Ode Family Foundation
Helping People Achieve Self-Supporting Lives
Our mission, helping people achieve self-supporting lives, seems simple enough at first. But, as you will read below, that simple mission is meant to do tremendous things.
Our Story, Looking Back From the Future — Circa 2029
Ten years from now, this is what I hope we will all be reading. It is highly ambitious — could be considered delusional and over the top — but this is what I hope for, dream about and believe is possible.
The Guardian Angel Fund: Our Humble Beginning and Flagship Program
It all started with the Guardian Angel Fund, created in early 2019 in a formal relationship with Lorain County Community College. This fund was originally designed to help students overcome obstacles in their lives that were preventing or inhibiting them from pursuing their career goals. This seemed like a perfect place to start to help people achieve self-supporting lives. The fund has grown to help tens of thousands of people, across all spectrums of life, gain independence and self-sufficiency.
What makes the Guardian Angel Fund stand out is our reckless adherence to the Ode Family’s mission. The obstacles we help to remove may stem from a person’s own decisions or areas in which they had no control. This could be a single mom with three children that cannot afford child care. Or a young man caught driving with a suspended license who cannot afford the fine — but without a car cannot hold down a job. Someone in the middle of his career who suffers a debilitating accident, illness or other life event that gets in the way of his making a living. A drug addict. A manic depressive that has attempted suicide. Someone with an eating disorder. The 55-year-old that lost her job and cannot find anyone willing to provide her with an opportunity. Or a paraplegic that wants to find a way to golf again. The Guardian Angel Fund was created to help all of them — to give them control over their lives.
Not only does the fund help these individuals overcome their obstacles with financial aid, counseling and strategic decision making, the Ode Family provides a “true” Guardian Angel — staying with them over time as they traverse the path to success and independence. With thousands of volunteer “Guardian Angels” nationwide, it has gained a reputation as a charity that not only helps those in need, but also helps provide another purpose for those more fortunate — those caring individuals that have volunteered to become a Guardian Angel. In fact, the Ode Family certification program to become a Guardian Angel is something many people have taken pride in acquiring.
Ode Family Career Institute: Putting Teaching Back in Post-Secondary Education
Perhaps our most ambitious program has been the creation of the Ode Family Career Institute (“OFCI”), an efficient and effective alternative to traditional college education. What better place to impact someone’s ability to achieve a self-supporting life than in the field of education? Foundation founder Fred Ode is fond of stating — to the point of irritation (no surprise there) — “Our educational system is broken, flawed and a downright tragedy.” His goal was to offer a practical, common sense alternative. Due to the bureaucratic nature of starting a K-12 school, he decided to start with post-secondary education. The first certification program was in Web Development, an area he was intimately familiar with.
The key to this certification program is that the student receives the equivalent of a 4-year degree in only 12 months. How could that be possible? We focus on providing relevant instruction in one discipline at a time. No history, no English, no social sciences — all worthy subjects but not critical from the practical perspective of doing the job. More importantly, our unique educational approach provides a traditional classroom environment combined with computer-based training. As explained by Fred — “High tech, soft touch — you cannot remove the human element from the equation.” OFCI’s approach to focusing on job-specific knowledge has allowed people to begin their careers years sooner than traditional college would have — and without mountains of student debt. In fact, as a non-profit institute, we provide education at a sliver of the cost of traditional college or trade schools. For less than $2,000 — and often for free — the student can earn a certificate and walk into the working world.
The Ode Family Career Institute took off from there — accounting, database management, marketing, all facets of engineering, foreign language — with most programs able to be completed in 12 months or less. It took years for conventional education to accept the Ode Family Certification, but the core courses are now accepted as transfer credits at most colleges if the “student” wants to pursue a formal college degree — most do not.
Ode Family Elementary Education: Taking Our Educational Philosophy to the Roots of Learning
With the success of OFCI, the Ode Family took on the bureaucracy and dug into K through 12, with a non-traditional approach to elementary and high school education. Our high tech, soft touch philosophy blends in-person instruction with computer-based teaching to students of all ages. The key to success in this approach is that basing subject matter knowledge on age is no longer a factor. The goal is that each student will know more in each subject at the end of the year than at the beginning. If a traditional third grader was doing 7th grade math and 1st grade reading at the beginning of the year — so what? Common core and teaching to placement exams is dead to the Ode Family. Let’s grow our children to learn. It has not been long enough to do a study on the success of the program, but all indications are this is an approach to education that works and continues to gain momentum among parents… if not the educational community. (Self-Disclosure — I taught seven years in secondary education and I failed — I could not cope with the rigidity and bureaucracy. So if I cannot work in the system, why not change the system?)
The Real World
Ok — back to reality. We are currently working hard to lead the organization to a place similar to my dreams as described above. Where we will land? No one knows, but our path to greatness has already begun.
Along with Lorain County Community College, we have established a formal relationship with Boys Hope, Girls Hope, an east side educational non-profit. Through these two organizations, as well other sources, we have helped a number of individuals through the Guardian Angel Fund — putting four people into cars, assisting others with rent, utilities and miscellaneous obstacles these individuals have had to face. We have also provided direction, career advice, strategic planning — and when necessary “tough love” — remaining by their side as a true Guardian Angel. From a personal perspective, I cannot begin to describe the joy I feel when I see the difference we have already made in these few recipients’ lives!
In addition to our core mission, we have also contributed to more traditional venues. We’ve provided meals and gifts at Christmas — contributed to dozens of other causes including, but not limited to, Relay for Life, Cleveland Clinic Heart Walk, Camp Cheerful, Strongsville Rotary Foundation, Trial for Hope and many other worthy initiatives.
Where Does the Money Come From?
To date, the Ode Family is fully funded by my two companies — Foundation Software and Payroll4Construction.com. In addition to over $150,000 in contributions, my business has paid all salaries and benefits to the employees helping to build the foundation. Before asking for volunteers or monetary contributions, I feel it is important to first explain our philosophy towards fundraising and volunteer help.
In the present and moving forward, all paid employees of the Ode Family Foundation will be paid for by my businesses. No outside money contributed will go towards salaries, benefits, travel and miscellaneous expenses. It is our goal that all those working for the foundation will either be employees paid for by my business or will be volunteer help. I do realize that we may reach a critical mass one day where my company cannot keep up with the growth of the Ode Family Foundation, but for now that is the goal. My pet peeve with many non-profits is the amount of money that goes to “administrative” expenses. If you donate a dollar to us, you can count on that dollar going to a worthy cause.
How You Can Help
In order to achieve the long-term vision for the Ode Family Foundation, we know that our hard work alone won’t be enough.
Volunteer help and donations will be critical. We are exceedingly grateful for your financial support as we continue to help more recipients get back on track to success.
As we continue to develop our programs, we will also be asking for volunteers for a wide range of duties — from becoming a Guardian Angel for our flagship initiative, to fundraising, marketing or applying for grants. Whatever skill set and passion you can bring to the table is greatly appreciated as we work together to equip our recipients for success.