Did you know that there are more human slaves in the world right now than ever before in history?
Approximately 27 million people are trapped in this spider web of perverse modern day slavery throughout the world – and even scarier – 13 million children.
Human trafficking is an illegal, underground business that takes on many forms, mostly involving sex and work for little to no pay.
This past weekend, the Chapel, an Akron-based Christian church, hosted "Stop the Trafficking," a conference that highlighted the horrifying facts and statistics on the reality of this mind-boggling 21st century form of slavery. It also offered the hope of how you and I can take steps to end this.
Right Here in America
The Ohio Civility Project seeks constructive community dialogue
Scholars from the universities of Akron, Cleveland State and Mount Union, along with the Akron Beacon Journal, representatives of Akron's faith community and the Civic Commons are encouraging constructive civic dialogue from citizens.
The Knight Foundation, which hosted a meeting this morning at the Akron Urban League to inform community leaders about the Ohio Civility Project, is fostering innovative approaches to increasing engagement skills in the community development field.
This morning's initial meeting laid out the ground work that the panel has put together thus far; improving civility, civility definition and standards, applying civility standards and publicizing moments of incivility.
A number of support services are available to homeless people who have mental health or addiction problems, but what about those who are homeless but don’t have these accompanying issues? Marc Anthony, who is homeless, posed this question during a recent community discussion.
“If you’re a single male, with no drug problems and no alcohol problems, you’re more or less stuck,” said Anthony, who has been homeless for a couple of years and faces a number of barriers in his attempts to get ahead. For one, local employers such as fast food chains will not hire him because he has no place of residence to write on his job applications. Many tell him to come back when he has a place to live, which keeps Anthony in a Catch-22 of sorts.
About 20 representatives from area nonprofits, faith-based charities and schools met at the Akron-Summit County Public Library’s Main Library in downtown Akron last week to discuss the pressing issues surrounding homelessness, including solutions for an ideal future for our community.
Imagine for one moment being a teenager and having to get ready for your prom at a homeless shelter. Unfortunately this is a reality for some.
"A mom and her three teenage boys had been living in their car for about 17 days before they came to ACCESS. They weren't in a minivan, it was an average car," Joy Trachsel, PR and Volunteer Coordinator at ACCESS, said of the types of things their staff see on a daily basis.
"To see the mom come in with three teenage boys who were old enough to be aware of what was going on and see the anger in their eyes – they were mad at their mom – (thinking) 'why do I have to get ready for my prom in a homeless shelter?' and watching those boys really soften and when they left were in tears, stands out to me," Trachsel continued.
A movement beginning in Cleveland is now growing in Akron. On Feb. 8, citizens and strangers gathered at Musica for the E4S (Entrepreneurs for Sustainability) Local Food Initiative that is taking off.
The E4S: Putting Sustainability to Work is known for innovative workshops, roundtables and networking events for the purpose of connecting people and ideas that will help sustain work for our region. The network includes more than 8,000 business, government and nonprofit leaders working to grow a sustainable economy.
The purpose of this evening was to stir up discussions, network and provide information on the local food movement. Ideally, the initiative seeks to make locally grown, healthy food available to all. This means corner stores and places one would not normally find fresh food.
Job creation, financial stability, safety and building a thriving community is what most of us, if not all, hope for in our city. What boosts our confidence is having someone in office who cares and has a track record of making positive changes in the community.
"When you get articles like this," said County Executive Russ Pry, holding up a November copy of the Fiscal Times, "You look at the 10 different places and see Akron, Ohio, rated as number eight in the United States in the middle/coming out of the worst recession in our lifetime. You see that for tough times we've been able to do some pretty good things" he said proudly.
Pry has worked to keep the economy rolling in Summit County by doing things such as helping to keep Goodyear and Bridgestone facilities in the area, for instance.
As the globe turned on County Executive Russ Pry's desk and he spoke of the changes that have been made in the county since taking office, it's clear that he has no lack of vision for this community.
His office, overlooking the city and all of its people, roads and tall buildings, mirrors his job in a way, which is overseeing the operation of the county government. Pry oversees 10 different departments within Summit County, which has approximately 3,400 employees and at one point was the 17th largest employer in Northeast Ohio.
Since being in office, Pry has made some major, positive changes in the county. "We have been able to successfully manage our budget in such a way that we've been able to maintain high levels of service to the public," Pry shared.
A look at food donations from the ground level
Arlington Memorial Baptist Church recently gave away 18,000 pounds of food to residents in need, thanks to a donation given by the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.
Every week, the Foodbank donates food to this church, as well as to many other agency members across the county. Mary Coppenger, 72, and her husband Jack, 75, have been giving out food at Arlington Baptist for four years now.
The happily married couple of 50 years arrives at the church at 5 a.m. every Tuesday morning to set up, staying until 1:30 p.m. "When we first started there was only about 15 people coming. We'd sit here, read the paper and have coffee," Mary said of their beginnings.
Now they average 100 to 150 people each time.
In just one week, six people were murdered in Akron. Between this and the Copley and Craigslist shootings, some in the faith community are saying "enough is enough" and taking a stand against crime in our area by gathering together in prayer.
Twenty-six murders were committed in the city this past year alone. "That's 26 mothers without sons," said Serita Terrel, who lost her 24-year-old son last May, due to a gunshot to the head.
Police officers, pastors and city officials were among those who arrived to pray at Mount Calvary Baptist Church on Bell Street and address the recent violence in the city.
Kathy, a 54-year-old woman staying at the Harvest Home shelter for women and children, has a smile that lights up a room. She wasn't always like this, though. It wasn't until going through the Harvest Home's program that she was able to find healing and blossom into the woman she is today. She found purpose and joy through their new program, Lydia's Purse.
Lydia's Purse is collaboration between the homeless shelter and Maryann Wohlwend, founder of MaryannDesigns and international director of Lydia's Purse. Her slogan, "Sewing Handbags while Sowing Hearts," defines this social entrepreneurship that empowers women from Northeast Ohio to the ends of the earth (all the way to Tanzania).