Board members of the East Akron Community House and several East Akron residents asked the City Council on Monday to help keep the longtime agency alive.
John Nelson, a board member and the temporary interim director of EACH, along with board President George Baker told the council they have taken steps to clean house, including removing former Executive Director Tiffany Edwards.
“Yes, Miss Edwards is gone and the board has taken over and assumed a leadership role in the community,” Nelson said. “If we try very hard, we can save this 103-year-old institution. We don’t want to see the agency go down the drain over a few bad apples. We will bring on some new board members. Be patient with us and we will get it right.”
Nelson said that while funding has dried up, there is money that some agencies owe EACH. He specifically said one of the agencies formerly was housed at EACH and owes $60,000.
In a telephone call with the Beacon Journal on Tuesday, the executive director of the East Akron Neighborhood Development Corp. responded to that assertion.
“We never received an invoice, and we don’t owe them any money,” Grady Appleton said.
Baker suggested a meeting with a committee of council.
“There have been mistakes, and in all forms of government, mistakes are made,” he said. “It’s not about the members of the board but the constituents in the community; these are the people in dire straits. At the end of the day, it’s how do we make it work for them.”
Baker acknowledged the East Akron Community House is at risk. He said he wants the council to get involved and take a look at how the agency got in trouble and how to rescue it because it provides valuable services to the community.
A pastor in the community, Mark A. Ward of Zion Temple Baptist Church on Arlington Street, offered help as well.
“Did Miss Edwards do everything right? No. Did she do everything wrong? No,” Ward said. “Hearing the heartbeat of this community, it would be a travesty to just let this institution die, and so I’m here on behalf of that community to try to partner with this council to help this agency out.”
Edwards has been criticized by employees and vendors for her leadership style and for failing to secure the funding needed to keep the agency afloat.
Some residents also spoke to the council but from a different viewpoint.
Jennifer Walker said she grew up in East Akron. She said East Akron Community House, in its heyday, offered her day camp, Girl Scouts, preschool and later a student exchange program called Friendlytown that placed an urban youth in the home of an affluent family in the suburbs. She spent two weeks with the Smucker family.
She said the programs at EACH encouraged her to become a college graduate, get married, be employed and be a taxpayer.
Councilwoman Tara Samples, who represents East Akron, said that EACH board members have asked her to submit their proposal to council, which she will do this week.
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or email@example.com.