Love Akron Connects Local Leaders in Prayer


Monthly breakfasts support various
sectors of the marketplace

By Lyndsey Schley


The Love Akron Network hosts Love Akron Connect on the last Wednesday of every month. These prayer breakfasts bring communities members together to support each other.

Each breakfast is held at the Hilton Garden Inn in Akron and focuses on a different sector of the marketplace. In February, the focus was healthcare.  Love Akron invited employees from various healthcare-related organizations in the Akron area.

MarkFordPastor Mark Ford


Pastor Mark Ford, Executive Director of the Love Akron Network, says they have chosen sectors of the marketplace to focus on for these breakfast, including law, media and entertainment and veterans.

Ford opened the breakfast with a prayer, but also a message of inclusiveness to people of various faith traditions.

“You’re not required to pray,” Ford said. “Not everyone is comfortable praying openly and with new friends. Don’t feel obligated. We’re just glad you’re here.”

DebbieMcKinneyDebbie McKinney


Debbie McKinney, Program Development Coordinator at the Love Akron Network, shared her story of her various medical emergencies. From breaking elbows to birthing babies, she had had her fair share of hospital visits.

”Everyone in one way or another is associated with healthcare,” she said.

However, a life or death illness put her in the hospital for 35 days.

“I’m here today because of the care and the love that I received there.  But not just because of all that, but because there was a series of events that got me there, got me to the right doctor, got me to my prayer warriors and people like Mark Ford,” McKinney said. “We always forget that our pastors and church friends and people we do not even know are praying for us.”

Ford called for health leaders to share their prayer requests. He said through sharing prayer requests, people can get to better understand the needs and struggles of their fellow community members.  He said one struggle the medical community is dealing with is an increase in opiate abuse.

“We are in a time when the medical community needs prayer,” Ford said. “They’re the ones to tell the community,  ‘They didn’t make it.’  They’re the ones who try to get that person to breathe again.”

Robert-DeJournettRobert DeJournett


Robert DeJournett, director of community relations and diversity at Summa Health System, asked for people to consider the current infant mortality rates. Ohio is currently 45th in the nation in the measure with one of the highest rates in the country.

“Infant mortality rates in Akron, in two zip codes, 44307 and 44320, are the worst in the state and it is affecting African American babies at an alarming rate, which they don’t make it past one year,” He said. “So we know there’s something going on there. So, I ask you to keep that on your prayer list and not only pray, because faith without works is dead.”

williamsbernettBernett Williams


Bernett Williams, vice president of external affairs at Akron Children’s Hospital, brought up the high levels of mental health issues in local children. She said they are dealing with children who face bullying, cutting and suicide attempts.

“It’s just very, very troubling situations that our children are facing at younger and younger ages,” Williams said. “In fact, at our mental health clinic, our in-patient clinic, we are turning children away. We don’t have the capacity to serve the number of children coming to us with very serious mental situations that may need to be hospitalized.”

ACH-logo copy

Akron Children’s Hospital Chaplain Karen Ballard also shared that the hospital staff had seen a spike in children who are victims of abuse.

“Last year, January through February, we had more cases of abuse in our intensive care units than we usually see in our whole year,” she said. “It continues and, fortunately, we have not seen it that badly but not a month goes by that we don’t see some child that has some way been injured by people who should be loving them and caring for them.”


Other prayer suggestions include people who are stressed from high-paced jobs within the hospitals. Kristine Drummond , CEO of AxessPointe Community Health Center, said it is not just nurses and doctors who feel this, but also the intake staff.

“You see people every day, and a lot of people are very angry because being poor is a stressor and being poor is like having PTSD,” she said. “You’re on a battlefield out there every day, trying to make decisions about how to survive. But pray for the staff because you know what happens. People are upset and they’re angry and they’re going to take it out on that first person.”

Other issues people brought up include the rising number of memory issues in the community, people in hospice and their families and estranged family members. Organizations also praised the volunteers that offer their time to them.

After the group prayer suggestions, the participants broke off to pray with those at their tables. Participants went around the table introducing themselves and took turns leading their groups in prayer. This gave them to opportunity not only to pray for the suggested causes, but also share their own struggles.

After the group prayer time, the breakfast closed with one last prayer and some closing remarks.


Chris Hinman, Director of Volunteer Services at Akron General Visiting Nurse Service, came to the breakfast for the first time and hopes to come again in the future.

“I was invited and in a lot of cases, volunteering, it’s not until someone invites you that you actually take time to attend something like this,” Hinman said. “I’m a Christian, so I’m very driven by my core beliefs and it’s just so energizing to be in a room like this. There are so many needs in Akron. We’re aware of that and we are so fortunate in Akron also. We have so many people who care, so many volunteers that serve their time.”

DougKDoug Kohl


Doug Kohl, Retired CEO of the Akron Area YMCA, has been coming to Love Akron Connect regularly since the event started in 2011.

“The healing that can happen through prayer is highly underestimated and when people come together across cultures and colors and congregations to pray for the city, good things tend to happen,” Kohl said.

“It’s important to connect within the community, and for the community of believers to come together and care for the community. There’s probably no higher calling.”

Ford said while the prayer breakfast is not a large gathering, the people who come are often community leaders.

“If you knew who was there, these are people who are really leaders in the community, who represent a lot of people,” he said. “Sometimes I think it’s not how many but who. We’re all important but people have different roles in the community.”

For more information go to:  The Love Akron Network

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