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Community News

Good Neighbors helps those in need

12/12/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Good Neighbors’ main building in Goodyear Heights is shown above. The nonprofit has been serving residents of the Akron area since 1957.
Good Neighbors’ Food Center is open five days a week to help those who are in need of food.
Photos courtesy of Good Neighbors Inc.
GREATER AKRON — After more than 50 years of serving the hungry in the Akron area, Good Neighbors is getting its own home.

The building that has housed the nonprofit’s Food Center, located at 1453 Goodyear Blvd., for many years is in the process of being purchased by the organization, according to George Camilletti, of Green, chairman of the organization’s Ways and Means Committee.

Now Good Neighbors is conducting a capital campaign to help pay for the building and some work on the property, Camilletti said.

The organization was founded in 1957 and has been headquartered in the location at Goodyear Heights Presbyterian Church since 1993 in a building that was previously the Goodyear Heights Boy Scout Center. Camilletti said the church has provided the space rent free, and Good Neighbors pays utilities and maintenance costs.

Recently the church put the property on the market to downsize, which brought up the need for Good Neighbors to take action.

“We don’t have a lot of choice,” Camilletti said. “If somebody else bought the building, they could charge us rent or we’d we have to buy another building. Our building has been a food pantry since 1993, so it’s custom to our needs.”

When Good Neighbors board members looked into buying another property and moving to a new location, they estimated the cost would be about $200,000. The church offered the current building plus another building to the organization for $60,000, so a deal was struck.

“So we’re trying to raise the [money] and in the meantime still feeding 935 families a month,” Camilletti said.

He added that the total needed is around $77,000 due to the necessary demolition of an unusable structure on the property and some other work that needs to be done.

According to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, Good Neighbors is one of the five food pantries in the area that receives the most items by pounds from the Foodbank. Camilletti said Good Neighbors purchases $3,500 of food in bulk from the Foodbank monthly and also receives food at no charge from the Foodbank. In addition, Good Neighbors receives food through community food drives and other efforts.

In 2012, Good Neighbors served 28,222 individuals in 9,551 families. Of that number, 11,459 of those served were children and 1,471 were senior citizens.

Through its Food Center and at four other locations in Summit County, the organization distributes food to those who have been referred by social service agencies for help. The organization also has clothing available at some locations.

In addition to the Goodyear Heights Food Center, those in need can get food and clothing at the First Christian Church in Cuyahoga Falls (2253 3rd St.), North Springfield Presbyterian Church in Ellet (2630 Albrecht Ave.), Greensburg United Methodist Church in Green (2161 Greensburg Road) and Tallmadge (137 East Ave.); and clothing at Holy Trinity Church (50 N. Prospect St.) in Downtown Akron and Centenary United Methodist Church (1310 Superior Ave.) in West Akron.

The other locations are open just one day a week, but Camilletti said the Food Center is the only food pantry in the area that is open five days a week.

The organization has just one paid staff member, a part-time employee who handles financial and business tasks. The rest of the funding comes from grants and donations.

Camilletti said that means the organization does not use any paid fundraisers.

“We try to be innovative,” he said. “We try to spread the word. Many of our volunteers belong to different churches, and we rely on word of mouth.”

Good Neighbors’ capital budget runs through July 1, so the organization is trying to raise money for the property by then. Plans call for the organization to continue using the one building for its food pantry and then rent the top floor of the other building and use the main floor for community outreach. Camilletti said the group hopes to have medical screenings and workshops on topics like budgeting for those who seek help.

Camilletti said Good Neighbors continues to see the need for its services grow.

“Even though the media says the economy is improving, it isn’t improving for all aspects involved,” he said. “And now with the SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] program being cut back, we’re seeing an increase [in clients].”

He said two years ago the organization was helping 800 families a month. Now the number is at 935, and Camilletti said he expects it to top 1,000 within a year.

“Now we’re getting larger families because generations are moving in together,” he said. “What used to be a family of two is now a family of six.”

To contribute to the building fund, checks may be sent to Good Neighbors Inc., 1453 Goodyear Blvd., Akron, OH 44305. Indicate on the memo line that the donation is to be used for the building fund.

For more information, call 330-733-1453 or go to www.good-neighbors.org.

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