TOLEDO, Ohio — Some residents call themselves "the 05’ers."
East Toledo's ZIP Code of 43605 is a sense of pride for people who live here. But, east Toledo is unfairly pegged by some in northwest Ohio as just not good enough.
Chatter is that there aren't enough things happening here to make it stand out. Not enough opportunities.
But one organization is making sure these 05’ers don't get left behind and don’t get brushed with unfair and untrue stereotypes.
Jodi Gross, executive director of the East Toledo Family Center knows that's a stigma the east side has faced for years.
But she's not giving in to it.
“It is unfair. And we just prove every day how successful we are in how we are helping our families be successful,” Gross said.
The East Toledo Family Center has played a big role in helping east Toledoans for 120 years. The organization started out as a tent ministry, then moved into a house, and then 50 years ago its facility on Varland Avenue was built.
ETFC continues to improve lives with thousands of square feet of space, and the group isn’t done yet.
“I live by the adage that East Toledo is just as good as any other neighborhood and any other community center. And it is unfair, but what we're doing from the East Toledo Family Center's perspective is, we're changing that thought process. Changing the perception,” Gross said.
They have a day care and Head Start program for children.
There are lots of athletic programs, including a popular basketball program.
And ETFC helps in even more ways: serving people facing a heating crisis, aiding those facing financial shortcomings, giving help and care for pregnant women, and helping people looking for a job.
They also feed families who are hungry and seniors who need nutritional meals.
“We’re making sure that we provide the programs and the services to help our families be successful. If we don't do that, who's going to do that?” Gross asked.
And they're moving forward too.
There are renovations planned and new appliances on tap for the much-used kitchen that will help them better serve community children and host community events.
The East Toledo Family Center helped more families in 2020 than it had over the last couple of years.
During the pandemic, Gross said the group’s services are needed more than ever.
“We do not judge because everyone goes through something and sometimes it's unexpected, just like COVID was unexpected,” she said. “(People ask), 'What do I do now? I can't go to work, what am I supposed to do with my kids?’ We help them navigate through those issues.”
The East Toledo Family Center is fueled by grants and private donations.
And last month it held the first-ever Nickel Dash 5K Run at the new Glass City Metropark nearby.
The money raised will go to youth programs for children and for the daycare services for years to come.