The Easton Community Foundation’s philanthropic efforts help fund nonprofit organizations, schools, the development of future community leaders, the arts and much more, in the greater Columbus area.
We’re thrilled to partner with local organizations who are not only our neighbors, friends and community members, but who also help serve the people who visit, shop and dine here at Easton. This May and June, we’re excited to sponsor Directions for Youth & Families through our Change for Charity program!
Directions for Youth & Families is a local organization that impacts over 8,000 youths and their families each year through mental, emotional and behavioral health services. From counseling to educational programs and after school and summer activities, Directions for Youth & Families continues to inspire hope, strengthen families and transform communities in and around Columbus.
We sat down with Mary Margaritis, the Directions for Youth & Families development director, to learn more about the amazing work they’re doing in our local community. Here’s what she had to say:
What do you love about being a part of Directions for Youth & Families and what do you want people to know about the organization?
I love being part of an organization that is committed to mental and behavioral counseling and prevention services for many kids in our community, who otherwise might not have the ability to get the services they need, and we provide.
What is the mission of Directions for Youth & Families?
Our mission is to build and inspire hope, healing and resilience for youth, families and communities through counseling and education. We believe we have the chance to make an impact on both individual lives and families through the services and programs we provide, and hope our efforts will encourage successful, healthy and productive futures.
What type of work does Directions for Youth & Families do on a day-to-day basis?
Our 70 counselors work in the community visiting clients in homes, schools and other community settings. We know working directly in our neighborhoods gives everyone in the community the ability to receive counseling. We eliminate barriers to transportation, child care or other factors that could get in the way of getting the help they need. The level of involvement we have in our communities allows us to connect with both a child and their siblings, parents and other family members in the family unit. We offer 15 clinical and prevention programs that specialize in issues such as sexual/physical abuse, family conflict, violence, mental health issues and grief/loss.
Our youth centers provide a safe, positive environment. Our youth are provided with homework help and computer labs, as well as music and dance lessons, art classes, athletics and other courses instructed by professionals in their fields. Our dance teacher was actually on a season of So You Think You Can Dance, allowing our kids to have a special opportunity to work with, and learn from, incredible instructors.
What sort of activities or events does your charity organize?
We recently held our largest annual fundraiser, the State of the Child Luncheon, which allows our sponsors and community members to meet some of the amazing kids and families who are impacted by Directions for Youth & Families.
At the event, we showcase the talent of youth from a few of our after-school programs and share powerful stories of the Central Ohio families whose lives have been changed by our work. We love to encourage extra attendance and/or sponsorship for this event so people can visually understand our work and get a sense of what we do firsthand.
For the youth and families in our programs, we have a summer camp that starts in mid-June with camp activities and enrichment courses that provide reading and math lessons, so students don’t regress during the summer. Our students also go on weekly field trips where they visit museums and science centers, spend time outdoors and stop at fun places like King’s Island where they can learn in unique environments.
We also have a tremendous amount of community pride and encourage our youth to give back through events like fundraisers for hurricane relief, donations to the Flint Water Crisis and more. So, while our students are getting the help they need and have a safe place to go to after school and during the summer, they are also learning the power of giving back to others.
What have been some of Directions for Youth & Families’ biggest accomplishments in the past five years?
The recognition for the organization is tremendous, and we are also well-recognized in the communities for which we work. In 2017, we were honored to be named the 2017 Champion of Children by United Way of Central Ohio. We also received the 2017 Richard V. Carrick Community Leadership Award and the 2017 Diversity in Business Award by Columbus Business First. Finally, for the past five years, we have been recognized as one of NPT’s Best Nonprofits to Work for.
We have also made major strides in increasing our value to the community through additional LGBTQ+, substance abuse and suicide/depression programming and opportunities. We continue to listen to the voices of our community and hope to provide additional support in any areas that need it. We are one of the few organizations who perform under the trauma-informed care model, and we know the earlier we can help counsel someone dealing with a traumatic experience, the more likely we’ll be able to make a difference in their life.
What does it mean to be a part of the Change for Charity program?
I love Easton, and I believe it is the pinnacle of Columbus. I think what they do to be a part of the community, create an environment of inclusion and provide unique events to the Columbus area makes them a special part of our community, and we are honored to be involved with them in such a positive way.
How does your organization plan to use the funds it raises from the Change for Charity program?
The funds from Change for Charity will help us continue to run our current services, support the work we do in youth centers and aid our upcoming summer camp. We’re hoping this partnership will allow us to do more with kids in all areas, as all of the proceeds from Change for Charity will go directly back to them.
Other than participate in Change for Charity, how can people support Directions for Youth & Families?
To get involved, you can check out the variety of programs we have to offer on our website and help us spread the word about the work we are doing in the community! 95 percent of our services are free, and the variety of what we do is enormous. We also encourage you to participate in our Friends Helping Families event that allows us to give back to our families during the holidays. You can learn more about donating to Directions for Youth & Families here.
If you’d like to get involved with Directions for Youth & Families, visit their website or give them a call at (614) 294-2661! You can also learn more about donating to Directions for Youth & Families here.