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Can Zerqa Abid Save the Westside?

There are glimmers of hope on the Westside though, places where at-risk youth can turn for help if they so choose.

MY Project USA Youth Empowerment Center is one organization offering a way out. The unlikely hero behind its creation and leadership is Zerqa Abid or “Sister Zerqa,” who describes herself as an “activist all my life.”

She is diminutive in stature, but she has already proven to the Westside and to Sullivant Avenue that a woman can move mountains where most men have barely moved the needle.

MY Project USA is a national endeavor and recently moved its Sullivant Avenue headquarters of five years into a former grocery store further up the street. The new location is in many ways strategic, situated between the Hilltop and the Wedgewood Village apartment community where immigrant families and others have been coping with drug-dealing related violence for years.

The good news is, MY Project USA’s new digs – going through an extensive rehab – is far more visible to the community than the previous location.

“We needed a new place. It was too small and wasn’t working for us anymore. So I bought this property,” said Abid to the Free Press.

For five years Abid sought a new home for her brainchild, the Columbus Foundation and others have helped, and she received an Small Business Association loan for instance. The City has assisted financially with grants for programs but not with the purchase of the property.

“We are going forward with all of this expansion and renovation because we have asked for a space for the last five years. For five years we have been serving Wedgewood and saying, ‘We don’t have any space,’” she said. “We didn’t have a space where we could go to in the evening. This was a need. We borrowed loans and did whatever we needed to provide a safe space for our children.”

The new building will not be a drop-in for homeless youth who need overnight shelter, but “anyone who walks in the building we will try to help,” said Abid, who has also advocated for victims of sex trafficking and prostitution, a huge problem up and down Sullivant.  

Abid also has success in tearing apart what seems unbreakable.

“From what I have heard, our programs have severed the pipeline that was fueling young people into gangs before. Our programs have made that disconnect,” she said. “Our young people are choosing to play soccer, choosing to come into our program.”

She believes there are several factors why 13-year-olds join gangs like the MBKs.

“But the most important factor is that there was nothing for them to do here in the neighborhood. There was no recreation, there was no programs. Their parents are working three jobs so they are left alone,” she said. “The children are easy prey for all these criminals out there. For drug dealers, who spend a few dollars on their meals or offering them something very low, and using them as drug mules is so easy.”

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Volunteer Appreciation & Award Ceremony
MYP Save The Dates
PD Mentoring at MY Project USA
Community Development:

MY Professional Mentoring Initiative - Be A Mentor or A Mentee

MY Project USA has always strived relentlessly to provide the best development opportunities to their community. Maintaining that momentum, MY Project USA is proud to provide Professional Mentoring opportunities to underserved highschool students and adults.

This is an extension and supplement to the Mentoring program provided by the “Under My Wing” initiative. We are super excited about this program’s prospect.

The focus of this initiative is to ensure that underserved high school students and adults are prepared for post-secondary education, trade schools, or entry-level professional success.

Our aim is to develop professional skills such as communication skills, career development soft-skills, goal setting, self-efficacy for personal and professional development; and academic development skills such as college application process and knowledge about career fields.

This program aims to develop healthy decision-making in young people by providing them with professional adult mentors who can listen, guide, and provide meaningful opportunities.

If you are a youth interested in participating in this program as a Mentee then please complete Mentee Application. If you are a college student and would like to help a high school student going to college, please complete College Mentor Application. If you are interested in being a Professional Mentor then please complete Professional Mentor Application. We will reach out to you individually as we start screening the applicants.

Pantry team -August 2021

MY Family Pantry Update: 

MY Family Pantry Served 1688 Individuals From 446 Families in 30 days

Free Food Market Scheduled To Open August 17th

We welcome you to the new MY Project USA Youth Empowerment Center. With the tireless efforts of our volunteers, board, contractors, and of course Sister Zerqa, last week marked the closing of one chapter in our history, and the beginning of the next.

Our floors have been redone in a marble-esque style featuring accents reflecting our now colorful walls. Newly planted grass and flowers bring vibrance and life to the front of the building, and our sign can be seen from across Sullivant Ave. A beacon for what is still to come.
However, we would be remiss to say any of this came easily. This facility was not birthed through leisure, but rather the will and purity of heart of its workers. The bonds of faith propel us to new heights.

Combined Menu Highlights: Watermelon, Corn, Stonefruit, Pineapple, Peppers, Melons, Potatoes, Eggs, Plums, along with other assorted produce and dry goods

Combined Statistics July 3rd - August 7th:
Total Families Served: 446
New Families: 58
Total Individuals: 1678
Children: 704
Adults: 853
Seniors (60+): 121

We serve an average of over 350 individuals per week. Our donor contributions help us to continually improve our operations and outreach, and we at MY Family Pantry are very thankful. 

MY Family Pantry is an initiative of MY Project USA that is 100% run and led by students. We distribute fresh produce and groceries to hundreds of individuals in our community every week. Every volunteer plays a crucial role in making sure our operations run smoothly each week. If you would like to join us in fighting food insecurity in Columbus, please click here to volunteer.  

We would like to thank everyone who comes out to serve the community on Saturdays and also our wonderful donors who make our many initiatives possible. 

If you would like to become one of our donors and help us continue feeding the community please donate here.


Kevin Lewis

Media Chair, MY Project USA


MY Helpline: 

Rent & Utilities Support Available From COVID-19 Emergency Funds

We have been working very hard in securing grants and building collaboration with other partners to help our clients. Thanks to The Columbus Foundation, United Way of Central Ohio, and IMPACT Community Action, we are still able to help more of our families with their rent and utilities. If you or someone you know needs help, please ask them to contact us at 614-905-0977 or


7 Locations In Columbus To Drop Off Donations - Truck Pick Up Available For Large Donations

You can now drop off your donations of new and gently used clothes, shoes books, toys and other small non-breakable items in a donation box near you. These location Include: 

Noor Islamic Cultural Center -  5001 Wilcox Rd. Dublin 43016
Masjid Nimrah - 4501 Refugee Rd, Columbus, OH 43232
MAS Youth Center - 4615 Northtowne Blvd, Columbus, OH. 43229
Turkish American Society of Ohio (TASO) - 2885 W Dublin Granville Rd, Columbus, OH 43235
Ahlul Bayt Society - 2580 W Dublin Granville Rd, Columbus, OH 43235
The First Congregational Church - 444 E Broad St, Columbus, OH 43215
Quick & Easy Mart -  4197 Cleveland Ave. Columbus
MY Deah's Warehouse - 4004 Fondorf Dr. Columbus, OH 43228.  During Business Hours Only

We are looking for more locations. If interested in helping us or have any other question, please contact us at


MY Project USA Addressing Human Trafficking, Drugs, & Gangs in Ohio


This Is Why You Should Support Us


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MY Project USA
3275 Sullivant Ave | Columbus, Ohio  43204
614-905-0977 |

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