Lending a hand

By Jacquie Mazziotta | | No Comments »

HMcore100210_LS08Community service can carry a variety of meanings. For example, one person might be looking for a cause they can support as a civic duty, while another may be serving an obligation for a minor legal offense. However, those receiving support from a community service organization have a different view — one of need, gratitude and sometimes desperation.

On a September Saturday, the Turner family, who moved from West Virginia to Akron a couple years ago, came to get a bed for Mrs. Turner. During the family’s relocation, Latoya’s bed was broken, and she has been without one since. The Community Outsources Research Exchange (CORE) Furniture Bank warehouse was stocked with a variety of furniture items including beds and mattresses.

Turner, with her eyes cast downward, says she is extremely happy and grateful knowing she will soon be getting a bed — complete with mattresses. She has been sleeping on her couch for more than a year.

Her husband, Harvey Turner, slowly begins to share that he is unemployed and unable to work, as he is on disability. Not to mention the couple has three children in school so buying a bed was an unaffordable luxury and was not at the top of the family’s list of immediate purchases.

“We try to tell our kids they are lucky to get what they have now, and they appreciate it,” he says. “They deal with it.”

For now the Turners are just grateful they will have the bed they have so greatly needed.

He adds that through it all, he would do whatever it takes to make sure his daughter does not have to spend her nights on a floor.

Later that same morning, the cars continue to arrive at the CORE Furniture Bank’s 4,000-square-foot distribution center.

People who come to the CORE Furniture Bank are often the most desperate, according to Jodie Macchione, marketing director for CORE. “Most people are referred to us through churches and service organizations like the battered women’s shelter and the housing authority.”

CORE is responsible for collecting used furniture items including beds, mattresses, dressers, couches, dining tables, household items like lamps and dishes and more.

Every Saturday the CORE warehouse opens to serve approximately 25 families who have been pre-screened and determined to have a need for one or more of these items. It’s not a leisurely shopping trip. Depending on the variation of donations each week, inventory may change with every delivery that arrives.

According to Macchione, on any given day about 140 outstanding vouchers assigned to families in need, are waiting to be filled. Referring organizations and churches must screen applicants to determine their need. Those who qualify for help are given a voucher to bring on the day of pick up.

With the state of today’s economy, the need continues to grow says Macchione, who adds that inventory has doubled within the past year. She would know, as she’s been on the front lines of helping people for years.

It was several years ago, when a group of volunteers at the Hudson Community Chapel were looking for a service project to ameliorate the lives of those living in Summit County, that they were referred to CORE.

Among those volunteers are Hudson residents Macchione and her husband, Bill.

After helping for not quite a year, the couple assumed a leadership role for the group. Today about 23 volunteers from Oriana House as well as other volunteers pick up donated items throughout the week, deposit them at the Cuyahoga Falls distribution center and load furniture for pickups on Saturdays.

In addition to helping provide for those less fortunate, CORE also allows volunteers the opportunity to grow personally and see how an act of kindness can foster respect for both the helper and the recipient.

Kaiser Gary of Akron began helping at CORE more than four years ago through a faith-based group, Truly Reaching You, before the two organizations merged. He says he originally got involved because, “We were doing halfway houses and needed to supply furniture for men who were getting out of incarceration.

“Coming from a background of poverty and seeing men, women and children who have lost everything — there are people who need a hand up. Being a man of God, our commitment is to help people who are less fortunate.”

Gary says his goal is to build relationships with people as a way to have constant contact once they leave. He says he will often follow up with families and invite the children to be involved so they can see people who care and want the best for them.

“We have had men who feel guilty about their past, and we help them rebuild their lives — they’ve helped accomplish a goal and are no longer the people they used to be.”

Because of this ongoing support, many of the people who were eligible to leave the Oriana program remain as volunteers with CORE, like Brett Wilson of Cuyahoga Falls.

Several months ago Wilson began helping at the warehouse through Oriana House. Although his obligation was fulfilled two months ago, he continues to lend a hand every week.

“I like helping people. It’s a chance for me to give back. I am here by the grace of God, and I like to return to help,” he explains.

During his time carrying out his required community service obligation at CORE, Wilson met a friend and ultimately made a connection which landed him employment.

“By someone helping me, I was able to get on my feet again, and now I am doing the right thing. Maybe by me showing how someone gave me a helping hand, it can show others the possibilities. It’s a good feeling to have people respect you as a person.”

CORE operates solely on donations and grant support. This year alone, they will serve more than 900 families in need throughout Summit County, according to Macchione.

Since May, the following private foundations have provided grants: FirstMerit Foundation, W. Paul Mills and Thora J. Mills Memorial Foundation, Charles E. and Mabel M. Ritchie Memorial Foundation, the Welty Family Foundation, Gertrude F. Orr Foundation, Akron Community Foundation and the GAR Foundation.

Organizations or corporations interested in learning more about CORE and how it is helping local Summit County residents can request a speaker.

Macchione or a member of the board of directors will share information on needs of the community, future plans and growth of CORE as well as how the organization is impacting lives one piece of furniture at a time.

Those interested in recycling furniture or household items can contact the donation hotline at 330-379-3188 or visit www.corefurniturebank.org.

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Photos by Lisa Scalfaro

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