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LoveLight again looks to raise funds for a permanent headquarters

LoveLight, Inc., has long wanted to acquire land for a headquarters, but has struggled to raise the funds to do so. Its latest dream is to buy a Franklin Township property to establish an intergenerational child development and lifelong learning center.

The nonprofit was formed in 1995 to help disadvantaged individuals and children and has operated without a permanent headquarters ever since. Now, unless it can raise about $300,000 in the next two months, its latest efforts will likely fall short, as well. If it does, co-founder and director Betsy Justice is concerned that the organization may eventually fold altogether.

LoveLight at one point had eyed a corner of the former Kent State University golf course, but Justice said the developer was not interested. Most recently, LoveLight wanted to buy the Kent property now slated for an assisted and independent senior living community at 1541 S. Water St., but Justice said the organization could not agree with owner Portage Health Network on a price.

PHN project manager Joshua Krutkowsky confirmed that LoveLight was unable to come close to the company’s $895,000 asking price in 2022.

PHN had bought the property in 2018 for $550,000 to create the senior facility, but Krutkowsky said rising inflation and construction costs, other priorities and, ultimately, the pandemic led PHN to put the property on the market.

However, with no serious offers and all other factors improving, Krutkowsky said PHN decided to keep the property and move forward with its plans.

Now, LoveLight hopes its vision can flourish elsewhere, though Justice declined to specify the exact Franklin Township location or any information about the property until the deal moves forward, citing a confidentiality agreement with the seller.

As with the Kent property, LoveLight’s challenge is money. Despite having sporadically sought funds from grants and private citizens since 2020, the organization has only raised about $50,000 via multiple fundraising efforts. Unless LoveLight comes up with $300,000 more, in two months, its option to buy will expire.

The fundraising campaigns will now ramp up, Justice said. While continuing appeals to individual and religious organizations, she is also reaching out to civic organizations and is hoping to spread the word further via social media, as well as television and radio interviews.

Should the purchase attempt prove unsuccessful, Justice pledged to return donations to those who want refunds. She will know by mid-August, and, if necessary, will begin refunding money at the end of August. She does ask that donors who want their money refunded notify her directly at [email protected] by the end of September. (Look for a notice and follow-up story in The Portager.)

“We’re moving forward by faith. I know it seems insurmountable, but at this point, we’ve got to make it happen, and we can with the help of the larger community. This will benefit all of northeastern Ohio, and it will be a model for other child development centers,” she said.

A permanent headquarters would allow LoveLight to provide and expand its community services, Justice said. Besides the child development center, she envisions a young entrepreneur program, tutoring services, special events and any number of opportunities for senior citizens and youth to interact.

She anticipates being able to accommodate 105 children at the child development center, including those enrolled in after-school programming.

“Having this center will enable us to consistently work with the children. When you have people on a regular basis, the impact can be so much greater,” she said.

A local headquarters would also allow LoveLight to increase its support of local businesses that provide food and other supplies and would provide at least 15 full-time jobs for early childhood teachers and support staff, Justice said.

Should LoveLight shut down, the educational, nutritional and activities programming it has provided for three decades would likely cease. Justice said she’s been coordinating the programs with a few volunteers and temporary, part-time paid employees, but the job is simply too big.

“We need an ongoing, year-round staff,” she said.

Wherever it is, Justice calls the imagined facility that will serve all of northeastern Ohio STARCHILD: Service, Teaching, Advocacy, and Research Center for Human Integration, Learning and Development.

Senior citizens and college students would interact with the children, and a small army of volunteers would have a permanent site from which to carry out the work they’ve been doing for almost 30 years.

The amount of work is daunting. For example, since its founding in 1995, LoveLight has provided more than 120,000 meals for children in lower-income neighborhoods across the county, with the majority of those being provided during the Covid-19 pandemic

Additional initiatives have included:

  • Study Buddies, which consisted of pairs of college students assisting pairs of public school children with their academics
  • LoveLight Learning Center and neighborhood tutoring
  • Licensed after-school program for children ages 5 through 14
  • A mentoring program for lower-income, eighth grade “at-promise” youth, in conjunction with the Kent schools and community partners
  • Professional Learning Communities Academy, which, over the course of three school years, provided professional development for teams of P-12 educators (270 individuals), in order to create Professional Learning Communities in their respective schools to increase student learning and teacher retention, as well as improving school climate
  • Initiating the Rhythmic Movement Training Symposia held at Kent State University and presented by Swedish psychiatrist Dr. Harald Blomberg. BRMT (Blomberg Rhythmic Movement Training) exercises mimic natural baby movement patterns and have been found to improve attention, vision, reading, speech and handwriting, as well as cognitive, emotional and motor functioning
  • Tutoring PLUS, one-on-one sessions for youth and adults experiencing difficulties with academic and/or overall functioning. These sessions are focused on addressing underlying causes of these difficulties.

“This center represents the realization of our mission and our potential,” Justice said. “We’ve done some great things in the past, but nothing compares what having this center enables us to do for the community.”

To learn more about LoveLight, visit the organization’s website at

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Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.