Brightside Project gets new home in Salem
SALEM — A non-profit brightening the lives of area children recently moved into a new location, bringing the familiar teal and orange of the Brightside Project to 483 E. Pershing St.
Now the agency is asking for the continued support of the community, to help keep spreading that sunshine to empower children with food, books and other needs.
“The success of the #Give the Sunshine campaign will determine how 2022 looks for us,” Brightside Project Co-Director Lisa Wallace said.
The campaign for operational money kicked off July 1. Donors can give in monthly increments, yearly or a one-time gift by visiting the new and improved website at brightsideprojectohio.org. On the South Lundy Avenue side of the building, there’s a sun with rays that need filled in. Every 10 percent donated will fill in a sunshine ray. All donations are tax deductible.
“Our goal is $50,000 for the year,” she said.
Wallace and her dad, Executive Director Scott Lewis, started the Brightside Project with their vehicles, some volunteers and some food, going to neighborhoods in Columbiana County where children might have a need, passing out bags of necessities directly to the kids.
At the time, their dream was a traveling bus to go from town to town. Then they found their first home base on South Broadway in Salem, which they quickly outgrew. They now also have a van for traveling giveaways.
Lewis said they were working through the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center to search for a larger space and were asked, why not look at the paint store? Superior Paint & Wallpaper owner Bill Allison had recently retired and closed the store which featured Benjamin Moore paints.
After Wallace, Lewis and members of the Brightside Project board checked it out, they signed the lease May 5.
“We took a big step of faith. We needed the space,” Lewis said.
Many times during events, families would have to line up outside on the sidewalk at the previous location in less than ideal weather. Now they’ll have ample parking in the nearby municipal lot, enter from the door off of South Lundy and exit out the door at East Pershing for a nice flow through the facility.
Families will see the new headquarters, dubbed the Resiliency Center, when they attend the distribution on July 15. They have double the space and lots of shelving left in place by Allison that works well for them, with cubby holes for backpacks and also counters.
“God really knew what he was doing. Everything about this location is perfect for us right now,” Wallace said.
There’s also a large area in the back for warehouse storage and offices upstairs. The move almost tripled their rent, which Lewis said was scary, which is part of the reason for the #Give the Sunshine campaign. The Brightside Project relies solely on donations and grant funding to operate, with some help coming from the Pearce Foundation and Salem Community Foundation.
They also receive donations through Amazon Smiles and Kid Cents through Rite Aid. Their dinner fundraiser, the Masquerade Ball, is set for Oct. 16 at Boneshakers, a new neighbor nearby.
With the bigger space, plans also call for expanding programming to include an educational component for a kids resiliency initiative, teaching them stretching exercises and calming techniques for dealing with stress and anxiety and talking to them about mindfulness. A $250,000 grant is being sought from the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
“We just want to do more than a food pantry for them,” Lewis said.
With the programs already in place and the expansion plans, Wallace said they’ll serve the comprehensive overall well-being of the children who come there for help. They’re also seeking grant funding for a safety initiative and for a storybook trail. The Youngstown State University Center for Human Development helps with grant writing.
Eventually, the goal would be to buy the building from the current owner, Keith Berger of Cranky Pressman.
Besides hosting the food distributions twice per month, Brightside Project is the Columbiana County home to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Other programs include Bright Easter, Bright Christmas, Coats for Kids, Backpack for Kids, and crisis relief, distributing 1,500 bags of food to children throughout the county during the pandemic.
Signups are this month for the clothes and shoe voucher program for Salem City School district students from preschool through eighth grade. Voucher redemption is in August.
Since starting, the Brightside Project has helped over 10,000 children in the county through its various programs.
Both Wallace and Lewis credited the community and partnerships with organizations and businesses with enabling them to do what they do. In two hours, with help from many people, the Brightside Project made the move to the new building on a recent Sunday. Even a few of the families they serve showed up to help, kids included. The National Honor Societies from both Salem and Columbiana high schools and members of Hanoverton Christian Church helped.
Lewis extended a special thank-you to Acme Steak & Seafood of Youngstown for their truck on moving day, Soltis-Julian Electric for all the electrical work on the new space, and Justin Rance and John Safranko of Carpenters Local 171 Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpentry for putting up the new sunshine wall in the new location.
“We’re excited about our new home,” Lewis said, adding “we’re here and we’re not going anywhere.”