Center lacks funds, volunteers

Brittany Schenk

Facility seeks help from young adults

Sister Denise, manager of Center of Hope, poses in the food pantry. The Center of Hope is located in Ravenna and helps supply those in need with hot meals, an emergency pantry and advocacy services. Rachel Kilroy | Summer Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

The parking lot at the Center of Hope is overflowing Monday through Thursday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. The 30 parking spaces are no match for the more than 100 guests who come to receive a free hot meal each weekday.

Because of the poor economy, Sister Denise, the manager of the Center of Hope, is seeing an increase in the amount of young people and professionals needing food, which is a demographic not commonly seen at the center. The facility, a branch of Family and Community Services, Inc., provides hot meals, an emergency pantry and advocacy services.

Interested in volunteering?

• Call the center at 330-297-5454 and arrange for a meeting to discuss possible volunteering opportunities.

“We pretty much take anyone that comes to volunteer,” said Sister Denise, the Center of Hope’s manager.

For additional information about Family and Community Services, Inc., visit http://www.portagefamilies.org/programs_community.html.

•Look through the phone book for local charities and social services that are of interest.

“You have to look for the right fit and look for something that will hold your interest so that you want to go,” volunteer Ellen Euclide said.

•Call the social services phone line by dialing 211.

“There are enough opportunities out there,” Euclide said. “Know it’s OK to only do a few hours a month.”

“We have seen a big increase in 20-year-old people coming to the cupboard to get food, ” Sister Denise said. “Sometimes they will stay for a hot meal, but sometimes they leave because they are embarrassed.”

In addition to those who take from the food cupboard where groceries are given to the needy- attendance at hot meals have also increased. Sister Denise said the dining room holds 100 people and has been packed during the last week.

Because of the increased attendance, volunteers are a vital part of the center’s success.

“We can always use young people. Right now I have an 80- and a 90-year-old volunteering,” Sister Denise said.

While older volunteers are helpful, younger volunteers are able to physically handle more and offer a unique perspective.

“I think it is good for students to see the faces of the people who come here,” she said. “Sometimes people have an idea in their head of what poor people look like. We have people from every neighborhood, your neighbors, people you see every day at school.”

“We have people last month that had jobs and they’re still scraping by, but they need help with food.”

Ellen Euclide, a recent Kent State graduate, is a volunteer at the Center of Hope and works in the office setting up appointments for people coming to pick up groceries.

“I think it is really important to get out of the bubble of campus life and see that our community is more diverse than Kent State,” Euclide said. “Meeting other people in other ways of living is really important for expanding your world view.”

Kent State is actively involved with the organization through food drives and has also incorporated serving at the center with some academic programs such as nursing.

Easy ways to help people in need

•Collect canned food and donate it to a local food pantry.

•Sort through old clothes and give them away to clothing centers.

•Donate a small amount of money every month.

•Keep a small container for spare change and collect it until it’s full and give all proceeds to a charity of choice.

•Spend a break volunteering time at a local shelter.

•Be aware of the needs of others and advocate for them.

The nursing students come on a regular basis throughout the school year and provide blood pressure testing and hospital referrals.

With the passing of the state budget, organizations such as the Center of Hope and other social services are facing funding reductions.

“If we have to cut back that means people have less to eat,” Sister Denise said.

The usual meal consists of meat, potatoes, a few desserts and a choice of salads. The funding levels will determine whether the organization must reduce the usual feast to sandwiches and soup.

Sister Denise said she and others have been writing letters to the government asking that the center’s funding be protected and encourages others to do so.

“We’ll see what happens,” Sister Denise said. “The director says we will always be here to serve people.”

Contact news correspondent Brittany Schenk at [email protected]