By Jan Lepore-Jentleson, Executive Director
WestCare Ohio’s creed that we have adopted from the ancient philosopher, Lao Tzu, says it all: “Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say, ‘We have done this ourselves.’”
When WestCare Ohio, originally known as East End Community Services, or just East End, began working in the Twin Towers Neighborhood of Dayton, we asked the community how we could help. The answer came back loud and clear: “Our children have no dreams. Help them be successful.” That led us on a 24-year journey to explore, understand, and try to mitigate the limiting effects on human potential that arise from poverty: poor quality urban education, low wages, steep barriers to healthcare and nutritious food, the impact of the stressors of poverty on the developing brain, and the compounding impacts of crime, addiction, behavioral health, inadequate housing, and the lack of social cohesion in a neighborhood. We learned that most poverty seen in Dayton is generational and that the odds of, “Lifting oneself out of poverty” are slim without a lot of help, personal motivation, and luck.
We pledged ourselves years ago to create the conditions whereby people could access those opportunities that they need to be successful, to improve academic outcomes for children and youth, and to mitigate conditions and beliefs that hold kids and families back.
To this day, WestCare Ohio/East End Community Services’ mission remains true: “To listen to and work with the people of Inner East Dayton to build a prosperous, caring, and healthy community that nurtures disadvantaged children and families toward success and to break the cycle of generational poverty.”