Like many things, change comes from within. This is especially true for our local communities, who are constantly fighting for systemic equity. The courageous spirit in the South Side of Columbus is alive and well, thanks to many of its amazing community members, non-profits and social enterprises. SocialVentures had the extraordinary opportunity of sitting down with Mike Premo, the inspiring executive director of the non-profit Community Development For All People – the work they lead lifts our city in many special ways. During our conversation, we talked about the remarkable impact being made on the South Side of Columbus, and their newest venture: South End Cafe.
Thaddeus Jones (TJ): Can you share some on your background and the organization you lead?
Micheal Premo (MP): Yes! I’m Mike Premo, the new executive director of Community Development For All People. I’ve been with CD4AP for about four and a half years, serving as director of engagement. We are a faith-based, neighborhood-based non-profit on the South Side of Columbus. Even though we are a faith-based ministry through the United Methodist Church, we have no restrictions on who can participate in our programs. We provide programming such as the Free Store, which has gently used clothing and household items for about 20,000 people a year. We also run the All Peoples Fresh Market, which provides fresh produce free of charge to about 35,00 people. Our newest endeavor is South End Cafe which launches this fall.
TJ: That’s really incredible! What is going to set South End Cafe apart from traditional cafes?
MP: South End Cafe is designed to be a place where everybody can come in and spend time. The South Side of Columbus is an incredibly diverse community racially, ethnically and income-wise, so we wanted to create a space where everyone is welcome. What also sets us apart is that we’re focused on providing employment opportunities for people who have had a challenge entering or re-entering the workforce. Even in this robust job market, there are still some barriers for people who have been incarcerated when looking for employment. South End Cafe will employ people who have been out of the workforce for a while and provide them with basic job skills and barista training. The employees will be supported through this entire process to leverage their new skills with even better jobs and careers. It’s a really unique opportunity to have a business in the community that provides good-paying jobs for folks, and leverages the experience and skills they gain to attract meaningful employment elsewhere.
TJ: That is a fantastic operation model! It will be exciting to witness how South End Cafe will impact our city. Can you share more on the process of deciding what the community needs and how to create a viable solution?
MP: Everything we do comes from our conversations and relationships with community members. We’re not a top-down organization where we say, “Here’s what the South Side should have.” Instead, we ask community members, “What are your hopes, dreams and aspirations for your lives and the community”? What we’ve heard over the years is, “We want folks to be healthier.” So we opened the fresh market so that you can get access to fresh produce. We hear that they want safe and affordable places to live, so we built $125 million in affordable housing. The latest thing we’ve been hearing is that people are looking for good-paying jobs where they’re going to be treated with dignity and respect, so we’re launching South End Cafe.
TJ: That’s great! This is what it looks like when a community is a part of the conversation regarding social change.
MP: We firmly believe that every person in a community has a role to play in the transformation of that community. Whether you are an executive director of a non-profit or if you slept on the street last night, we always encourage folks to speak up and tell us what they want. Hence, their ideas merge and become the different programs and ministries that we offer today.
TJ: Your organization has had great impact, and your work of addressing substantial systemic problems is ongoing. Can you speak on the most significant challenges you face when addressing such issues?
MP: Making sure people don’t give up. A lot of these systems are so complicated, and it discourages many people from getting what they need to be done. For example, if you live in Ohio and need an out-of-state birth certificate, there are 50 different systems to get that birth certificate. If you don’t have somebody walking alongside you who’s experienced in navigating these systems, it’s easy to get frustrated and quit. It’s a challenge, but we do our best to walk alongside the people in our community who need help and give them the knowledge they need to create any form of financial security.
TJ: We’re rooting for you and grateful for your work! How can our community support the mission and all are doing at CD4AP?
MP: You can go to our website 4allpeople.org to learn more about our work. You can also donate, sign up to volunteer, and get involved with upcoming programming. If you’re in a different neighborhood from the South Side, then reach out to us and learn how you can get started in your area. We want to create as many of these organizations as possible throughout the country – throughout the world. We’re all about people coming together to generate their best version of success.
South End Cafe will open its doors this fall at 1951 Parsons Ave. If you want to learn more about Mike and the transformative work happening at Community Development For All People, visit them at www.4allpeople.org.
Founded in 2014, SocialVentures is a non-profit organization that believes in people, purpose and prosperity. They develop, advocate for and help fund businesses advancing solutions to social problems in our community. Send an email to [email protected] to connect and visit socialventurescbus.com for more information.
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Affordable housing and the Free Store – Photos provided by CD4AP