CLEVELAND — For many local organizations and charities that rely on fundraisers and private donations to stay afloat, the pandemic has threatened their mission. For Boys Hope Girls Hope of Northeast Ohio, the pandemic has also jeopardized the livelihood of the hundreds of kids that they help.
The organization offers mentorship, scholarships, tutoring, and for some kids in Northeast Ohio, like 19-year-old Carl Felder, the organization even offers housing.
“I didn’t want to be around the stuff that was happening in our home,” said Felder. “That's when I made the decision that I would go in the program.”
Tim Grady is Boys Hope Girls Hope’s president. He said the organization is unique because it takes kids from the time they’re in middle school and stays with them as they grow post-high school.
“We serve 190 kids from Cleveland and Akron, but we do it in a way that spans 10 years for each young person we serve. So, kids start with us around sixth grade and 10 years later, they begin their career. For many, that means going to college, but for others, it's a post-high school professional program and we stick with the kids all the way through that,” said Grady. “We have three homes all next door to each other in Garfield Heights,” Grady added.
Felder is now a sophomore at Notre Dame College. He said if it wasn’t for his time at Boys Hope Girls Hope, he’s not sure he would be where he is today.
“I was able to get into rugby my freshman year of high school and play for five years now. I go to college for a rugby scholarship,” said Felder.
Grady said through other organizations like schools, churches or sports teams, people will tell BHGH about kids when they’re around 11-years-old.
“They'll identify, you know, a young person and then say, wow, there's great academic promise here and because of poverty, it is at risk of being lost,” he said.
From there, kids are enrolled in the program for 10 years. BHGH leaders will address the specific needs of the child, whether that be scholarship help, mentorship, tutoring, or housing.
For 17-year-old Alma Rodriguez, who has been in BHGH for 7 years, the organization helped pave a clear path for college.
“They're constantly helping me with whatever I need, tutoring me, guiding me. It just makes me feel secure,” she said. “I want to go on to law, hopefully. I'm thinking about becoming an immigration lawyer. That is something that I'm really passionate about, having two immigrant parents come to this country.”
But Grady said Boys Hope Girls Hope is privately funded, and COVID flipped that funding upside down.
“Folks have been laid off. They've lost their jobs. Folks are pausing before they make an investment in a charity or a nonprofit,” he said.
The organization needs about $1.5 million every year to operate.
About 30% of its funding comes from special events, events that could not go on in a pandemic.
In May, the organization, typically, has a big, Kentucky Derby-themed fundraiser.
“Last year we had 500 people show up, huge screens, a big party. We raised a lot of money,” said Grady.
This year, that event will be Saturday, Sept. 5, and it will all be virtual. You can purchase a party basket, buy raffles, and make bets, all online.
“It’s not going to be the same and it may not raise as much money, but we've found a way to keep it,” he said.
Grady is hopeful that it will be just as successful and is inspired by the generosity so many people in Northeast Ohio have shown, despite a pandemic.
“Everybody's coming to the table and saying, we know this community is in it together. It's awesome.”
If you’d like to participate in Saturday’s Down and Derby fundraiser- text downderby20 to 243-725.
To learn more about BHGH by checking out the website www.bhghneo.org [bhghneo.org]