Northland News

Organizers await word on nonprofit mall grant


The ongoing effort to establish a central location for Northland residents who need the help of nonprofit organizations is making progress.

Northland Alliance Chairwoman Joyce Bourgault said last week she is awaiting word on a grant application with the Columbus Foundation that would help fund development of a business plan for a possible "nonprofit mall."

Whether the request will be granted should be known in about a month.

"We can't ever say for sure," Bourgault said.

The Columbus Foundation and United Way of Central Ohio have already committed $5,000 each toward the project, she announced in June.

The concept of a one-stop shop for people in need of various services grew out of a series of meetings Bourgault began convening in May 2011. The executive director of the Helping Hands Health and Wellness Center free clinic called together representatives of other nonprofits to explore ways of avoiding duplication of services while looking for needs in the community that were not being met.

Transportation to sign up for benefits at various agencies and organizations scattered throughout the city turned out to be a problem for some of the neighborhood's less fortunate, as well as those starting their lives over as immigrants and refugees, nonprofit organization representatives discovered.

The concept of a nonprofit mall developed from there.

Members of the group working on the project have been assisted this summer by personnel from NewDay Nonprofit Solutions, a consulting firm based in Eau Claire, Wis.

"They are fantastic," Bourgault said.

Four employees of the consulting company have been involved so far in the nonprofit mall project, including someone with experience as a city planner, "since there's so much that needs to happen on the government side of this," Bourgault said.

Another NewDay employee specializes in marketing efforts that would be followed by a capital campaign, she added.

"Each step, you need experts in that arena," Bourgault said. "It's intense and it's a lengthy process. We're learning more of what needs to be done and then we're lining it up and getting it done.

"We don't want it to drag out too long because people lose interest. We're hoping it will be a two-year process from this point. We'll see."