Northland News

Nonprofit mall seen as 'empowering' for clients


Members of a committee working to establish a centralized location for nonprofit organizations in the Northland area met with a consultant late last month who helped create a similar operation in Wisconsin.

It's another step in an ambitious plan to develop a nonprofit mall, according to Joyce Bourgault, chairwoman of the Northland Alliance and executive director of the Helping Hands Health and Wellness Center free clinic, one of the potential tenants of the facility.

"This could be a $20-million campaign," she said.

The meeting with the consultant came a week after members of the proposed project's steering committee provided a progress report for those attending the Feb. 12 Northland Nonprofit Summit.

The concept of creating a "one-stop shop for community services" emerged from the ongoing series of gatherings for representatives of agencies and organizations that are based in or serve the Northland area.

Such a facility would "empower people to reach their highest potential as citizens of the community," Ethiopian Tewahedo Social Services Executive Director Seleshi A. Asfaw said at the summit meeting. He is a member of the steering committee working on the project.

ETSS, which was established in 2005, provides education, training and support services for immigrant and refugee families. It is another potential mall tenant.

"It's a growing group," Bourgault said Feb. 12 of partners in the project, "because as people hear about what we're doing, they want to be part of it. Some would move their whole operation into this space."

Bourgault said members of the steering committee are envisioning a building, new or existing, of between 80,000 and 100,000 square feet in a central location of the neighborhood.

"It would be for the whole community," she said.

The first task for the committee, Asfaw said, is to develop a business plan.

The Feb. 19 meeting with a representative of the New Day consulting firm that worked on the nonprofit center in Wisconsin was designed to help further development of such a document, which Bourgault said would have to be in place before funding could be sought from a variety of sources.

Steering committee members have not hired a consultant to help with that process, she added.

"I think we're feeling very good about the process," she said last week. "We know it takes a long time. We're getting the right support.

The hope is to have the nonprofit mall up and running by 2017, Bourgault said.

A report presented at the Nonprofit Summit said the typical client of a nonprofit or government social service agency in Northland also gets services at four other agencies.

A single location for a variety of nonprofit organizations would help reduce or eliminate duplication of services, one of the main purposes Bourgault had in convening the first Nonprofit Summit in May 2011.

"Designed like a retail mall, the Northland Nonprofit Mall will allow clients to visit three or four agencies in the time it would take to otherwise visit one," the report said. "Clients will be able to receive joint case management and will be able to receive assistance with housing, food, clothing, furniture, literacy education; job preparation, placement and support; entrepreneurial development; domestic health, medical, pharmacy and wellness care; and legal assistance, all within walking distance of the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services."

According to the report prepared by the steering committee, the list of potential tenants includes:

* Action Ohio

* Charitable Pharmacy

* Columbus All-Nations Seventh Day Adventist Church

* Economic and Community Development Institute

* Ethiopian Tewahedo Social Services

* Helping Hands Health and Wellness Center

* US Together

* World Relief Columbus