By Jim Davis

There’s an old proverb that says “give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” This simple little statement perfectly describes the mission of the Life Enrichment Center. Our goal is to transform the people we serve by providing them with the support and skills they need to combat the effects of joblessness, hunger, and addiction in their lives.

The concept of transforming lives has been part of the LEC philosophy almost from the beginning. The LEC started out as an outreach program that provided groceries to needy people on Dayton’s East Side. But the team quickly realized that simply giving food to hungry people wasn’t enough. Unless those people found ways to afford food on their own, they would simply keep coming back to the Center for free groceries. In the words of the proverb, if we truly wanted to change people’s lives, we needed to find ways to teach them to fish.

Transforming lives is a lot more complicated than simply handing out groceries. To begin with, you need to have a good understanding of your neighbors’ needs and develop the right set of services to help meet them. Your neighbors also have to be committed to making the change. It’s a lot easier for a person to eat a fish someone else has already prepared than it is to catch, clean and cook the fish himself. People need the right incentives to convince them to take on the extra work.

These insights led us to create the Pathways to Growth program. The Pathways are sets of services that are designed to meet the needs of people in a variety of situations. For example, we offer Basic Needs Services for people who need help with the bare necessities of life, Health and Safety Services to help neighbors live a healthier lifestyle, Relationship Needs Services for people who need companionship or group support, Esteem Needs Services for people who are looking to improve their self-image, and Spiritual/God’s Purpose Services to help neighbors achieve their full potential. With the Pathways, neighbors can design a path that takes their unique circumstances into account and that meets their immediate needs while helping them work toward a better life.

Having a plan is one thing, but sticking with it is another. That’s why we base our services on the principle of Exchange Charity. With Exchange Charity, neighbors receive points for following their path and participating in courses and activities. These points can be redeemed for groceries in the Choice Pantry or for small household items in the LEC Mart. By providing these tangible rewards, we incent our neighbors to invest in making a better life for themselves.

It’s important to note that none of this would be possible without the collaboration of our partner organizations. We’ve made strategic partnerships with many local organizations to ensure that we can offer the range of services our neighbors need to succeed. Several of these partners have space on the LEC campus, so they can provide onsite support directly to our neighbors.

All of this exists because we at the LEC firmly believe that everyone has value. Our goal is to help our neighbors realize their value and use it to help themselves and their community.

“Because Everyone Has Value”

Jim Davis has been a volunteer with the Life Enrichment Center since 2019. His grandparents lived in East Dayton and he has many fond memories of what the area was like when he was growing up.