Next meeting takes place May 26 at Front Porch Cafe
— This piece is the first of a series focusing on the efforts of Duane Crabbs and South Street Ministries (SSM) to collaborate with business, local government and ordinary people in our community who come forward and say, “I do!” in answer to the question that is also the name of the initiative, “WHO CARES?” While South Street Ministries is a religious organization, participation in its work does not require religious affiliation. The mission statement of South Street Ministries is, “Unlikely partners taking shared risks to renew our community for Christ’s sake; thus SSM reaches across racial, economic, cultural and religious barriers for the enrichment of the community. This mission is best quantified through South Street’s programmatic efforts.”
In early April, South Street Ministries extended an open invitation to the community to come together with a desire to take action to find and implement solutions to the problems of poverty and social decay in our community. South Street Ministries Co-Founder Duane Crabbs said of the event, “We met together as people who simply care about Akron. Through the ‘Open Space Process’ we surfaced nine topics that you cared enough about to ‘own.’ Our conversations were driven by the frustration of knowing that we can and must do better.”
That first meeting of the “WHO CARES?” project brought people together from all walks of life to help identify areas of concern and to begin to form teams for each identified problem area that will actively work toward solutions. The nine areas of concern identified in that first meeting were:
- Who Cares about Whole Food?
- Who Cares about Community Wellness?
- Who Cares about the CSO Project and Charter Reform?
- Who Cares about Youth and Education?
- Who Cares about Welcoming Diversity in Akron?
- Who Cares about Placemaking in Akron?
- Who Cares about H.O.P.E. Helping Ohio’s Prisoners Excel?
- Who Cares about Housing in Akron?
- Who Cares about Entrepreneurship in Akron?
To participate, Crabbs suggested the most important qualification is to have a willingness to “live into the questions.” When asked what “living into the questions” means, Crabbs said, “In our experience, living into the questions requires:
- An honest assessment of reality. We have to start where we are. No denial of painful facts;
- A willingness to honestly engage with a true diversity of people who care about the problem;
- Shared responsibility as it takes “a village” to solve social problems. No super-heroes;
- Leaders are essential. However, servant-leaders provoke work rather than provide answers;
- Experts and money are tools to use in solving social problems, but they are over-rated; and
- The people closest to the problem have the greatest responsibility in solving the problem.
If you accept these premises, and are willing to participate in grassroots problem-solving, then together we can work to make Akron a better place to live.”
A couple of weeks following that first planning meeting, SSM held another large group gathering. At the second meeting teams were formed to tackle the nine previously identified areas of concern, and each team held its first meeting that day. The plan is for the individual groups to meet and work throughout the months to come, periodically coming back together to report progress and brainstorm challenges.
What qualifies Crabbs to define “living into the questions” and to take on this initiative? Well, when Crabbs talks about what he has learned from experience, it is actual hands-on experience that he speaks of. Around 20 years ago, Crabbs, then a firefighter and medic, and his wife Lisa, had been worshiping in Summit Lake for a number of years. Over those years, they made the observation that while there was no shortage of churches in the neighborhood, a large percentage of the folks who worshiped there lived elsewhere.
They had no first-hand knowledge of the issues facing Summit Lake residents nor did they have a personal stake in solving problems created by and stemming from the poverty of many of the residents of Summit Lake and throughout impoverished sections of the city of Akron.
After much prayer and planning, the Crabbs family moved to Summit Lake and South Street Ministries was born. Initially, SSM was operated out of their home. They invited neighborhood children to join their family to go to the library, offered after-school homework help and snacks, hosted evening bonfires and invited their neighbors to participate in other simple family activities that are taken for granted by those of us fortunate enough not to live in poverty. Gradually, these activities became youth programming and the beginnings of the present youth programs of SSM were brought to life.
The programming of SSM has grown to include such offerings as youth sports, summer camps for children, a soup kitchen, recovery resources, ex-offender assistance and job training, to name a few.
What’s next for “WHO CARES?” On Thursday, May 26 at 6 p.m., there will be a dinner at South Street Ministries’ Front Porch Cafe, located at 798 Grant St. in Akron. During the meeting, each “WHO CARES” team will share their progress and plans for the future.
Those who wish to join a “WHO CARES?” team are welcome to do so that night or by contacting South Street Ministries at (330) 819-2442, or [email protected].
To learn more about South Street Ministries, go to http://southstreetministries.org/.