Northwest Dayton’s ‘Hope Zone’ wins $28M grant for kids, anti-poverty efforts

Omega Community Development Corporation on Thursday announced it will receive more than $28 million in federal funds for an initiative that its leaders say will help thousands of kids in northwest Dayton.

Omega CDC was one of just a half dozen organizations across the nation that won a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhoods program.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

The funding is expected to help improve educational and social outcomes for children and families in about 17 neighborhoods in northwest Dayton.

“This grant will drive the transformative and systemic change this neighborhood so deserves,” said Rachel Ward, director of operations and strategic initiatives for Omega CDC. “Over the course of this grant period, we’ll build a sustainable model for uplifting families out of multi-generational poverty with evidence-based strategies, resources and opportunities.”

Also on Thursday, East End Community Services on Xenia Avenue revealed that it had raised more than $5 million in capital funds for its campus enhancement project. The project, which recently was approved for a $1 million federal allocation, should benefit thousands of people and children that the nonprofit serves each year, many of whom reside in impoverished areas of East Dayton.

Omega CDC will receive nearly $28.8 million in federal funding from the Promise Neighborhoods program over the next five years (2023 to 2027).

Promise Neighborhoods grants help pay for coordinated support services and programs for students from low-income backgrounds.

The funding is meant to provide assistance at every stage of education, from childhood to careers, the U.S Department of Education said.

Omega CDC’s funding will help pay for new and enhanced “cradle-to-career” services, such as student success planning and more family-focused supports, said Vanessa Ward, president of Omega CDC, which is an offshoot of Omega Baptist Church.

“I think it’s the full wrap-around services and family sustainability we can implement through programming,” she said.

For instance, the funding will help pay to hire support staff, including about 55 “navigators” who will help children with success planning, Ward said.

The success planning model is based on the idea that every child has unique abilities and needs, and navigators can build relationships to help determine which resources to connect them with to best address the challenges they face.

Navigators work closely with families to help children with social and emotional supports, not just academic ones, Ward said.

She said this approach has helped reduce absenteeism and other issues.

Omega CDC also expects to enter into contracts with groups like Preschool Promise, Ward said, and some funding may go toward helping increase the pay of early learning instructors.

Funding also could pay for services like home visits, mentoring and even prenatal care.

Ward said going after this funding felt like “a shot in the dark” since the Department of Education only awards a handful of these grants every year.

But Omega CDC received commitments from about 33 partners, and these groups vowed to provide about $90 million in matching investments and support.

“I’m sure it made all the difference,” she said.

Ward said it also helped that some of the groundwork had already been laid by Preschool Promise and other organizations that are part of the cradle-to-career network.

Four of the grants in the latest funding round will go to new organizations, while two were extensions that benefit groups that previously won awards.

It’s possible Omega CDC could receive grant extensions when this funding runs out.

The new initiative will focus on a “Hope Zone” of northwest Dayton. The zone’s geographic boundaries include Gettysburg Avenue to the west, Siebenthaler Avenue to the north, Riverside Drive to the east, and Riverview Avenue and James H. McGee Boulevard to the south.

About 6,700 kids in northwest Dayton are expected to be impacted by this initiative over the next five years, Ward said.

Omega has spent years trying to transform northwest Dayton.

The new Hope Center for Families, located at 1816 Harvard Boulevard, has served about 16,000 people. The center opened in the fall 2021, and officials say it will be an anchor for the Hope Zone initiative.

Omega Senior Lofts, offering 81 units of affordable housing, opened in 2020.

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