After Samantha Robinson and her 12-year-old son enjoyed a bagged lunch Monday at ACCESS, an Akron homeless shelter, she returned to the kitchen counter.
“Can I have a second turkey sandwich for my son?” she asked.
“Sure,” Kelly Neloms, the client support supervisor at ACCESS, said with a smile, handing Robinson a bagged lunch marked “turkey.”
Robinson, who was pleased that her son wanted another sandwich rather than junk food, likely didn’t realize the meal was provided by people in the community.
ACCESS has been relying for the past few weeks on contributions from the community — and the generosity of its own staff — to help with the three meals it serves each day to about 35 women and children.
“We are feeling the crunch,” said Jackie Hemsworth, who recently was appointed to lead the shelter.
The shelter had already put out a call for volunteers to provide and serve meals last month when it lost two cooks unexpectedly. That made the need for help from the community more urgent.
The shelter at 230 W. Market St. is seeking volunteers to provide bagged lunches and hot meals for dinners for the next month. Lunch is served at noon and dinner at 5 p.m. daily.
ACCESS has had several volunteers step forward to help, including a family who provided a meal as a birthday gift to their mother and a company that used the preparation and serving of a dinner as a team-building exercise.
The Battered Women’s Shelter (BWS) of Summit and Medina Counties, which received its own help from the public two years ago with meals, also volunteered. While BWS waited for a new commercial kitchen to be built in its new location in 2017, volunteers provided lunches and dinners every day for five months.
To help ACCESS, BWS employees made 100 brown bag lunches Friday to get the shelter through the weekend and plans to provide lasagna for dinner Tuesday and meat loaf and mashed potatoes for the evening meal Friday.
Terri Heckman, CEO of the Battered Women’s Shelter, also has been reaching out to other agencies to appeal to them to assist ACCESS.
“How can you not give to others when you have been given so much?” Heckman said. “It’s time to pay it forward.”
ACCESS employees have also been filling meal gaps. Hemsworth made sloppy Joes one night last week and another staffer served chicken and dumplings for dinner Monday.
The agency hired one cook who started Monday and is seeking a second cook, so it will be a few weeks before the kitchen is up and running like it was, said Stephanie Zelasko, the development coordinator.
Neloms said the help the shelter has received so far has been much appreciated.
“It’s been amazing to see the community coming forward,” she said.
The lunch menu on Monday included chicken, ham or turkey sandwiches, chips, fruit and dessert, as well as veggie and cookie trays.
Robinson, who has lived at the shelter for a month with her son, Sevant’e, described the lunch as “delicious and fulfilling.” She also gave high marks to the shelter and its staff members, who she said “go beyond their job detail.”
“They treat us like we’re human,” she said. “We’re not a charity case. They treat us like family.”
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, email@example.com and on Twitter:@swarsmithabj.