Eager volunteers of various ages sorted through books, craft supplies and miscellaneous items for closets in a small room. The task may not seem important to an outsider, but it’s one that has to be completed before the campers arrive.
The Nehemiah Center, in its fifth year, is looking for more volunteers as the center continues to grow in popularity with students in kindergarten through eighth grade and its upcoming summer camp.
Each year, volunteers from Sandusky help paint, clean, organize, tutor, and more during the school year. In the summer, traveling youth groups from around the country help the center with maintenance work, pulling weeds, applying mulch and tending to the garden.
With summer vacation in full swing, more volunteers are needed to run the annual Kids Camp from July 8-31.
Camp activities this summer include archery taught by Sandusky police detective Gary Wichman, sailing trips with Jeff Witter of Showcase Home and Marine, golf taught by a PGA professional and other activities.
The center also plans to take the children on a field trip, and will need several volunteers for the excursion.
Tondra Frisby, one of the founders of the center, helps operate Club 180, an after-school program, with the help of numerous volunteers, including the high school students she proudly calls her "Comeback Kids."
She and her husband, Clifton, have other jobs, but would like to devote their time to the center in the future. Frisby’s husband serves as the fundraising strategist, researching fundraising plans and developing relationships with area organizations. He's in the process of organizing an fundraising event to benefit the center.
Club 180 was one of the center's first endeavors and strives to be a safe, enjoyable environment for local children. One room is designated as a homework room, so students can work on assignments quietly and get a little help if needed.
The center also contains rooms for relaxation, performing arts, a library, a computer lab and more.
“We do more than supply food and activities for the kids,” Frisby said. “We’re giving them enrichment and a future.”
Built in 1884, the former Campbell Elementary School was one of three buildings purchased by Richard Koonce in 2010 for $5 because no one else wanted to buy them, Frisby said. On September 5, 2010, the Nehemiah Center officially opened in an upstairs room.
Additionally, Cinderella’s Closet, housed in one of the rooms on the third floor, stores homecoming and prom dresses of various styles and colors. The dresses, which range from new to gently used, may be taken from the store and returned, but returns aren't required.
Frisby is proud of the numerous success stories developed since the center’s beginning. Quimjeria Berchett , now one of her "Comeback Kids," was constantly involved in fights and being suspended from school when she started coming to the center a few years ago. Over time, Frisby and Berchett developed a close-knit relationship. Now 15, Berchett goes with Frisby to her church in Toledo and helps out in the nursery there.
“She had the opportunity to find out how to go right,” Frisby said. “Now, she’s a totally different girl.”
And that’s how Frisby wants it to be—kids shouldn’t be discouraged from talking about their lives with her.
“We allow them to be open without condemnation,” she said.
Generous supporters of the center have come to the center’s rescue in recent times. In January 2011, the building’s boiler broke down and cost $30,000 to replace, since the old system couldn’t be repaired. Through shared Facebook messages asking for help and generous donors, and a lot of prayer, the center raised $35,000 in 72 hours.
In all, Frisby gives credit to God for directing the mission to open up a place that serves the community and for the volunteers that eagerly serve the center.
“I’m grateful to be used (by God),” Frisby said. “We’re here to plant seeds. I’m in the passenger seat every day.”
Want to help?
What: Nehemiah Community Learning and Youth Outreach Center
Where: 1215 Campbell Street, Sandusky
More: Call 419-609-9181 or firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up or for more information on how to help. Monetary donations can be mailed to:
Nehemiah Partners of Sandusky
1215 Campbell Street
P.O. Box 1180
Sandusky, Ohio 44870