Party with a Purpose: Helping Open Arms Transformational Living Combat Youth Homelessness

Executive Director Fonda Royster with Robin Green, OATL Board President, LaDonna Knabbs and Regina Kynard

Carla Thomas
The Truth Contributor

Demonstrating an inspiring show of unity and support, individuals from the Toledo community gathered on May 25 at The Truth Colours Gallery to show support for Open Arms Transformational Living (OATL). This Toledo-based nonprofit organization is dedicated to serving homeless, runaway and exploited youth aged between 16 and 20, by meeting their essential needs for food, hygiene items, clothing and, most importantly, providing them with support and a compassionate ear.

The event proved to be an unforgettable evening, with attendees being treated to the incredible talents of Ramona Collins, a beloved and longstanding entertainer in Toledo, Ohio. Collins mesmerized the crowd with an eclectic mix of music that resonated with guests across various genres. While enjoying delectable lite bites, attendees had the chance to participate in an exciting raffle featuring gift baskets generously donated by Creative Gift Baskets. The atmosphere was energized as guests mingled, danced and even flaunted their own vocal skills.

However, the party had a deeper purpose. executive director and founder of OATL, Fonda Royster, emphasized that beyond raising funds and collecting donations, the event aimed to shed light on the urgent crisis of youth homelessness in our community.

“I have been in social services two decades, most years working in the foster care system. I got tired of OUR kids being emancipated on their 18th birthday without viable resources, social support, vocational skills, untreated trauma, and so many other issues,” said Royster. “Eighty percent of homeless young people come from the foster care system. I believe we are either a solution to a problem or an “added problem” to a problem. And when we sit and do nothing to help OUR community, we are an “added problem” to a societal problem.”

Denise Jamila Davis, raffle winner

Youth homelessness is a pervasive problem that often goes unnoticed or unaddressed. The event served as a platform to raise awareness about the pressing issue and garner support from compassionate individuals who are dedicated to making a difference.

Royster said, “There are approximately 2,000 homeless youth in Lucas County. By homeless youth, I mean teenagers without an accompanied adult.” OATL, through its relentless efforts, aims to combat this crisis by providing a safe haven for vulnerable young individuals, offering them not only the necessities of life but also the emotional support they desperately need.

“Our OVERALL goal,” said Royster, “is to obtain a debt-free space where we will be able to provide a loving nurturing environment for these teenagers. Currently, OATL operates mobile. We go out in the community providing food, clothing, hygiene products, and a nonjudgmental ear to the vulnerable population we serve.” She added: “The youth we serve are in survival mode. We want to assist them to shift to THRIVING mode. At OATL’S housing, youth will have access to not only housing, but also in-house access to mental health treatment, basic life skills, vocational training, and so much more. Consequently, these young people will transition from being negative statistics to positive productive members of society.”

As the evening drew to a close, the resonating message was clear: united, we have the power to effect change. By supporting organizations like Open Arms Transformational Living and their tireless efforts to uplift homeless youth, we can create a community where every young person feels seen, heard, and valued. The gathering at The Truth Colours Gallery served as a catalyst for change, igniting hope and inspiring others to join the fight against youth homelessness in Toledo and beyond.

For those interested in providing support to OATL, you can contribute to their mission by reaching out to Open Arms Transformation Living. Donations can be sent to their mailing address at PO Box 140921, Toledo, 43614.

Additionally, you can contact them directly at 419.269.7995. For convenient electronic contributions, OATL accepts donations via Cash App using the handle $oatltoledo. Your support will make a meaningful impact in their efforts to assist and empower homeless, runaway, and exploited youth in the Toledo community.