New van helps bring Unity to Delaware's Second Ward and beyond

Paul Comstock
ThisWeek
The Second Ward Community Center, 54 Ross St., has a new van purchased with Community Development Block Grant Funds approved by Delaware County. Welcoming the vehicle to SWCC were (from left) SWCC director Karriejoi Coit, SWCC board president Ruchelle Pride, SWCC board vice president Tajudeen Bakare, SWCC board member Harry Hart, Delaware County commissioners Jeff Benton and Gary Merrell, SWCC STEAM Club president Debora Mbatudde and SWCC STEAM Club secretary Kellen Jackson.

Delaware's Second Ward Community Center since 2010 has provided community programs that now will put to use a new Chevrolet van obtained with help from Delaware County. 

The nonprofit organization is housed on city-owned property at 54 Ross St., and its free programs are open to the public, said Karriejoi Coit, the center's director.

One of the center's goals is to aid the city's underserved population, but participants in the programs are not screened by income, and anyone could benefit from them, she said.

"This van is going to allow us to do so many things," Coit said, including activities that have been affected by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. "Some of our older students help us serve our seniors because we have intergenerational programming.

“One thing we've noticed with COVID is there are a lot of seniors who don't want to even come out to the food pantry," she said. "So what we do is we stock up the food and now we have a van to actually take it to those seniors who can't get out."

The center was providing food to 50 people in the summer, Coit said. It has provided up to 100 children with snack bags on Mondays, but not all children can make it to the center.

"There were kids who didn't get the snack bags. There were kids who weren't getting the things because we didn't have the means to get it to them, and they didn't have the means to come here and pick it up,” Coit said. “So the van is a tremendous help."

 The center was conceived to serve city residents, but its scope has expanded as it has welcomed those who live elsewhere in the county, she said.

"We have families coming from Sunbury. We have families from Ashley (and) the Powell-Olentangy area coming to the center to get food," she said. 

Delaware County economic-development director Bob Lamb said the 12-passenger van was purchased with about $38,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds, federal money issued to local governments by the Ohio Department of Development. 

He said the county typically receives about $200,000 in block-grant funds every two years and may use the funds for expenditures varying from infrastructure to helping underserved populations.

 The community center is "a great organization helping people around the county. We're very excited and hope they continue to do great things in the community," Lamb said. 

The center provides a variety of programs, including an annual health fair, a Christmas party and workshops for senior citizens, Coit said.

It has held a "Prim & Proper" program that helps girls of all ages to develop self-worth, self-awareness and skills to enhance their professional, social and private lives.

The center also serves as host for a STEAM Club for students. The club is advised and led by SWCC board vice president Tajudeen Bakare, an engineer with CT Consultants.

Bakare works as a volunteer to lead the club, which has attracted as many as 45 students at its meetings. He also volunteers in another SWCC program, tutoring students in grades K-12 in schoolwork.  

Coit said the Second Baptist Church, also on Ross Street, has provided its van to SWCC in the past and will continue to do so.

She said the center had been trying to obtain its own van for years so it could help youngsters who don't have transportation to the center's programs.

SWCC is changing its name to Unity Center, Coit said, to reflect that it serves more than the city's Second Ward and to underscore the theme of unity.

"We're trying to unify Delaware. There's so many different devices that help us separate ourselves. How do we bring ourselves together?" she said.

One project in the works is a yard-sign fundraiser, with the signs promoting unity. Coit said the project was conceived in part by the center's students, who voice frustration over the divisiveness that’s so common in 2020.

Another event will be a Fall Fun Fest from 2 to 4 p.m. Oct. 24, Coit said, with vendors along Ross Street.

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