Happy 20th Anniversary, Love Akron!


Robert DeJournett, Director of Community Relations & Diversity, Summa Health Systems and Chairman of the Board for the Love Akron Network, welcomed the nearly 700 people at the 3rd Annual Love Akron Awards breakfast Sept. 30. The event, held at the John S. Knight center, brought together a mix of businessmen and women, nonprofit organizations, ministry leaders and local philanthropic groups, as well as political leaders.

“The theme for this morning is simply, Servant Hearts. These two words capture the essence of Love Akron’s mission,” said The Rev. Dennis Butts, Associate Pastor at The House of the Lord.

The Love Akron Network brings together pastors and Christian leaders from all over Summit County to pray, collaborate, cultivate relationships, and challenge people of good will to recognize the possibilities of what Akron could be. “We see tremendous possibilities for city transformation, working side by side with all sectors of our community, using our collective resources, gifts and talents, to make a positive impact in our community.” said Mark Ford.

This year’s keynote speakers were the original founding members of Love Akron from its inception 20 years ago: the Rev. Dr. Ron Fowler, Rev. Knute Larson and Ford. “We can do more together than we can alone,” said Fowler.

Quoting Mark Twain, Ford said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born…and the day you find out why.”

He added, “For me that question was answered 20 years ago when Pastor Knute Larson, Dr. Ron Fowler and I joined our hearts together to birth what is now known as The Love Akron Network. This morning we are officially celebrating a milestone in our history, which is the 20th anniversary of Love Akron. We chose this occasion to celebrate it with all of you wonderful people. I want to personally say thank you for coming to share in this exciting time in our history.

“Although Pastor Fowler, Pastor Larson and I are credited for launching The Love Akron Network, the truth is this ministry and the vision for this network was in the hearts of a few other people years before. These unsung heroes did not give up on the idea. I would not be standing here today and it is quite possible Love Akron would not be a ministry, if it were not for Gina Burk, Scott Myers, Dave Baker, Duane Crabbs and Darryl Brake. Gina Burk said it best, “We weren’t made to sit and ignore our neighbors’ suffering. We were created in the image of God, which compels to action.”

Ford explained, “Now those words reflect the heart of a true servant.”

Love Akron Network’s primary mission is to give a clarion call to individuals with the heart of a servant to come together and work collaboratively for the common good of the Greater Akron Area, and then give leadership to their endeavors.

Armstrongs, John Rasnick, Leigh Gerstenberger

The Love Akron Awards Breakfast was created to honor three outstanding individuals who encourage and inspire servant leaders in the Greater Akron Area. The awards recognize the extraordinary leadership, deep faith and community contributions to mobilize Christian leaders and people of goodwill to be servants to the city and to bring about transformation in our community.

“Dr. Ronald Fowler, Pastor Knute Larson, and the late Honorable Judge Brenda Burnham Unruh have embodied a legacy that every generation should attempt to emulate,” stated Ford.

In honor of Dr. Ron Fowler and Pastor Knute Larson, whose intentional relationship crosses racial, cultural and congregational barriers, The Fowler-Larson Allies Award is given to two individuals who demonstrate the “allies spirit” that these two faithful leaders have modeled. Recipients are selected from the local church or para-church community in the greater Akron area.

Fowler-Larson Allies 2013

Judge Todd McKenny and Chuck Myricks, Chief Operating & Development Officer, of the Church of God, received the Fowler-Larson Allies Award in 2013.  They accompanied Dr. Fowler and Pastor Larson in presenting this year’s Allies Award to Dottie Achmoody, CEO of OPEN M, and Perry Clark, president and founder of Truly Reaching You Ministries.

Dottie and Perry
The late Honorable Judge Brenda Burnham Unruh Servant Leader Award is bestowed upon an outstanding individual in the marketplace, who demonstrates Christian faith and community spirit. Judge Unruh was a person known and loved by many in the community.


While Drs. Mark and Sue Meyer, Northeast Family Healthcare and Pioneer Physicians Network, received the Servant Leader award last year, Robert Unruh, President of Design Construction, presented the Judge Brenda Burnham Unruh award to Judge Carla Moore. She is the first African-American female judge in Summit County and sits on the Ninth District Court of Appeals.  Judge Moore is a long time friend of the Unruh’s.  Robert Unruh said he didn’t know anyone more deserving of this award.  He described how Moore and his wife would talk about mentoring as a way to inspire and respond to God’s call to serve.

“Brenda was known for her tireless efforts, consistently reaching out to people of all socioeconomic levels—from politicians, lawyers and doctors, to prostitutes, homeless and felons—with the Good News of Jesus Christ. She treated all people with dignity and respect regardless of their status,” said Unruh.

Other noted guest speakers were:

Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio, Summit County Juvenile Court, who gave the invocation.

Derran Wimer, the Executive Director of Summit Education Initiative (SEI), talked about the Adopt-a-School Project at Findley Community Learning Center. (We will post a story next week updating the progress which has occurred from this partnership.)

Leigh Gerstenberg, Vice President of Wealth Management, First Merit Bank, shared an invitation to invest in the community by investing in Love Akron.

Tom Parker, Dorothy O. Jackson, and YEPAW

Rev. Tim Armstrong, Lead Pastor at The Chapel, prayed for the city. The Benediction was given by Judge Tom Parker, Summit County Court of Common Pleas, and the musical program opened and closed the breakfast by Youth Excellence Performing Arts Workshop (YEPAW).

Some of those in attendance were:  Russ Pry, Summit County Executive; Judge Donna Carr; Judge Eve Belfance; Judge Tom Teodosio; Judge Beth Whitmore; Judge John Quinn; Judge Julie Coates; Summit County Councilwoman Ilene Shapiro; CEO of the Greater Akron Chamber Dan Colantone; CEO of Leadership Akron Mark Scheffler; Chief City Prosecutor Gertrude Wilms; Magistrate Jon Oldham; Judge Annalisa Williams; Judge Katarina Cook; Judge Jerry Larson; Judge Kathryn Michael; Judge Joy Malek Oldfield; Judge Julie Schafer; former Deputy Mayor Dorothy O. Jackson; President and CEO of SUMMA Tom Strauss; Judge Lynne S. Callahan; Judge Christine Croce; Judge Amy Corrigall Jones; Judge Alison McCarty; Judge Tammy O’Brien; Judge Mary Margaret Rowlands; Dr. Terry Gordan; and President of the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, Dan Flowers.

Breakfast Crowd 3

Organizers say the breakfast was a tremendous success and wanted to give thanks to members of the Steering Committee and the Love Akron Board of Directors, along with the entire Love Akron Network. The event raised approximately $75,000 dollars, which will assist in continued collaborations and partnerships to enhance the community in the Greater Akron area.

For more information, http://www.loveakron.org/

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