100% community funded for 23 years!
Reach Out Lakota turns 20!
The idea to start an organization to help people in need in West Chester and Liberty Township started with three women: Sharon McGuire, Kathy Franks, and Sue Lewis. It first began with a Christmas drive started by Sharon McGuire. She was soon contacted by Kathy Franks and Sue Lewis from St. John's Catholic Church about distributing food items collected by their parish.
The three women quickly realized there was no outlet for this in the area, so they set about to open a food pantry for residents in the Lakota school district. "I was amazed that the needs were so basic," says Sharon. "After the holidays, the needs were still there. God kept my mind open. I kept thinking "what about people now?"
The trio met with local churches and community members to garner support and almost a year later in 1992 Reach Out Lakota opened its doors one day a week in a 1,000 square foot building on Route 42 in Pisgah. Their first clients came from referrals from school nurses. "Our connection with the schools has always been there," says Sharon. "We wouldn't be able to do this without our schools."
In 1993, Lourdes A. Ward, a licensed social worker, was hired as the executive director. "I am very honored to be the director. I tell everyone that Sharon is our founding mother and she has given me her baby to grow and nurture. I hope I am fulfilling their vision for assisting our neighbors. We wouldn't be here still if it wasn't for the support of our community and the dedication of our many volunteers," says Lourdes. In 2000, the organization moved into its current location on Station Road and expansion, beginning in Spring of 2015, of the current site is 90% completed and estimated to be fully completed by late-Autumn.
In July of 2015, Reach Out Lakota brought on J. Peyton Gravely as Fundraising and Donor Relations Coordinator, now Director of Development and Marketing. Gravely has a unique background in non-profit work, beginning as a recent high school graduate at the age of 17. Having recently moved to Ohio from Southwest Virginia, Peyton has quickly become ingrained in West Chester, stating "It is an honor to work with such a wonderful organization full of wonderful people!" Gravely added, "I am grateful for the opportunity that Lourdes and the Board have given me and I will do my very best to provide for the people of West Chester and Liberty Township!" Reach Out Lakota welcomes Mr. Gravely and is very glad to have him on our team!
Today, Reach Out Lakota is open three days a week and is run primarily by volunteers, under the direction of Executive Director Lourdes Ward, Peyton Gravely, assistant Carol Rosequist and bookkeeper Carrie Brownfield who are the only paid staff, as well as, a volunteer board of directors.
In addition to food and clothing assistance, the organization provides Thanksgiving baskets, the Adopt-a-Child Christmas program, and the Back-to-School program. In its 20 year history Reach Out Lakota has helped more than 2,500 families from West Chester and Liberty Township.