New program bridges the gap for Sylvania students

by — Mary Helen Darah

Neighborhood bridges, a nonprofit that promotes direct, local giving, has launched its 37th “Gateway for Kindness” to serve the Sylvania Schools and Sylvania community. The Sylvania school system serves nearly 7,800 students. It operates seven elementary schools, three junior high schools and two high schools. As a community resource, neighborhood bridges (always in lowercase to show humility) Sylvania will aid school counselors, teachers, social workers, and administrators in meeting the essential needs of at-risk and underprivileged students, and their families.

L-R: Karen Smith, Rick Bannister and Dolli Darah share information about the program that bridges the gap between donors and those in need.

Area Director of neighborhood bridges, Karen S. Smith, is thrilled to begin offering the program locally with co-chair Dolli Darah. “My daughter is a teacher in a Columbus suburb and relayed a story to me about the program,” stated Smith. “I wondered if an organization like this would be a good fit in Sylvania and doable here. They actually had a launch guide which was helpful in getting things going here.”

The program is unique in its simplicity and its purpose. “Basically, it is an organization that connects people in the community that has the ability to donate to those in need. It is mostly for Sylvania students, but we also help senior citizens and others in need,” said Smith. “It is the bridge that connects the two. The giving usually consists of providing a needed item, such as a coat for a child, household items, food, school supplies or fees. We have advocates in every school building that alert us to those in need as well as in the police and fire departments. These people encounter those in need of assistance. We put those needs out to our subscribers that can assist them. It is a really simple process, both for the subscribers and the people who see the needs to have those requests fulfilled. It is all about filling the gap for those needing assistance and those who generously give through acts of kindness.”

Neighborhood bridges also collaborates with other nonprofit organizations in the community such as churches, mental health agencies and social services organizations. Smith explained, “We do not want to overlap with what they are doing. We want to help them assist those they serve.” Sylvania Area Family Services Executive Director Dottie Segar believes neighborhood bridges will positively impact SAFS clients. “It is one more resource available to us to bring the needs of our clients in front of those that are able to help,” she said.

To become a subscriber and giver of acts of kindness, visit the website and choose the community of Sylvania. After choosing Sylvania, subscribers will receive roughly two emails a week with ways to help. “It will not be a bombardment in your inbox,” stated Smith. “You will not receive five emails a day. Once the need is out there, you click the I CAN HELP button. The items that people purchase may be dropped off at Sylvania Township Fire Department station #3 or #4. One hundred percent of donations go to help those in Sylvania.”

Smith is excited about the launch and especially the response from the community. “The fire department, Sylvania School District, Sylvania Rotary Club and the Sylvania Area Family Services have gone above and beyond in bringing the program to fruition,” stated Smith.

Neighborhood bridges has driven direct support to more than 218,000 students and families with over $3.5 million in giving since its founding in 2017. For more information about neighborhood bridges Sylvania, or information on Kindness Council sponsorship opportunities, email or visit or  

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