Neighborhood Bridges Gahanna began its kindness enterprise in the community last week.

Rick Bannister, founder and CEO of Neighborhood Bridges, said the launch is an expansion to include both the Westerville and Gahanna communities.

The purpose of the nonprofit Neighborhood Bridges, based in Westerville, is to bridge needs in the community to residents, families, businesses and service organizations willing to provide help.

Its mission is to provide a gateway for kindness.

"We are so pleased to be able to expand our Footprint for Kindness to the Gahanna community," Bannister said. "It's a special place where kindness is most definitely in the air.

"With the addition of Gahanna, Neighborhood Bridges will be providing its Gateway for Kindness to more than 150,000 central Ohio residents. This is truly inspiring."

Since it launched in Westerville in January, Neighborhood Bridges has tallied 3,737 acts of kindness and 99.8 percent of posted needs have been filled.

Ron Smith, a longtime Gahanna resident and community leader, will serve as the area director for Neighborhood Bridges Gahanna.

Also called Gahanna Bridges, the new group will make use of technology and social media to engage the community in identifying specific needs in the community -- and will invite community members to help fill those needs.

Gahanna Bridges will work in partnership with Gahanna Residents in Need to help identify and refer needy residents and families to GRIN, as well as bridge solutions through other Gahanna service providers, according to Bannister.

Gahanna Bridges will seek the engagement of teachers, counselors, school administrators, clergy, first-responders and mental health agencies to advocate for those in need.

Bannister said Mifflin Township Fire Chief Fred Kauser has offered use of the fire stations as drop-off points for donations to Gahanna Bridges.

"I think this idea is pretty cool and one that I hope to replicate here in Westerville," Bannister said.

Residents are encouraged to subscribe to Gahanna Bridges at gahannabridges.org and follow on social media channels such as: Facebook, facebook.com/GahannaBridges; Twitter, @GahannaNB; and Instagram, instagram.com/ GahannaBridges.

"I believe that this is a very crucial time for the community to rise up and be strong in its relationships with the city, area organizations and with the local schools," Smith said.

"Neighborhood Bridges is a state-of-the-art platform that takes advantage of technology and the power of social media to allow us to advocate for one another to increase acts of kindness in our community."

As a leader, Smith said, he believes in a team approach, so everyone can have a role, use their talents and contribute to the success of Gahanna.

"It is a team effort, and I am willing to help lead that charge," he said.

Smith serves on the boards of the Gahanna Chamber of Commerce, the Gahanna Convention and Visitors Bureau and GRIN.

Smith's company, SOH Productions, was named Gahanna Small Business of the Year in 2010 and Smith was named Business Person of the Year in 2015.

Other key stakeholders participating in the Gahanna Bridges steering committee represent a who's who of local leaders, including:

* The Rev. TJ Wolfe, Gahanna Ministerial Association, serving as co-director of Gahanna Bridges.

* Tom Kneeland, Gahanna mayor.

* Steve Barrett, Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools superintendent.

* Tom Gregory, teacher at Gahanna Lincoln High School.

* January Howe, US Bank.

* Greta Duraj, Gahanna Chamber of Commerce.

* Amy Evans, Olde Gahanna Community Partnership.

* Fred Kauser, Mifflin Township fire chief.

* Scott Foresta, EmbroidMe.

* Laurie Jadwin, Gahanna Ohio Convention and Visitors Bureau.

* Marshall Zimmerman, Gahanna Residents in Need.

Neighborhood Bridges, a 501(c)(3) charity, is extending its structure and technology through the Westerville-based business Status Solutions.

In the Westerville program's first eight months, Bannister said, the most recent "kindness scorecard" shows that more than 1,000 children, residents and families have been assisted.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla