Shelter. It’s a small word that means so much: protection, haven, sanctuary. It’s more than a roof over our heads. It’s home sweet home. A place where many of us take refuge, create memories and find comfort. But in Columbus, Ohio, nearly 2,000 people are homeless. And, that number continues to rise.
Founded in 1986 on a vision that no one in their community should be homeless, the Community Shelter Board (CSB) gives those in crisis a second chance to rebuild their lives and lift themselves up and out of homelessness. Their founders believed it was not acceptable for any person to be homeless in the Columbus and Franklin County community, even for one night.
Employees at RED Capital Group couldn’t agree more. On May 11, the company’s Columbus Volunteer Task Force – officially known as RED Capital Community Engagement – kicked off by hosting its first event at CSB. Twelve employees spent their evening at the Van Buren Center where they set tables, served dinner – hot chili, corn and cornbread prepared by another non-profit, Freedom a la Cart – to single women and families.
“For our kick-off, we were looking for something we were familiar with. We’ve had other folks on our team volunteer with CSB, and we funded CSB as part of the grant cycle last year. A lot of us already had contact with them and we know what they do,” said Matt McClure, Vice President at RED Capital Group. “It’s also smart for us to have a housing focus, because that’s what we do in the end – renovating buildings and refinancing apartments. We create housing for people, so CSB fits with our mission very well.”
CSB creates collaborations, develops innovative solutions and invests in quality programs in Columbus and Franklin County, overseeing a budget of $31 million to support homeless programs and services at 19 different provider organizations across the community. Last year, these programs ended homelessness for more than 12,000 people. Addressing the full scope of homelessness, CSB’s provider network includes partners delivering a range of services from homelessness prevention and case management to street outreach and affordable, supportive housing.
“The volunteer experience was a great way for people from different parts of RED to come together and to work together – people I don’t get to interact with much. It’s nice to see people outside of the office; just being more personal. You get a better sense of people,” Matt says. “There’s real enjoyment in people feeling good about the work they did and learning and seeing the good work that CSB is doing. We learned a lot about what’s being done for homeless people. We didn’t realize so much was being done, or understand the way they’re approaching homelessness in the community.”
While Matt’s volunteer experience over the years has revolved around homeless shelters – his first foray with CSB was with his previous employer – a real estate developer that built permanent, supportive housing for the homeless – he’s looking forward to discovering other experiences through RED Capital Community Engagement.
“We’re all engaged in bringing new ideas and sharing opportunities with organizations we’re involved with, such as doing things with Dress for Success, putting together backpacks for kids in the fall and getting involved with horseback riding for kids with developmental disabilities,” he adds.
Matt hopes to pass his spirit of volunteerism on by involving his two children and looking for opportunities for them to give back to others. He believes the earlier he can expose them, the better.
This kickoff event at the CSB is the start of many more to come: the group will continue to work with Valen Chavez, Program Manager for ORIX Foundation, to plan future events and engage employees through collaborative volunteer efforts. If you’re ever in the Columbus area and want to support this cause, CSB has a number of volunteer opportunities and programs where donated dollars help people pull themselves up and out of homelessness.