By: Katie Sobiech
One of the most important lessons Springtime of Hope (SOH) teaches, is the gift of giving back.
“We want to convince each and every person that comes into one of the homes to pass something forward to someone else,” Joe Montana, President of SOH said, referring to their Permanent Supportive Housing.
“I don’t think God could give us any more of a blessing than He has, to be able to take what we have and push it along, moving it forward to someone else,” Montana shared.
Sitting in a living room with 15 men from SOH’s Permanent Supportive Housing, at their monthly meeting, Montana shared “As a group of individuals you become an amazing force. It’s amazing what just one person can do, but when you think about 15 guys living in 3 different homes, all pushing forward doing the same thing, giving what they’ve been given to the next person along the way, it ends up being an amazing thing that happens at the end of it.”
Changing the Neighborhood
The neighborhood, no stranger to drugs and crime, has even begun to change due to SOH’s presence.
“We don’t see as many people standing across the street there anymore,” Joe, one resident, shared.
“We are really going to change this neighborhood. We’ve already changed this neighborhood. We would love to own all of the houses on Cole Avenue someday, and we can make that happen as a team, I know it,” Montana said.
One by one the residents shared positive changes the home has brought about.
“They (the neighbors) know we’re here and they respect you (Springtime of Hope). They know who you are and what you’re doing here,” one of the residents said.
SOH hopes their light will continue to break through the darkness.
“We’re not going to change where all of the drug houses are, but we are going to change that they’re not in this neighborhood,” Montana said, encouraging others to do the same in their neighborhoods.
“Sooner or later they’re going to say ‘We can’t cohabitate here. We’re out of here!”
When All is Lost
Whether it’s inside or outside the homes, the atmosphere is changing.
“Springtime of Hope is Christian oriented and has to be because this world really doesn’t have anything to give anybody,” Jarrod, a resident, said.
Many of the guys shared the heartbreaking stories of their past.
“My life went out from under me about a year or so ago. Everything that I feared the most happened to me all at once – all of it. Everything I had was severed with everybody and it was God and me, period,” Jarrod continued.
Without family, a job, or license, times were tough.
“And that’s when Springtime stepped in,” he said.
Carl’s story sounds all too familiar.
“About a year and a half ago I got laid off and my entire life fell apart,” he said.
He started drinking 30 packs of beer a day – everyday – for a year, until his unemployment ran out.
“I was left with one heck of an addiction. I stayed at the Haven of Rest and got kicked out of there for drinking. Then I was sleeping under a bridge,” he said.
Now that he’s at SOH he is working full-time.
“Carl goes in to work 2 hours early and comes home 2 hours late. He scrubs the toilets here, washes the kitchen, cooks, goes to the store, and he’s got a great attitude,” one of the residents added.
Creating a Network
“The most important thing you can do for a homeless person is re-connect them to their family. I want them to reach out to their families,” Montana said.
The homeless typically alienate themselves from friends and family, but SOH encourages the mending of those broken relationships.
They also introduce them to individuals in the community to get them the help they need, creating friendships and relationships that they did not have before.
“It’s all about God’s time. Are we as an organization supposed to judge the time frames of when these men are supposed to get work, get a car, and how long they’re going to stay here? How could we judge that? We would be going against what we talk about,” Montana said.
SOH allows the men to stay in the homes as long as they need, as long as they’re abiding by the rules set in place.
“It’s in God’s hands. This is about God’s plans and time for you. If you’re going to give it to Him you’ve got to say ‘It’s on Your time’,” Montana said.
But, he says, you can’t be sitting at home watching TV and expect things to fall into your lap.
“God helps those who help themselves,” he said.
As SOH continues to serve the poor in Summit County, they continue to discover new needs.
“We would love to be able to provide what we call a ‘Day Center’,” Montana shared.
This center would operate from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. every day except for Sunday. They plan for it to be a place where the homeless can do laundry, take a shower, get on a computer, sit and read a book, or play a game.
“Right now there’s not anything like that in Akron. Instead, the homeless are hanging around in the libraries and hospital waiting rooms,” Montana said.
They plan to build the people’s trust through the Day Center.
“We want to create a place where they a can go, and build upon the pride that they’ve lost at some point. And before long they’ll be in one of the houses,” Montana said.
SOH is also looking for a building to continue their food and clothing distribution.
“We’re currently homeless as a group and need a place to do our distribution in Akron,” Karen McNeill, Executive Director, said.
They will lose their current home as St. Bernard’s merges with another congregation.
“We would also love to do a women’s shelter,” McNeill said of their future goals.
But first, they want sustainability with the homes they have running now. Going from one house last year to three this year, they want to make sure that what they have is running correctly, and then they will begin their next home.
“We have over 125 volunteers and it’s amazing what goes on,” Montana said, “We have people who have hardly anything as far as treasures to give, but they give from their hearts and their souls. They give more than the people that write checks to the organization give,” Montana shared.
“Our volunteers are extremely dedicated and love working together. Some have developed a huge network of friends they never had before. We’ve even had people who’ve fallen in love through volunteering, so you never know,” Melissa Klubnik, the Treasurer, said.
This year SOH will be at Rockin’ on the River in Cuyahoga Falls for three nights of country music. All of the proceeds will go to SOH.
“It’s nice because these kinds of events bring the volunteers together,” Klubnik said.
They also have an annual retreat for volunteers.
“If our volunteers would just take one person and truly connect and make a bond it could change their life forever, so that’s a big deal,” Klubnik said.
If you are interested in this mission and/or becoming a volunteer please visit http://www.Springtimeofhope.com !