NewsLocal News


Refresh Collective adapting to COVID-19, ready to help students find their passion

Posted at 4:52 PM, Dec 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-27 18:14:50-05

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio — Rising COVID case numbers across the nation and in Cuyahoga County are making local businesses and non-profits question if the re-opening some saw in 2021 will continue into the new year.

At Refresh Collective, the lyrics we heard back in 2018 when its Fresh Lab location in Detroit Shoreway first opened are a little harder to find in 2021.

“We wanted to figure out ways to grow but it was just so challenging,” said Refresh Collective Founder Dee Jay Doc Harrill.

Dee Jay Doc works with students in 2018 at the Fresh Lab in Detroit Shoreway.

Refresh Collective has four main parts:

The wide variety of activities and programming gives students all over Greater Cleveland a chance to find what interests them and connect with mentors who can help them hone the skills they need.

A passion for music drew Juan Evans to the group about a year ago.

“I love the process [of making music,]” said Evans. “The process of all types of music.”

Juan talks to News 5 Cleveland over Facetime about his experience with Refresh Collective.

“The thing that makes our programming so strong, outside of the hip hop, outside of the artistic expression, it’s simply the consistency,” said Harrill.

Harrill says, before the pandemic, he wanted the Fresh Lab to be a place where students could find mentors and a safe place to express themselves, build new skills, and escape the outside world if they needed to.

That consistency has been harder to find during COVID. The pandemic forced the highly-collaborative music-making process Harrill shows his students to happen online through text messages, video curriculum, and zoom meetings. The COVID-safe workaround forces students to the very devices Harrill was hoping to avoid.

“We’re all spending too much time on the screen in the first place,” said Harrill. Building relationships through the screen, it’s even all the more important to be real and in-person.”

Clothing sold in the Fresh Lab's storefront are meant to support the non-profit's work.

The Fresh Lab’s storefront was intended to sell merchandise designed by the students, making money to financially support the music-making, performances, and programming. It finally opened for a few weeks in the fall and built up a client base before shutting for the holidays. Harrill says he’s deciding each week whether events and programs will happen the next week based on pandemic developments.

“Just when you think you have that snowball rolling, there’s no snow all of a sudden,” said Harrill.

He says he hoped to hire someone to specifically handle the storefront, but that’s on hold for now while he figures out what the next week, or year, might bring.

Dee Jay Doc says his non-profit's programming is determined week by week depending on COVID developments.

For now, the music is the constant presence that’s carrying Evans through.

“Hold that faith, that pride that amazement at how the world isn’t all ugly and there’s really beauty inside,” said Evans.

Download the News 5 Cleveland app now for more stories from us, plus alerts on major news, the latest weather forecast, traffic information and much more. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.

You can also catch News 5 Cleveland on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, YouTube TV, DIRECTV NOW, Hulu Live and more. We're also on Amazon Alexa devices. Learn more about our streaming options here.