Discover Columbus: Rooted in community

A former Columbus public elementary school is now being referred to as a “Hub for hope” after a complete renovation. The Reeb Avenue Center opened its doors to the community in Sept. 2015, and since then has taken a holistic approach in providing a sanctuary for growth, comfort and love in the community.

The Grote family, better known as the founders of Donatos, donated $1.5 million to revamp the old elementary school and transform it into a community center for those in need. Adult education, workforce development, community connection, health and youth life are the main points of improvement the center strives to provide through its 13 non- profits.

The entire building is buzzing with dedicated workers, those in

need and volunteers on a mission to enrich the lives of others. Tucked around the corner of the first floor is South Side Roots, a “pay what you can” cafe with a changing menu, based around healthy, fresh cuisine for its customers.

Photo credits by Zaida Jenkins and Leah Fogel

“We are a standard operating restaurant, and we want it to have a feel for any and everyone to feel welcome, whether they’re coming in as a part of a corporation or whether they may be someone who has a need. Everyone can sit, eat the same food and have the same experience,” Executive Chef Jason Johnson said.

Customers can choose to volunteer an hour of their time in exchange for a meal, pay the suggested price, or receive a pre- paid meal from someone who decided to pay it forward.

“We wanted to be a place where they can get healthier, fresher foods, but at an affordable price point so they’re not intimidated,” Johnson said.

The Mid-Ohio Foodbank operates the cafe, providing local produce for the center to purchase. But for many, food is not the only comfort they find at South Side Roots. The entire building radiates love and acceptance to people from all walks of life. “Anybody can say they have a job, but I actually love my job and coming to work every day to see people from the community creating connections. I don’t even live on the Southside, but I still feel like we’re neighbors,” Market Associate Yeva Stith said.

This is evident every Tuesday evening at community meal, an opportunity for anybody to receive dinner, free of charge. According to an article in Columbus Monthly, nearly 10,000 Tuesday meals have been served.

“The food may just be the initial thing. But then a person comes here, and they get to experience feeling like there’s people who care and that they are valuable. Sometimes it’s not just to eat. Sometimes it’s just to be around people who love them and are concerned and care about them,” Johnson said.

South Side Roots Cafe is open Monday-Friday 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at South 280 Reeb Avenue Columbus, OH 43027. If you are interested in learning more or volunteering at the Cafe, please email southsideroots@ midohiofoodbank.org.

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