The area homeless started gathering at Grace Park at 9:30 a.m. for Christmas In July, which didn’t start until later in the afternoon.
The hundreds of people looking for basic items — like food, water, toothpaste and undergarments — underscores this need in the community, as nearly 900 people in Summit County are homeless at any given time.
And the Akron Snow Angels, the group behind the recent event, proved itself up to the task. The group handed out 200 gift bags on July 25 filled with food, drinks, gift cards, bus passes, toiletries and many other items to residents facing homelessness.
The event was orchestrated by a small group of people, but more than 20 companies and organizations stepped in with donations and free services, like Gavin Scott Salon & Spa, which gave out free haircuts and arm massages; Akron Metro, which provided bus passes; and Retro Dog, which set up a food truck, among numerous other groups.
The Snow Angels started its community outreach journey by handing out gloves, hats and scarves during colder weather, tying them to trees and railings with handwritten notes, but Founder Erin Victor is looking for ways to spread the group’s mission throughout the year.
The Snow Angels’ tagline is to “spread the warmth, but I realized we need to spread warmth of the heart too,” says Victor. “Spreading the warmth to me is more about the relationships.”
Victor has a soft spot in her heart for this issue, as she’s known to treat people who are homeless to lunches, along with developing friendships with people facing homelessness throughout her work in the community.
She says the group plans to do more of these types of events in different neighborhoods throughout Akron. “We’re going to focus on Summit Lake, Kenmore and downtown Akron,” she adds.
Victor recalls what led her to her current mission: “I was with Torchbearers, and we went to St. Bernard’s for one of the Sunday dinners. I ended up meeting three people and got really emotional about it,” she says. “There was a gentleman who was trying to get his feet warm; his feet were blue. One woman had layers and layers of clothing, and when she stripped down, there was a baby attached to her. Another man had a stroke and basically lost everything.”
It was then that Victor saw a post on Facebook about a program in Winnipeg, Canada, where community members tied scarves, gloves and hats to trees, along with encouraging notes. She swiftly banded together a group of volunteers to do the same thing here in Akron.
Last week’s Christmas In July outing was representative of a previous community event called Project Homeless Connect, during which food, clothing, health care, legal assistance, haircuts, dental work and other services were provided for more than 800 homeless people each year at the Chapel in downtown Akron. Unfortunately, the massive volunteer effort folded a few years ago, but groups like the Snow Angels could help provide some of these services and goods for the community.
Snow Angels also is hosting an inaugural golf outing fundraiser Aug. 29, 2 p.m. at Deer Pass Golf Course, 5861 Greenwich Road, in Seville, in Medina County. The event needs golfers, sponsors, and volunteers. Register or inquire online at www.tournevents.com/2015asa.
The full list of sponsors and partners for the Christmas in July event included
- Gavin Scott Salon & Spa
- Retro Dog
- Clear Choice Custom LASIK Center
- Monty’s Place Barber Shop
- Bella Bronze Studios
- JCPenny Hair Salon Montrose
- Goodwill Industries
- Metro Regional Transit Authorities
- OPEN M
- Junior League of Akron
- Western Reserve Hospital
- Dry Patrol of Akron
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- David Alec Waldron D.D.S., Inc
- Sheraton Suites Akron Cuyahoga Falls
- Ross, Brittain & Schonberg Co., L.P.A.
- I-71 Buzz BNI- Medina Networking Group
- Metis Construction Services, LLC.
- A&A Vending
- Corporate Electric Company
Also at the event, Amber Genet collected Love Letters to Akron as part of her #DearAkron project, which was funded by the Knight Foundation.
Video by Vanessa Michelle.