In 2005, Ethiopian Tewahedo Social Services (ETSS) became incorporated as a free-standing nonprofit entity and was selected by the Capacity Building Initiative, a collaboration of the Franklin County Commissioners, United Way, The Columbus Foundation, and others, to receive a mini grant and technical assistance for two years. in April 2006, we relocated to our current main office, and in May of that year, we opened a second location in Whitehall. In 2008, we opened a third location with Prince of Peace Lutheran Church on the east side of Columbus.
In 2009, we formed the Grassroots Service Coalition with Somali, Asian, and Hispanic communities and members of the Federation of African Organizations in Ohio, which allowed us to expand our services to the larger refugee and immigrant community. Also in 2009, ETSS merged with the organizations Refugee Immigrant Chamber and Fountain of Life Foundation to broadenour service offerings and began providing services in five locations throughout Columbus.
ETSS's purpose is to provide programs and services to central Ohio refugees and immigrants, adults and youth, that encourage: community integration, sustained employment, education, and strong families. The organization seeks to be the focal point of integration for immigrant and refugee families, and to assist in developing a healthy, wealthy, and self-reliant new American community.
As co-founder and executive director of ETSS, I have seen the ups and downs of establishing, managing, and expanding a nonprofit organization. I have walked the walk with ETSS from its inception, birth, and growth. There is nothing that makes me happier than to see the organization that I helped start impact and transform lives in a positive way. ETSS is growing at 50% per year in programming and funding. At a time when many big and small organizations are being forced by the economy to shrink and rethink their priorities, we are fortunate that our board, staff, and volunteers had the foresight to begin the planning process years ago. We have set a five-year strategic development plan and are on target. Thanks to the vision of our leadership, we are a more focused and efficient organization than we have ever been.
In its short seven years as a 501(c)(3) organization, ETSS has experienced dynamic growth. During the first two years, the organization focused primarily on issues within the Ethiopian immigrant community. This provided a foundational cultural interest, as is evident in ETTS’s very popular annual September celebration of the Ethiopian New Year, which this year, had more than 500 guests. Since 2008, ETSS has reached out to other immigrant and refugee committees, including Somali, Liberian, Bhutanese, Latino, and Iraqi, as well as churches, government, and businesses. Part of our motivation for collaboration is strength in numbers. More important, however, is that while refugee and immigrant cultures do differ, concerns for the welfare and education of children and communities provide much common ground. The board is very proud of ETSS’s collaborative work with Columbus’s newest residents and citizens.