“If you want to see a kid do better, you have to help them do better,” explains Danella Hicks, Founder and Executive Director of All THAT – Teens Hopeful About Tomorrow.
Hicks would know that well, since her organization has done just that for 12 years by providing mentoring, academic support, life skills programming, and workforce development opportunities to hundreds of high school students in need of a little support and a lot of belief in their potential. And thanks to the nonprofit’s recent acquisition of a church facility that was falling into disrepair before All THAT moved in, Hicks’ vision for the organization – which began by serving just four teenagers – has taken another large leap forward while giving a deteriorating community asset a new lease on life.
In a Nutshell
What: Acquisition of a previously leased facility by All THAT, which provides holistic mentoring, academic support, and career planning to teenagers in Columbus, OH.
Sector: Youth Services
Location: Columbus, OH (East Side)
Size: 12,032 square feet
IFF Support: $367,000 loan to acquire and renovate the organization’s previously leased space
IFF Staff Leads: Omar Elhagmusa & Kelly Cook, Senior Lenders – Ohio
General Contractor: The Perez Company
Impact: 177 students from 28 local schools provided with 15,364 hours of in-person programming during the first half of 2021
The single-story facility, a 12,032-square-foot building located along a bus route on the east side of Columbus, includes multiple rooms for programming, a kitchen, and flexible space that can be modified to meet the organization’s needs moving forward.
All THAT was previously located in two other locations – a strip mall storefront that was too expensive and a different church building that didn’t provide enough autonomy. In 2014, the organization moved into its current space, starting out as a renter. Though the church congregation still owned the building, dwindling membership had resulted in a merger with another church that meant the building was no longer needed for worship, and it was being used only sparingly as a food pantry.
“You could tell that the building was 60 years old,” Hicks recalls. “We very gently started transforming it into our own space. After a few years as a tenant, the congregation got to know us and liked the work we were doing with teenagers in the area, and they eventually asked if we wanted to purchase the building. I was thankful, although I didn’t know at the time how we would pull together the money. I just knew that, given the opportunity, we would find a way to do it.”
Hicks explored financing options, finding that banks and credit unions weren’t willing to lend to All THAT to purchase the building. She also pursued grants to secure the necessary capital, but funders’ focus on programming instead of operations was a major barrier. Hicks eventually became aware of IFF and found the resources she needed.
Working with IFF Senior Lenders Omar Elhagmusa and Kelly Cook, Hicks learned about All THAT’s options for a flexible loan. After demonstrating that the organization’s business model was sustainable, even amidst the pandemic, All THAT received a $367,000 loan in November 2020 to purchase the facility at a discounted price of $250,000, replace the HVAC system and roof, and complete other minor renovations that are currently underway.
“We wanted to make sure that when we purchased it, we could take care of the foundational, functional projects that needed immediate attention,” Hicks says. “The basics are most important right now. We own the building and don’t have to worry about having a roof over our head a year from now.”
Now that All THAT knows it won’t be moving again anytime soon, Hicks is looking ahead to future renovations that will support the organization’s programs, starting with the addition of a laundry room and shower.
Our goal is to provide hope for our students. When they come to All THAT, they’re not hopeful that things will ever change. The more we’re able to expose them to the opportunities that are available, the more hope we can instill.
“What I’ve learned over the years is that some of our children have low self-esteem because they’re not able to keep themselves clean at home,” Hicks explains. “Most of them don’t have any way to get to a laundromat, and they don’t have the money for it anyway. And so something as simple as having the ability to have clean clothes or having access to a working shower is huge. Having the kitchen here is just as important. Instead of eating Ramen noodles, we’re able to teach them how to prepare nutritious food and have family-style meals.”
Although meeting immediate needs is vital to All THAT’s work, its approach to mentorship emphasizes more intensive interventions designed to help teenagers succeed in life. Empowering the teens with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in the workplace is a major focus, starting with mock interview practice. All THAT also exposes teens to multiple potential career paths, including STEM/robotics, hospitality and culinary arts, business and administrative support, and work in the skilled trades.
Its facility includes “The All THAT Market,” a mini market offering snacks that provides students with hands-on retail experience, as well as space that can be dedicated to each of the other career tracks offered. All THAT also turns to partners in the community to provide immersive, day-in-the-life experiences to teens to give them a better sense of the careers available to them. Once teens secure employment, All THAT ensures that they have the clothing needed to fit in and a way to get to and from their jobs.
“Our goal is to provide hope for our students,” Hicks says. “When they come to All THAT, they’re not hopeful that things will ever change. The more we’re able to expose them to the opportunities that are available, the more hope we can instill. Better choices lead to better decisions.”
“I refer to our kids as diamonds in the rough,” Hicks continues. “Diamonds don’t lose their value just because they have a little dirt on them. We polish them up, and they shine as well as any other kid in any other neighborhood. They just have not been mined or nurtured. That’s what our programming does.”