By: Katie Sobiech
“Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” - Matthew 10:21
When hearing the word “poverty”, many of us might picture the children in Africa or another third world country scraping the remains of food from their bowls, but how often do we think of poverty in Akron and its surrounding area’s?
The truth is that people are living in poverty right in our own backyard.
“It’s amazing how many people in Akron Ohio, the United States of America, are sleeping on the floor,” Enrique Villalba, one of the members of CORE (Community Outreach Resources Exchange) said, “it’s a lot more than you would think.”
CORE’s mission is to find out people’s needs in the area and meet those needs. They do this by giving away furniture, household items, and other miscellaneous things to those who cannot afford them.
About 150 phone calls come in each month from desperate individuals asking for beds, couches, tables and other items. In some cases people are helped by the government in getting shelter, but they are on their own from there – leaving them with an apartment but nothing to put in it.
“Its amazing how many times we’ll visit people where an agency put them in an apartment and that’s what they have – not a chair, not a spoon, not a fork, nothing… just an empty apartment and there they are,” said Kathie Jones, a CORE volunteer.
When Sheila Martin, now a CORE volunteer, moved to Ohio she came with nothing but clothing and a few personal items, hoping to find a better life.
“You come from a bad life, you are going to start new, you are going to a totally different place with nothing and you don’t know how you are going to start. Then someone like CORE walks into your life and starts you out again; starts your life over,” she said, getting a little choked up.
CORE filled her home with everything that she needed, including furniture, appliances and dishes.
“This is the greatest thing I’ve ever run across in my life,” Martin said, “There are things in everyone’s lives that are life changing, and this has been one of mine.”
She now volunteers two days a week to show her gratitude for all that they’ve done for her.
How It Works
The system is pretty simple. If someone needs furniture they call the hotline, leave a message, and a volunteer will set up a house visit to talk with the family and determine their needs.
“The volunteers who do the house visits are kind of the eyes and ears of the warehouse. We tell the person at the warehouse what they need,” Villalba said.
At each house visit a member of CORE talks with the individual or family and offers to pray with them. After their needs are determined they go to the warehouse (which is located behind the Marcs in Cuyahoga Falls ) the following Saturday, anywhere from 9-11 a.m. , to pick up their items. Before they leave, volunteers offer to pray for them. This has brought some to tears.
One couple in particular touched Martin.
“My heart went out to this young couple who came in with a little baby. They had nothing,” she explained, “I never saw such an appreciative young couple in my life who just touched my heart. She (the mother) cried…we all cried.”
Inspired by History
This ministry stems from a tradition that goes all the way back to the 1840’s when Antoine-Frederic Ozanam, an evangelist in Paris , preached on the streets. He would stand on a street corner, preaching daily, until one day a homeless man came up to him and said something to the effect of, “I see you talking about the Bible, but I don’t really see you doing anything. You talk about feeding the poor and visiting those in prison, but all you’re doing is standing out here preaching.”
Ozanam realized that the man was right and so he began the “Society of Friends” where he met with the poor face to face, visited them at their homes, and helped them in any way that he could.
As it grew he eventually changed its name to what we know today as “The Society of St. Vincent DePaul”.
Importance of Giving to the Poor
Deuteronomy 5:11 says “For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’”
This message of giving to the poor echoes itself throughout scripture, and in order to keep a ministry like this going they need our support. If you would like to become a volunteer or learn how to do house visits they have dinner and a meeting at 6 p.m. the first Monday of every month.
“We pray together, we joke together, we laugh together, we cry together. The people don’t just come here and do a job, they become a family, they become a unit, they become a team,” Martin said.
For more information on how you can help please contact CORE at (330) 379-3188