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.