The time commitments for an assistant college basketball coach can be taxing. Days spent on the road recruiting are long, and the hours logged in practice and breaking down film add up.

The opportunities for free time are few and far between — usually early in the morning or late at night — but Ohio State women’s basketball associate coach Patrick Klein capitalizes on those fleeting moments. As founder and executive director of the iBELIEVE Foundation, it’s his time to catch up on phone calls and emails with his foundation team.

Created in 2011 as a program to help Appalachian youth develop leadership and problem-solving skills, iBELIEVE has blossomed from a summer program for 36 students into a workshop for 987 Appalachian children from Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Pennsylvania.

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Klein, a Belpre native, founded iBELIEVE knowing the longevity statistics for nonprofits are not promising. He credits his team for willing the organization from a program that raised a mere $12,000 in its first year to one he projects will raise close to $1 million in 2018.

“I didn’t call it the Patrick Klein Foundation because this is way bigger than me,” Klein said. “This is about the region. I just want somebody to stand up and fight for these people that deserve it.”

Klein said he didn’t develop a sense of Appalachian identity until he arrived at Ohio State as an undergraduate student in 2002 and received a letter congratulating him on receiving a scholarship from the Office of Minority Affairs, which has since been supplanted by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

“I went there and said, ‘Hey, I think this is a mistake,’ and they said, ‘No, you’re from Washington County, you’re Appalachian.’ That was the first time anyone had branded me with that term,” Klein said. “Growing up there, you don’t call yourself that. It was one of those things where I said, ‘You’re right, I am. Four thousand dollars, I’ll take it.’ ”

Klein later became “obsessed” with learning about the income and education disparities in Appalachia. They’re aspects Klein said he didn’t realize growing up because he and his brother, Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein, hit the “parent lottery.”

“My mom was a teacher my dad worked his way up in the (American Electric Power) plant and they gave Zach and me everything, sacrificed and helped us and raised us and supported us,” Klein said. “When I got the (assistant coaching) job here … there was just something that I really wanted to do for my hometown.”

What developed from that desire was a five-day, four-night summer workshop on a series of college campuses, designed as a three-tier system. Students, who attend the program free of charge and usually are nominated by school administrators, start with iBELIEVE after their freshman year of high school and wrap up the summer before senior year, ideally realizing their personal growth.

“It lets students gauge themselves,” said Marissa Phipps-Goolsby, iBELIEVE’s director of operations. “The first year, they’re reflecting individually a lot: ‘Where can I grow the most?’ Year two is reflecting on those initial objectives: ‘This is what I said I would change, have I changed it?’

“The program does a great job of letting kids discover that themselves and then gauge that year after year. And then afterward, in college, come back as a staff member and continue to challenge yourself.”

iBELIEVE’s roots in recent years also have spread beyond the summer program. In May, the program held its first Appalachian leadership conference at Ohio State. Student organizations, started by iBELIEVE alumni continuing their academic careers, have sprouted at Ohio University, Ohio State and West Virginia. Klein said the foundation’s goal is to eventually include student participants from all 13 Appalachian states.

Many of the organization’s original participants now work in the professional world, but some recent alumni are working their way into leadership positions on college campuses. Jordan Moseley, Ohio State Board of Trustees undergraduate student member, was introduced to iBELIEVE as one of five students selected by his vice principal at Alexander High School in Albany, in Athens County.

In addition to gaining Klein as a mentor and developing a sense of community with fellow Appalachian students, Moseley said the primary change he noticed was a newfound sense of self-confidence.

“I was always kind of a reluctant leader. I didn’t really want to take on that much responsibility growing up,” he said. “I can point back to that first week between my freshman and sophomore years of high school in the iBELIEVE Foundation camp and how it encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone and take risks and perform as a leader.”

Moseley said he grew up with a mindset of wanting to work hard enough to someday leave Appalachia. iBELIEVE, he said, taught him to be proud of where he’s from and view the region for more than its struggles.

“In the news it’s a lot of negative things going on, and some of that is obviously true, like the opioid epidemic,” he said. “It’s awful and it’s terrorizing a lot of our communities, but I think people forget that there are hard-working, caring, selfless individuals in the region. We have to continue to find each other as we grow.”

Klein rattles off numbers regarding iBELIEVE’s fundraising and student outreach, but his favorite part of the program’s growth, he said, doesn’t come with a statistic.

“It’s made it cool to be Appalachian,” he said.

aerickson@dispatch.com

@AEricksonCD