The creators of Franklinton Rising want to help residents of Columbus’ Franklinton neighborhood construct a better future through a Christian ministry that offers training in the building trades and much more. The organization focuses on teaching construction skills and rehabbing houses, with the ultimate goal of renting and selling them to graduates.
“Our vision is to help residents of Franklinton break cycles of generational poverty through gaining life and job skills, employment, faith and great housing,” said Tom Heffner, president of the organization, which was founded by local business leaders.
Q: What have Franklinton Rising’s biggest challenge been, and how have you resolved them?
A: One of our biggest challenges is common to almost all nonprofits who are beginning operations: obtaining funding to support the planned operations. Part of this issue is being resolved through working to be better known in Columbus and simultaneously doing some of what we planned. ... In our case, that means actually training young adults — we currently have nine active trainees — and rehabbing houses.
A second challenge is that of finding skilled tradespeople who are either semi-retired or retired and willing to give a little of their time to work in the houses and be role models, mentors and teachers for our trainees. These are individuals who are teaching both life and work skills as they work alongside our trainees. We have gained some wonderful contractors as partners, especially for mechanical work in the houses. However, in order for trainees to learn rapidly, they need a great deal of personal attention.
Q: How does Franklinton’s status as a hot new community for commercial and residential development impact the organization and its work?
A: This relatively new status for Franklinton is creating interest and gaining attention from people all over the central Ohio region, some of whom might otherwise not even know that Franklinton exists. On one hand, this increases the number of people and organizations who have interest in supporting our ministry/work, and on the other hand, is leading some homeowners to believe that their property is now worth much more than it was a couple of years ago. Consequently, it is harder and more expensive to purchase even blighted, vacant houses.
Q: Why is it important that the program address life skills as well as work skills?
A: Business leaders have learned that the character or life skills of a potential employee is as important, generally more important, than the technical competency of the potential employees. In the trades, companies would prefer to hire someone who comes to work consistently on time, tries their best, is willing to learn, is helpful and respectful to others, admits errors, and above all, is trustworthy. Such a person can learn technical knowledge and skill on the job.
Employers are finding that it is harder and harder to find potential employees who have both the character and the technical skills. They know that it is easier to train the technical skills. If we can produce trainees who have the life skills, the employers know that these individuals will turn out to be great employees, and they, the contractors, will certainly help them through teaching technical skill.
Q: What other nonprofits in Franklinton have a role in the launching of Franklinton Rising, and how did you come together?
A: Youth for Christ and Franklinton Preparatory Academy are two established nonprofits in Franklinton who helped Franklinton Rising launch and continue to help. Youth for Christ is located on Chicago Avenue and provides after-school programing for grade-school through high-school-aged children, and Franklinton Preparatory Academy is a public charter high school that leases space from Youth for Christ.
Individuals associated with supporting these two nonprofits realized that children participating in either or both of these nonprofits would “age out” after high school, and many do not have great options for careers, especially since they have little to no family money available, generally do not have a driver’s license, and there is little job training in the immediate area. Both help to recruit individuals for
Franklinton Rising training, and Franklinton Preparatory Academy provides space for Franklinton Rising to conduct evening classes.