Cleveland non-profit Tuff Kids gets financial boost from Austin Bank, FHL Bank Dallas

Austin Bank and Tuff Kids representatives, as well as City of Cleveland, Cleveland ISD and Liberty County representatives were on hand for the presentation of a $16,000 check to Tuff Kids.

If all goes as planned, the new headquarters for Tuff Kids, located on Ross Ave. in Cleveland, may be ready by the end of this year.

Last week, the non-profit organization, which provides summer activities and a safe place for kids to learn and grow, received a $16,000 grant from Austin Bank and FHL Bank-Dallas. As the grant must be spent on specific projects, Tuff Kids Co-Founder Eisha Jones said the organization plans to spend the money on cameras, computers and other electronic items.

“At this point, we still need flooring, kitchen cabinets, toilets, bathroom sinks and finishing things such as interior doors and trim,” Jones said. “We would love to be open by the end of November but that is contingent on donations.”

Eisha Jones, Lowell Little and Tasha Childress are pictured left to right at the check presentation on Thursday, Nov. 3.

Austin Bank Executive Vice President Lowell Little and Senior Vice President Tasha Childress, both of Austin Bank of Cleveland, were on hand for the check presentation, along with Melanie Dill, community and economic development product manager for FHLB Dallas.

Lowell and Childress said Austin Bank is committed to helping Tuff Kids as it is a great investment, not only for the Cleveland community today but for future generations.

“I am just excited to partner with Eisha. I love everything about Tuff Kids, their core values and willingness to give back to the community,” said Childress. “This donation will help the future generations who will be here when we are gone.”

Dill said of the grant, “Through this program, we are able to support non-profit organizations like Tuff Kids that are working with the youth in the community to prepare them for the workforce. This would not have been possible without the support of Austin Bank. The $4,000 contribution they made was matched by three times by FHL Bank Dallas for a total donation of $16,000. Through the partnership grant program, recipients are chosen at random, so this is like winning the lottery with this award.”

Once the building is finished, Tuff Kids will expand its offerings from summer and athletic programs to after-school programs for youths. By offering peer-to-peer support, mentoring and learning programs, Tuff Kids prepares youths to become successful and productive adults.

Jones was humbled for the organization to receive the grant and said, “It’s one thing to have someone support you, but it’s another thing for them to say, ‘Hey, we know someone else who could possibly support you, too.’ I am extremely grateful for Austin Bank and Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas for this opportunity. Thank you all for the support. I literally cried tears when Ms. Debbie Braune of Austin Bank called me about this grant. You know you need these things, but you have no idea where the funds will come from. I just believed and planted the seeds that God would give us an increase.”

The building that is now the Tuff Kids headquarters was once a Freemason lodge. For the last decade, the roughly 2,000-square-foot building stood empty. It was shuttered after membership declined in a now-defunct chapter of the Freemasons – made up of black gentlemen in the Cleveland community known as Pct. 20. It was donated to Tuff Kids in 2020 and has since undergone a transformation and rebirth.

Tuff Kids was established in 2010 for the purpose of creating a place where Cleveland children could enjoy constructive activities every summer. The impetus to create Tuff Kids was the closing of the city pool. When word of the pool closing began to spread through the community, people began contacting Williams, a school coach, a Cleveland High School graduate, former Cleveland Indians football player and an All-American athlete, with concerns that Pct. 20 children would get into trouble without activities to keep them busy during the summer.

In June 2021, Tuff Kids received another financial boost – this one for $20,000 – from the Cleveland Economic Development Center.

If anyone is willing to help push the organization to the finish line by donating time, materials or skills, Jones would like to hear from you. Financial donations also are needed.

For more information about Tuff Kids, go online to or call 405-474-1977.

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