By Asia Nail
The Truth Reporter
As summer turns to the fall season, amidst the rustle of leaves and whispers of opportunity, a visionary leader is emerging, carving a path toward a brighter future. Meet Jenai Hicklin, the founder and CEO of New Leaf Group Inc., an organization whose roots run deep in the fertile soil of community empowerment.
While many business owners only seek fortune, Jenai Hicklin dares to plant seeds of lasting change. New Leaf Group, like a compassionate gardener, recognizes that three critical areas in Black and Brown communities need tending: food insecurities, women empowerment and community mentorship.
Imagine a city park on a sunny day, where some children are playing carefree, yet others are haunted by gnawing hunger. This is the harsh reality of food insecurities.
“At New Leaf Group we nourish young minds with sustenance and hope, while filling bellies too” says Hicklin.
Now, picture a locked chest, within which lies the potential of half the population. Women, like precious gems concealed beneath layers of societal pressures, yearn to shine. “At New Leaf Group we recognize that unlocking this chest is the key to a brighter tomorrow for many women in our community,” explains Hicklin.
New Leaf Group nurtures the aspirations of women, empowering us to rise like the mighty Maumee River flowing through our city, breaking down the barriers that have held us back for far too long.
“Women play a crucial role in families,” explains Hicklin. “Many times, women provide emotional support, nurturing and often serve as the primary caregivers to their children.”
Additionally, women contribute to household management, education and decision-making which are vital in shaping the overall well-being and stability of the family unit.
But a garden is not just about the flowers; it’s about the gardeners who tend to it. Our communities, like delicate ecosystems, require mentors who guide, nurture, and protect. New Leaf Group sees this sharing, “We’ve become the dedicated mentors who help our kids grow into towering trees with strong roots.”
Food insecurities, like a relentless storm, have swept through northwest Ohio neighborhoods. Families, struggling to make ends meet, often face the painful dilemma of choosing between groceries and essential bills.
“This venture began back in 2015 when my son had two-a-days with his football team and most of the kids didn’t have lunch to eat,” recalls Hicklin. “I started making them lunches at my home, then eventually partnered with Connecting Kids to Meals…the rest is history.”
New Leaf Group hosts food drives ensuring that no child in Toledo goes to bed with a growling stomach.
As for community mentorship, envision a community as a vast, intricate puzzle. Without the right guidance, the pieces remain scattered and disconnected. New Leaf Group, like expert puzzle solvers, bridges those gaps. They pair mentors with mentees, creating a network of support and guidance. This network, like a spider’s web, catches the challenges that life hurls our way, allowing those involved to thrive in harmony.
“The importance of the three categories we focus on—food insecurities, women empowerment, and community mentorship—cannot be overstated,” explains Hicklin.
New Leaf Group strongly focuses on these categories because they believe they are the threads that weave the fabric of a compassionate society, ensuring that no one is left behind, that every voice is heard, and that every child has the opportunity to blossom into their full potential.
Saturday, September 30, 2023 from 10:30 am – 2:30 pm New Leaf Group is joining forces with REINVEST TOLEDO, Greater Toledo Community Foundation, and ABLE ADVOCATES at the Mott Branch Library to discuss violence and food insecurities.
This promises to shed light on a pressing question that has long lingered in the corridors of government and community activism: Do federal laws and local policies help or hinder low to moderate-income (LMI) communities? This gathering of minds aims to tackle the complexities of this issue head-on.
But the true power of this event lies in its heartbeat—the community members who are the driving force behind this transformative work. Their voices, like a chorus of determination, will resound through the room. They will share their lived experiences, their struggles, and their dreams. In doing so, they’re bridging the gap between policy and reality, transforming abstract concepts into real-world narratives.
“It’s a gathering of advocates and change-makers who refuse to accept the status quo,” says Hicklin.
New Leaf Group also has a new exciting initiative. The Chico Vaughn Basketball Camp’s Reading Initiative carries within its mission the transformative power of reading literacy.
The roots of this endeavor reach deep into history, entwined with the remarkable story of Chico Vaughn, a trailblazer on the basketball court and a champion against the formidable odds of racism. As the first African American to don the jersey for The Ohio State University, Chico’s journey was marked by adversity, as he faced torment and prejudice that would have crushed the spirit of a lesser man.
Instead in 1979, he did something extraordinary. Chico gathered over 140 children of diverse backgrounds, transcending race and creed, to launch his pioneering Chico Vaughn Basketball Camp. Even today, this camp is more than just a basketball clinic; it is a crucible for responsible life lessons. Chico became a mentor, both on and off the court, to the youth of Northwest Ohio.
His legacy lives on today through these camps as a beacon of hope for many, especially those from our own underserved communities. New Leaf Group’s Reading Initiative seeks to honor Chico’s memory by providing resources for books, which are instrumental in fostering reading literacy.
“We partner with this camp because we love their story,” says Hicklin. “Chico never let his challenges over take him, instead, he was fueled by an unwavering desire to ensure that no child would ever have to endure the same tribulations he faced. New Leaf Group helps to carry on that mission today.”
As September draws to a close, New Leaf Group stands as a symbol of hope. They are a testament to the enduring belief in the transformative power of mentorship, education, and faith. Their story reminds us that, when we work together, we all have the power to turn the pages of history towards a brighter, more equitable future for generations to come.
Follow New Leaf Group on Facebook to get involved.