Walking back into the Ohio Valley Teen Challenge residential center, you want to see that a few things are still the same as you remember.
The facility still looks, smells and tastes like a scrappy, boot-strapping, sweating-to-pay-bills inner-city nonprofit agency.It still has many 20-something young men rambling around the floors.
And it still has Pastor Bob Pavlich.
Two years ago, The Vindicator and The NewsOutlet of Youngstown State University teamed up on one of its first unique projects together.
YSU student Doug Livingston and Vindy photographer Geoff Hauschild spent an entire summer inside the North Side Youngstown facility that for years was Cafaro Hospital.
Doug and Geoff followed many people and tales — all of them as colorful, ghastly and desperate as you would expect from a place that houses 50-some men, including staff, and most, if not all, recovering from some sort of drug addiction, including staff.
One whom they followed was Pastor Bob. He was “Bobby” in his younger, problematic Poland days.
And as Pastor Bob, he is just as rambunctious, outspoken and out there as his youthful days — only now with the cloud of God smothering the drug demons that bedeviled his younger days.
I walked into OVTC this week for the first time in two years and walked into the Pastor Bob I remembered, and that was good, as was seeing Pastor Roy Barnett and his wife, Cathy, the facility’s administrator.
OVTC seems to be a lot about falling into and falling out of things.
It’s true for the 48 residents and their addicted lives.
It’s true for the operations, too. OVTC falls into good things, and it falls into bad things.
I was glad they fell into us two years ago. It was a unique story option for us — five days of in-depth stories and videos of men who earned every slammed door and punch their faces received — lying, stealing and robbing their way to their addicted souls.
OVTC was a last chance for many before prison. And that’s what we were able to show.
The stories opened many doors of opportunity for OVTC, including one last week when a $500 check came from a Valley citizen who remembered them from the series.
Among the more significant impacts from the series:
Pleasant Valley Church read the series and sent the facility $55,000. That money was the vital seed cash to open a catering business, which is a huge revenue stream for the facility today.
It showcased them to a West Virginia foundation and three local families whose combined donations allowed the OVTC board to buy the old hospital and own more of their destiny.
True to OVTC fashion, that purchase process was not without headaches and teeth-gnashing. But the Barnetts and Co. persevered.
I liked, too, that when The Vindy showcased the needs of another desperate Youngstown nonprofit, the men of OVTC returned the favor, so to speak.
Today, another opportunity has happened for OVTC.
It has been selected to get a $750,000 grant from an agency program that includes Home Savings and Loan, Huntington National Bank and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati. The FHLB-led program will award $9.5 million to similar facilities in the Midwest this year. Since 1990, its affordable-housing program has generated more than $460 million for residential and institutional projects for people and groups such as OVTC.
It’s a brick-mortar program to allow OVTC to rehab old Cafaro Hospital and expand operations for itself as well as for other agencies that operate out of the facility, including a residential facility for troubled city teens.
The grant requires OVTC to raise $250,000 of its own funding.
Thus begins another chapter of working hard to get ahead for OVTC. They’ve been in this place before.
The Barnetts are just starting the process to establish bank accounts and outreach programs to secure $250,000.
It will be work. But they are not strangers to that.
The dilapidated building they saved houses 48 lives they’re in the process of saving, too.
Like other addiction programs, there is as much to celebrate as there is to shake your head in sadness.
I brought with me the Vindy editions from that series, and we rattled through the names that we featured.
There are some good stories to celebrate. And there are not-so-great stories.
OVTC does not work for all, but it works for some.
Two years later, it was great to see some caring faces striving to save some more faces — regardless of the work and the setbacks.
Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs, too, on vindy.com.