From Dayton Daily News -- Lebanon Schools use Technology to Fight Suburban Poverty
Lebanon schools use technology to fight suburban poverty
District teams with Neighborhood Bridges, a growing nonprofit.
BY LAWRENCE BUDD
LEBANON — The Lebanon City Schools are the latest to use technology
created by a Columbus-area non-profit to fight suburban poverty.
The Lebanon Bridges program is the 25th Gateway to Kindness set up
through Neighborhood Bridges, a non-profit organization formed three years
ago in Westerville, a Columbus suburb.
In its first week, the website and the sharing of the needs of needy children
Terry Funke and Lynn Payne are resource coordinators for the Lebanon City Schools
working on the school district’s Gateway to Kindness project.
LAWRENCE BUDD / STAFF
and families in Lebanon on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, have raised 10
coats, $61 to pay for a volunteer’s fingerprinting, pots and pans and two twin
mattresses for needy people in the community. Other programs are set up in
the Columbus area, Alabama and the Sycamore school district, north of
“I created Neighborhood Bridges as a way to address runaway poverty in
suburban America,” said Rick Bannister, a former school board member in
Westerville and founder and CEO of the nonprofit.
The program expanded into Alabama in 2019 after Bannister’s brother, David,
suggested it to leaders of Hoover, Alabama, where he lives. There are now 14
Alabama communities with a Gateway to Kindness.
“We basically want to address the health and wellness of the students, fill
basic needs they might have,” Bannister said. “It’s meant to serve the
individual needs of each community.”
While poverty may be most often associated with urban areas, Bannister
pointed to the fact that about one-third of the students in Westerville, a
middle-to-upper-middle-class Columbus suburb, qualified for the free lunches
as an example of growing suburban poverty problems.
“This is not meant to replicate existing services, this is meant to bridge all
resources together,” he said.
Tracy Funke, the district resource coordinator who started the movement to
bring the program to Lebanon, said about one-quarter of the Lebanon
district’s 5,500 students qualify for the free-lunch program.
“It’s really a community initiative. It’s easiest to roll it out through the
Upon coming to work for the Lebanon school district three years ago, Funke,
a licensed social worker, presented six sessions on “Hidden Lebanon” with a
children’s services worker, police detective and representative from “mobile
crisis,” in which a social worker rides along with police on calls involving
drugs or other problems.
Funke, a licensed social worker and former mobile crisis worker, said filling
the needs of the district’s needy students and families “was a little
overwhelming” on her own.
Funke said she took the Neighborhood Bridges program, she first learned of
through a district consultant, to district administrators in late 2019.
“Within 5 days we were meeting with Rick Bannister,” she said.
After seeking input at a community meeting, a steering committee was
formed. Lebanon Bridges was launched on Feb. 7.
“What a great response we’ve gotten,” Funke said.
“The key to this getting the word out.”
The Lebanon YMCA and schools in the district are local donation centers.
The children and families served remain anonymous.
The non-profit is supported by corporate sponsorship and grants, Bannister
said. “One hundred percent of what’s donated in a community stays in that
community,” he said.
Contact this reporter at 937- 225-2261 or email Larry.