On July 9, I traveled all over Columbus, OH with representatives of Direct Energy and ThisWeek Community News to recognize two honorable mentions in the Columbus Small Business Community Heroes program and the winner of this year’s award. I never thought I’d learn so much in a jam-packed trip, and it was certainly enlightening.
The first stop was to recognize Jim Butz, of SPGB Architects, for his pro bono work and coordination of revitalizing a leadership center for Lower Lights Ministries (LLM) in Columbus’ impoverished Franklinton neighborhood. Jim said all it took to help them out was a literal walk from the nearby church and LLM offices across a little parking lot to the run-down center.
The center will be a hub of personal growth opportunities for vulnerable families, as well as women returning to the community from prison. Programs include financial literacy, employment coaching, youth mentoring, and peer support groups. The location is critical as it faces a popular corner for the underage prostitution that is prevalent in the area, as well as human trafficking. One of many hopes for the center is that its well-lit and decorated status will appeal to at-risk youth seeking a safe place to hang out.
The next stop was in a polar opposite location – Westerville, a suburban neighborhood – at the Women’s Small Business Accelerator. The Accelerator was established by Mary McCarthy, owner of Your Management Team, Inc., and provides mentoring services and office space for entrepreneurial women launching and seeking funding for their startups. Mary told us about one beauty line product start up that attributes a part of the proceeds for each product purchased to a woman in need. The office space keeps expanding, and they’re looking forward to building out in the near future.
Last, but certainly not least, we honored the winners of this year’s Columbus Small Business Community Heroes award program – Anand and Doris Saha of Mozart’s café in the Clintonville neighborhood. In 2013, they completed a renovation of a historically significant building and moved from a much smaller building to this one, which immediately served as a convenient gathering place. The space was breathtaking with the refurbishing of the original floors, a new artfully decorated tin ceiling, and much more.
A few of us grabbed lunch before the award ceremony. Anand pointed to an older gentlemen at another table and told us that he had his second date in the café’s location about 60 years prior when it was something else. He said he knows most of his customers personally and has many repeat customers who come because of the constant live music and to relish their memories of being in the space many years ago.
The Sahas support music and arts in numerous ways, including hosting a concert series to raise money and community awareness for the Columbus Symphony and regularly hosting student music recitals. They have worked with the Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center (CRC) since 1998 and have raised about $300,000 for the nonprofit. Mr. Saha founded the nonprofit Experience Clintonville, an organization that promotes Clintonville as a great place to live, work, play, and worship. In addition, Mr. Saha established the nonprofit Million Lego for Kids, which collects new and used LEGOs® and redistributes them to local schools and youth organizations to help underprivileged kids in the community learn basic math and engineering concepts.
Direct Energy Business presented the Sahas with a $500 cash prize, an award, and a donation of $1,000 each to the CRC and Million Lego For Kids nonprofits. The honorable mentions each received a $250 cash prize from Direct Energy.
This article was written by Andrea Romo, External Relations Specialist for Direct Energy.