The nearly 100-year-old organization celebrates with a viewing party at Seventh Son
Aug. 14 was a special day for St. Stephen's Community House. The nonprofit organization hosted a community conversation on STEM education featuring Congresswoman Joyce Beatty. There was also an open house, which included tours and introductions to programs.
And it was the exact date the center opened 99 years ago in 1919 — a fact that was recently uncovered during research for WOSU's upcoming “Columbus Neighborhoods” episode on Linden. It will air Thursday, Nov. 1, and St. Stephen's will host a special viewing party from 7-10 p.m. at Seventh Son Brewing.
“Having them really dive in with us and talk about our history … was actually quite eye-opening,” said Natalie Atkins, director of external communications.
St. Stephen's originated on the South Side as a settlement house for Eastern European immigrants. Realizing the growing need for services in Linden, the organization relocated in 1965.
“It's just nice there's an organization that chose that neighborhood,” said WOSU producer Mary Rathke. “They just have such a long history there, and people just love them and rely on them.”
Today, St. Stephen's provides a wealth of resources, including after-school programs, a STEM summer camp, childcare, senior services, a food pantry and the Project AquaStar community farm and education center.
“I think our schools definitely have some challenges to overcome,” said CEO Marilyn Mehaffie, who has worked for the center since 1986. “That's why we have our after-school programs here. A lot of the kids aren't where they need to be academically.”
Despite the other issues facing the community — infant mortality, poverty, crime, etc. — Mehaffie challenged those who label Linden a “bad neighborhood.”
“For the most part, there's some really good residents who want to see change and who are trying very hard to find sustainable wages and ensure that education for their kids improves,” she said. “They want to make sure that housing is safe and affordable as all this change comes.”
That “change” is being spearheaded by the city's One Linden community plan to improve safety and facilitate economic development. Mayor Andrew Ginther unveiled the plan at St. Stephen's on Oct. 23.
“I think we have the right players at the table to be a catalyst for change,” Mehaffie said, referencing the city, United Way of Central Ohio, Ohio State and more. “[In the past] there was a North Linden and a South Linden and they were very separate. I think everyone is coming together.”
And given her 30-year history in Linden, Mehaffie has had the benefit of seeing generations of families at St. Stephen's and in the neighborhood at large.
“There's a great sense of pride,” she said. “People are not leaving.”