The folks at Toledo Area Ministries expected 2011 to be a banner year, as the ecumenical church group marks its 125th anniversary.
But the nonprofit organization has even more reason to celebrate: It is moving into its own home for the first time ever, and it has been awarded an $800,000 federal grant.
The ministries will move next week into its nearly 17,000-square-foot facility at 3043 Monroe St., across from Swayne Field and around the corner from Bancroft Street, marking the first time the ministries owns its headquarters since its founding in 1886. A ribbon-cutting is set for 11:30 a.m. Oct. 17, followed by an open house.
In addition, the ministries just learned that it has been awarded a $799,999 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Human Services. The grant, part of $120 million in funding awarded nationwide, will be used for a comprehensive local program aimed at strengthening marriages and families and to subsidize employment.
"This award will really benefit a beleaguered community," said the Rev. Steve Anthony, the ministries' executive director. "According to census figures, Toledo is in the Top 10 list of poorest cities in the country. And that's not a good Top 10 list to be on."
In announcing the grant, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), said that statistics show the severity of poverty in Toledo. "One in four Toledoans live in poverty, and it's even worse for women, children, and African-Americans," she said in a statement.
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Avis Files, program director of Toledo Area Ministries' new "Keeping It Together" project, said the grant will enable the group to teach classes on marriage education, responsible parenting, and financial stability with the goal of strengthening families and communities.
The new program builds on the experience Mrs. Files and her husband, Mike, gained through coordinating a Keeping It Together program that was funded by a four-year grant by the Ohio Office of Family Assistance. More than 500 couples participated in that program, which was primarily aimed at African-American couples.
Pastor Anthony said a big part of the federal grant will go toward getting people to work. In partnership with NETWORK/The Source, the grant will cover the cost of job training for recipients and subsidize their hourly wages.
"The No. 1 issue is job readiness," he said. "We have plenty of people who are willing to work, but they aren't ready. We're telling them, 'We'll help you get your foot in the door, but you've got to produce.' "
Mrs. Files and Pastor Anthony, speaking amid ongoing renovations, said the federal grant stems from former President George W. Bush's efforts to partner with faith-based organizations in meeting the needs of local communities.
Miss Kaptur echoed the need for collaboration between government and religious groups. "We're all in this together," she said, "and faith-based initiatives such as Toledo Area Ministries are vital to helping stitch together the social fabric of our community."
The Keeping It Together project will partner with established programs and organizations that provide services to people in need, including two of the ministries' own outreaches, Suitably Attired, which provides clothing for job candidates, and its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which refers people to area food programs and provides nutrition assistance.
In addition to collaborating with NETWORK/The Source, Suitably Attired, and SNAP, the Keeping It Together project will work with Mercy Health Systems, Lucas County Children's Services, Lucas County Department of Job and Family Services, Lucas County Child Support Enforcement Agency, Family House, United Way 211, Bethany House, the YWCA, and Dynamis Counseling and Consulting.
Toledo Area Ministries, which runs 10 diverse programs primarily aimed at helping Toledo's neediest residents, had hoped to move from its Floyd Street headquarters in the Old West End by August. The move now is happening when the agency is getting its federal grant program running and preparing for its annual gala Nov. 4.
Pastor Anthony said he searched for a new location 3 1/2 years before visiting the Monroe Street site, a former advertising firm headquarters, which the ministries purchased for $195,000.
Pastor Anthony is ensuring the new building is handicapped accessible, and said an important criterion for a new location was that it be "in the flow of the city."
"You can't get much more 'in the flow' than Monroe Street," he said.
Pastor Anthony said another goal was that the new offices would "bring lift to the neighborhood."
Toledo Area Ministries, which was founded in 1886 and partners with more than 125 area churches, now can consolidate many of its programs under one roof, cutting its annual budget for rent and utilities by about 40 percent, he said.
Nearly 30 of its 37 employees will work at the Monroe Street building, cutting the number of copy machines and other equipment and as well as boosting "the human factor" of running a ministry, he said.
Contact David Yonke at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6154.