AMHA partners to bring services
to Twinsburg community
Story by Lyndsey Schley
Pinewood gardens is an Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority Community in Twinsburg, OH. As the most northern AMHA community, the residents face different challenges than residents around the county.
The main challenge for the residents is transportation. Kellie Morehouse, Early Childhood Initiative Service Coordinator at AMHA, works with the residents at the community and said many of the families do not have cars, driver licenses or gas money. This problem affects many facets of the residents’ lives.
“The bus lines run so infrequently up here, maybe every three to four hours,” Morehouse said.
Jaime Wade is a resident volunteer at Pinewood Gardens. She said the schedule varies on weekdays and the buses do not run on the weekends. She said it is very hard to make doctors’ appointments in Akron and sometimes, she skips them because they can take the whole day.
“If I have a 2 o’clock appointment, I’d better be on that 9 o’clock bus because of the fact that that bus runs so infrequently,” She said. “You have to check the other bus schedules, too. So you’re not just looking at this bus. You’re looking at whatever bus you’re taking to get to that doctor’s appointment.”
Wade said the closest place to buy food is a GetGo Gas Station down the street, but it is very expensive.
“It’s $7 for a frozen pizza,” she said. “I could be paying 99 cents for single pizzas. So do I want to pay $7 here or do I want to ride the bus eventually and bring the groceries back here.”
Instead, Wade said many residents go to Akron for groceries. When she goes grocery shopping, she brings a suitcase so she can easily transport a lot of food home on the bus for her teenage son.
“Most of them honestly take the bus all the way to Akron and then go to the Save-A-Lot,” she said.
Morehouse said this can be very difficult for moms who might have young children or strollers.
Wade said she hopes they can find a way to get better transportation for the community.
“They need to do a little bit more about the bus line,” she said. “I know people have tried, but it’s not getting anywhere because this is just some rural area.”
Kellie said the limited bus schedules can make it difficult for some residents to find employment.
“The employment then affects the financial part of that and being able to buy diapers, buy food,” she said.
Since it is more difficult to get to these services, the community is working to bring services to them.
Children learn while moms take care of themselves
One of the programs available to residents is Mom-ME Time. This collaboration between AMHA and the Twinsburg Public Library gives mothers a safe space to discuss their lives while their children socialize and learn.
Katie Johnson, youth services manager at the Twinsburg Public Library, noticed that children from Pinewood Gardens were not coming to story time at the library. They started offering story time in the community room about a year ago.
“Once we came up here we realized there weren’t any kid programs at all in place so, we just thought it would be really important to get the kids ready for school,” Johnson said.
The program began with the whole family eating a lunch of pizza and fruit. After they ate, the mothers went off to participate in their talk session while the kids stayed.
Johnson read the kids Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons, a story about a cat that kept losing his buttons. All of the adults in the room encouraged the kids to read along. Afterword during their lunch break, two Wilcox Elementary School teachers, Leighann Turschak and Shari Jaskiewicz, helped the children work on their kindergarten readiness skills.
Johnson said this is important because many of the families have no transportation to get their kids to preschool. While all the children in the complex qualify for Head Start, they have no way to get there unless they have been identified as “having a delay” and are given transportation to preschool.
“Head Start, for example, is only two miles away, but they cut busing at Head Start, so they can’t pick them up and take them to the Head Start program,” she said. “It’s so important for them to get some preschool before Kindergarten so they’re ready and the biggest barrier for those families is transportation.”
For the mothers, the sessions cover a range of topics including nutrition, self-care and sleep. They can also connect the mothers to counselors.
AMHA does depression screenings on mothers’ first, third, sixth, 9th and 12th visits. Morehouse said 46 percent of attendees show signs of depression and of them, 30 percent show improvement by the third session.
Concluded next week: Overcoming Difficulties Accessing Healthcare and Food