John Edgar, Executive Director, Community Development for All People
The Rev. John Edgar didn't expect to become the affordable housing mastermind of the South Side of Columbus. In the mid 2000s, the Methodist minister left an upper-management job overseeing 70 churches in Franklin, Pickaway and Fayette counties to return to his first love of urban ministry. He moved to Merion Village to oversee a new congregation, the Church for All People, built around the United Methodist Free Store on Parsons Avenue, and formed Community Development for All People, a nonprofit that has dramatically improved the quality of life in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods. “It's just God being gracious and the Spirit envisioning more than we did at the time,” he says.
At the heart of his work is housing. The Free Store, the founding pillar of Edgar's organization, offers a nonjudgmental place for anyone to pick up clothes, toys and other goods with no strings attached. The welcoming environment—based upon the theological concept of “radical hospitality”—gave Edgar and others a window into the struggling neighborhood's needs. And it didn't take long for him to realize that poor housing was the root of so many of the South Side's struggles, including health-related ones.
Health and housing go hand in hand. If you don't have a safe and stable place to live, it's hard to concentrate on treating your hypertension, depression or drug or alcohol addiction, for instance. Research also shows that reliable housing means that children are less likely to use the emergency room, be exposed to violence or miss school. What's more, a lack of stable housing is one of the most significant contributors to “toxic stress,” chronic adversity that can overwhelm a child and lead to behavioral and cognitive problems, as well as physiological ones, such as asthma and infections.
Edgar's group, Community Development for All People, began to rehab houses on the South Side, at first unsuccessfully. “He started with one house, and as he will tell you, it went poorly,” says Dr. Kelly Kelleher, vice president for community health at Nationwide Children's Hospital. “It was shut down by the city because he didn't know about permitting and approvals and all of those things.” But Edgar stuck with the effort and began to see some results, fixing several homes just east of Nationwide Children's Hospital and selling them at affordable prices to improve home ownership in the neighborhood.
Leaders at Nationwide Children's Hospital took notice. “The housing in our area was vacant, blighted, boarded-up, and he was bringing housing units back online,” says Angela Mingo, director of community relations for NCH. “We were very curious about how he was doing that and wanted to learn more from him on how we could then become involved in that same arena of affordable housing.” After realizing their missions were aligned, the two organizations became strong partners, with Edgar and his team serving as boots on the ground in the neighborhood. Since 2005, Community Development for All People has completed $60 million in affordable housing construction in the South Side and partnered with NCH on the repair or construction of 300 homes. “We certainly could not have made that level of investment on the South Side without a strong [community development] partner in Rev. Edgar,” Mingo says.
Housing remains a major focus of Community Development for All People. It collaborated with NCH on an ambitious project called The Residences at Career Gateway, a $12 million, 58-unit residential complex that also provides workforce training for South Side residents. The nonprofit also struck a deal last year with CareSource, the managed care group, to cover rent for 10 pregnant homeless women, a pilot program that is expanding to 50 women this year.
But Edgar's efforts extend beyond housing to include hosting quarterly birthday parties for children who reach the age of 1, providing free or affordable bikes and offering health education, cooking and exercise opportunities through an initiative called HEAL (Healthy Eating and Living). In late February, a former Parsons Avenue drive-through liquor store was expected to open as the new home for The Fresh Market, another Community Development for All People program that provides fresh produce.
Kelleher admires Edgar's devotion to his neighborhood. “His passion isn't about necessarily saving people,” Kelleher says. “It's actually about allowing his community to thrive, allowing their own strengths to come out and allowing them to have some say at participating in their own outcomes.”
Ohio State University Center for Public Health Practice
Andrew Wapner, Director
Since it was established in 2000, the Center for Public Health Practice has partnered with state and central Ohio public health officials to prepare practitioners for public health emergencies and educate and inform the population health workforce.
A signature initiative has been the Summer Program in Population Health, the state's largest academic public health education opportunity. The program offers courses in biostatistics, epidemiology, infant mortality, mental health and addiction and food security, among other topics. For more than a decade, the program has helped local officials meet national public health competencies.
The center has reached more than 4,000 population health practitioners through online and in-person training. Over the past five years alone, the center has worked with partners in more than 15 counties in Ohio, developing strategies and activities that have the potential to affect 2.4 million Ohio residents.
OhioHealth Wellness on Wheels Primary Care
Krisanna Deppen, Medical Director
OhioHealth developed Wellness on Wheels Primary Care to provide medical services to one of the city's most economically challenged neighborhoods.
In January 2017, the community partnership began serving the residents of the Hilltop. Supported by a $1 million grant from Huntington Bank, the 54-foot mobile medical unit—with oversight from medical director Krisanna Deppen—offers services from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesday and Thursdays. The unit, parked at the Hilltop YMCA, includes two patient care rooms, where physicians see patients for, among other things, management of chronic health conditions, annual physicals and wellness examinations, immunizations and diagnosis and treatment of various medical concerns.
In the first eight months of the program, the initiative handled 270 primary-care visits. Most patients have inadequately managed chronic illnesses. Caregivers have worked with patients to manage their conditions and overall health, while a community health worker assists patients with access to food, prescriptions and referrals to other community services.