by Kim Vaught
With all the challenges that our students face in today’s world, they need caring, supportive, encouraging individuals to come around them. Two people who understand this world and have committed their “retired” lives to impacting students are Wendetta and Lee Langston in Cincinnati, Ohio. Operation Give Back (OGB) was founded in 2002. It’s a non-profit organization dedicated to helping students through tutoring, mentoring and employment programs. Not only are student’s lives impacted, but the communities they live in are impacted as well! The Langston’s are intentional about providing a positive environment and creating programs that inspire students to reach their full potential and realize their dreams and aspirations.
As our church is beginning to partner with OGB and my relationship is growing with them, I am inspired with their faith and commitment to the Lord and His Kingdom. I wanted to share their story with you through this interview. Enjoy!
Montgomery Community Church
(1) First, tell us a little about yourselves and your family
We have been married for 27 years and are blessed to have 3 adult children and 1 grandchild. Our older daughter works in child and family services, our son is in the Air Force Honor Guard, and our younger daughter is a student at the University of Cincinnati, studying social work. Both girls live in Cincinnati and our son lives in Washington D.C.
Lee is originally from Texas and Wendy is from Illinois. Procter and Gamble brought us to Cincinnati and Lee retired from being a manager in 2007. We have lived in the Sycamore School District for 13 years and our children attended the Sycamore Schools.
(2) What prompted you to begin OGB?
In 2001, God made it clear that we were to serve in this community where we lived. We have been doing ministry work for all of our married life. Lee has been an ordained Elder for 15 years. God showed us the need for us to inspire, empower and positively impact the lives of children that our kids were going to school with. Specifically, our children were teenagers at the time and had friends or knew kids at school who were experiencing difficulties, whether academically or personally. Some of these kids did not have a supportive home environment where these issues were resolved. These kids came to our home so that they could have an adult they could talk to when needed in a safe and non-threatening environment. The kids did homework together and worked through some rough times together. This led to regular sessions at our home where they could get homework help from each other and life skills guidance. We realize that our home belongs to God and we are blessed to be a blessing.
We saw what God was doing and we were glad to join him. We decided to begin OGB as a formal operation to offer tutoring, mentoring and life skills assistance to kids beyond the circle of our children’s friends when God showed us through a young man how such lives can be turned around with support and nurturing. This particular teenager was instrumental in convincing us of the need to provide a place like OGB where kids could learn to feel pride and respect for themselves as well as others, as well as responsibility for their actions.
(3) The vision of OGB?
Our vision is to provide a positive environment and to create motivating programs to inspire children to reach their full potential and realize their dreams and aspirations. We foster one community where volunteers and our participants can learn, grow and benefit together.
(4) Details of what OGB offers the community.
OGB offers a number of services, including:
– After school programs (tutoring and homework assistance)/Whiz Kids
– Community Outreach projects/activities
– Equipping and empowerment sessions
– Food Pantry (including personal care items)
– Holiday Free Store for the community
– Summer Camp/ Summer Reading
– Movie nights
(5) Share some stories of how God has used OGB to impact lives/families.
We hold a Sunday service so that these children can learn about God and be exposed to Christian ideals. Some parents who have come with them have joined Bible study groups and we have baptized some of the kids and parents.
God’s work is also evident in the success of some of our students. For example, one particular girl who is now a high school sophomore began attending OGB in elementary school. When she first started, she had been identified by the school as needing special assistance. By high school, she had become an honor student! She still comes every week, even if she does not need tutoring.
(6) Where do you see yourselves in 5 years?
Our short-term goal is to have our own facility and to expand the services we offer, such as a recycle store (clothes, furniture, shoes, etc.) where families in need can come and shop for a very low cost or service, this would have a small restaurant where we could feed the families in need, longer summer camp or other types of summer bridging activities so that the skilled learned during the school year can be maintained or improved. Our longer term dream would be to foster the development of OGB-like programs in other parts of Cincinnati and all across the nation.
(7) What needs to you currently have? What are some things on your wish list?
We would love to have more volunteers! We would also like to have a 12-14 passenger van as the Sycamore Schools cannot transport children from three of the four elementary schools since our facility is not on their bus routes. In addition, we would like to have a building that we own. We are currently leasing our facility. New computers for the students to use since we only have eight very old computers. Finally, we would appreciate financial support! In this regard, if there is anyone who is experienced at grant writing and can help us that would be wonderful.
(8) What are some ways people can help/partner with OGB whether they live in Cincinnati, another state or another country?
Please keep us lifted up in prayer. We would love to have volunteers, donations and advocacy.