Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

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Northeast Ohio’s heart goes beyond its borders

 

Bay Village Community Yard Sale volunteers included: (back left to right) Therese Koomar, Barb Harrell, Jeani Parr, Lurrie Cavano, (front, left to right) Peggy Bailey, Annie Nock, Colleen Leitch and Kathy Presley.

 

 

 

By CYNTHIA SCHUSTER EAKIN

Photograph by Kathy Presley and provided by Annie Nock

Northeast Ohio has a pretty big heart that often extends way beyond its borders.

That became evident when residents of Greater Cleveland came forward to assist with relief efforts after hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria ravaged parts of Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

Bay Village resident Annie Nock said that she watched the coverage about the hurricanes on TV and found it to be heartbreaking. She added that every friend and neighbor that she spoke with expressed an interest in helping the hurricane victims.

“My first thought was to try to sponsor a family. Then, I thought about the fact that I had begun putting aside some items for a garage sale.  But, it wasn’t enough,” she said. “So then, I came up with the idea of having a community garage sale.”

“It was a huge undertaking. In one week, we gathered, sorted and priced everything,” she added. “It was amazing how our volunteers came together. Some of the people I had never even met before. People just wanted to help.”

“It reminded me of the story of stone soup. In the story, a man came into a poor village and suggested that they make a pot of stone soup. Someone contributed a carrot, someone else had a potato and someone else a little meat. When everybody contributed, they had enough to feed the whole village,” Nock explained.

“The city was amazing. Sue Kohl, assistant to the mayor, suggested that we use the Bay Way Cabin. It was empty and it was an ideal venue. We had four drop-off days for merchandise prior to the sale,” she said. “We had so many sponsors. Heinen’s donated 20 cases of water and bags. We put up signs that read, ‘Are you thirsty? So are they. Donate today.’ Java Bay donated coffee, Gina’s Pizza gave us pizzas, Sweet Melissa’s provided sandwich wraps and Fragapane’s Bakery gave us 10 dozen donuts to sell.” Following the Bay Village Community Yard sale, fifth- grader Andrew Presley and his family organized their own garage sale and donated $160 to the cause, Nock added.

“We raised over $10,000. It was amazing. And, this was selling all of the stuff that the people who contributed didn’t want,” she said. Items that did not sell were donated to charities including the City Mission, the West Side Catholic Center and Habitat for Humanity. “We even found great places for the things that we didn’t sell,” Nock said. “It was like a gift that kept on giving.”                                                                Bay Village Mayor Paul Koomar arranged for the yard sale volunteers to present a check exceeding $10,000 to the Cleveland area branch of the American Red Cross at a Bay Village City Council meeting. After the sale, Annie Nock and her husband Mike hosted a party for the volunteers and they served stone soup. “There was no stone in it, of course. It was just a hearty soup. And, everyone brought side dishes and desserts,” she said.

Jim McIntyre, regional communications officer for the Greater Cleveland Chapter of the American Red Cross, said that they have deployed more than a hundred persons, 90 percent of them volunteers and some staff, to Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Las Vegas and California after the disasters there. He noted that 28 people are still deployed and some have gone back for a second time.

“The storms have generated a vast interest in volunteers,” he said. “Dozens of volunteers have offered to help people thousands of miles away. They are committing two weeks of their time, not being paid and being trained to help people, mostly in shelters. They are being trained to hand out supplies, in mass feeding people and some are trained to operate rescue vehicles.”

“The Red Cross is not alone. We have partners. The Southern Baptist Convention, for example, sets up massive field kitchens where they cook thousands of meals,” he noted.

McIntyre said the Red Cross is always in need of volunteers. “There are on average three home fires every night in Northeast Ohio,” he added. There is a process to becoming a volunteer. People interested in volunteering can go to redcross.org/neo and click on the volunteer tab. You have to fill out an application and the Red Cross does background checks. “Then, we schedule training so that you can become most productive in your volunteer experience,” McIntyre said.

“The other way that people can help is by donating financially. It costs a lot to sort through material goods and distribute them,” he said. “So, the best way to help these devastated areas is to pump money into them.” McIntyre said that, in the Houston area alone, 477,000 households have received $400 each in sheltering, feeding and comfort.

The United Way has established a Harvey Recovery Fund, Irma/Maria Recovery Fund and a Worldwide Mexico Earthquake Recovery Fund. As of October 16, the United Way raised more than $59.57 million for mid and long-term recovery efforts, according to Ralph Davila, director of news and community content for the United Way of greater Cleveland.

That breaks down to more than $49.10 million for Hurricane Harvey relief, almost $9.48 million for Hurricane Irma recovery and almost $682,000 for Mexico earthquake recovery. More than $309,000 has been designated for where the money is most needed.

“United Way of Greater Cleveland has been using its resources, such as sending out calls to action and support for the natural disasters via email, on our social media channels and through word-of-mouth to garner help in our region,” Davila said. “We have been directing people to the United Way Worldwide website so they can contribute, which is located at unitedway.og.recovery.” One hundred percent of individual donations given to the United Way recovery funds are distributed to local United Ways in the affected areas.

Michael Murphy, chief marketing officer for the Cleveland Foundation, said, “We are always grateful for the willingness and generosity of Northeast Ohio residents who step up to help people in their time of greatest need. In addition to the $100,000 provided by the Cleveland Foundation for recovery efforts in Houston and Puerto Rico ($50,000 each), we also worked with community partners to set up a new online giving platform at clevelandfoundation.org/puertorico for Greater Clevelanders to help support the ongoing hurricane recovery and relief efforts in the U.S. commonwealth of Puerto Rico.”

“Through this effort, Northeast Ohio, including residents, KeyBank Foundation and the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, has already donated $130,000 to the Puerto Rico Community Foundation (Fundacion Comunitaria de Puerto Rico), which will be specifically designated for hurricane relief efforts in the hardest hit areas throughout Puerto Rico,” Murphy said. The web site will be open through Nov. 30.

“The local Latino community throughout Northeast Ohio has also created a collective known as Cleveland for Puerto Rico Relief Efforts in order to respond to the short and long-term needs of the island,” he added. “This collective includes faith-based, non-profit, corporate, public and private entities joining for these humanitarian efforts.” For more information on Cleveland for Puerto Rico Relief Efforts, including upcoming events, resources and the latest news, visit CLE4PR.org.

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