Whether a longtime resident of a community or just moving in, there are numerous ways to gather information particular to one’s needs. Online, there are endless websites handling community bulletin boards, city hall, chambers of commerce, churches, volunteerism and on and on.
“We try to be the clearinghouse where everyone can give us their information, a sort of one-stop shop to find out what’s going on,” said Sharon Connor, a 27-year resident of Goodyear Heights.
Connor met recently on a snowy day at a local coffee shop to discuss the good works and strides made by R.I.G.H.T.(Residents Improving Goodyear Heights Together), a committee founded in 1997 that became a 501 (c)3 nonprofit organization in 2001 and for which she is currently the president.
R.I.G.H.T. works to be “neighborhood-centric and stay inside the 44305 zip code, which is pretty much Goodyear Heights,” said Connor.
The neighborhood has a population of a little more than 19,000, according to R.I.G.H.T., which distributes 2,000 of its newsletters six times annually.
Visitors to R.I.G.H.T.’s website, www.rightcommittee.org, will find an extensive list of offerings, including community dinners, tax return help, soup kitchens, library events, book signings, fundraisers and Ward 10 monthly meeting dates with Councilman Garry Moneypenny.
R.I.G.H.T committee members can post photos, blogs and videos and even create their own page on the website.
While there is a core group of folks who regularly attend R.I.G.H.T. meetings, held the last Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. at Reservoir Park, “anybody in the neighborhood who wants to show up” can be on the committee, Connor said.
In addition to providing a bulletin board of communication among community members, R.I.G.H.T. works collaboratively to improve the neighborhood with its projects. Some notable upgrades include Gazebo Park, done in cooperation with Goodyear Heights Presbyterian Church.
“And we did a big mural on the side wall of the Linda Theater,” said Connor. “We always have projects we want to do, a wish list.”
Funding for R.I.G.H.T. is “primarily through grant writing,” Connor added, with considerable help from the City of Akron Neighborhood Partnership. And annually in May, R.I.G.H.T. stages its sole fundraiser, a plant sale around Mother’s Day.
Events sponsored by or done collectively with R.I.G.H.T. are many, and “we do about one a month, roughly,” Connor said.
These gatherings include an Easter Egg Hunt at Reservoir Park, one of what Connor calls a “warm and fuzzy event in the neighborhood” when “we provide 3,000 eggs.”
During Trick-or-Treat at the gazebo, participants enjoy apple cider and doughnuts provided by R.I.G.H.T., and since 2004, the organization has donated a tree, wreath or quilt to the annual Children’s Hospital Tree Festival.
July is a planning month for R.I.G.H.T. because August is “huge for us,” Connor said.
The first Saturday in August is the Kid’s Yard Sale, when R.I.G.H.T. provides tables and additional supervision for children 12 and under who can “sell off their gently used items for $5 a table and have a little money for back to school,” Connor said.
Backpack Adventure finds R.I.G.H.T. and other community groups distributing school supplies, a two-day celebration that includes an Akron Zoo scavenger hunt. And during the first Tuesday in August, R.I.G.H.T. hosted a block party during Akron’s National Night Out Against Crime.
“And we’re always trying to find partners to take on projects like our community gardening,” said Connor. “So we can sustain those projects and take on new ones.”
Connor, who is an educator and joined R.I.G.H.T. in 1998, says the organization provides “great fun to be out in the neighborhood, and meet all the residents, kids …”
“My personal feeling is that you need to know the people you live with, to be engaged with and look out for them and they will for you,” Connor said. “When you build a neighborhood you’re going to inherently care about each other. This is what R.I.G.H.T.’s trying to do.”