OBP closes doors after 11 years

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 7, 2003

Eleven years after it began, Operation Be Proud Inc. is gone.

However, founder Robert Pleasant said he could not be more proud of everything that has been accomplished.

"The one thing about OBP is that it was never about me," Pleasant said. "This organization was something God had given me to work with young people in the community and we have done that. It was a great opportunity and something I am truly thankful to have been a part of."

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Because he was the founder, Pleasant has been assisting the executive committee in closing the organization down.

The decision to disband was based on a combination of factors that included the amount of time needed to run it and the future funding, although this was not as big of an issue because funding through the Huntington-Ironton Empowerment Zone was approved for the 2003-2004 year, he said.

Pleasant created the non-profit organization in 1992 in his parents' living room while still a college student because he realized that area youth needed something to provide direction and a positive outlook.

"OBP's original purpose was to build self-esteem and self-confidence in young people by providing positive social, academic and cultural activities," he said. "I believe we have done that. It is kind of bittersweet, but I have no regrets because everything the organization has done has been in the best interest of the community."

The organization provided youth with tutoring, visits to college campuses, health fairs, after-school programs, the Memorial Day Community Festival and the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.

Sixteen-year-old Megan Crockrel said she and her siblings enjoyed the offerings and that OBP's closing is a loss for the city.

"It is kind of upsetting because it was a good place, especially for the younger kids," Megan said. "It was a good place to keep them off the streets."

"OBP brought us closer to our friends and gave us something to do. It was a place where all of us could go and have fun. We respected everyone down there and they respected us."

Although the organization will no longer exist, Crockrel said the legacy will live on through all the lives it touched.

Pleasant wanted to thank all the sponsors and people who made the organization successful for so many years. He agreed that the legacy OBP began will continue.

The annual MLK celebration will go on and

Pleasant hopes it will continue to grow to include the entire county and the Tri-State.

Also, OBP opened a community center in the Riverhills Community Building at 628 S. Ninth St. about four years ago.

Pleasant said he has contacted the Ironton Metropolitan Housing Authority and the Housing and Urban Development agency to continue offering after-school activities

there through the Workforce Development Resource Center's Youth Opportunities Program.

Even without OBP, there are many programs that are just as beneficial, and he and others will continue to work with the youth of the community in whatever way is necessary, he said.

"The main focus is the kids and ensuring they have something positive in their lives," Pleasant said. "With the other activities at the local schools there is plenty we can get behind and support."