The Good Neighbors Food Center in Akron’s Goodyear Heights is hoping there are some good neighbors in the community who will help in its time of need.
The nonprofit group is trying to raise $77,000 to buy the building where it has been housed for the past 20 years.
The Goodyear Heights Presbyterian Church has provided free space in the Tudor-style buildings across from the church on Goodyear Boulevard.
But Renata Wagner, the church secretary, said the church no longer has a need to own the property and is selling it to Good Neighbors.
George Camilletti, a volunteer at the food center and a member of the Good Neighbors board of trustees, said the organization is purchasing the building for $60,000 but is asking for $77,800 so it has a reserve for much-needed repairs.
Camilletti, 68, of Green, a retired IRS investigator, said the organization would like to raise as much as $100,000 to create a cushion for operations.
He said the group has the reserves to pay cash for the building when it closes in the next week or so. Money raised will replenish the nonprofit’s reserves, he said.
“Since all of our funding is from contributions from individuals, churches, foundations and businesses, we have no guaranteed income,” he said. “Therefore, we must keep a sufficient cash reserve due to the possibility of funding decreases. Our plan is to obviously repay these building funds back into the food purchasing reserves.”
There are three buildings on the site. One building in the back, Camilletti said, may be eligible for demolition by the city of Akron.
Another building directly behind the food center is rented on the second floor but Good Neighbors hopes to expand programming there for clients.
Good Neighbors, which operates at seven locations in Summit County, was founded in 1957. It provides food to needy area families every month — more than 1,000 families and 3,000 people.
The organization operates with 50 to 75 volunteers. The only paid person is a part-time secretary.
‘Obligation to give back’
“We were all raised in that generation where you felt a moral obligation to give back to the community,” Camilletti said about the desire to serve.
Lee Strawn, 99, a Firestone retiree, has volunteered for 36 years.
“We have an awful lot of people out of work,” he said of the need for the food and personal items provided by the food center. “An awful lot of people are retired and don’t have an income that will support them. It just doesn’t seem like there is any letup in the need.”
When the center opened at noon on a recent Tuesday, within a minute, there were nearly 25 people in the building waiting to be served.
A 29-year-old mother of six who works as a night bartender said the food and supplies she gets help her family.
“Without this, it would be harder,” she said.
The food center is in a building that the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. erected in 1917 and dedicated as the Boy Scout Lodge (Club House).
There is still a Scout symbol above a fireplace in the building and a small painted concrete Scout scene on the outside of the building.
P.W. Litchfield, the late Goodyear chairman, wrote in his book Industrial Voyage that he went to the Scout lodge one day to see how the building construction was progressing: “Got to talking with a 15-year-old youngster who had ridden over on his bicycle. … This was my first meeting with E.J. Thomas, now president of Goodyear.”
The food center operates on a budget of $130,000 a year. It spends up to $4,000 a month on food purchases from the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.
Some foods are provided free of charge by the food bank as well.
“Good Neighbors is a significant partner in the fight against hunger in the community,” said Michelle Hinton, the director of external affairs for the food bank.
Good Neighbors also purchases thousands of dollars of other personal items such as soap, diapers and toilet paper.
As the demand for food has grown, Camilletti said, so have the shipments of food from the food bank.
“We used to get a truck about every two weeks with 5,000 to 8,000 pounds,” he said. “Now we are hauling about 1,200 pounds a day from the food bank.”
Camilletti said all clients must get a referral to receive food. Referrals can come from Info Line through a call to its 211 number or from social service agencies or churches.
The food pantry, 1453 Goodyear Blvd., is open from noon to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Donations toward the purchase of the building can be made to: Good Neighbors Inc., 1453 Goodyear Blvd., Akron, OH 44305.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or email@example.com.