“When you walk with purpose, you collide with destiny.” – phone message to callers,
Bertice Berry, Ph.D.
“When you walk with purpose, you collide with destiny.” – phone message to callers, Bertice Berry, Ph.D.
Every January, the month for looking back to the past as well as forward to the future, we celebrate the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who dreamed big dreams and inspired others with his message of hope and his vision of a better world. In this, 2020, I’d like to share with you a vision many years in the making.
In November of 1995, a small group of people with a wonderful vision created LoveLight, Inc., based in Kent, Ohio, to help people, especially those considered economically or otherwise disadvantaged, to move toward reaching their potential and to promote positive, healthful lifestyles.
The name of the grassroots organization was inspired by a woman named Barbara O, whom I met at a life-altering conference in Columbus, Ohio, “Healing Through the Roots of Culture”. Her message of “Love is the Light, forward is the motion” is the basis of the name, LoveLight, which reflects a belief that unconditional love has the power to heal and to call forth the best in people. Years earlier, a similar notion was suggested by Martin Luther King, Jr. when he stated, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that” (1963).
At its first official meeting in April of 1996, the LoveLight Board, meeting around a kitchen table, decided to apply to the Ohio Department of Education for the Summer Food Service Program for Children. Thankfully, non-profit status was granted in June through an expedited process, faith, and a very helpful IRS staffer. Since that first summer, more than 63,989 nutritious summer lunches have been prepared at local churches, most recently St. Patrick Church, and served to children in local, lower-income neighborhoods. Activities are also provided in conjunction with the meals. During the past summer, 2,189 hot and cold lunches (1,815 first meals and 374 second meals) were served; these lunches not only help fill the gap when school lunches are not available, but they also promote healthful lifestyles, and build a sense of community among the children as well as LoveLight staff and volunteers.
In 2019 for the first time, during the nine weeks of LoveLight’s summer program, the organization also was able to distribute 5,820 shelf-stable weekend meals to children in lower-income families living in eight neighborhoods in Kent and Ravenna.
Since LoveLight’s first summer, operating “on a shoe string”, and with the help of many dedicated individuals, groups, and entities, the organization has carried out a number of other initiatives, including direct educational services for youth. For example, LoveLight’s Traveling Playground involved university students (mostly future teachers) who planned and carried out educational and enrichment activities with youngsters in low-income neighborhoods; at the 2003 UNESCO Conference on International Education in Finland I gave a presentation on this project. Among other activities provided were StudyBuddies, which consisted of pairs of college students assisting pairs of school children with their academics; LoveLight Learning Center and neighborhood tutoring; and a licensed afterschool program for children ages 5 through 14.
LoveLight educational projects carried out under the umbrella of The STAR Institute, an acronym for Service, Teaching, Advocacy, and Research, have also included a Professional Learning Communities (PLC) Academy held at Kent State University. Over three school years, the academy provided professional development to help teams of P-12 educators (270 individuals) create PLCs in their schools to increase student learning and teacher retention as well as improving school climate. LoveLight also conducted BRMT workshops and brought Swedish psychiatrist Dr. Harald Blomberg to Kent State University to discuss his work with Blomberg Rhythmic Movement Training. BRMT exercises, which have been incorporated into LoveLight’s Tutoring PLUS program, mimic natural baby movement patterns and have been found to improve attention, cognitive, emotional and motor functioning, vision, reading, speech, and handwriting.
Besides LoveLight’s summer programs, current projects include Building Community, Building Futures which provides activities for youth in local low-income neighborhoods and Tutoring PLUS, one-on-one sessions with youth and adults, focusing on addressing underlying causes of difficulties with academics and general functioning.
In this, LoveLight’s 25th year, the organization has reached a critical point in its history and is facing “the fierce urgency of now” (MLK, “I Have a Dream” speech, 1963). In order to continue and expand its services, Lovelight needs to acquire a permanent home as well as additional year ‘round staff. A major element of the nonprofit’s vision for the future is the creation of STARCHILD, an innovative, model intergenerational child development and lifelong learning center. Seeking a suitable property, LoveLight is exploring the possibility of purchasing the former Kent State golf course clubhouse and some of the land around it at the intersection of Route 59 and Powdermill Road in Franklin Township. In accordance with the organization’s principles- Respect and care for self, others, and the world around you- LoveLight intends to maintain the character of the neighborhood where STARCHILD is located.
Besides promoting community-building, STARCHILD will provide a strong foundation for the children’s well-being and future success, build knowledge and skills, feed and nourish the children not only “for a day”, but also “for a lifetime”, and provide opportunities for creative self-expression, confidence-building, and positive mindsets among the children.
This property will provide opportunities to engage in learning about and developing a lifelong appreciation for the natural environment, and offering many opportunities for the children to enjoy the fresh air and outdoor play so important for healthy development. LoveLight also anticipates having a garden for the children to grow vegetables and fruits as well as a small, peaceful, aesthetically pleasing garden where the children can gather for quiet activities, including learning relaxation techniques to address today’s reality that many children suffer from stress and anxiety, and to provide skills for thriving now and in the future.
The STARCHILD (Service, Teaching, Advocacy, and Research Center for Human Integration, Learning, and Development) initiative will also address the seemingly increasing segregation by age group and income level through community-building. Senior citizens (“Golden Treasures”) and other volunteers, children, parents, staff, and university students, who will gain valuable experience to complement their studies, will mutually benefit from interaction with each other. On a personal note, the implementation of this vision represents the integration and culmination of my life’s work.
In the evenings and on the weekends, the building will enable LoveLight to provide other programs, services, and events for the community as well as experiential learning for college students. A wealth of possibilities exist, including a teen entrepreneurs’ club, senior citizen activities, health fair, workshops, Tutoring PLUS, and use of the building by other service groups and non-profits.
In summary, this project is intended to:
LoveLight is inviting all those who care about children, are interested in community-building, want to make a positive difference in the world, and would like to be part of a transformational project to join in this effort by sending a financial contribution to make this vision a reality. Donations may be made electronically on the LoveLight website, www.lovelightcares.org, with a check to LoveLight, Inc. at P.O. Box 123 Kent, Ohio 44240, or through a deposit to a LoveLight account at the following: Huntington Bank (LoveLight savings account), Key Bank, Portage Community Bank (LoveLight savings accounts); Hometown Bank (LoveLight Invest in Our Children account), or PNC Bank (LoveLight checking account).
In his famous letter from the Birmingham Jail in 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. noted that “…We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” By making a donation, large or small and by encouraging friends and families to do the same, in an ever-widening circle of humanity, this network of mutuality can create a valuable asset not only for the direct beneficiaries of the LoveLight vision, but also for the Kent area communities and beyond.
In the spirit of agape we invite you to Show Love, Share Love, and Spread Love