Marietta Main Street uses First Friday to celebrate nonprofit groups

Photo by Janelle Patterson Kiwanian Louise Holmes, right, reads a Dr. Seuss book to Chase Arteaga, 2, of Oak Grove, Friday during Nonprofit Night in downtown Marietta.

MARIETTA — Beginning with a ceremonial ribbon cutting reopening downtown Marietta after weeks of high water, Marietta Main Street’s First Fridays event featured more than 50 local nonprofits.

“We have such an awesome community of nonprofits downtown that in addition to supporting the for-profit merchants we want the downtown to be a reflection of the work all of our community does,” said Main Street Executive Director Cristie Thomas. “To my knowledge though there’s never been one event where all of these nonprofits can be highlighted in a community fair-style where these groups can meet new folks, recruit volunteers and get their messages out there.”

Thomas, who previously worked for Marietta College, cited the institution’s annual involvement fair as inspiration for Friday’s festivities.

“Any issue a community member wants to address I’m sure there’s a nonprofit set up doing the work that they can get involved in,” said Thomas. “This is also a chance to feel good and celebrate that work whether it’s donating thousands of dollars to help those battling cancer or highlighting things like the Veterans Museum of the Mid-Ohio Valley. I hope people find a new organization that tugs at their heartstrings and can gain their support.”

Also announced at the ribbon cutting was a $5,000 grant from the Marietta Community Foundation made up of $2,500 in funding from the Marietta College Board of Trustees and the other donations to the foundation for high water cleanup in the downtown.

Photo by Janelle Patterson From left to right, Ryleigh Barrett, Halle Richards, Alexis Palmer and Britani Merritt set out baked goods for a bake sale to support the Youth Advisory Council at the Marietta Community Foundation office in Marietta Friday.

The Kiwanis Club is known for its annual Pancake Days but Linda Eddy, of Marietta, explained how funds raised through that event and others are used.

“Our real mission is to support kids and their literacy,” she explained Friday as fellow Kiwanian Louise Holmes read a Dr. Seuss book at Twisted Sisters Boutique. “All of our money goes to support the kids, whether it’s through new books or supplies at the Boys and Girls Club or diapers for the food pantry. And we’re sponsoring the first Friday in August and holding our own storybook park at the Armory then.”

Eddy, who provided the costuming, books and decorations for Friday night’s partnership with the boutique, said she has always loved Dr. Seuss and collects items related to the author.

“I thought how fun it would be to be here promoting child literacy on his birthday and get our mission out,” she said.

Kendra Arteaga, of Oak Grove, said she loved bringing her husband and 2-year-old daughter Chase downtown for the first time to enjoy the book reading, and first visit to many of the shops.

Photo by Janelle Patterson Mayor Joe Matthews and LeeAnn Johnson cut the ribbon reopening downtown businesses Friday following two weeks of high water cleanup.

“I follow many of them on Instagram but haven’t shopped here yet,” she said. “But we love the community and wanted to support them so we are going to go get Chase sized for a bike since her birthday is coming up. We really want to take advantage of the night and visit places like Wit & Wimzy and others.”

Britani Merritt, support services assistant and adviser to the Youth Advisory Council, said she was excited Friday to showcase the service efforts of some of the youngest residents of Washington County.

“This is our second year working with high school students as a youth-led group identifying youth needs,” said Merritt. “Right now we have seven students, last year we had 13 but several graduated, but we’ve had a hard time getting the word out about the projects they’re working on or recruiting middle schoolers to the table.”

On Friday they showcased at the community foundation office on Front Street projects such as the act of kindness initiative where each act of service gets passed a business card and the recipient is challenged to perform service and keep paying it forward.

“And another project they’re working on is the Little Free Libraries to be placed in the Beverly-Waterford area, Lowell, New Matamoras and the Barlow-Vincent area,” said Merritt. “We received a grant from the Women’s Giving Circle to fund the construction of these little libraries and a small portion to be used to purchase toiletries, hygiene items, sanitary items and school supplies geared toward youth ages 12 to 18.”

Juniors Halle Richards, 17, of Belpre, and Ryleigh Barrett, 17, of Parkersburg, and senior Alexis Palmer, 18, of Belpre, all serve on the council and had baked cookies and cupcakes for Friday night’s showcase to raise funds for the project.

“We’re beginning the collection process to put the hygiene products and books in the libraries,” said Palmer. “This is a group that really focuses on my want to help people. That’s why I’m here, I want to be happy and make people as happy as I want to be. With this group, I like that we can make our service go anywhere. It’s also taught me what philanthropy means.”

Richards said before becoming involved in the council she hadn’t found a service group to put her support behind.

“But here because it’s student-led I like that we can pick a project and work toward that goal,” she added.

Further funding and donated items are needed to continue the progression of the project, with hopes to have the boxes and signage installed in April.

“We’re still working to confirm exact locations for them and are looking for more input on that too,” added Merritt.

The council meets every other Wednesday at the foundation office in Marietta from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. and is open to all youth in Washington County.

The next meeting will take place on Wednesday.

At the Riverside Artists Gallery, three nonprofits were featured Friday and will continue to benefit from an ongoing partnership through July.

The Humane Society of the Ohio Valley, Building Bridges to Careers and the Marietta Community Food Pantry have all partnered with the gallery for an artistic initiative involving wooden panels, community involvement and an art show.

“I’m not a painter, but I’ll paint a background on one of these panels and then add found items since that’s the medium I work in,” noted Betsy Cook, a member of the gallery. “Anyone can come in and pick up a panel and work on it here during one of our workshops or take it home and use their own supplies.”

Then once all of the panels are completed and turned in to the gallery, they will be sold during the July art show on the first Friday of the month.

“And when they sell, half of the proceeds will go to the nonprofit of your choosing and the other half will go to support our programs like the workshops and summer camps we hold,” Cook added. “We’re really excited our three nonprofits wanted to be a part of this.”

Cook said she plans to take panels to be worked on at Glenwood, The Pines and Brookdale senior living centers too and was delighted to hear that BB2C Executive Director Tasha Werry plans to take panels to local school art teachers to get students involved.

“This is a perfect example of collaboration and it’s not only about funding our organization and others but helps us to learn about each other programs and drives people back downtown for the July first Friday,” said Werry.

Etta Stull, 21, of Marietta, painted a saber-toothed tiger skull on a panel Friday as her contribution to the effort.

“The gallery is very important to me and so anyway I can help encourage others to create and to help out other charities I want to do,” she said. “Plus a lot of my work surrounds animals so it’s a perfect fit.”

HSOV volunteer Amber Dennison, of Marietta, said she was happy for the shelter to be a part of the project to keep the goodwill of local residents.

“There’s nothing wrong with the cats and dogs we have, they’re just homeless,” she said. “This gives us some more face time so people can give their support through cat and dog food, cleaning supplies or even just when they shop at Kroger or on Amazon.”