In our pre-COVID days when UCT conventions were still being held in person, we selected a specific cause or charity in the city where the convention was being held and asked our members to donate to its programs. Obviously, we have had to suspend this practice for the past several years, but we will resume it this year by asking for support for Dodge Community Center as members head to Columbus, Ohio, for our 135th convention.
Dodge is located in historic Franklinton, which is separated from downtown Columbus by the Scioto River. A longtime industrial, working-class neighborhood, the area is experiencing a renaissance of sorts as one of Columbus’ new cultural and art centers. That said, there are still plenty of struggling residents who rely on Dodge’s programs, particularly for their children.
According to Nikki Van Dine, Dodge’s Center Manager, most of the kids that take part in the center’s programs come from single parent homes where facing economic challenges is part of the everyday routine. “Our programs are intended to be as affordable and inclusive as possible,” Nikki said during a recent chat. “We know the struggles most of our families are dealing with, and we want to help by offering opportunities that financially don’t add to those struggles. That’s why we strive to offer many of our activities free of charge.”
Dodge itself often feels the pinch. While the multi-generational center – one of 28 in the city – receives a small budget each year from Columbus Recreation and Parks that basically covers its part-time staff and holiday parties, it’s thanks to partnerships with local businesses, grocers, churches, and civic organizations, that it is able to provide the majority of its programs.
Dodge holds Halloween and Christmas parties and a Thanksgiving meal and Easter egg hunt each year – all for free for the families that turn out for them. During the summer months, the center offers themed, week-long camps for kids ages 6-12 that includes such activities as arts, crafts, sports, games, science experiments, and nature exploration. Thanks to the generosity of donors, free field trips to places like the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and COSI (Center of Science and Industry) are possible.
The center also provides a Summer of Fun and Adventure Day Camp inclusively designed for youth with and without disabilities and teaches young participants the importance of eating healthy, homegrown food through its annual educational garden. Dodge’s after school programs that offer arts, crafts, games, and sports have also grown popular during the fall-spring months.
In case you’re wondering, Dodge isn’t just about kids. The multi-generational center also offers programs and classes for individuals aged 50+ that are primarily free of charge. Available activities include senior sports and fitness, as well as some relaxation programs, along with classes focusing on sewing, ceramics, painting, writing, gardening, and more. The center hosts weekly card games, movie nights, and monthly trips to local restaurants and museums that are popular too.
Nikki points out that Dodge is there for its community members. “We have nearly 100-200 kids that take part in each of our programs and nearly as many family members and seniors who participate in the center. We feel like that’s a lot of people we reach in a positive way. We’re so excited for UCT’s support. Whatever you can do to help will make a big difference and will be felt in a big way.”
Our goal is to raise at least $3,000 for Dodge’s many programs. Please send your donation to UCT, c/o Anita Neal, 1801 Watermark Drive, Suite 100, Columbus, OH 43215 to arrive by no later than June 10, 2022. Checks should be payable to UCT. Please include a note indicating the donation is for Dodge Community Center. You may also bring your check to the convention where we will be taking donations during registration. Those checks should be made out to Dodge Community Center. Please help us reach and maybe even surpass our goa