OPEN M (Opportunity Parish Ecumenical Neighborhood Ministry):
Celebrating 40 Years of Opening its Doors to the Needy – 2009-02-10

By: Katie Sobiech

Dottie Achmoody, CEO at OPEN M, has a smile that can light up a room.

When describing OPEN M and their mission she lights up – her eyes sparkling with excitement and joy. Their mission is one of the greatest in the Bible; something that God is greatly concerned about, and that is feeding the hungry, healing the sick, nurturing children, building strong families and reaching out to the community.

 OPEN M “opens up” a world of opportunity to the community, specifically the poor; providing them with things that they wouldn’t be able to survive without.

Beginning out of a growing need in the community, OPEN M developed during somewhat of a crisis. It got its start in the late 1960’s when rubber factories were downsizing and ministers had people knocking at their doors needing help with food, clothing and shelter. Due to lack of resources they had to turn people away. This is what brought four pastors of local churches to gather together, collecting what they had, and establishing a place where the various needs of the community could be met – creating Open M.

Effects of the Economy

With problems rising in the economy, more people are in need than ever before. Those living from paycheck to paycheck are facing desperate situations, some even losing their homes because they don’t have a bank account to fall back on.

“It’s sad, but we see a lot of those kinds of stories here,” Achmoody said.

She is witnessing what she calls the “new poor” – those who were already struggling, living from paycheck to paycheck, and then the crash of the economy was just enough for their shaky foundation to cave in.

“They don’t know where to go, so they come here,” she said.

Therefore, OPEN M is seeing more people at their doors, but unfortunately they have less to work with. This has led to one of their newest initiatives – bringing on not only churches – but now businesses as covenant partners to help support the ministry. They are hoping that with greater support they will be able to help more people.

In order to combat poverty they also have a social worker on board who helps individuals find jobs, set goals and cross various barriers in their lives that they are struggling to break through. This is all done through their Family Development program.

Another project in the works, “Circles”, is an expansion of the Family Development program, also focusing on getting people out of poverty.

Miracle Clinic

Due to the fact that 69,000 individuals in Summit County do not have health insurance, it’s no surprise that OPEN M’s clinic is their biggest program.

Last year their clinic gave away nearly one million two hundred thousand dollars in free medicine. They had over thirty two hundred patient visits and 80 health care professionals volunteer their services.

“Medical needs are huge,” Achmoody explained.

Not only do they see patients for free and give them free medications, they also give away medical supplies.

“They thank us because many of their medications are a thousand dollars to a thousand five hundred dollars a month and they couldn’t afford any of that,” Achmoody said.

She often hears, “I would not be here if it weren’t for OPEN M. You saved my life.”

Food Pantry

The second biggest program – the food pantry – is also a wonderful asset to the community; providing hot meals and emergency food assistance.

The Emergency Assistance Program provides bags full of food for families in need. They work in conjunction with Info Line, who sends them the individuals in need of the most help. Just a few weeks ago they gave away food to 27 different families in just one day.

They also provide hot meals in their large gymnasium the last two weeks of every month, Monday through Friday, from 11:30 to 1:00.

Other Programs

Along with the clinic and food pantry are children’s programs including tutoring, boys and girls club and the Diamond Ladies.

Achmoody is especially proud of the Diamond Ladies.

“We call them our Diamond Ladies because if you think of a diamond coming out of the rough you know it is all covered with coal, but if you chip away that coal, inside is this beautiful, precious gem,” she explained. “It sparkles, it glistens, it has worth and value and that’s what we teach our little ladies – that you are a creation of God and you have worth and value.”

Looking Ahead

It’s hard to keep up with Achmoody, who jokes that she’s often told to slow down.

“We have a lot of plans for the future,” she smiles, “and we need to be innovative, we need to think out of the box.”

They have already begun developing different committees, naming them “Committees of Hope”.

Each committee has a different task; one working with the churches, one working with the schools, one working with businesses, and so on. Twelve to fifteen individuals will be devoted to each committee and work to find people to partner with their mission.

“We’re trying to get the OPEN M name out there; we’re trying to get more visibility and let more people know and learn about us – who we are and what we do,” Achmoody said.

For example, the committee that works with schools will be responsible for getting individuals, principles, counselors and liaisons at the different schools to have food drives throughout the year so that they don’t have to purchase that food. It costs OPEN M $50,000 a year to run the food pantry. If they could get more help through the food drives it could cut the cost in half.

Another goal that she has is to have the clinic opened 5 days a week, all day long and also to work with more health care programs that take preventative steps towards good health care.

At the heart of it all is to continue serving the community the best that they can.

“Jesus said ‘I did not come to be served, but I came to serve’, and he’s our example and that’s what we want to do – serve others,” Achmoody said.

For more information on this ministry please visit their webpage at http://www.openm-ministry.org 
or call (330) 434-0110

 

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