By: Katie Sobiech
Akron is one of Ohio’s safest big cities (Akron Beacon Journal, Sept. 27, 2007), and one of the organizations that has contributed to that is the East Akron Community House (EACH). For years its members have eagerly helped people in Akron and the surrounding areas strengthen their lives and communities. Together they have changed the landscape of many neighborhoods.
Not many know of this organization and the impact that it is having on thousands of lives in the area, but they have been busy helping others and offering programs that have been turning lives around since 1911.
Their programs include the Youth Development Center, Life Link, Drug and Alcohol Outreach Services, Family and Individual Development, Neighborhood Organization and Development, and Group Social Development. Each of these initiatives continues to build neighborhoods in Akron.
Beginning in the late 1960’s, the leaders of EACH wanted to empower the neighborhood to solve its own problems. This led to the formation of Block Clubs. These clubs were created in order to address problems in the neighborhood such as crime and prostitution. People joined together, closing down bars and replacing them with mini-parks.
Today EACH works with the almost 800 members in the neighborhood that are involved in block clubs. They address issues such as prostitution, drug trafficking, and crime in order to “reduce the issues that are plaguing the community,” Grady Appleton, Assistant Executive Director of EACH, said.
People in the neighborhood have formed “block watches” where they report any crime that they see. They are encouraging police to increase patrols and arrest anyone who they find guilty. These individuals are tired of crime and are taking action.
Reaching Out to the Youth
As youth crime statistics rise, the Youth Outreach Center (YOC), funded by the court, provides services for them so that they can come to the center after school for tutoring, anger management classes and self esteem building activities, instead of going to prison.
Ninety-five percent of the graduates do not return to the Juvenile Justice System afterward.
When asked what issues most teens that come to the center are facing, Appleton quickly replied, “They come from dysfunctional families, single parent, female-head homes, there’s a lack of discipline, no father figure, and they get involved in the wrong peer groups.”
Most of the teens do not have good school attendance either.
“They’re not doing well in school and are not on track to graduating,” Appleton explained, “but once the kids start coming to the YOC you can almost immediately see the change in their behavior; they’re quiet and under control. You can hear a pin drop in the room.”
When asked what makes the program such a success, Appleton said, “The fact that we work with small groups, about 15-20 kids, and we stick with them for 90 days. We also have a good staff.”
Minister Curtis Mentor, who is like a father to many of the teens, also plays a large role.
Living on the EDGE
Year long services are offered through the Education Development and Guidance for Employment program (EDGE). Three high schools are targeted in the area and given job services to help build their skills. Students are given jobs inside of the organization, such as receptionist work, as well as outside – one example being the public library.
There is a long list of ways EACH is making a difference in the community. There are over two hundred members in their Drug and Alcohol program and 3,572 individuals receiving counseling.
They work with expecting mothers to increase birth weight in their babies and decrease the chances that the baby will die during birth.
They provide day care, talk to kids about drugs and get individuals from “welfare to work”, offer computer training and leadership development.
“We are leading citizens in peaceful actions to advocate for peace in the community,” Appleton said.
To find out more about who they are please visit their webpage http://www.eastakron.com