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Hometown Heroes: Columbus nonprofits celebrated for driving positive change in the community

Jul 08, 2024 | RBC Wealth Management


Recognizing organizations that lead the way in serving underrepresented individuals and communities.

hometown heroes on soccer pitch

There are more than 1.5 million registered nonprofits in the U.S., according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, serving their communities with a deep understanding of local needs and a strong desire to make a positive impact.

An initiative tied to Major League Soccer’s (MLS) All-Star week is bringing awareness to the fundamental role these organizations play in helping communities thrive.

Now in its third year, the MLS All-Star Hometown Heroes Showcase presented by RBC Wealth Management highlights nonprofits serving the communities where the MLS All-Star is held. Each organization selected as a Hometown Hero receives a $15,000 grant and is honored at an event during the week of the game.

For the 2024 All-Star in Columbus, Ohio, 47 nonprofits were nominated by the community. RBC Wealth Management–U.S. proudly partnered with MLS and Black Players for Change (BPC)—an independent organization of Black MLS players, coaches and staff working to bridge the racial equality gap in soccer and society—to select four inspiring Columbus nonprofits for their contributions in the areas of education and literacy, physical and mental wellness and youth soccer.

Peter Kaldis, director of Business Development for RBC Wealth Management in Columbus and an Ohio native, represented the firm on the 2024 Hometown Heroes selection committee alongside several MLS representatives and players, including Darlington Nagbe, a current MLS player on the Columbus Crew and a BPC member.

“I don’t know if ‘heroes’ is a strong enough word for these organizations and the people who work for them,” Kaldis says. “As a Columbus resident myself, I am humbled and inspired by their selfless contributions and dedication to helping our community thrive.”

The 2024 Hometown Heroes are:

Final Third Foundation

Breaking down barriers for kids to play soccer is an important way to engage communities and welcome new talent to the field.  Final Third Foundation’s goal is to grow the number of kids on the field by making it more affordable for children of immigrant families to join training programs and leagues.

“We hope this award will be a launching pad that allows people to understand how the foundation utilizes soccer, wellness and education to grow the game and level the playing field—on and off the pitch,” says Benjamin Levey, executive director of Final Third Foundation.

Student Success Stores

This organization’s mission is to partner with schools to provide a free, anonymous place to shop for items like hygiene products, food and schools supplies so students can focus on learning instead of worrying about everyday essentials.

“This recognition underscores the impact of our efforts in helping students overcome barriers, stay focused on their education and achieve their full potential,” says Neethi Johnson, president of Student Success Stores. “It fuels our passion and commitment to expanding our reach to even more students in need so that every Columbus student can start the day healthy, confident and ready to learn.”

Our Helpers

This women-led, immigrant-founded nonprofit seeks to improve the lives of immigrant and refugee families. They provide services such as rental assistance, career counseling, programs for youth, ESL courses and resources for mental health and well-being support.

“It is incredibly humbling to be recognized for the work that Our Helpers is doing to help new American families improve their lives and transition from simply surviving to thriving,” says Dorothy Hassan, CEO of Our Helpers. “We recognize the wholeness of immigrant and refugee individuals, with mental wellness at the very center of our why. I am honored that the work we are doing is being valued and celebrated.”

Columbus Early Learning Centers

These centers give children the educational, social and emotional tools they need to be prepared for kindergarten. The organization’s school readiness program, ParentChild+, uses education to break the cycle of poverty for low-income families. They also offer comprehensive health and wellness benefits, including developmental screenings and nutritional support.

“Our services make it possible for parents in low socio-economic households to work or attend school while their young children are also given a strong foundation for success in school and in life,” said Gina Ginn, CEO of Columbus Early Learning Centers. “A recognition of this magnitude will assist us in carrying out our mission to help young learners develop, families succeed, and neighborhoods thrive.”

Dr. Anthony Williams (back right) during his days coaching the Zulus soccer team.
Dr. Anthony Williams (back right) during his days coaching the Zulus soccer team.

Honorary Hero: Dr. Anthony Williams

Along with the four nonprofits, Dr. Anthony Williams is being recognized as this year’s Honorary Hero, an accolade given to an individual who has not only made a positive impact on the lives of those around them, but has also worked extensively to progress the sport of soccer in their community.

Williams has been a respected family medicine doctor in Columbus for over 45 years. In 1985, he launched the Columbus Metro Soccer Association Recreational League (CMSA), designed to give kids living in the inner city of Columbus access to soccer. Through the CMSA, Williams created “The Zulus,” an elite traveling U-8 soccer team he coached for three years that made a significant impact on the game of soccer in Ohio.

Top photo, left to right: Peter Kaldis (RBC Wealth Management), Dorothy Hassan (Our Helpers), Darlington Nagbe (MLS Columbus Crew and Black Players for Change), Gina Ginn (Columbus Early Learning Centers), Ben Levey (Final Third Foundation), Anthony Williams (formerly of Columbus Metro Soccer Association).


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