In scheduling the next Northland Nonprofit Summit for Feb. 20, Joyce Bourgault is hoping momentum has been built on a number of fronts through past gatherings of organizations serving the area.
The chairwoman of the Northland Alliance said last week that one of those fronts is the creation of a neighborhood center. Such a facility would provide information and acclimation to people new to Columbus, whether it's from elsewhere in the state, other parts of the U.S. or countries far away, as well as offer a physical location where nonprofit agencies can expand or have a presence in the community.
"We're still defining what that would be," Bourgault said of the proposed center. "We're trying to come up with a business plan."
To that end, Bourgault was set to meet last week with officials from the Economic and Community Development Institute, a nonprofit organization that provides loans, training and grants to help budding entrepreneurs. Its mission, according to the institute's website, is to "invest in people to create measurable and enduring social and economic change."
Although it's early days in the hoped-for neighborhood center, Bourgault said she has permitted herself to speculate about worthwhile locations and even how large such a facility ought to be.
"We really would like to be someplace along Morse Road, but finding what's out there is another question," she said. "It has to be something within our reach, and maybe we could get the city to contribute to it as well."
The Columbus Foundation has grants that will become available in the spring that help nonprofit organizations share resources, something Bourgault said she feels is exactly what the neighborhood center would do. The grant money could help with the legal aspects of such a collaboration.
"I think people are a little shy sometimes to commit, but there are some people who are interested," Bourgault said. "We're talking and I'm reaching out to people I think would be good partners. I can't tell you whether people will step up or not."
Other topics on tap for the gathering, set from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Feb. 20 at the Haimerl Center, 1421 Morse Road, should include a report on progress in developing a disaster plan for the Northland area being led by officials with HandsOn Central Ohio, an update on the survey that was conducted among residents of the Beaumont neighborhood south and east of Northland Village, and information on improvements to the conditions at the Summit Park Apartments, the scene of a fire last summer that left dozens of families -- mostly immigrants and refugees -- homeless.
In recent months, a group of concerned residents, including members of the local clergy, has been meeting to bring pressure on the owners of the apartment complex, off Le Marie Court south of Morse Road.
Bourgault said last week she feels the owners are making strides in fixing up the buildings.
"It would be a model for the community," she said.