People from several congregations gathered at Visitation of Mary Church, formerly Annunciation parish, on Kent Street in Akron Saturday morning with one ministry in mind — to help the needy.
In all, 29 people from nine churches helped with sorting clothes and distributing food and furniture at the Father John J. Hilkert Ozanam Center, which was started nearly six years ago to help people stretch their money from one month to the next.
Recipients were given fruits, vegetables and meat based on their family size. Participants could also shop for clothes, furniture and other items.
The center, sponsored by the Akron District Council of St. Vincent de Paul Society, serves about 5,000 families a year.
The doors opened at 10 a.m. Saturday, but the line started forming at 8:30 a.m. as volunteers started to trickle in. The center is open every Saturday, except holiday weekends.
Tasha Rainey, 39, of Akron, was one of the first in line. She said she comes once a month to help feed her family, which includes a 3-year-old, 7-year-old, two teenagers and a 20-year-old.
“It’s good quality food with canned goods and meat and it lasts for three days,” Rainey said. “I was surprised the line wasn’t longer today.”
She said she has been coming to the church for the past four years to help ends meet.
“They also help with clothing and shoes, so this winter I was able to get coats for all the kids,” she said.
The clothes were on clothes racks and labeled for women, men, teens and children. Volunteers brought the clothes up from another room where they were sorted.
Marcia Anway, 61, of Fairlawn, who attends St. Hilary Catholic Church, said the sorting order is “to determine whether it’s good or bad, men’s clothing, women’s or children’s then winter and summer clothes.”
“This one has stains,” Anway said. “They could dye them.
“Well, maybe not,” she added as the group decided she should toss it in the throwaway pile.
Members of Faith Lutheran Church and St. Hilary, neighboring churches on West Market Street in Fairlawn, volunteered at the center as part of an in-service day. The members also went to eight other locations in the community to volunteer, including painting and cleaning at the International Institute and helping with a building project for Habitat for Humanity.
Flo and Ellen Mackall of Copley came to the Ozanam Center to help as a mother-and-daughter team. They are members of Faith Lutheran Church.
“We wanted to get out to see what’s really going on in the community area,” said 55-year-old Flo Mackall. “It’s to get us out of our bubble. It’s a good idea.”
Her daughter Ellen, 26, said: “There’s a lot of need out there, but I don’t see it on a regular basis. It’s not quite as visible in our community, but it is in parts of Akron that I don’t come to very often. It’s overwhelming.”
Robin Kulick, 56, of Portage Lakes, represented St. Francis De Salles of Coventry. She and her husband, Jim, came to volunteer for the second time.
“People are generous,” she said. “But they are saying there is a real need for men’s clothing. I don’t know if it’s because men don’t shop that much and don’t have that much to give away or wear their clothes out more.”
Paul Gruic, the center’s treasurer, said the center usually serves about 100 families per week.
“But we never run out of food,” which comes from the Akron Foodbank, he said.
Gruic also makes out the volunteer schedule, which includes about 15 churches that provide volunteers throughout the year.
“I try to pair up a church from the city with one from the suburbs every week, so they can get to know each other,” he said.
On Saturday, more than 70 children were helped with free food and clothing.
One of the children, a 4-year-old boy, grabbed a toy pail and plastic red flowers and ran them over to his grandmother.
“I got these for you,” he said, handing her the flowers.
“Can I have this?” he asked, holding up the pail. With a nod of yes and a bag of beads she added to his pail off a shelf, he skipped out of the room, ready to leave before his grandma could accept her bag of groceries.
To donate furniture, call 330-535-4141. To volunteer, call 330-699-4928.
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or firstname.lastname@example.org.