Monthly Archives: March 2014

Local author Giffels talks Akron with packed library auditorium


David Giffels

It’s not a stretch to say that local author David Giffels embodies Akron. He has devoted his career and life to the city as many of his peers have moved away over the years, and he has championed all things Akron. His new book, “The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt,” has drawn national attention to our fair city and to his distinguished career, and through this, Giffels has shown a large audience just what Akron is made of.

The author drew a packed crowd last week to the Akron-Summit County Public Library’s Main Library as part of the Main Event Speaker Series, where he read from his release and fielded questions from the audience.

Giffels read a book excerpt that chronicles his time as a ball boy for the Cleveland Cavaliers — you see, that’s one of a few distinct connections he has with LeBron James, another Akron son: they both went to work for the Cavs right out of high school.

“Among my many professional liabilities was the fact that I was and probably remain the only employee in the history of the National Basketball Association who didn’t actually know anything about basketball,” said Giffels.

During the question and answer session, one attendee brought up the chapter about LeBron James, which is less about basketball and more about Akron. Giffels writes that LeBron James was born around the same time the term Rust Belt was born in one of the quintessential Rust Belt cities.

“We understand LeBron James in a unique way and in a complex way, and it’s a way that says a lot about us,” he said. “I wanted to try to write about why his departure hurt so bad and it didn’t have a lot to do with basketball.”

Giffels also talked about a sensitive subject, his best friend John Puglia, who lost his life to cancer last year. Puglia, the VP of Creative Services for Akron-based Whitespace Creative, came of age with Giffels as they attended college at what was then called “Akron U.” Giffels describes downtown Akron at the time like a set from the movie “Mad Max.,” a “decrepit wasteland that didn’t seem like anything but beauty and possibility.” He and Puglia  both got married at the same time and both started careers here, said Giffels. “He and I validated what it means to commit to a place that a lot of other people say is not worth committing to.”

Puglia lost his life to cancer, and Giffels has made it a mission to help carry Puglia’s story forward, and he considers Puglia a collaborator of this book.

Giffels, an English professor at The University of Akron, also spent a number of years as a well-known columnist at The Akron Beacon Journal and is the author of other books, including “All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-Down House.” He also is coauthor of “Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!” and “Wheels of Fortune: The Story of Rubber in Akron.”

For more information about the Library’s Main Event Speaker Series, visit

Akron Public Schools, Transforming Findley, One Volunteer at a Time (Part Two of Two)

By: Katie Sobiech


The kind of loving, no-strings-attached outreach that has come pouring in from local leaders, volunteers and staff at Akron Public Schools, Findley CLC is what makes it much more than “just” a school.

From the moment each and every student walks through the doors, the staff at Findley want to make them feel loved and accepted.

School counselor, Carla Bishop-White, always touches base with new students in particular, getting them started on the right foot. Literally, as shoes and other items can be hard to come by for some of the refugee students.

One particular family came to America with nothing. They borrowed everything they had to come to school that day.

When they left they had bags of items and were very thankful.

This is what the Findley Project is all about.

Representing Different Countries

Findley is unique in that children from all around the globe come together in one classroom here.

From Nepal to Burma, these children represent places all over the world.

Because of this “Kids come to us not having the resources they need to start school right away,” Sherry Bennington, Principle of Findley, said.

Things such as uniforms, school supplies and even the appropriate shoes are often needed, especially if the child comes from out of country and isn’t prepared for the climate.

And thanks to generous donations “Carla has access to those resources the day that they enroll,” Bennington shared.

The goal is to allow the kids to feel as confident as they can as they walk into their new school.

Same Struggle

“This is a cool place because we have kids who have the same struggle,” Bishop-White said of the students.

Findley is a place where all cultures are accepted and celebrated.

“It’s almost like they find a second home here,” Bishop-White said.

“There are other people speaking their language, interpreters, no one is looking at them strange, they fit right in. I don’t care where you’re from, whether you’re white, black Nepalese, you find a place at Findley. You’re never alone,” she continued.

Helping Parent’s Too

What’s also important is that they reach the parents.

They give them donations like soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, coats, shoes and personal items.

“The parents see the school as an extension. We can help them also. And it can be a concern that doesn’t have anything to do with school. Before I think it was so separate (separating school from other sorts of help),” Bishop-White said.

“We want to make an extension within the community, not just the school,” Bennington agreed.

They’ve already begun planning for this November, when they will have a school Thanksgiving meal for all of the families.

Greatest Needs

Bennington and Bishop-White are happy and thankful with the help they’ve received, but always welcome new volunteers and donations.

Right now, their greatest need is help with academics. Any type of tutoring or academic help is welcomed so that kids can feel comfortable and confident during testing time.

When asked about her vision for the future of the school and its needs, Bennington replied,

“As a school we always think in the realm of ‘what can we do right now’. It’s so exciting that people are willing to give of their time or resources, or drop something off.”

Bishop-White added, “It’s hard to answer because we’re used to doing it all ourselves.”

Community Vision

Bennington does envision their school having more of an impact on the community in the future.

“I think it will be an amazing thing when we get to the point where it’s the North Hill community and not just Findley,” she said.

“Our kids are impacted by this entire community every single day, so that’s such an important part of their growing, learning and experiences,” she continued.


As for any results set in stone, such as improvement in test scores and grades, they cannot measure that data at this time as this project is so new.

In the future they do hope to see how this impacts test scores, children’s grades and overall success.

“It’s hard to put concrete data on what’s still a work in progress. You can see them just moving forward. We’re already planning into the next school year,” Bennington said.

In the meantime Findley is so grateful for the outpouring of support shown.

“Seeing the outreach from so many who are willing to help a kid’s life – words can’t express the meaning behind that,” Bennington said.

For more information on how to get involved or give to this cause please visit .

Transforming Findley, One Volunteer at a Time (Part One of Two)

By Katie Sobiech


If you could dream-up the absolutely perfect school, what would you envision? Would it be a place where kids have all of their daily needs met? Where everyone fits in? Where there is help for over-burdened teachers and struggling students?

Well, who says our dreams can’t come true with a little work?

One Akron School isn’t too far off from their “ideal school” becoming a reality.

Findley CLC Learning Center in Akron is currently being transformed by the love of our community.

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