+Love+Bling partners with the Godman Guild–an organization that works to lift people out of poverty by connecting them with job opportunities–to recruit women for the program. I asked Ivanicic  why it was important to the founder that Peace+Love+Bling be more than just a jewelry store. She said the reason was simple: “This business has been built upon creating a community and having a social mission. If you can make a profit, why not have that profit also benefit other people? It just is, in our minds, the proper way to do business.”   

The Workforce Development Program is run out of the storefront. Ivancic says a major benefit to having the program in the store is that it prompts a lot of conversations. People walking by often stop in when they notice the workers making the jewelry. Ivancic says anyone is welcome to come in, learn about the company’s mission, and make jewelry alongside them. “We want to be open and inviting and have this be not just a store, but a place for people to come and spend time.”

 

Would you eat a hamburger that was grown in a lab? Or a chicken patty that came from plants instead of an actual bird? You may have the option of eating food like this within the next few years. The non-profit organization Mercy for Animals is working to transform the future of food, and how we consume it. The organization was founded by Nathan Runkle, who was born and raised on a farm in St. Paris, Ohio. He created the organization in 1999 as a platform to fight animal cruelty, and it has expanded significantly since then. One of the initiatives the organization supports is “clean meat” (which is made by taking cells from an animal and growing the meat in a lab). Runkle shared Mercy for Animals’ mission with 1812, and discussed why he believes clean meat and/or plant-based products are the way of the future.

Tell us about what inspired you to launch Mercy for Animals.

From an early age, I had an affinity for animals and didn’t want to see them subjected to cruelty at the hands of humans––whether it was a cat in a shelter; a chicken on a farm; or a rat in a laboratory, like my first pet, Caesar, who was rescued from lab experiments.

My local high school offered an agricultural class that included dissection. The teacher, Mr. Jenkins, was a local farmer who had raised more than 11,000 pigs. On May 6, 1999, Mr. Jenkins grabbed a half dozen piglets from one of his barns and attempted to kill them. But when he arrived at school, one piglet was still alive. A senior student, who worked part time on the Jenkins farm, seized the baby animal by her hind legs and slammed her head-first into the concrete floor. Twice. The piglet still didn’t die. Jenkins responded: “It’s just a pig. I don’t care what you do with it.”

A more compassionate student then rushed the piglet to the classroom of Molly Fearing, a first-year teacher and fellow animal lover. Molly cradled the piglet in her arms, ran to her car, and drove fifteen miles to the nearest animal hospital. The little piglet was still alive, but the veterinarian had to euthanize her.

My hometown of Saint Paris quickly divided into two camps: those who were deeply upset by what the students had witnessed and local pig farmers who didn’t understand the fuss—this was hog farm country, after all. Mr. Jenkins went to trial, but the judge dismissed the charges. According to Ohio law, “standard agricultural practice” is not considered animal cruelty. And slamming piglets headfirst into the ground is, in fact, standard agricultural practice.

I knew then and there that I needed to advocate for farmed animals who had no voice or rights. After much discussion, Molly and I decided to form Mercy For Animals. The name summed up our mission in three short words. Farmed animals were helpless. We humans held all the power. And we could choose mercy.

Mercy For Animals has launched dozens of undercover investigations. How do you choose your “targets?”

Credit: Travis Chantar

Undercover investigators apply at random and work at whichever factory farm or slaughterhouse hires them. At both small family operations and large corporate-owned facilities, each time they go undercover they document horrific abuse, much of which is legal and standard, such as confining hens in cages so small the birds can’t flap their wings, cutting off the tails of cows, and locking mother pigs in crates so narrow the animals can’t even turn around.

Our investigators consistently document sadistic and malicious abuse as well, such as the case of Conklin Dairy, a small family operation right outside Columbus, where a worker was caught repeatedly punching and body-slamming baby cows.

Rather than confront and fix the worst abuses, the meat, egg, and dairy industries have been pushing “ag-gag” bills, which would make it a crime to videotape or photograph inside factory farms and slaughterhouses. But Americans have a right to know where their food comes from, so our investigators will continue to expose the cruelty that occurs behind closed doors when factory farm operators believe nobody’s watching.

To play devil’s advocate, why should consumers care whether a chicken, that is going to be slaughtered anyway, has enough room to move around in its cage? If the food tastes the same, what is the difference to the consumer?

The pigs, chickens, cows, turkeys, and fish who are confined, mutilated, and tortured for the meat, egg, and dairy industries feel pain, pleasure, joy, and other emotions just like the dogs and cats who share our homes. The only difference between the animals we call “food” and the animals we call “pets” are the arbitrary labels. In fact, it’s taboo––if not illegal––to eat the vast majority of species.

Photo by Mickaela Scarpedis-Casper on Unsplash

By buying their products, we pay factory farmers to inflict cruelty so heinous that it would warrant felony animal cruelty charges if the victim were a cat or dog. This chips away at our own humanity. The more we support the meat, egg, and dairy industries, the more we support violence and injustice. Additionally, there’s evidence that animal abusers often don’t stop with animals––many go on to hurt humans, too.

 

Let’s talk about vegans and vegetarians, specifically those who choose to not eat meat because of concern for animals. Do you foresee an ethical dilemma to eating clean meat?

Most people who give up meat do it for one of three main reasons – to prevent cruelty to animals, improve their health, or protect the environment. Since clean meat doesn’t require raising sentient, conscious animals – but rather just their cells – there is no suffering experienced. No cruelty, abuse, deprivation, or emotional pain experienced by animals. From that standpoint, I believe clean meat has the potential to be just as ethical and humane as plant-based foods.

If the U.S. switched primarily to lab-grown meat, what happens to the farmers who depend on the current system for jobs?

We are advocating a shift in jobs, not an elimination of them. People will always need to eat, so there will always be jobs in food production and agriculture.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

A humane economy will create jobs in the clean and plant-based protein space rather than in slaughterhouses, where the work is incredibly dangerous and often leads to PTSD. This shift in the economy will create countless new jobs just as clean energy did. History is crowded with examples of economic shifts as new, better, and more efficient industries have come about.

Would there be an overabundance of pigs, chickens and cows if the U.S. switched to “clean meat?”

As clean and plant-based meats rise in popularity and gain market share, the meat, egg, and dairy industries will raise and slaughter fewer animals. The billions of chickens, turkeys, pigs, cows, and farmed fish Americans eat each year only exist because they are bred. It’s simple supply and demand.

Would there still be a need for dairy cows?

In addition to clean meat, startups are creating clean milk and eggs. Using yeast and fermentation, Perfect Day Foods grows milk proteins to create animal-free milk that contains the same proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals as cow’s milk but has neither cholesterol nor lactose (a common allergen). This product is also immune to bacterial growth, so pasteurization and refrigeration are unnecessary. Perfect Day Foods plans to use its animal-free dairy milk as a base for other dairy products, such as cream, cheese, and yogurt, and hopes to release its first commercial product soon.

Through methods similar to those of Perfect Day Foods, Clara Foods is producing egg whites without animals or environmental harm. And unlike eggs from hens, Clara’s products will contain no harmful pathogens. Clara Foods expects its products to be on the market by 2019.

You can read more about Runkle’s mission in his new book, Mercy for Animals

 


The NCAA Women’s Final Four is coming to Columbus this season. 1812 spoke with Meredith Cleaver, the NCAA Director of Championships and Alliances. She talked about what’s being done to increase interest in women’s basketball. (The 2017 national championship game had a sell-out crowd and attracted 3.89 million viewers on TV).  She also discussed why women’s teams do not attract as many fans as men’s teams, and how UConn’s record-breaking success put a spotlight on women’s athletics.

Stats on men versus women’s college basketball:

  • Men’s college basketball has been in operation since 1893. The NCAA men’s tournament began in 1939; the inaugural women’s NCAA tournament took place in 1982, with 32 teams.
  • Women’s college basketball has been steadily gaining fans. During the 1999-2000 season, total attendance at Division I games was 6,356,729. Last season (2016-2017), total attendance was 8,300,103. That’s an increase of 2 million fans over 17 years.
  • According to NCAA estimates, Division I women’s games average about 1,500 fans per home game. During the 2015-2016 season, UConn had an average of 8,216 fans at each home game.
  • Men’s college basketball has grown more quickly over the last 17 years. During the 1999-2000 season, Division I total attendance was 24,281,774. This past season, total attendance reached 31,859,477. That’s an increase of about 7.5 million fans.

The Final Four will be played at Nationwide Arena March 30-April 1, 2018. The Countdown to Columbus, which will kick off the 2017-2018 college women’s basketball season, takes place Sunday November 12, 2017.

Columbus will be in the national spotlight this basketball season, as Nationwide Arena hosts the NCAA Women’s Final Four, March 30-April 1, 2018. An estimated 40,000 fans will descend on central Ohio and are expected to spend about $20 million over a 5-day period. 1812 spoke with the Executive Director of the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, Linda Logan, about the Final Four and what the event means for Columbus.

“I think we have this great opportunity to showcase Columbus as a great city. We know it’s a great sport city. But opening a lot of eyes, of those who’ve never been here before, it’s certainly something that gives us a lot of ambitious pleasure. The red carpet will be rolled out, so that everyone will have this opportunity to see the great things Columbus has.” 

For people who are not basketball fans, why should they care that Columbus is hosting the women’s Final Four?

“We all have a lot of community pride. Bringing a big event to the community not only brings the economic impact and raises the profile of the community, but I think it adds to that quality of life for the people who live here. You might not even be a sports fan, but you can certainly engage in some fun activities for your family throughout the event– like the reading program we’ll have for our youngsters, and the Basketball Bounce that will provide a lot of community spirit. [During the Bounce, 2,500 young players will dribble basketballs through the Arena District]. We’re also doing great things for girls and women, by launching a program called Beyond the Baseline. We’ll be showcasing the variety of women in leadership in our community, so I think there really will be something for everyone.”

Logan commented on the growth of women’s sports over the years. She also said that the Final Four is an opportunity to recruit new fans to the game, and increase interest in women’s basketball.

“I feel like I’ve had a front row seat, as someone who grew up during the Title IX era. I graduated from high school the same year Title IX was passed. To see the growth of all women’s sports has been tremendous. [People who come to watch the games] will have an opportunity to see the best and the brightest. Anytime you’re surrounded by people that are the best at what they do, I think that really does kind of invite a lot of goodwill and a little bit of curiosity– like how did they get to be so good at that sport? With women’s sports, you’re converting people one game at a time, one player at a time, one fan at a time.  We have the opportunity to impact a generation here in Columbus, by hosting the Final Four.”

Columbus will also take centerstage on Sunday, November 12– by kicking off the women’s college basketball season at Nationwide Arena. UConn will take the court for the first time since their epic, buzzer-beating loss to Mississippi State in last year’s semifinals; that loss ended a historic 111-game winning streak for the Huskies. At the Countdown to Columbus, UConn will begin their season against Stanford at 1:30PM, followed by Ohio State versus Louisville at 4PM.

We’ve been writing about groups and businesses impacting change in the  Franklinton neighborhood.  You’ve no doubt seen the construction sites popping up. But what you probably haven’t noticed are the teenagers and young adults who are involved with rehabbing homes in the area. These young trainees are learning skills that will help reshape not just Franklinton’s exterior facade, but also their lives.

These young adults are part of a group called Franklinton Rising, which began operations in 2015. The non-profit organization purchases run-down homes with donations, grants, and some help from the city of Columbus. The group recruits young people from the neighborhood to renovate the houses. It’s sort of like an apprenticeship. The recruits receive on-the-job training from contractors; they’re also coached on the importance of setting life goals. The current group of trainees are all between the ages of 17 and 25; pay starts at $8.50 per hour with the chance for promotions. Once training is complete, the organization then helps the participants find permanent jobs. Franklinton Rising’s president, Tom Heffner, explained the group’s mission and how it all got started.

“The idea was, let’s take young adults who are probably not going to college, and let’s see if we can help train them for life and for jobs. And to help them become productive members of the community. We started with a Christian foundation of trying to help people. So the idea was if you can get young adults, and help them learn a trade, help them learn skills, help them develop life skills, they’re going to have a greater opportunity for employment.”

One of those people is 25-year-old DeVille Morrow. He’s been involved with Franklinton Rising since March of 2017. “I called [Tom Heffner] on a Tuesday, met him on Wednesday, and started going to classes on Thursday. That Saturday he got me working.” Morrow described the work skills he has acquired in the last few months. “Everything from demolition work, flooring work, building stairs, little bit of drywalling and painting, carpentry, plumbing and electrical work. I’ve been interested in this [type of work] since I was 16. I just liked watching people build houses since I was young.”

Heffner: “In most communities, we’ve done a terrible disservice to young adults by telling them that they must go to college… when the reality is we have kids going to college today graduating with no jobs and $50,000 or more in debt. Whereas a young adult who goes through training and really works hard, by the time they’re between 20 and 25, can be making $50k, $60k, $70k a year with virtually no debt. So there’s tremendous advantage for people who don’t necessarily want to gravitate toward academics.” 

Heffner is right about that. First, consider these stats: 44% of Franklinton households are earning less than $15,000 per year. And nearly 50% of adults in the neighborhood do not have a high school diploma. Now let’s compare that to what adults can earn as skilled laborers. Here’s a look at mean annual wages, via the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Construction laborer: $37,890

Carpenter: $48,340

Electrician: $56,650

Construction Manager: $99,000

For Franklinton Rising, helping trainees land jobs with salaries like these is the goal– not profits. The organization loses money on each home it renovates. One of the two-sided houses Heffner showed me was a tear-down they purchased for $2,500.

Before

The group spent $170,000 to renovate the building (in materials and labor costs). When the house was appraised, its value was set at about $72,500. Think about that. That’s a $100,000 loss. (Both sides of the house are now rented). But again, as Heffner explained, making money isn’t the point of the organization– making positive changes in Franklinton is the goal.

After

Heffner: “The idea is if [the trainees] have skills, and confidence in themselves… the likelihood of them being incarcerated and going down a destructive path is far less. And so that’s one of the reasons we believe them developing skills, getting full-time employment, and understanding principles of life, is a way to help them not only not be incarcerated, but they’re not going to be on the rolls of welfare. They’re going to be productive citizens. Paying taxes, paying for services, and being good role models for others.”

Heffner also explained that Franklinton Rising wants to eventually sell these renovated homes back to the trainees who worked on them. “They can go from being a young adult who didn’t have any idea what they were going to do in life, with no skills relatively speaking, to individuals who have skills… and ultimately end up with a house. Maybe one of the nicest houses in the neighborhood, and hopefully be great role models for other young adults; to prove to them they don’t have to live in poverty. If they’ll work hard, they too can not only survive but do very well.”

Morrow: “As far as life skills, I’ve learned a little bit more about teamwork. The criticalness of being on-time. Working hard. Patience. If something becomes frustrating, take a step back, think about it, come back to it. That’s a way for me to learn.”

Morrow also described Franklinton Rising as a family atmosphere. “Everyone here, everybody basically is family-oriented. They talk a lot about the Bible, going to church, trying to keep people on their toes and on the right path. Basically showing people that… if you like working with your hands, this is where you want to be. If you love the job, it’ll be more about your job than about the money. Whatever job you love, of course you’re gonna keep wanting to go there, and stay at it. So I think this program is good for anybody who wants to come in and do something better with themselves.”