Kent students call her Professor Justice and her family calls her grandma, but for the children in the Kent and surrounding communities, Lisbeth Justice is their LoveLight.
Lisbeth Justice is an associate professor in the department of psychological sciences and also the CEO of LoveLight, Inc., a local nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children and families in need reach their fullest potential.
Even in her early years, Justice knew she was destined to be a teacher. She recalls pretending to be a teacher and playing school with her younger sibling, giving him lessons and homework. During high school, Justice started working in New Jersey at a children’s overnight camp called Camp Hope.
“At that time, I knew I wanted to work with children,” Justice said. “I’ve been interested in education for a long time.”
She moved to the Akron area and taught for a year at a junior high school that is no longer there. She returned to her hometown for some substitute teaching jobs.
“I wanted to make sure the path I started pursuing was the right one,” Justice said.
The turning point for Justice’s career was working with a food nutrition group for lower income families.
“I did several things for the food nutrition program related to education with children of different ages, preschoolers at a daycare center and home visits,” Justice said.
Justice’s education path led her to obtaining her master’s and doctorate from Kent State. She now teaches as an associate professor at Kent State and Youngstown State.
Justice got involved in an anti-poverty group and worked with them for a number of years while she was teaching. However, she felt like the group could be doing more and had her own ideas.
A nonprofit organization dedicated to children’s education and families’ well-being was never a childhood goal or dream, but the ambitious teacher made it a reality in the Kent community.
LoveLight, Inc. was the product of Justice and a few of her colleagues’ ideas for an organization.
“I didn’t want to just bring people up to ground zero,” Justice said. “I wanted to go beyond that, beyond alleviating poverty. It’s like the Army commercial says, ‘Be all you can be.’ So, our mission statement is to help people, especially those considered economically disadvantaged to move toward reaching their potential.”
This November marks LoveLight’s 24th year in operation.
“We have been very fortunate to have community support,” Justice said. “Churches in the community have let us use their kitchens and all the volunteers have been the biggest help. LoveLight and the programs really bring people together in a sense of community.”
LoveLight has offered many programs in the Kent community. One of these programs is STAR CHILD, which stands for Service, Teaching, Advocacy and Research Center for Human Integration, Learning and Development. STAR CHILD is an afterschool program licensed by Ohio Jobs and Family Services.
The afterschool lunch program provides packed meals to children affected by poverty in the Kent and surrounding areas. The preparations are done in several church kitchens that volunteer space.
Jerry Feezel volunteered with LoveLight to make and deliver the lunches. He serves as chairman of the board of LoveLight.
“I see the positive experience that the children and youth are having with LoveLight. Delivering the lunches over a period of six weeks, I get to see the progress when I talk to them,” Feezel said.
LoveLight also has an afterschool tutoring program called Bio Integrative Tutoring Service (BITS), which has been held on Kent’s campus.
Children in the community are paired up with “study buddies” or two Kent State students. The connection gives the children someone to talk to if they had trouble at home or in school, and the Kent State students gain hands-on knowledge about working with children one-on-one.
The Tutoring PLUS program focuses on identifying and remediating underlying causes of difficulties in learning and functioning in life by learning stress reduction techniques. Other programs include Partners Exploring and Achieving Keys to Success, the Summer Food Service Program for Children, ABC’s of Fun and the LoveLight Multicultural Arts Camp.
The Child Development and Learning Center is a future plan for LoveLight. Once the organization has a home, children can be there during the day. The goal is to create an intergenerational community with senior citizens involved because they have a lot to offer each other.
Kent State and LoveLight
Justice collaborated with other professors around Kent State to assign projects for students that benefit both LoveLight and the students gaining experience.
More than 400 college students have been involved with LoveLight’s programs through internships or volunteering.
As a professor teaching education courses, it was an expectation for college students to get involved outside the classroom. Justice incorporated hands on activities for her students through LoveLight’s programs.
“I think it’s just as beneficial for Kent State students as the children in the programs. They are getting experience that they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise that is complementing what they are learning in their courses,” Justice said.
Justice, the board of LoveLight and three student fundraising groups have one main goal in common: purchasing a home for LoveLight, Inc.
LoveLight, Inc. is in the beginning stages of purchasing an old VFW building in Kent. However, without a $100,000 down payment and income to pay the mortgage, LoveLight will not be able to follow through with the purchase. Major and minor renovations to the building are critical before LoveLight can operate safely.
“It would be the best anniversary present ever if we could have the building,” Justice said.
“Having our own building means we can expand our programs to offer more for the children and families.”
With the purchase of its own building, LoveLight will no longer need to borrow the church facilities and Kent State buildings to hold its programs.
“When the children are there on the weekends and evenings, we could have all kinds of things to involved the community. Senior socials, a health fair or community theater. There’s just so many possibilities,” Justice said.
The student fundraising groups are working to establish a revenue stream for LoveLight to rely on. Fundraising projects implemented this semester include T-shirt sales, the Scripts program and a 5K race.
Students in Dean Porr’s business consulting and practicum course designed and ordered T-shirts to promote the STAR CHILD group. They plan to sell these for anyone who wants to support the group on the second floor of the Student Center.
“We got to sign up for the area that we wanted to work with. I specifically chose STAR CHILD because I like working with children so I saw this as a great opportunity,” said Adam Aranowitz, senior business management major.
The Scripts program is designed to benefit both LoveLight and anyone who wants to participate in the fundraiser. Gift cards are purchased from a long list of options and the gift card company gives LoveLight a portion of the income.
A GoFundMe page is available for anyone to contribute to as well as a mailing donation option to LoveLight, Inc. P.O. Box 123 Kent, Ohio 44240.
Jessica Skitzki covers health and fitness. Contact her at email@example.com.