Kent community competes in grilling event to raise money for nonprofits

The Michael Weber Show preforms at the Grill For Good Event held downtown on June 8, 2019.

Nathan Mehring

Thousands of Northeast Ohioans in need will be helped by money raised at the 10th annual Grill for Good event in downtown Kent on Saturday.

Roughly $10,000 was raised at the event, said Dennis Campbell, Grill for Good’s Chairman from Kent’s Junior Chamber of Commerce. Kent’s Junior Chamber of Commerce was in charge of organizing the event.

The money will be donated to Family & Community Services and Coleman Professional Services, both of which are nonprofits in Northeast Ohio.

Family & Community Services has participated in every Grill for Good event since it started in 2009, Mark Frisone, Family & Community Services executive director, said.

“Thousands of homeless people in Northeast Ohio are fed each year because of this event,” Frisone said.

Frisone said the money raised by the event helps fill the gaps left by unmet donation goals.

Family & Community Services oversee and fund 71 programs in 21 counties in Ohio and Michigan, focusing on families and the impoverished, according to the Family & Community Services website.

50 people per day will be directly helped by the money raised at the event at Coleman’s Adult Day Services, said Robert Steinheiser, the Chief Officer at Coleman Professional Services’ Adult Day Services.

According to Coleman’s website, the Adult Day Services focuses on assisting adults with mental health needs.

Steinheiser said Coleman creates artificially low prices for services, so most people can afford its services.

This costs more money than it gains from normal donations. The money raised at this event helps to cover the cost, he said.

Coleman helps people get their necessities while giving them a community, said Lauren Mazurkiewicz, the development coordinator at Coleman.

Coleman also has resources for Kent State students, including a 24/7 help line and crisis intervention room in Ravenna, Mazurkiewicz said.

Three local bands performed at the event, including the Michael Weber Show.

“I have anxiety,” James O’Connor, the Michael Weber Show’s drummer, said. “So it means a lot to give back to people with mental health issues.”

The event had 15 booths, which were put into three categories: professional grillers, unprofessional grillers grilling meat and unprofessional grillers grilling non-meat.

The Jaycees, Coleman and Family & Community Services had booths, alongside the Kent Fire and Police Departments, Frescos, Hometown Bank and more. The booths were judged in a grilling competition at the event.

Kent’s mayor, a professional food critic, the Kent police captain, professional chefs and event sponsors were among the nine judges who ranked the food based on presentation, taste, aroma and quality on a scale of 50 points.

The NEW Center at the Northeast Ohio Medical University, The Kent Police Department and the Smither’s-Oasis Co. won the professional, unprofessional meat and unprofessional non-meat categories, respectively.

Event attendees were able to enjoy beer and food from the booths by buying tickets, ranging from $10 to $50.

Prior to starting Grill for Good, Marilyn Sessions cooked competitively with her husband, Brian, as a hobby, until they won second place in a national grilling competition.

“I thought ‘Someone’s making a lot of cash off this competition,’” Sessions said. “‘Let’s give back to the community, not someone’s pocket.’”

The Sessions then started the Grill for Good event, with support from the Kent Junior Chamber of Commerce. They choose to give to the two biggest nonprofits in the area helping to fix issues they cared about: mental health, food and shelter for the impoverished, Sessions said.

One of the event’s booths was the Kent Rotary club, managed by club member Roger Sidoti.

Sidoti was a principal for 30 years at Roosevelt, Rootstown and Nordonia high schools. During his time as principal, Sidoti refereed many students to Family & Community Services for help.

Sidoti wants to build a stronger Kent community, but said it’s lacking because of individualism and stigma against issues like mental health.

“We’ve been focused on building a downtown,” Sidoti said. “But how do we build a sense of community? Coleman helps with that.”

Nathan Mehring covers downtown Kent. Contact him at [email protected]

Corrections have been made to this story to reflect the preferred name of the Michael Weber Show’s drummer.