Local Church Closes, Opening the Door to New Possibilities reviewed

Michelle Bair

Vineyard Community Church members gathered for one last time Sunday night

before its final transition to the ARM House, home of Anonymous Relief Mission.

After an ongoing financial battle, 13 years of serving the community and four moving periods,

the non-traditional place of worship has touched the lives of many.

The Vineyard helped more than 400 families, individuals and single parents in Portage

County since 2006, the year ARM was founded by Pastor Scott Budzar. In the last four years

alone, the church has obtained and given away over 300,000 loaves of bread and baked goods that were

donated by Giant Eagle and Panera Bread, according to Budzar.

Church services at The Vineyard were not typical; in fact it was common for

Budzar to cuss—demonstrating that although he is a pastor, he is not afraid to be himself.

“I will never forget this girl who visited our church and asked what we were like,”

Budzar said. “I told her that essentially some of us are struggling drug addicts, some of us are

recovering drug addicts, some of us are professional cursers, some are professors working on

their doctorates, some are stay-at-home parents, some of us are jobless, and that is who we are.”

He said that girl responded with, “I could never be a part of a place as unhealthy as that.”

Budzar explained that it took a little dialogue to understand where she was coming from, and it

was a portrayal that we are supposed to be ‘all fixed up.’

“I told her that she was going to hate it here then,” Budzar said with a laugh. “I’ve said

for years that we are a burn unit. We are like the emergency room for people who are sick and

tired of getting burned through churches, and it is not to say that we are any better, I just think

that we have been really honest about who we are. We haven’t figured anything out better than

anybody else. I think what I love most about this place is we are just not afraid to say we are

jacked up.”

As some may be skeptical about going to church because of its underlying stigma

of being judged by the people, The Vineyard has a reputation of practicing the opposite. The

human race is imperfect, and The Vineyard Community Church welcomed that.

“The primary focus of the Vineyard is to love others,” said Jonathan Capps, who lives in

Stow and has been an active member of the Vineyard since it started. “Jesus hung out with

prostitutes and tax collectors. They need love too.”

Capps said there is no feeling like being able to provide for someone who needs it.

Heather Smith- Kirkpatrick, 26, and her husband Josh Smith went to The

Vineyard for close to four years. They are in charge of the bread runs, being two of numerous

Vineyard volunteers.

Smith- Kirkpatrick said she will miss the people and the get-togethers.

“It is one of the very few places, church wise, where I feel comfortable just coming and

not having to put on a mask where I’ve got it all together.”

Although the church services have ended, it is a new beginning for a permanent place to

assist the poor, and a venue for bands to play.

ARM’s main mission is moving people out of safe houses and homeless shelters and into

their own homes, working closely with SaferFutures, Miller House and Freedom House in Portage


“Every person’s situation is unique,” said Ross Horvath, an Akron graduate and three-year Vineyard member. “It’s beautiful because we are all broken one way or another, and simple compassion can bring us back on equal plains. It’s ridiculous for people to thank us. We should be thanking them for letting us help them in any way possible.”

Horvath explained that he has been presented to people in the most vulnerable situations that “no person should ever have to go through.”

He said that some of the circumstances are so humiliating, he is just thankful that people trust them enough to let them in.

As for the organization’s future, it is currently waiting on a 501c3 number, which is

required by the government for non-profits in order to turn the building into a food distribution


“We have been waiting two years for our number,” Budzar said.

“Once we get that number we will be working with the Akron Food Bank,”

Smith- Kirkpatrick said.

Immediate plans for the ARM House are every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and

Fridays 11a.m. to 1 p.m . Donated groceries, including frozen meat, pastries and breads will be

given away in the small side building behind Kent Stage. All are welcome to come and help, or

take what they need and need what they take.