Dayton, OH Links Arms With All
Western Ohio is stronger together, thanks to a spirit of inclusiveness and resiliency.
The Dayton, OH region champions its diversity, drawing people from all walks of life and experiences, and that diversity has only strengthened Dayton’s spirit of resiliency.
Several community-based programs and services promote diversity and inclusion, including Welcome Dayton, which helps immigrants integrate into the region by providing access to education, jobs, health and social services and by promoting an appreciation of arts and culture.
“Dayton has long recognized that integrating and including immigrants is an economic and social imperative,” says Joann Wright Mawasha, deputy director of the Human Relations Council, which sponsors Welcome Dayton. “Emphasis has been placed on programs that support immigrant entrepreneurship, create dialogue and empathy between U.S.-born and immigrant residents, and that educate immigrants about social services.”
During the pandemic, Welcome Dayton quickly pivoted to translate public health information, including working with the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to educate immigrants, refugees and other vulnerable populations about mental health issues related to the pandemic. The organization also moved its outreach to virtual platforms and worked to ensure its clients received reliable information about fair housing issues related to COVID-19.
“The Dayton community has a long history of rallying together in the face of adversity, and the health pandemic was just another obstacle where we came together as a collective. Because of the strong relationships with partners in the community, we were able to pivot and get accurate, trusted and reliable information and resources to our most vulnerable populations,” she says.
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Dayton Young Black Professionals Helps Community
The Dayton Young Black Professionals (DYBP) invested heavily in the community during the pandemic. DYBP curated the West Dayton Give Back Initiatives — a series of initiatives targeted to meet the needs of West Dayton neighborhoods, particularly the Zip codes deemed food deserts.
The quarterly program provides perishable and nonperishable food to Dayton families. “The pandemic not only affected adults, but it had a major effect on our students, so DYBP provided laptops, hot spots as well as virtual assistance to students to help our future leaders navigate these tough COVID times,” says Daj’za Demmings, founder of the Dayton Young Black Professionals.
Demmings says the DYBP members are encouraged to sharpen their skills while working with other civic-minded young professionals to positively impact the city.
“You never know how or when you’ll have an impact or how important your example could be for someone else,” she says. “We pride ourselves on being those thought leaders, change agents, young professionals that set an example for the next generation to come.”
Demmings says she believes the same attributes that allowed Dayton to overcome economic disruption, deadly tornadoes and a mass shooting allowed the community to meet the challenges of the global pandemic. “The city of Dayton is tough and resilient. No matter what hard times come our way, we are always able to finesse and move through to find a positive solution.”
Rubi Girls Put the Fun in Fundraising
For more than 30 years, the Rubi Girls drag troupe has used its platform and talents of its members to raise money for the city’s LGBTQ community; the troupe’s annual drag shows and events have raised more than $2 million for HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ charities. Over the years, the Rubi Girls has broadened its philanthropy to include the Greater Dayton community.
“While HIV/AIDS is still a big part of our mission, we’ve broadened our reach to be more civic minded and embracing of the community at large,” says Jonathan McNeal, a member of the Rubi Girls.
“We think it says a lot to have a group of LGBTQ folks giving to the community in various ways — whether it’s donating to food pantries or women’s shelters or establishing scholarships, we have been giving at a bigger level throughout the last several years.”
All is Well in Dayton, OH
While the need was greater than ever in 2020, McNeal says, so was the response the troupe received from its sponsors.
“I think it speaks to the community spirit of wanting to see each other succeed and wanting to raise each other up,” McNeal says. “We have a strong community here with the typical Midwestern spirit of caring for one another; that spirit shines bright here in Dayton.”
Want to learn more about living in Dayton, OH? Check out the new edition of Livability Dayton, Ohio.