OHgo: The story behind Sandusky’s mobile nonprofit, delivering hope and meeting needs

Kendra Faulkner and Christine Boesch have known each other since they were teenagers at Faith Memorial Assembly of God Church. 

Their friendship and affiliation with that community, now known as Faith Church, was the seed that sprouted a movement to put food on hundreds of thousands of tables and smiles on children’s faces in Sandusky, especially during the holiday season. 

While Boesch, a former grade-school teacher, and Faulkner, a former professional photographer, were active and successful in their careers, they also regularly planned events for the community together through their church. And they felt they weren’t serving enough people at these events. 

“Especially in Sandusky,” Boesch says. “There are grandparents raising grandchildren, people with disabilities, so there are just a lot of people unable to access the mainstream groups and services.”

Boesch and Faulkner So Boesch and Faulkner decided to take their services to the people. Together, they created a nonprofit organization called OHgo in October 2015. It’s committed to facilitating acts of kindness in the community by delivering goods through a mobile service to disadvantaged families and offering learning experiences within their local environments that encourages every individual to become a catalyst for positive change.

“The O-H stands for Ohio, and the ‘go’ is because we're always on the go,” Boesch says. “We reach people where they are—at their homes, schools, clinics. Very seldom do we have events where people have to find a way to come to us.”

Their first venture, and perhaps the most endearing, started just a month later: Project Happy. The couple set a goal to collect toys and other gifts for children, wrap them and then go door-to-door in some of Sandusky’s resource-deprived neighborhoods and apartment complexes. The gifts are gender- and age-specific and include candy items for older children, so no one is empty handed. 

“Without anyone knowing who OHgo was, without us even really knowing much about what OHgo would become, we were able to collect 1,000 gifts that very first month and deliver them,” Boesch says. “It's grown ever since.” 

During the Christmas of 2021, OHgo and its volunteers handed out 3,500 gifts, which includes teams working in Huron and Erie counties. 
To bring that first Project Happy to fruition, the women needed a sleigh of sorts, so Faulkner and her father went on a mission. 

“We mapped out like a five-hour road trip through three different states to find a truck, and we ended up off the beaten path at a camper rehab site on the south side of Norwalk because, you know, my dad thought that would be a good idea,” Faulkner says, sarcastically. 

Boesch had an idea of what the truck would look like and even drew a picture of a step van, white on top, blue stripe on the bottom. She posted a picture of her vision on the OHgo Facebook page. When Kendra and her father asked the owner of the rehab business if he had a step van, he said no. 

“I just have campers,” Faulkner recalls. 

Even so, the business owner then mentioned a work truck around back they could look at, but it wasn’t for sale.  

“I'm like, okay, what good is this going to do anybody?” she recalls. “And when I walked around the corner, the truck we have now was already painted exactly like the one on our Facebook. All it needed was an OHgo logo.” 

The younger Faulkner had a check in her pocket from a woman who donated it to help them get their first vehicle. They asked what price he would reconsider selling it. The amount the gentleman wanted was way more than the check. However, he later reevaluated his thinking.

Boesch and Faulkner pose with kids at a mobile pantry event.

It just happened to be the exact amount of the check in Faulkner’s pocket. 

“That was how the first truck came to be,” she says. “It still runs, you know, with starting fluid and a lot of prayers; she's one of the most dependable ones we have.” 

Today, they have four similar vehicles and a van.

Along with Project Happy, OHgo set up book mobiles for children. They do Touch-A-Truck events and even lend their vehicles to others doing charitable work in the community. More important than anything else, they set up their vehicles in various locations throughout Erie and Huron counties, handing out food or pumpkins at Halloween. 

Prior to the pandemic, OHgo was serving about 1,800 people every month. Now, they’re serving 8,000. The pandemic shined a light on those in need; word of mouth advertising and that need have allowed for OHgo to expand its services.

“We went from serving about 100 or delivering 140 senior food boxes to senior citizens at their homes now to serving and delivering 400 of those,” Boesch says. “We have introduced school pantries and have around 40 of those in pretty much every local school.”
Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 0Hgo delivers or distributes about 6,000 pounds of fresh produce. Since they noticed the need, OHgo has now delivered nearly 255,000 individuals’ groceries. Ohgo holds regular pantry events set up in underserved neighborhoods, distributing pantry and fresh foods to those in need.

“That equates to us as 2,344,626 meals provided with those groceries,” Faulkner says. 

“We let the need lead us, and in the beginning, we didn't even create OHgo with food in mind,” Boesch says. “The more we got to know our neighbors and the community, we realized that was such a huge need. Now, our primary goal is to increase food security.”
With this in mind, OHgo recently partnered with Family Health Services to stock temperature-controlled lockers with produce and healthier options for those with specific dietary medical needs. They plan to expand this offering to other area health entities. 

This large operation costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, which is funded through grants and donations. Although some food is donated from places, such as Second Harvest Food Bank, funds must be raised to get the rest. Boesch focuses more attention these days on writing grants and coming up with fundraisers to offset the costs. They also “rescue” food that might end up in the trash because stores can’t sell it, but OHgo can have it in people’s kitchens within an hour. 

Dora Grant, a long-time community activist, was introduced to OHgo through a mutual friend. Grant organizes a warming and cooling shelter at New Jerusalem Baptist church and the Southside Empowerment Program, but in her eyes, nothing compares to what OHgo has done since its inception. She’s at as many events as possible to help spread OHgo kindness. 

“OHgo is the best thing that has ever happened to this community!” Grant says. “They really turned things around for people. They’ve made such an impact on so many people’s lives in so many ways.” 

She points to the Covid lockdown and how OHgo organized a parade where they went all over the city just to entertain children and adults alike—remaining six feet apart, of course. 

OHgo has helped bring people of different racial backgrounds, incomes, and neighborhoods together in the city, too. 

“People in this little town, it used to be very divided,” Grant says. “But they have broken down those barriers because they do stuff for everybody; they go to all neighborhoods. I don’t know not one person—Black, white, Hispanic, you could be an alien—who don’t know these ladies in this program.”

An example of this would be Faulkner’s first encounter with Fred Neal. It was four years ago, and they were out doing a fresh produce giveaway on Hancock Street.

“We were still pretty new, and not a lot of people knew what we were doing, and we set up right in the middle of Hancock Street,” Faulkner recalls. “One of the neighbors came over and he's like, ‘What the heck are you out here doing?’”

This was Neal, whom Faulkner described as, “the toughest-, gruffest-looking ex-marine; he’s wearing a leather jacket and has a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, and he looks like he could just fight a tree and win.”

As for Kendra and Christine and his first encounter with them on Hancock Street, Neal applauds their courage in reaching across cultural divides.  

“They’re not afraid of anything,” he says. “They are incredible people doing what they were doing.” 

In the beginning, OHgo was moving thousands of pounds of food in and out of Faith Church, and it got to be too much. That’s when a piece of land on Perkins Avenue became available and, later, the property next to it, allowing the group to handle much more traffic and inventory and even grow their own produce and raise chickens. 
Although their goal is to put themselves out of business by ending the need, Faulkner and Boesch know they’re in it for the long haul. 

“We always say we don't really want to see our lines grow,” Boesch says. “We want to see them shortened because we feel part of our job is helping people get back on their feet and families get back on their feet.”

Project Happy encourages families and businesses to pack gift boxes for children. OHgo volunteers deliver the gifts to children at their homes in underserved neighborhoods all over Erie and Huron counties. Although the Perkins Avenue facility is the main hub for food, Faith Church remains the hub for Project Happy during the holidays. And Faith Church Pastor Tom Groot wouldn’t have it any other way.  

“As a pastor, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing people in your church chase the call that God has for them,” Groot says. “Christine and Kendra are amazing examples of that.”
Both women have allowed OHgo to take over their lives, even though they had no idea what was ahead of them when they started. 

“You don't have to have it all figured out; we didn't have anything figured out,” Boesch says. “We don't claim to be the expert in anything. But you just have to have a willingness and a dedication to just go where you feel like you're being led to, or called to, and do the uncomfortable things.”

Dan Pender is a 25-year seasoned journalist based in Cleveland.