Looking for a place to get after-school care for kids, free farmer’s market produce, job and life skills training, and senior citizen transportation to doctor’s appointments and grocery stores?
That’s just skimming the surface of what’s available at Dayton’s Wesley Center on Delphos Avenue.
“We’re the only full-service center left on the west side of Dayton,” Executive Director Harris Tay said. “We definitely need more funding, but our impact is really phenomenal.”
For nearly 50 years, The Wesley Center has provided emergency and community care for residents of west Dayton.
The center offers a food bank and a free, biweekly farmer’s market that serves more than 600 families, after school and reading programs for children and teenagers, resume help and job training for adults, and a full range of services for senior citizens. Those include housing and meal assistance as well as transportation.
But Wesley Center’s annual budget of just under $1 million is in trouble, Tay said.
“We just got a letter (June 19) that United Way, our biggest funder, is going to cut its funding 10 percent across the board because of low giving,” Tay said. “By July, I have to figure out how to take 10 percent out of our senior and youth programs.”
Other support comes from the United Methodist Church (the center’s original sponsor), Montgomery County, and donations from other organizations and individuals.
Two major fundraisers
On Saturday, those donors will include the Major Taylor Cycling Club.
This organization holds a fundraising bike ride for Dayton-area nonprofit organizations each year. Past beneficiaries have included the Westmont Optimist Club, the Dayton Children’s Bike Safety program, Mercy Manor, the Dakota Center, and the Central State University Scholarship fund.
This year, they’ve selected the Wesley Center to receive funds. Teams, individuals and families are encouraged to sign up and participate at Saturday’s event, which starts from the University of Dayton’s Welcome Center.
All proceeds will help keep the Wesley Center’s programs running.
During his two-year tenure as executive director, Tay has helped introduce innovative programming, such as the Children’s Defense Fund’s Freedom School intensive reading course, the farmer’s market and urban gardening projects. He’s also called on the Center’s board of trustees to come up with innovative, energizing ideas to bring in new funds. For instance, he served as Guest Chef at bd’s Mongolian Grill at The Greene shopping center on June 27.
“It’s different, it’s exciting, and I’m seeing some good energy come out of it,” Tay said. “Not everyone knows that my background is African and Panamanian, and I grew up with everything from stews and curries to arroz con pollo. So I’m always looking for new food, new flavors, new experiences.”
The money raised from the Mongolian Grill fundraiser will pay for the center’s most expensive program: transport for seniors to medical appointments and food sites.
West Dayton like Baltimore
Tay is a Baltimore native who came to Dayton in 2006 as a Christian domestic missionary, learning community organizing, teen leadership and development.
“Baltimore 15 years ago was really similar to west Dayton,” he said. “It was an area crumbling, with abandoned homes and no real investment from the city. It was a community left to die.”
Tay said that as his hometown gentrified, wealthier, younger populations displaced the original residents to the suburbs. His goal is to keep the west Dayton community involved in the conversations about what will happen in their neighborhoods, “so it happens with them and not to them, like it did in Baltimore.”
A Wright State University health assessment held through the Wesley Center showed rates of infant mortality, cancer and diabetes that are double those of surrounding communities. “This area is really struggling, and (the assessment) shows why Wesley Center is more important than ever,” Tay said.
“Not many places still have the community’s trust and really touch their lives seven days a week,” he said. “Wesley has built a foundation of trust that can actually change the health of our community.”
About the Wesley Center
The Wesley Center was a faith-based nonprofit founded in 1966 to address racial inequalities in Dayton. Ten years later, it moved to the former Precision Rubber site at 3730 Delphos Ave., Dayton. In 2003, it became independent from its sponsor, the United Methodist Church.
Volunteers, tutors, advocates and tax-deductible donations are always needed. Find out more at www.wesleycenterdayton.org or by calling (937) 263-3556.
How to go
What: Sixth annual Major Taylor Cycling Club Signature Ride, cookout, bike rodeo
Where: Welcome Stadium Parking Lot D, 1601 Edwin C. Moses Blvd., Dayton
When: Saturday; 7 a.m. registration, 7:30 a.m. adult ride, 9:30 a.m. family ride
Cost: $20 adults ($25 after July 3), $5 family ride
More info: Supported adult ride is 18, 32 or 62 miles; family ride is five to 10 miles. Helmets required. www.majortaylordayton.org, 937-278-9394