Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resource Center
Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resource Center (CRC) offers varied services for seniors, youth, and families—from community gardens to ESOL classes. The CRC has been especially effective in gaining trust among the Middle Eastern refugee and immigrant community.
Hiring Culturally Appropriate Staff Creates Inroads in Immigrant Outreach
According to Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center Executive Director Bill Owens, in order to do effective community services, “Sometimes you just have to eat a little goat brain.” Owens has expanded his food repertoire in recent years as his nonprofit has increasingly engaged in relationships with newcomers to the locality who hail from the Middle East.
The nonprofit has been active in the Clintonville-Beechwold neighborhoods of Columbus since its earliest days as a Settlement House in the 1900s. Its mission statement refers back to that heritage, stating: “In the best tradition of Settlement Houses, we respond to the needs of our diverse community to foster safer, healthier, and empowered lives.”
The zip codes served by the CRC—43214 and 43202—have indeed become more diverse, given the significant upswing in the number of Middle Eastern immigrants and refugees. Many of these families began using the CRC’s food pantry. Two years ago the organization hired a new social worker, who was originally from Palestine and speaks Arabic, to strengthen services among this population. According to Owens, that “changed everything.” The CRC’s focus shifted from simply giving commodities to these immigrants to building strong relationships and trust among the newcomers.
Today, approximately 25 percent of food pantry visits at the CRC are made by Middle Eastern refugees/immigrants. Now there are Middle Eastern volunteers staffing the pantry and helping with the weekly ESOL classes by providing food and language support.
The ESOL class and the CRC staff have also put together “Sharing Ramadan” events over the past two years. These bring together Muslims and non-Muslims to learn about Ramadan and to better understand each other. At one such event, Bill was honored as director of the CRC by being given goat brains to try out during the feast.
CRC’s greatest challenge is to meet the very broad range of needs in its multi-ethnic community. It has been successful in doing so by continually striving to invest in relationships. By being careful to hire and recruit paid staff and volunteers that are able to nurture strong relationships with individuals from different cultural backgrounds, the CRC has become a trusted friend to immigrants in their new home.