ASHTABULA — Hundreds of people waited in line early Saturday morning in hopes of receiving shoes for their children, back to school supplies, as well as fun activities for the children.
G.O. Development Corp. sponsored the event under the leadership of Frances Norman and Angie Maki-Cliff, and they served double the amount of people who participated last year, Norman said.
Norman said 624 people registered, and the organization served about 300 last year.
“They [the people] were here at 8:30 [a.m.], and we opened at 11 a.m.,” Norman said. She said a pre-registration process led to those who signed up early receiving assistance first.
Norman said issues in the economy, including inflation, have led more people to seek assistance to help their children.
By noon, there were still many people in line waiting for underwear, shoes and backpacks. Children also were treated to hot dogs, ice cream and face painting.
Angie Maki-Cliff is now helping to organize some of the G.O. Development Corp.’s bigger events. “I think the turnout is amazing,” she said while registering people to receive the assistance.
Maki-Cliff said a grant from the Morrison Foundation helped pay for shoes for the children.
Norman said the rest of the supplies came from personal donations. She credited area churches, organizations and individuals for making the event possible.
“We could not do it without them,” she said.
Theresa Steiner attended the event with her 10-year-old son Zane. “It’s nice because it is something nice for the kids, and it allows people to get some extra supplies …Money is tight,” she said.
Volunteers took time from their Thanksgiving holiday to reach out to others before heading home for their own time with family.
G.O. Development Corp. volunteers spent much of the week preparing food and then arrived early Thursday morning to package it up for 450 people throughout the area, said G.O.D.C. President Drew Thomas. He said 380 meals were delivered and 70 picked up at the Station Avenue headquarters.
Thomas said 28 volunteers were involved in the process.
“This is my first time [volunteering]. It was fun it feels good to do it,” said Cathy Marcy, of Kingsville Township, who helped sort the meals for distribution.
The volunteers disbursed from Station Avenue to individual homes throughout the community and to Ashtabula Towers, Gulfview Towers and Lakeview Towers.
“It means a lot. I have something to eat,” said a thankful Steven Radwancky at Ashtabula Towers.
Down the road at Gulfview Towers Pam Deary was also glad for a meal she didn’t have to prepare.
“My husband is passed and the kids are down in Dorset. No reason to make a turkey for myself,” she said.
ASHTABULA — Monday was a day of hope for people experiencing homelessness in the city.
G.O. Community Development Corporation (CDC) donated 50 tents, 50 mummy sleeping bags, mats and blankets to be distributed at various locations where homeless people reside, such as parks and in the Ashtabula Gulf.
Ashtabula residents Ricky Turner and Robert Jewell accepted the donation from G.O. CDC President, Drew Thomas and G.O. CDC Director, Frances Norman.
“This should keep them warm in the winter; it’s not a permanent fix but it will help,” Thomas said. “The homeless come to us for their needs. It’s putting the community’s donations back into the community.”
The Geneva United Methodist Church women made the mats out of plastic bags to place under the sleeping bags for extra insulation and comfort, Norman said.
On extremely cold days, G.O. CDC opens its gymnasium, Thomas said.
“We are committed to providing food, clothing, household items and other assistance to people in the city of Ashtabula and throughout Ashtabula County,” Norman said.
Turner said he and Jewell will distribute the donations to the homeless camps in the area.
“There are five major camps in Ashtabula, from Bridge Street to behind the Circle K on Main Avenue,” he said. “A new camp just set up behind Giant Eagle in Saybrook.”
Turner, who feeds the people in the parks every morning, hopes to eventually open a sleeping center for the homeless.
“We have parents and kids living down in the gulf,” he said. “I like these tents and sleeping bags because they are lightweight and they can carry them with them throughout the day.”
Turner said the homeless hang out in the city’s downtown parks because they have appointments at Signature Health and Catholic Charities, and they can use the WiFi and bathrooms at the library.
The city’s homeless situation is nothing new to city officials.
In August, Ashtabula City Council heard nearly two hours of public testimony from more than a dozen people who spoke about petty crime, public urination, criminal damage, litter and other problems they’ve encountered in Cornelius (the former North Park) and South parks. They said the homeless situation is negatively affecting the downtown community.
A few weeks later, council members held a work session to come up with ideas to solve the problem of people camping out in the city parks. They heard from five social service agencies and discovered there’s a lot of help available in the county, if people would just take advantage of it.
ASHTABULA — Children won’t get a chance to belt out Christmas tunes from the G.O. Development Corp. stage this year, but presents will be under the tree.
“I am so blessed. It is very helpful,” said Jessica Thompson as she picked presents for her children on Friday morning at the Station Avenue center.
She said the kids were a little upset they weren’t going to be able to gather with everyone and meet Santa Claus, but she explained the situation and how the pandemic has changed so much.
Volunteers and staff at G.O. Development have been working on the Christmas program since October, said director Francis Norman.
“These are my elves,” Norman said of Carol Hunter and Debbie Hill, who have been working five days a week since October to get the presents ready for the children.
Norman said the pair wrapped an estimated 1,000 gifts and were still working on some on Friday morning. She said the gifts were donated by a many people and churches.
“[The donors] just did it. The community has been so generous,” she said.Norman said there is a “Secret Santa” who bought three car loads of gifts for children.
“I don’t even know her name,” Norman said. The lengthy planning helped make the four-day event a little less chaotic than having 500-600 people in a gymnasium, Norman said. She said Friday marked the beginning of gift pick-up.
“We are doing [appointments] every 10 minutes,” she said.More than 425 children are scheduled to receive gifts by Tuesday evening, Norman said.
She said the pick up system allows fewer people to have personal contact during the pandemic.
Each child is scheduled to receive two to three gifts, a candy bag and the family will get a bag of groceries, Norman said. She said hats and gloves were also a part of the process.
“It’s different,” Norman said of the process. She said it was running smoothly on Friday morning.
“It is nice to have the kids party but this is easier and faster,” Norman said.
A large number of families are scheduled for gift pick-up today. She said several Youth Opportunity workers will be on hand today to assist in taking the food and groceries to the car.
Brittany Chambers volunteered her time on Saturday morning along with Olajuwon Smith who also created a computer spread sheet to help organize the recipients.
Chambers said she volunteers in memory of her mother Valerie Chambers who assisted G.O. Development Corp.
“When she passed, we kept it [going],” Chambers said.