Akron is the birthplace of the rubber industry, Alcoholics Anonymous and LeBron James.

The Love Akron Network wants the community to become famous for something else — civility.

The nonprofit group announced plans Tuesday during its sixth annual awards breakfast to launch the Center for Civility.

“Is it possible that a grass-roots movement could also place Akron on the map for bringing civility to the public square?” asked Michael Robinson, a Love Akron board member and consultant and account manager with Cleveland Clinic Akron General Health & Wellness Innovations. “I can think of no better accolades for a city than to become known as the capital of kindness and respect.”

He and others noted that there has been a distinct lack of civility in the country when it comes to the topics of politics, race and religion. It has hit particularly hard in Akron, where the police chief recently was fired, in part, because of racially insensitive comments and City Council debate has devolved to the point where members attended group counseling.

The Love Akron Awards Breakfast, held downtown at the John S. Knight Center before an audience of more than 650 people, focused exclusively on civility.

Even the main speakers — Andrew Collins and Jameel McGee from Benton Harbor, Mich. — talked about understanding and forgiveness.

Collins, a former crooked white cop, helped send McGee, a black man, to prison for four years on a bogus drug charge. They now work together and tour sharing their story about finding peace through their Christian faith.

“We’ve been blown away with what Akron is doing,” Collins said. “… It is unbelievable how you are leading the way with reconciliation.

“You all are crazy. Seven hundred people at 6:30 in the morning eating breakfast talking about love? Something is wrong with you in a great way.”

Love Akron Executive Director the Rev. Mark Ford said the Center for Civility is still in the vision stage, but it’s important that the community have a continued focus on the subject.

“We can do better,” he said.

Love Akron is raising $20,000 to help launch the effort.

The group, whose mission — according to its website — is to bring Christian leaders together to pray, unite and collaborate in ministry for the advancement of spiritual and social transformation in the Akron area, also issued a new “Civility Challenge” to the community.

Love Akron provided coffee mugs for all those in attendance. The group asked people to take the mugs and have a conversation over coffee with someone different than themselves — whether that difference involves race, religion or age.

Organizers even provided a coupon to Compass Coffee, 647 E. Market St.

Ford said the group wanted people to leave the breakfast inspired and with a concrete reminder of how to put words into action.

Love Akron also handed out annual awards:

■ Gina Burk and Scott Myers received the Brenda Unruh Servant Award.

The married couple have worked with a variety of local organizations, including Akron Pregnancy Services, Greater Akron Innovation Network for Sustainability, South Street Ministries, Open M, South Akron Youth Mentoring, GoodCities and iC.A.R.E. Mentoring.

■ Pastors Joe Schoblocher of Emmanuel Christian Assembly and Robert DeJournett of St. Ashworth Temple, Church of God in Christ, received the Pastor Ronald J. Fowler and Pastor Knute Larson Allies Award.

They have brought their racially diverse churches together to share worship and events.

■ Recently retired Akron police Capt. Sylvia Trundle and Officer Lloyd Ford were recognized for being active in the community.

Kimyata D. Cooper III, a third-grader at Emmanuel Christian Academy, also delivered a passionate rendition of Dr. Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech.

The event was sponsored by Malone University in Canton.

For more details about Love Akron or to support the Center for Civility, go to: www.loveakron.org.

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.