On behalf of all of us at the Human Service Chamber, please accept our deepest gratitude for all you have done for our community and for our organization over the past year–and over the past nine. 2020 marks our tenth anniversary, which we will commemorate in various ways in the months ahead. But for now, I wanted to share ten reflections on the year concluding a few short hours from now, reflections which hopefully reflect the passion we have for our members, and the vision we hope to bring to reality for our community in the years ahead.
1) Repelling the Government Shutdown: When 2019 began, the United States was locked into a protracted squabble that brought us the longest federal government shutdown in American history. While certain consequences were widely reported–furloughed federal employees, for example, captured most headlines–the Chamber’s membership took the lead on educating our community about the crippling consequences the shutdown was having on the social and human services sector. From a disrupted delivery of food stamps, to delays in the distribution of critical federal dollars, HSC compiled a 10-page report from our member agencies with qualitative and quantitative data, illustrating the cascading negative ramifications of the shutdown the longer it went. This report, delivered to our Congressional delegation, prompted HSC to convene public officials from across local, state, and federal government along with 50 of our member leaders for a candid roundtable conversation that made the front page of The Columbus Dispatch. Mercifully, the shutdown ended hours later, though normalcy wouldn’t return to the sector until spring thanks to the delays and logjams the shutdown had created.
2) A Conversation with a U.S. Senator: The afternoon before our nation celebrated Independence Day, over 50 of our member leaders met with U.S. Senator Rob Portman for a 90-minute conversation about workforce issues, immigration policy, and more. “You guys are killing it,” the Senator told our members regarding the breadth and depth of their work, and we couldn’t have agreed more. HSC publicly thanked the Senator for his bipartisan support of issues critical to our membership, including recently enacted criminal justice reforms notable to our hosts that day at Alvis, as well as his championing of SNAP despite partisan pressure to diminish the reach of the program.
3) Blueprint to Address Poverty: HSC was one of 15 organizations selected to serve on the Franklin County Commissioners’ Leadership Council for a new entity, the Innovation Center, to implement the Blueprint to Address Poverty in Franklin County. HSC proudly serves alongside our members at the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, and alongside cross-sector peers that includes the United Way of Central Ohio, the Crane Group, Columbus State Community College, the Ohio State University, and Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
4) Standing up for Immigrants and Refugees: When news broke that the White House was considering a cessation of refugee resettlement in the United States, a bipartisan effort long embraced nationally and locally, HSC stepped up with and for our members to protect the program. Attending and promoting press conferences hosted by our members at both US Together and Community Refugee & Immigration Services, HSC also drafted and distributed a sign-on letter that drew the support of Mayor Andrew Ginther, Franklin County Commissioners Kevin Boyce, Marilyn Brown, and John O’Grady, a majority of Columbus City Council, the United Way of Central Ohio, and over a dozen of our member agencies. Furthermore, HSC renewed its call for the White House to end its policy of detaining and separating children from their families along the Southern border, after initiating a cross-sector condemnation of the practice with the support of The Columbus Foundation and the United Way of Central Ohio in 2018.
5) Public Comment Advocacy and Mobilization: HSC submitted a flurry of public comments to a range of federal government agencies in 2019, and concurrently mobilized our membership and our Chamber Chatter readership to do the same. In a year when traditional lobbying at the federal level was largely moot due to legislative inertia in Congress, there was no shortage of troublesome regulations and executive orders HSC was proud to oppose: From a trio of attacks on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, to a range of attacks on immigration and refugee policy, to an arbitrary redefinition of the federal poverty line, HSC was proud to be apart of local, statewide, and national efforts to stand up with and for the human and and social services sector in favor of good, bipartisan policy and regulation. That said, HSC was proud to work with the offices of both of our state’s U.S. Senators in support of bipartisan legislation that they have put forth, legislation that would support the nonprofit workforce, support affordable housing for foster-age youth, and more.
6) Championing Increases in Human Services Funding: In February, Columbus City Council announced its latest round of grants to human services agencies, including nearly two dozen HSC members. Unfortunately, many agencies that sought funds were not awarded grants, including many agencies that were long-time recipients of the City’s generosity. Accordingly, HSC continues to advocate for a significant increase in the City’s longtime distribution of $5 million in human services grants commensurate with the changes in our community since that figure was set in the 1990s. The opportunity to increase financial support to our sector extends well beyond local government, of course: It’s on all of us to provide resources to the impactful work our agencies are doing. Accordingly, we have carried this advocacy across all levels of government, as well as to philanthropic and corporate organizations that financially support our sector. Indeed, three prominent grant opportunities for human services agencies received $60 million in requests in 2019, and our community’s resources are not yet in place to meet that need which will only grow in the decade to come.
7) Supporting HSC Events: We do our best to attend as many member events as we can, and occasionally, we have had the opportunity to help emcee programming! From a presentation about public policy to our members at Action for Children and a discussion about the challenges and opportunities within our sector to Catholic Social Services, to emceeing the annual events for Columbus Early Learning Centers and Rela Leadership, HSC was honored to celebrate and support our members in these ways.
8) Elevating and Connecting Our Members: From providing media relations to a range of our members, to creating opportunities for public relations and communications training with our friends at Geben Communication, to distributing job opportunities, and to helping our agencies identify real estate opportunities, it has been our absolute honor to “help the helpers” in our sector however we have been able to do so. This often includes helping our agencies work with one another, or to connect them with partners in higher education, business, government, and philanthropy so we can create better results for our sector in the Columbus Region. We are also building a national network of local human services agencies, having met with our peer institutions in Austin and Cincinnati, and consulted with budding efforts in Louisville, Greenville, SC, and Fort Wayne, IN.
9) A New Look and Strategy for HSC: Under the leadership and guidance of our Board of Directors chaired by Netcare CEO King Stumpp, HSC completed a new strategic plan with our friends at Panoramic Strategic Solutions, and conducted a redesign of our logo and relaunched our website with our friends at The Wonder Jam. Our renewed focus and upgraded infrastructure has already begun to help us elevate the critical work of our members, and the work we love to do on their behalf.
10) Elevating One Voice: In our attempt to elevate one voice on behalf of our sector, HSC has been privileged to be featured in local media stories in Columbus CEO, The Columbus Dispatch, and City Pulse Columbus. We have also been honored by recognition for our work by being named one of 5 Nonprofits to Watch in 2019 by The Columbus Foundation, and by being listed amongst Columbus Business First‘s Power 100 and Columbus CEO‘s Future 50. Perhaps more than anything else, however, we were astonished in December to be named the Community Partner of the Year by our members at YWCA Columbus. It is our fervent belief that each of these elements of recognition are in response to each of our members‘ work and leadership, and a testament to the power of our sector in shaping our community to be better for everyone that calls the Columbus Region home.
It has been an exceedingly important year for the human service sector, and the stakes only elevate in the year to come. But before we focus on what we have planned for 2020, we want to close with our immense gratitude to certain people who have worked hard to lead our work: From our Board of Directors, to our Public Policy Committee, to the four HSC Fellows that spanned 2019, and to our countless friends across sectors in our community, we are indebted to so many of you that are committed to making the Columbus Region a place that unleashes human potential for every single person that calls it home.
However, we are particularly grateful to King Stumpp, whose steady hand and abundant wisdom has steered the Human Service Chamber these last two years as Chair of our Board of Directors. King has devoted dozens of hours and written hundreds of emails and offered countless morsels–and witticisms–that have driven our work and our growth to a record 80 members as we enter the next decade. A tireless champion, a devoted ally, and a beloved CEO, we are enormously appreciative of King’s willingness to lend his expertise to amplifying and elevating the work of our little agency, and every single agency that we serve.
I am just as excited about our incoming Board Chair, Rachel Lustig of Catholic Social Services, as we pledge to work as hard as ever with and for our members to advance our community for all, whether we are combating the injustice of racial inequities or the injustice of food insecurity or the injustice of inaccessible housing, healthcare, education, child care, refugee services, legal services, or more.
Thank you for your support and your leadership, and to an impactful 2020: We can make our community better, and we will do so together.