There’s Still Hope: Not Giving Up on our Communities
Change Maker Sponsor - United Way of Greater Toledo

There’s Still Hope: Not Giving Up on our Communities

This post is brought to you by the generous support of The Andersons, Inc. For more than 70 years, this multi-million dollar grain, plant nutrient, ethanol and rail conglomerate has placed sharing its company's time, talents and financial resources as a key value.

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Boarded up homes aren’t an uncommon sight on Ria’s* block. The economic ups and downs have been really hard on her and the neighborhood. But, where some see blight, Ria sees “home”. She’s proud of where she grew up and the friends she’s made along the way. Over time, however, these friends have moved out of the neighborhood and so have many of her family members.

Luckily, in her sometimes noisy, but loving, multi-generational home--Ria has a lot of support. Her mom, dad and grandfather help with babysitting her four-year-old and two-year-old, as well as the newest addition, Nicolas, who just turned one month last week.

At 23, Ria is the household’s main financial supporter. With some food assistance from SNAP and Medicare for grandpa - they are able to get by.

Ria’s favorite time of the year is summer. She loves sitting on the front porch, watching the kids play in the yard. Hearing their little giggles makes her smile uncontrollably. Her mom points to homes down the street and talks about old corner stores from her rocking chair, reminiscing about childhood memories.

Of course this reminiscing also makes Ria think about her own childhood memories. And, there was one thing they all had in common… her youth was consumed by the time she spent at the Boys & Girls Club and few blocks over.

As Ria sat back, thinking of her own neighborhood memories, she couldn’t help but remember all the fun she and her friends had at the Club.

No matter what North Toledo was going through, the Club felt like a beacon of hope. It may sound silly, but, just the Club itself was such a well-kept facility. It was something every neighbor appreciated and loved. 

Just yesterday, Ria was walking home from her friend’s house - her new baby wrapped in her arms. Passing by the Boys & Girls Club, she noticed a lot of folks walking out the front doors. One man was walking the opposite direction, back towards his car parked on the street.

She was so appreciative that the Club was still around for her own kids. The Club’s staff was nearly as important to her growing up as her own friends and family.

Inspired to share this recollection, Ria called out to the man, “Sir, do you work at the Club?”

With one leg in his car and the other still on the pavement, the man smiled, and said, “I’m on the board.”

After pausing for a brief moment, Ria extended her hand, waving to the stranger, “I just want to say thank you. I grew up a part of this Club. This place meant a lot to me when I was young. I think about the volunteers and friends I met at the Club a lot. I’m excited for my kids to come here too.”

“Wow, I don’t know what to say,” he responded looking proudly back at her. “I’ll be sure to pass that along to the staff. Hearing about the impact they make on others means a lot to them.”

“Oh, you don’t need to say anything,” Ria said through a smile. “I just wanted you to know that being here in our neighborhood, and staying in our neighborhood all these years, is something our community really appreciates.”

Walking back home, Ria passed crumbling porches and empty lots where homes once stood. But, as she rounded the corner, joy filled her heart when she saw two little hands waving to her from the porch.

“Hi mommy!” they yelled out.

Despite the tough times her family has endured, one thing stays constant: her neighborhood, no matter how big or small, will always support one another, thanks to community organizations, like Boys & Girls Club, that continue to never give up on them.

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CHANGE MAKER ACTION: The Andersons, Inc., a strong United Way corporate partner, recently volunteered with the Boys & Girls Club of Toledo to help paint and refresh room interiors, as well as assist with landscaping, at various Club locations. Acts of kindness such as these provide children and adults with vibrant environments to be successful. Together, The Andersons, Inc. and United Way are fighting for the education, health and financial stability of every person in Lucas, Wood and Ottawa County.

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**This blog post is fictional but based on a real success story submitted by Boys & Girls Club of Toledo, on behalf of their Building Competencies Program. All identities of submitted success stories are anonymous for privacy and story details have been added in order to provide a better understanding of the individual’s personal successes and struggles.

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