By: Katie Sobiech
How many people do you know who would leave their comfortable lifestyle, steady job and white picket fence neighborhood to move into, arguably, one of the most dangerous areas in Akron?
A place many wouldn’t even prefer to drive through, let alone live in?
Not many, or even one, right?
Well, Duane Crabbs and his wife Lisa did just this, moving their family of 6 into the high-crime and poverty-filled area of Summit Lake in 1997. All to form what is now known as South Street Ministries (SSM).
Duane chose to walk away from his job as an Akron fireman-paramedic in order to save lives in a different way; rescuing people from the engulfing flames of addiction, poverty and hopelessness. His goal – to make a difference in a neighborhood where help is needed 24/7 – not just an hour or so once a week.
In this series we will discuss:
• What South Street Ministries does
• Their heart for the inner city
• How they’ve grown
• Problems & gaps
• The café – its beginnings and now
• Their vision for the 1st and 2nd floors of the café, and
• Their goal for economic growth
A Grassroots Ministry
SSM is a Community Development Corporation affiliated with the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). The CCDA is a nationwide network of folks like SSM, working with others in the community to improve their world.
SSM’s work is best summed up here:
“Over the last (18) years, South Street Ministries has grown out of the home of the Crabbs family. In that time, almost a thousand youth have earned donated and broken bicycles that they helped to fix and repair. Several hundred inner city Elementary School kids have been regularly fed, loved and tutored.”
Also, “The “Summit Lake Neighborhood Association” was founded by Crabbs to be a positive force in the community in partnership with the Summit County prosecutor’s office. Countless ex-offenders, recovering addicts, the homeless, alcoholics, the HIV at risk, prostitutes, those on disability and the marginalized have found help and hope through the love of Jesus as it is expressed in the interracial fellowship of the broken and recovering that now meet at the “Front Porch” at 798 Grant St.”
“The Front Porch houses a Café that employs recovering addicts and ex-offenders and is open for lunch Monday thru Friday, and other community friendly activities occur there in the evening.” (www.uakron.edu/race/keynote/duane-crabbs.dot)
Growing in Leadership
The ministry has slowly but surely grown, with others now following their example. Joe Tucker is one of them. Tucker has been working with the ministry for 5 years now.
Tucker started off in 2010 as a Program Director, and then became Executive Director in 2012.
Now they’ve grown to a staff of 9 people, allowing Duane to focus more on serving as the Pastor and a board member.
Heart for the Inner City
Something’s been stirring in Akron, and that is young people with a heart to care for the poor, sick and needy. Tucker knows this all too well.
“I went to the University of Akron, was part of the Chapel, understood God’s heart for the city and folks in the margins, and wanted to live in that vein as best as I could. That was a deep value of mine,” Tucker explained of what led him to inner city ministry.
After spending time in Philadelphia where he was involved in a short-term mission’s project, Tucker moved into the South Street neighborhood, taking on a permanent role.
At the time, he says “There was a collection of young people that were kind of following in Duane and Lisa’s steps. They were moving into the city, stepping into ministry, embracing some of those principles of trying our best to reconcile with people different from us. We were trying our best to locate ourselves in places that are perceivably challenging. That was a main value that I really wanted to live, so I did.”
Joe now wears many different hats, including running their famous bike shop, the gardens and the Front Porch Café, and many other tasks that go along with ministry.
And though they have been known as a grassroots neighborhood ministry reaching out to kids, now they may become better known for their Front Porch Café.
This start-up began in 2011 and they are working to get the word out and grow the business, for the sake of the community and its people.
Stay tuned for next week’s story to find out all about the café, how the ministry is growing and much more! For more information on South Street Ministries please visit: www.southstreetministries.org