By Asia Nail
The Truth Reporter
The YWCA of Northwest Ohio has announced the 2023 Honorees for the YWCA Milestones: A Tribute to Women annual awards. This year’s honoree for Social Services is Tina Butts.
Women have long been at the forefront of providing support services to underserved communities. From long ago matriarchs like Jane Addams, to contemporary leaders of today like Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey, notable women have made significant contributions to improving the lives of those in need.
The YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) is a global organization that works to empower women and eliminate racism.
For 28 years, YWCA of Northwest Ohio has commemorated Women’s History Month by ‘recognizing women who have demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities and who, through their efforts and accomplishments, have opened doors for other women to achieve their potential.’ They are honored in the following seven areas: Arts, Business, Education, Government, Sciences, Social Services, Volunteerism. This year the YWCA added another category – Women on the Rise.
Born and reared in Toledo, Social Services honoree Tina Butts is someone often described as “the people’s champ.” Working as a bail bondswoman by trade, and formerly as a real estate agent, she not only takes notice of the disparities within our underserved communities —she steps up and acts to make positive change..
Butts is the owner of T-Bonds Bail Bonds Services, located in downtown Toledo across from the county jail, at 1709 Spielbusch Ave. She deals in all types of bonds from criminal, janitorial, travel checks and those dealing with guardianship appointments, just to name a few. As a bail bondswoman, Butts plays an important role in ensuring the criminal justice system is fair and accessible to everyone, regardless of their financial means. Her work also decreases the likelihood someone will be found guilty, solely due to their inability to mount a proper defense while in custody.
“Without the option of bail bonds, many low-income individuals would be forced to remain in jail while awaiting trial,” shares Butts. “I help people get back to their families and jobs.”
In addition to ensuring fair and accessible criminal justice treatment for Ohioans, Butts is the founder of The Movement Team Lucas County, fondly called ‘The Movement’ by locals.
“We are a grassroots non-profit organization focused on providing tools that reduce barriers for the most marginalized members of our community,” says Butts. “Ideally people pay it forward by introducing someone to the same assistance that was given to them.”
The Movement is mobilizing the next generation of black voters here in Lucas County. “We have a special trust within our own community,” says Butts. “We make sure everyone is registered and engaged in the political issues that matter to them.”
“Frankly many are disillusioned with the voting process and overall feel like black votes have been historically counted out,” shares Butts. “The only way to have faith in our current process is to know the issues and candidates that best support the goals of equality for the black community.”
Anything less than systemic change will allow a current supremacist system to continue to function as it was originally designed—to the detriment of black and brown livelihood.
“We want people to understand WHY their vote matters when it comes to fixing institutions that no longer serve us,” says Butts.
To that end, The Movement has identified five key policy areas to systematically address the challenges often facing the underserved: Disproportionate neighborhood violence, institutionalized racism, improving the education system, improving employment rates and mentorship opportunities.
Then, during the height of the COVID pandemic, The Movement included in its community focus a drive to get people to vaccine centers.
“There’s a need in our community, there are people who don’t have cars or transportation. Since the number of people infected with COVID is growing, we need to bring the resources to the people. I see so many kids that are making their parents get vaccinated because shots save lives,” explained Tina Butts at the time.
Most recently The Movement has been assisting the Greenbelt Apartments at 806 Cherry Street.
Last September, the City of Toledo’s Department of Neighborhoods declared the Greenbelt Apartments a public nuisance.
“I knew we needed to help these people move forward,” explains Butts. “The complex has 176 units with no less than two to five people in each apartment. Where would they go if we don’t step in and help? I asked.”
The Movement team immediately gathered people and organizations with community resources. “When we dug deeper we found much of the problems at the Greenbelt complex were a result of residents having basic quality of life issues,” explains Butts.
Some people in underserved neighborhoods may feel they are not treated with dignity and respect, often feeling unheard when they raise complaints or ask for help.
“When we walk into apartments and realize some children don’t have basic necessities like beds, we jump in and find a solution,” says Butts. “We connected kids to meals over the summer and ran a housekeeping program to teach household management. It made a huge difference.
The Movement helps people with issues like finding employment, housing, education and food. They also assist community members with: rent, legal, job training, senior services and vaccinations. “People don’t know what they don’t know. We even teach skills to make out your grocery list for the month so your money will stretch,” explains Butts.
The Movement is assisting the Greenbelt Complex Monday-Friday weekly ensuring the grounds stay clean and work orders are completed in a timely fashion. CSB also works with The Movement every Monday assisting where they can to be helpful to residents and dispelling the stigma that ‘they are the enemy.’
“I can’t thank County Commissioner Pete Gerkin enough,” shares Butts. “He comes to Greenbelt in person at least twice a week and is on a first-name basis with a good portion of the residents at this point.”
Butts also beams with appreciation for the help of Brian Byrd, Toledo’s former Fire Chief and the city’s current Safety Director. “Everyone rolled up their sleeves in solidarity and cleaned up the streets surrounding the complex,” she says.
“We also partnered with the health department and ran a vaccination clinic last month where we were able to assist in vaccinating over 200 people who either live on the grounds or in close proximity,” adds Butts.
The Movement team also conducts free resource classes for residents. “It took time for people to trust us, initially many felt their voice and vote didn’t matter in the big scheme of things,” shares Butts. “We did what most won’t do —we educated them.”
The organization educates residents on congressional, state and local elections so they are not only knowledgeable, but engaged in the process.
“We’re making politics gratifying,” she shares. “Once people understand the process, and that their vote can influence change on issues impacting them most, it makes a big difference.”
Tina Butts is also making a difference with the stigma surrounding mental health and drug addiction sharing, “I decided to open Here’s My Turning Point treatment center to help everyday people receive addiction treatment combined with integrated care services.”
The facility is located on 2345 Dorr St, and is a treatment center for addiction, recovery and mental health. The newly renovated center is dedicated to helping individuals and families impacted by mental health and substance use disorders. “We hope to improve the quality of life through advocacy, education and service,” says Butts.
Here’s My Turning Point is a safe space addressing systemic barriers historically preventing underserved populations from accessing care. This can include advocating for policy changes, educating the public about the importance of mental health and substance abuse treatment, and working with other organizations to increase access to care.
Tina Butts is playing a vital role in providing social services to marginalized communities throughout Toledo. From founding organizations to developing programs she is using her influence to raise awareness, while dedicating her life to making a positive impact on Toledo.
Congratulations on being honored with the award for social services. Her tireless efforts and selflessness in serving the community are truly admirable and the positive change she is bringing about in the lives of many is immeasurable. Her commitment to making Toledo a better place is an inspiration to so many.
To that Tina Butts says, “Teamwork makes the dream work. I am humbled and honored to accept this award on behalf of my entire team.”
The YWCA Milestones: A Tribute to Women Awards Luncheon will be held on March 30 at 11:30 a.m. at the Glass City Center.