Sleep Out! Team Spotlight – Starr Avenue Superstars

Kellie and Pete, along with their teenage niece, make-up the Starr Avenue Superstars, just one of the many teams sleeping out on April 12th, 2019 at COSI. Learn more about them and why they are participating!

  • Why is your team sleeping out on April 12th, 2019?  We are participating in Sleep Out! because there are homeless teens in Columbus, and we will continue to do so until there are not.  Being homeless, especially through this brutal winter, is unfathomable for most of us.  The least that we can do is bring some attention to the problem and, hopefully, pull in some resources to help solve it.
  • What does your team hope to gain from the Sleep Out?  We hope to wake Columbus up about homelessness, especially where teens and young adults are involved.
  • What is your relationship to Huck House?  I have been on the board for at least 12 years, and Kellie now works part-time for Huck House

Help the Starr Avenue Superstars reach their fundraising goal of $3,000 by donating HERE. If you interested in participating in the Sleep Out! or making a team of your own, you can register HERE.

Walk with a Doc

Walk with a Doc Mission

Three of our young people (ages 17-22) in our Transitional Living Program participated last night in a walk and conversation with a health specialist. The topic was stress reduction, which is very difficult for our young people who have been recently homeless and/or victims of domestic violence.

The therapist had them identify their stress tolerance meter, physical manifestations of stress and what things trigger each stress level. Then she had them think about physical, creative, social and relaxation coping skills and had them each do a type of guided imagery exercise.

It was a great conversation and opportunity to get outside and enjoy the snow. We are very thankful for Walk With A Doc and their vision for communities to access medical providers on a regular basis and receive valuable medical advice that extends beyond physical activity. To learn more and see where you can join or start a walk visit here.

Love and Healthy Relationships – Jaida Green

Written by: Jaida Green, MSW, LSW, Family Support Program Therapist

Love: [noun] “Strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties” (Merriam-Webster, 2019). Such a simple definition for a complex topic. Love is complex issue that people of all ages, races, and gender are faced with on a daily basis. This is especially true for the young people that we serve at Huckleberry House. As a therapist, people assume that the majority of what I talk to our youth about are topics such as depression, anxiety, and anger. While this is true, something that is also frequently brought up with our youth in therapy is love and healthy relationships. Being young and falling in love for the first time is sometimes a tough transition; finding out who you are as a teenager is difficult enough. Add learning how to love, and it is often twice as difficult. There are two specific lessons focusing on love and health relationships that frequently come up for our youth – “The Five Love Languages” and “Healthy Boundaries”.

Generally, there are five categories of ways that people prefer to both express and receive love. These categories are acts of service, gifts, physical touch, quality time, and words of affirmation. Acts of service are considered completing tasks that ease daily responsibilities (i.e. doing the dishes, making dinner, etc.). Gifts are self-explanatory, however it should be noted that the gifts don’t have to be over the top. Gifts can be small things that have thought and effort behind them and make the person feel loved. Physical touch is typically thought of as sexual contact, but this can also be things like hugs, pats of affection, or even holding hands. Quality time is spending time with a person while giving them your undivided attention. For many people this is one on one time doing things like going out to eat or talking over coffee. Lastly, words of affirmation are positive comments or things that are commonly thought of as nice to say (i.e. “You look great today,” or “I love you”). If you’re interested in finding out more about love languages, click here to take a quiz for yourself, or your child. You will need to click on the purple box that says “Learn your love language”.

Love PyramidAs mentioned above, healthy boundaries are also a common piece to consider when discussing healthy relationships. Knowing when to say “no” is something that can be difficult at any age, but is especially true for some of our youth. Often, this isn’t a conversation that is explicitly had with our youth outside of sexual consent. Knowing when to say no in other areas of a relationship and knowing what’s important to you has proven to be helpful as well. It’s also important to be assertive in relationships, specifically when setting a new boundary. An additional piece to having healthy boundaries is having respect for yourself and others. Arguments can sometimes be about winning, but that’s not a helpful mindset. Instead, helping all involved to feel that no one person’s needs are more important than the other can help to make arguments less confrontational. Lastly, considering the long term implications or consequences of an interaction can help to establish healthy boundaries. This allows for you to think more deeply about the situation and how to communicate respect. It should be noted that a relationship should not be one sided where one person is constantly giving or taking. Healthy relationships are born out of understanding, not only of yourself but also, the person you are in a relationship with. Whether it be a romantic relationship, friendship, or a relationship with a loved one, taking the time to learn more about yourself and the role you play, as well as the other person involved, can help to foster a positive healthy relationship.

Give The Best You Can #ExpectMore

Article written by: Kristine Levine

I was five years old when my mom took off with me to the coast. She said she needed a do-over. We were starting fresh, with no belongings, no toys, no furniture. She said we had empty hands so that we could catch new blessings.

We also had empty pockets, and she had no job. She’d drank our whole life away, and the booze had left us washed up in a tiny beach town called Rockaway, Oregon. She was hoping the ocean would catch her tears and loosen her chains.

My mother loves the ocean. She is more herself when it is nearby. She believes that it sees and knows, that it moves and feels. It inspires her wonder and fear. She revels in the uncertainty that it could become angry at any moment and take lives at its will. To my mother, the ocean is God.

“Don’t you ever take it for granted, Krissy,” she would say to me. “When you look at that ocean, remember there’s always something bigger than you. Respect her.”

Summer had just ended, and the quaint coastal town had begun to fold up. We found a small cottage—really a motel room with a kitchenette. We never said it was our home; to us, it was just “Number Six.” My mother paid the first month’s rent, enrolled me in kindergarten a block away, and bought us a sack of potatoes and some ketchup. And we began our new life.

I don’t remember being excited about school. It seemed so frivolous, and I thought I should be getting a job. “I could get a paper route,” I told my mother one night as we walked back to Number Six from the pay phone, where she’d called my dad, begging him to send the $75 child support check. He promised he’d send it as soon as possible, but I knew the potatoes were running low.

My mother looked for work, but the car we’d used to get to the town had broken down, and there were only two or three restaurants within walking distance of Number Six. She didn’t want to get a job in a bar because she was trying earnestly to stop drinking.

Maybe two weeks passed and still no child support check—no money at all. I sat at the kitchen table one night, watching Walter Cronkite deliver the evening news with his objectivity and journalistic integrity. He said something like, “Here is the news at this suppertime.” I remember this because I was so surprised by it. His words were otherwise so dry, so metered, but his mention of it being dinnertime was almost friendly. I wondered if he could see us; how did he know it was time to eat?

My mother was staring out the window with her back to me. I said to her, “Well? He’s right. It is dinnertime. Right, Mom?” I thought I was being clever in catching Cronkite’s sincerity.

She let out a sigh. Without turning around she said, “Do you see that out there? Those people have let their garden grow over. The cabbages have gone to seed now. They’d never know or care if I just snuck over and took one for you.”

The quivering in her voice scared me. She turned to me and wiped her eyes. With a look so cool I thought she might have been mad at me, she said, “If I were a thief, I would go over there and steal those rotten cabbages for you. But I am not a thief.”

Without another word, she passed me and walked out the front door of Number Six. She left it open, and I followed her. She walked down five cottages and knocked on the door to Number One—a larger cottage, where an old man and woman lived. Even though they were our neighbors, we had no idea who they were. The old lady opened the door, and I wove around my mother so I could see inside.

“This is my daughter, Kristine,” my mother stated. “We have no food. She’s had nothing to eat but potatoes for a month, and now we don’t even have any of those left. I don’t care about myself, but could you please give her something to eat?”

The old woman was short and fat with dark skin and black hair twisting around her head. Her name was Anita Vanover. Her husband was a tall white man who was just called Van. I could see into their cottage; the table was set, and Anita and Van were obviously just sitting down to eat. The smells coming from inside made me drool.

I don’t remember Anita saying anything to my mother or even asking her husband first if she could give us something, but I remember her packing up her table: the pot roast, the carrots, the gravy, the potatoes. She handed it all to my mother.

It turned out that the couple had friends who owned one of the restaurants where my mom had tried to get a job. Anita talked to them, and they hired her. Anita and Van became my caretakers in the evening.

They saved my mother and me.

At that moment, though, I don’t think Anita and Van thought they were saving lives or forever changing the path of a child. I think they thought they were doing what they were supposed to do when a woman with a little girl comes to the door and says she needs to eat. What more needs to be said or done? They probably figured that it’s just food.

Anita gave so effortlessly and so quickly that I doubt she ever thought about it again. But that one moment taught me a lesson about giving that I have never forgotten. There came a day 30 years later, when I passed that lesson on to my own children.

My daughter’s school had a food drive, and she was excited to collect food for it. Even at 10 years old, she had a strong sense of community. She wanted to be either a police officer so she could help people or an astronaut so she could protect the planet from wayward asteroids. We had to keep her from watching the news because it moved her to the point of tears. Her heart would break for the human condition.

She went to our pantry and started bagging up the canned and dry goods. All the while, she talked. “Oh, I’ll put in the green beans, I don’t like those… I’ll save the Kraft macaroni and cheese. We can give them some no-name brand.” And I realized that my daughter—as generous and good as she already was—knew nothing about giving. I felt like I had taught her nothing.

She didn’t know about Anita and Van. She didn’t know about Number Six. She didn’t know that she could see the face of a hungry child if she looked long enough at her own mother.

So I told her. I told her that my kindergarten teacher thought I was “retarded” because I was so hungry that I didn’t perform well in school and was always slower than the rest of the class. I told her that Anita could have just gone to her cupboard and made me a peanut butter sandwich, and my mother and I would have been so grateful. But she didn’t. She gave the best she had.

The biggest problem with poverty is the shame that comes with it. When you give the best you have to someone in need, it translates into something much deeper to the receiver. It means they are worthy.

If it’s not good enough for you, it’s not good enough for those in need either. Giving the best you have does more than feed an empty belly—it feeds the soul.

This post is from Medium. Learn more here –

Youth Outreach Program Spotlight – Kyra Crockett Hodge

YOP Infographic 1024x800

1. What is the purpose of the Youth Outreach Program?

The purpose of YOP is to help young people who are disconnected and struggling with obstacles that are keeping them from achieving their personal goals to become self-sufficient.

2. What’s up at the YOP Shop?

The YOP SHOP is a resource hub located at 893 East 11th Avenue. Young people can walk in or call Monday – Friday between the hours of 10:00 am and 6:00 pm. There are five Outreach Specialists there that truly want to see young people succeed. Young people can come in and receive help coming up with a strategy to address whatever issues they are experiencing that have become obstacles for them moving forward with their lives. Basic needs items can also be obtained at shop such as hygiene items or snack items. The main thing I think people walk away with from the Huck House YOP SHOP is a feeling that someone cares about what they have been through and where they will end up.

3. What are the top three things the youth you meet with need?

The majority of young people that YOP encounters are trying to figure out life on their own and need help to know where to start or how to get back on track. Most young people are struggling with housing issues, lack of financial stability and help navigating the adult systems that they have little to no experience with.


Currently there are a lot of young people who we as a system know are experiencing homelessness but for several reasons do not access adult shelter services.  When this happens, our system lacks the ability to properly account for the number of actual kids that are homeless and it provides barriers for these young people to be eligible for housing options that may be available through the adult system. Maryhaven Outreach Team was solely responsible for certifying all of Franklin County for any homeless person (adult or youth) for years.  Recently, the Youth Outreach Team has been certified to verify homelessness for transitional aged youth and will hopefully be able to contribute to the bigger systems issue of not being able to provide available resources to young people who are literally homeless.


“Why I am Thankful for Huck House” by Jessica Barwell

On April 20, I participated in the first annual “Sleep Out Columbus” in which 70 people slept outside to raise money for and awareness about youth homelessness in central Ohio. All of these people were doing this for one night. I cannot imagine doing this every night. I especially cannot imagine being a child or a teenager doing this every night. As I prepare to begin my fundraising for the 2019 Sleep Out and educating my family and friends about youth homelessness, I have been reflecting on my gratitude for Huck House.

I am thankful for Huck House being there for our at-risk youth, for providing a safe place to sleep, for providing the tools, resources, and services that a family and a community should provide.

I am thankful for Huck House staff who meet with at-risk youth daily who have lost so much in their life, including their self-esteem.  Many who come to Huck House have been experiencing loss, violence, abuse, neglect, and other forms of trauma. I am thankful that Huck House staff is there to acknowledge their struggle, respond holistically, and find ways to highlight their resilience and survival.  I am thankful that Huck House is consistent in meeting their needs and proving that Huck House is worthy of their trust. I am grateful that the Huck House Crisis Program makes family reunification a priority whenever possible while providing alternatives when that cannot be an option.

I am thankful for the Huck House Transitional Living Program, for providing safe homes for homeless transition-age youth, ages 18-22, and their children and at the same time teaching life skills from conflict resolution, to effective communication, from anger management, to coping. Huck House creates the space for these individuals to feel accepted and helps support them so that they can stay healthy and hopeful to learn how to make better decisions.

I am thankful for the Huck House counselor’s hard work helping teens and families develop skills they can use to tackle their issues. The counselors then connect them with community resources for housing, employment, education, and government assistance.

I am thankful for the Huck House Youth Outreach Program. The staff at YOP go to our at-risk youth who won’t come to Huck House on their own.  They meet kids on their own turf, and provide a safe place for them to go to obtain services and resources.

This is the time of year many start to think about donating to certain causes and want to help those in our community who are less fortunate.  I find myself often wondering “What would it be like to be grateful for the kindness of others every single day in order to survive?”  Being on the Board of Huckleberry House since 2015, I have come to understand the true meaning of gratitude.  I am grateful to be a part of an organization that is making lasting change in the lives of young people.


-Jessica Barwell, Huckleberry House Board Member


Gratitude – Sonya Thesing

Most people think that my job at Huck House, as development director, is about asking. Asking for money, asking for things, asking for support, asking for volunteers.

I look at my role differently.

Sonya's family created a gratitude scrapbook in November 2011 when her sons were 10 and 11 years old.

Sonya’s family created a gratitude scrapbook in November 2011 when her sons were 10 and 11 years old.

I see it as inviting. I invite people to participate in the great work of Huck House. I invite them to be a part of solving youth homelessness. I invite them to help families find their strengths to fix what is wrong. I invite them to support young people who are working to create better lives for themselves.

The best part of my week is when I pause to say thank you to those of you who have supported Huck House. Development directors write letters, send emails, and make phone calls to let donors know how much their contributions mean to the mission of an organization.

Saying “thank you” is obviously an outward expression. For me, though, saying “thank you” inspires deep gratitude. I am struck by an awareness of incredible kindness, hope for our future, and goodness in our community. When I say “Thank you for your gift of money,” there is a deeper meaning. It would be more accurate to say “Thank you for not giving up on our youth. Your donation represents hope and compassion. The youth of our community are blessed to have people like you rooting for them.”

I have a co-worker who comes to my office regularly to say “I love my job” or “I woke up so happy to come to work today.” I feel the same way. I am thankful every day that I get to see the kindness of our supporters and the difference their compassion makes for the youth we serve.

When my sons were in fourth and fifth grade, our family created a thankfulness scrapbook during the month of November. I remember great conversations while we thought about what we were thankful for.

If you and I were to share a cup of tea this month and talk about what makes us grateful, at some point, you would hear me say I am thankful for the generosity —-of treasure and spirit —- that I get to experience every day.


Written by: Sonya Thesing, Development Director

November 9 and 10, 2018: Ohio Made Holiday Market

Ohio Made Holiday Market

Ohio Made Holiday Market

Saturday and Sunday, November 9 and 10, 2018

Hollywood Casino – 200 Georgesville Rd, Columbus, OH 43228

During the Ohio Made Holiday Market, Ohio Made Market will be selling raffle tickets where you have a chance to win HUGE prizes. Winners must pick up prizes by 7PM on November 10th. Every dollar from your ticket purchases will be donated to a Huckleberry House. Huckleberry House works with Central Ohio’s youth and families who are dealing with some of the most difficult problems imaginable. Issues like abuse, violence, neglect, poverty, and homelessness. No matter how hopeless the situation may seem, we offer proven programs and committed people who know how to help young people and families take control of their lives. So they can move past the circumstances they’re in, and move toward the future they want. 

Tickets available here.

November 15, 2018: Battle of the Breweries at Atlas Tavern


Battle of the Breweries

Thursday, November 15, 2018 from  4:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Atlas Tavern – 8944 Lyra Drive, Columbus, OH 43240

A portion of proceeds on the night of Atlas Tavern’s Battle of the Breweries will benefit Huckleberry House! We hope you will come out for a fun night and support Huck House.

December 2, 2018: Very Merry Huckleberry House Lighting

Huck House Holiday Logo

Very Merry Huckleberry House Lighting, efficiently powered by AEP Ohio.

Sunday, December 2, 2018 from 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Huckleberry House 1421 Hamlet Street, Columbus, OH 43201

Join us as we kick off a Very Merry Huckleberry Holiday and light up the house at 1421 Hamlet Street! Cookies and cocoa will be served on the Carriage House porch from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. The Ohio State University Women’s Glee Club will be singing carols.

The event is free and open to the public. If you would like to support the Huck House holiday gift drive, please consider bringing a $25 WalMart or Kroger gift card to donate. We will also accept holiday adoption donations at the event. Please visit the Holiday Gift Form for more information about holiday adoption opportunities.

Follow us on Facebook for updates about the house lighting event.