GREEN — While Noah — almost 3 years old — delighted in the airplanes that fill the hangar, his mother, Rhyann Koehler, appreciated the support being shown to her and her co-workers by local businesses.
The toddler looked at airplanes, helicopters and other machines in the MAPS Museum while Koehler, a TSA agent, shopped the food made available early Friday morning to government employees who work at the Akron-Canton Airport.
"The community has been great. Our co-workers have been great," said Koehler, who missed two paychecks because of the partial federal government shutdown.
Donations by MCTV, the Gessner Family Foundation and area businesses helped the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank compile 20,000 pounds of food for the government workers. The partial shutdown affected 115 people who work for the Transportation Security Administration, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and as air traffic controllers with the Federal Aviation Administration.
Koehler has worked five years as a TSA agent at Akron-Canton Airport. Her fiancee, Chris Taylor, has three years with the agency. It's been challenging because both incomes have been affected, she said.
Her comments came before Friday's announcement of an agreement to temporarily end the shutdown.
"I'm disappointed," Koehler said of the weeks without pay. She has mixed feelings about the dispute and understands arguments from both sides. But the dispute leaves her family and the families of co-workers caught in the middle.
"American people are being held hostage, sort of," she said.
Robert Gessner, president of MCTV, began last week working on a way to help the TSA and others work without pay. He passed through the TSA lines at Akron-Canton and started thinking about what the workers are experiencing.
Gessner follows a rule: Think global but act local.
"I can't fix the government shutdown, but I can help people here," he said.
At first, Gessner considered providing the workers with lunch, but thought more could be done. So he contacted airport officials and the food bank, as well as other area businesses, and asked about raising money for nonperishable food — canned goods and boxed meals — that could be distributed to workers. The MAPS Museum agreed to serve as a distribution site.
Students in the Portage Lakes Career Center's aviation program, which is based at MAPS, helped unload the food bank truck, set up tables and carry food to employees' vehicles.
There are about 90 TSA agents working at Akron-Canton, said Rick Jones, the agency's local assistant federal security director. It's a dedicated workforce, he said.
"They're very appreciative of the support," Jones said. He's happy the community is helping to keep to the workers and their families fed.
Gessner said supplying food to families that possibly haven't been able to shop for several weeks allows those families to use money to buy gas for the car or pay other bills.
"It might help just a little bit," he said.