By: Katie Sobiech
“Each of us can recall a time, day, year, decade, or life that we needed a Springtime of Hope,” Joe Montana, Springtime of Hope President, said.
Springtime of Hope (SOH) brings a glimmer of sunshine into the lives of those facing a winter of the soul.
The first time I heard about Springtime of Hope was from Dirk, a homeless man living in a tent near railroad tracks during winter last year. He was homeless, yet serving the homeless with Springtime of Hope.
Dirk now has a home, thanks to SOH.
“They are 100% volunteer based and their desire is outreach,” Joe Bukovinsky, a volunteer at St. Bernard’s, said of the ministry.
It all began on an airplane soaring through the clouds.
“A couple of years ago I met Joe Montana on a plane,” Melissa Klubnik, Treasurer, said, “We got along really well, but didn’t talk for a year.”
A year later, they spoke again.
“I told him, we need to do something good for people,” Klubnik said.
They started by taking a trailer out to Grace Park where the homeless tend to hang out. They fed them soup and gave them clothing and toiletries.
“They loved seeing the people at the trailer and wanted more time to sit down and talk with us,” Klubnik recalls.
Because of this, and the fact that winter was fast approaching, they began serving food indoors.
In 2009 they added Canton and Barberton and now serve over 800 meals a month operating out of St. Bernard’s – St. Mary’s School in Akron, and Lakeview United Methodist Church in Barberton. Nearly 75 meals are being served each week in Canton as well.
They now have a “full service” clothing center at both locations as well.
A Place to Call Home
Along with serving the homeless at their meal sites, SOH has established housing for the homeless so that they can rebuild their lives.
“There are three different types of housing in Akron right now, you have the emergency shelter, transitional housing, and then you have us, which is the permanent supportive housing,” Klubnik said.
Permanent Supportive Housing means that the men can live in the houses as long as they need to.
“We’ve kind of filled a gap in Akron, where we have amazing rehabilitation programs, but once you’re rehabilitated you need to move on and sometimes they’re not ready for that,” Klubnik explained.
“Our houses say ‘We are there for you for the long haul,'” she continued.
“They’re sending people into the houses so that they can continue their sobriety with another program. It’s transitional, like how to rebuild after you become sober. They’ve been very gracious,” Bukovinsky, a volunteer who also lives in one of the homes, said.
Many of these men have child support, and even back child support to pay.
“To get on their feet they are going to need a long period of time and a lot of help – spiritually and financially. A lot of them are disconnected from any type of community,” Klubnik said.
As of today they have three houses for men.
“The amazing thing is that all of the homes have been rehabilitated through volunteers and people who were formerly homeless,” Klubnik shared.
“Jay Kilroy is absolutely the whole reason the houses run the way they do. He takes men into the program, becomes their mentor spiritually and friendship-wise, makes sure they go to their Alcoholics Anonymous program and things like that,” Klubnik said.
Each of the men has to go through a program, whether it’s a Salvation Army program, drug rehab program, or counseling for mental health issues – in whatever they need help. Successfully completing the program is required in order to stay at the house. Kilroy holds the men accountable to the goals they’ve set.
Faith is also a part of the program.
“We are non-denominational but turn to the Bible for the solutions because that’s where they are. That’s where the answers are,” Klubnik smiled.
Transportation is provided, as each home has a van and a car. In the mornings they are given the opportunity to go to a temp service to work.
The house runs on a schedule, and if rules are broken, SOH will find that person another place to stay.
Plugging into the Community
Recently, the Salvation Army and Adult Rehabilitation Center have partnered with SOH.
“The Salvation Army works with us directly. They will refer to us the graduates coming out of their program that they think will be most successful in our setting,” Klubnik said.
“Salvation Army is essentially setting our houses up for success before they’re even filled,” she continued, “Jay met some guys coming out of the program and was curious to find out what was going on at the Salvation Army because they’re doing a good job!”
SOH also organizes bi-weekly data that they provide to Homeless Management Information System, which is used to monitor the growing needs of the homeless in our community.
For more information on SOH: http://www.springtimeofhope.com