Brightside Project aims to reach children in poverty

SALEM – Children in Northeast Ohio are living in homes with meth labs. They are in homes where guns lie in the open. They have parents who use and sell drugs. They often go to school hungry. These children did not choose their life, and they have little control over their future.

Scott Lewis started a nonprofit through a church in the Mahoning Valley 12 years ago to help give hope. In April 2015 he decided it was time to do something different. After a year of planning, Lewis announced he is starting a new nonprofit called The Brightside Project. This week he launches an aggressive fundraising campaign on Go Fund Me and brightsideprojectohio.org. Lewis and his board of directors hope to raise $100,000 by Dec. 1.

The goal of The Brightside Project is to reach out to children living in hard places through a mobile unit. The mobile unit will regularly pull into children’s schools, neighborhoods, and parks full of loving volunteers who care for them and want to listen to them.

“We will distribute the basic needs they need and we will mentor them,” said Lewis. “Most importantly, we want to equip and empower them to reach their full potential. We want our children to know there are compassionate adults who care for them.”

The Mahoning Valley has been in national headlines a lot lately and not for reasons of good news. Remember the story in East Liverpool of the young boy in the car with guardians passed out because they were high? CNN also posted a story on Sept. 24, This is America on drugs: A visual guide. The story reported Ohio now has the fifth highest death rate from drug overdoses in the country. Fifth only to West Virginia, New Hampshire, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. And the poverty level in the Mahoning Valley? In Columbiana County the poverty rate for children is 27.2 percent. The state average is 23.9 percent.

“With greater than 25 percent of Columbiana County’s children in poverty, I believe the community needs an organization like The Brightside Project to reach out to those children who may need a helping hand and a listening ear,” said Vicki Thompson, senior project consultant at Thomas P. Miller and Associates and Brightside board of directors. “Children are influenced by their surroundings. Why not provide a positive opportunity for them by bringing a mobile unit to their neighborhood filled with items for a brighter day that influences a brighter future?”

The funds raised in the $100,000 launch campaign will be used to purchase the first mobile unit and fund administrative startup costs. Visit brightsideprojectohio.org or gofund.me/2KMXPF8 to donate online. Checks are also accepted. Make them payable to The Brightside Project and mail to P.O. Box 314, Salem, Ohio, 44460.

“I would say a donation to The Brightside Project is an investment in our local community,” said Lew Thompson, team office in Austintown and Brightside board of directors. “This will help children in our neighborhoods and provide them with essentials and positive and encouraging support. If you can donate, you’ll help point a child in the right direction and show them a positive outlook on life-that would be well worth it.” (Submitted material)