Transforming a School; Transforming a Neighborhood

How do you help support an organization which aims to transform lives through education, job training, and local job growth through entrepreneurship development? If it is the Reeb Avenue Center in the south side of Columbus, you meet up with a colleague for lunch in their South Side Roots Café and Market.

The Center was once the Reeb Elementary School (circa 1904). The school served the South Side neighborhood comprised of immigrants from central and Eastern Europe, Africa, and Appalachia, many of whom worked in the area’s steel and glass industries. After experiencing the post-war boom period in the 1950s-60s, the neighborhood began a slow and steady economic decline.

Over the past year, the Rereeb-avenue-centereb Elementary School has been transformed into the Reeb Avenue Center; a hub for new investments in social, cultural, human, and built capital. Today, the school houses offices for over a dozen different non-profit agencies such as Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbus, Godman Guild, and Mid-Ohio Foodbank. One of the building’s former classrooms serves as  a satellite location for the Franklin County Extension team as well. Together, these Reeb Center partners having been working to build a prosperous and sustainable south side community.

Part of the center also serves as a gathering place for community members to join others in a meal and purchase fresh produce. The South Side Roots Café (run by the Mid-Ohio Foodbank) is located on the ground level in the area that formerly housed the school kitchen and cafeteria. Combined with a variety of seating options, reading materials, and local art, it makes an ideal venue for building community with others as a patron or volunteer. In addition to daily lunches, a weekly meal is offered every Tuesday evening that accepts a variety of payment options (full price, full price and ‘pay it forward’, and volunteered time in place of payment). A Kids Café is also available for participants of the Girls & Boys Clubs programming.

To learn more about the Reeb Avenue Center or the South Side Roots Cafe, take a closer look at their webpages or plan your own visit when you are in the neighborhood at 208 Reeb Avenue, Columbus.

Greg Davis is the Assistant Director for OSU Extension, Community Development.

Going Green Tips for Great Lakes Marinas – and You!

Last month, the Ohio Clean Marinas Program hosted a webinar for Great Lakes marinas on the topic of native landscaping. Experts from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources – Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, Good Nature Organic Lawn Care, and the Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District were brought together to discuss native plant options, an introduction to organic lawn care, and best practices for non-toxic cleaning.

green-tips-2016-11-10While this content was targeted towards marina owners – especially our certified Clean Marinas in the Great Lakes who are actively taking steps to protect water quality – I was amazed at how much of it is applicable to homeowners, communities, and business owners alike. Did you know that 22% of Ohio’s plants are invasive (i.e., non-native), and that there is a Go Native website to help you find native alternatives? Or that your lawn will receive 30% of the nitrogen it needs by mulching instead of bagging your grass clippings? How about this one:  a mixture of vinegar, water, and a bit of dishwashing liquid makes a great non-toxic weed killer!

All of these practices are encouraged for environmental purposes, but they also have social and economic benefits. By planting native plants and rain gardens, you improve habitat for wildlife, aid in stormwater runoff, and often improve the aesthetic appeal of your lawn by adding flowering plants and shrubs where grass once was. Organic alternatives to traditional lawn care benefit wildlife and water quality while creating a safer yard for pets and children. Replacing toxic cleaning products with home-made alternatives is better for you and the environment without compromising on effectiveness or draining your pocketbook on expensive chemicals.

For more great tips and information and to see our Great Lakes Clean Marina Boat Cleaning Best Practices tip sheet for recipes on non-toxic cleaning products (useful on your boat and around your home!), I encourage you to watch the webinar recording!

Sarah Orlando is the Ohio Clean Marinas Program Manager, Ohio Sea Grant College Program.

Good neighbors make great neighborhoods!

How might you go about transforming a neighborhood plagued by gangs, drugs, high unemployment, substandard housing and low-performing schools into a neighborhood of choice, where families want to live, work, worship or attend school?

You apply the full breadth of land-grant university resources via collaborations involving Extension, community, church, civic, and corporate partners. This has been the approach since 2002 involving Weinland Park, a neighborhood within the University District in Columbus.

As part of the OSU Extension – Franklin County staff, our University District team uses an asset-based approach to community development (which focuses on the strengths and assets of the community instead of the deficiencies) in partnering with both residents in the City of Columbus and Franklin County to strengthen the lives of children, youth and families. Our programs range from workforce development; individual development accounts; entrepreneurship; homeownership; and post-secondary education; to tax preparation; infant mortality; prison and re-entry programs; and supportive services for tenants.


After having had several ‘temporary’ locations throughout the neighborhood since 2002, residents and other local stakeholders advocated on Extension’s behalf to have a permanent location in the neighborhood! On November 21, our team will be moving from OSU’s Schoenbaum Family Center to a new, recently constructed office space at Terrace Place (99 E. Ninth Street, Columbus, OH 43201), owned by Community Housing Network. In this location, we’ll be able to expand our outreach and better serve the community needs while still continuing to offer educational programs and maintain our partnership with OSU’s Schoenbaum Family Center and the families and area residents they serve.

When you are in the area, plan to come see us in our new location!

For more information, contact: Susan Colbert, Program Director, Franklin County Expansion and Engagement, at or by phone: 614-247-1983.