“I’m unstoppable,” declares Leslie Thomas, the founder of Vicki’s Home. Despite the tragic losses and economic setbacks many have experienced due to COVID-19, Thomas has not slowed down in her mission to protect East Cleveland’s youth. Rather, the current uncertainties have fueled a surging desire to act now more than ever.
Vicki’s Home is an East Cleveland-based nonprofit designed to support the youth who live in one of Cleveland’s most under-resourced communities. Its Phenom Youth Empowerment Program has steadily grown since its official launch last year — prior to the state-wide social distancing order, Leslie partnered with The Boys and Girls Club to hold workshops at Heritage Middle School. Initially, the youth group was centered around the needs of middle school girls but is currently expanding to include boys, under the guidance of new facilitator Carl Taylor.
“During the pandemic a lot of the kids, they’re just roaming. They really don’t have anything to do, especially in the community that I live in. There is a lot of adversity that our youth can get into. So they depend on programs like mine to stay occupied,” says Thomas.
Under Thomas’s leadership, the students in the program have been an active force of love and kindness in their community. For instance, the group delivered COVID-19 care packages filled with items such as masks, gloves, and hand sanitizers for senior citizens and homeless residents of East Cleveland. Sanitary products were also donated to treatment facilities in Cleveland.
To keep the momentum going, Vicki’s Home is currently hosting workshops on Zoom. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 1:00 to 2:30 p.m., girls from ages 12 to 18 can participate in the peer-to-peer Phenom Youth Program. Boys in the same age bracket can join Zoom meetings with Carl every Tuesday and Thursday, also from 1:00 to 2:30.
For updates on class times, check Vicki’s Home on Facebook. Youth who don’t reside in East Cleveland but who could use some positive engagement are welcome at the Zoom meetings, as well.
Positive engagement includes educational opportunity, and Thomas strives to provide that, also. Recently, Neighborhood Connections awarded Vicki’s Home funding to provide learning tablets for 50 students, including those who attend East Cleveland Schools but who are not East Cleveland City residents. Wifi is included with the tablets, which will be distributed based on need. Thomas wants all students to thrive educationally, and donating tablets is one way that she can help them do that.
The Parent Cafe, a program designed to support East Cleveland parents, is also a part of Vicki’s Home. “Building a healthy family dynamic can help change the lives of our at-risk youth,” Thomas explains. She is open about her own experience as a mother of a teenage boy surrounded by the lure of street life and emphasizes the benefits of emotional and mental support for struggling families. The Parent Cafe meets virtually Monday and Friday from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m.
To access all Zoom workshops, contact Vicki’s Home for login information.
Vicki’s Home is indeed unstoppable with Leslie Thomas in charge, determined to grow a better life for her son and her community. “I’m a small organization,” she says, “but I’m a giant in this community.”