It's hope in education and neighbors helping neighbors. A local nonprofit group recently opened its doors to support the community through outreach and education. The Mahoning Valley Hope Center offers 14 types of outreach, including online classes, medical treatment, youth leadership, job training, debt management, diploma help for dropouts, and support groups.
"We are hope through education," said Executive Director Chuck Gantz, who explained that the Hope Center is funded solely by donations.
One of the outreaches, Project Hope, hit the streets the Wednesday after Thanksgiving to provide emergency provisions such as food, sleeping bags, hats and gloves to area homeless.
Robert Kovach Jr., outreach director of the Hope Center, packages meals in his van for the homeless Wednesday evening at Courthouse Square in Warren.
"This was something we thought was going to be a one-time thing," said Kovach, as he prepared two large pots of cavatelli with vegetables, ham and cheese for Wednesday's distribution. "It's had a great response. The need is out there."
Recently, it has been a challenge locating area homeless due to the cold, he said.
Kovach, his wife, Mechelle, and pastor Greg Corson drove around Courthouse Square and Perkins Park in search of recipients, but found few people in spots where they usually gather.
They also face challenges such as pride issues when attempting to give to area homeless.
"They don't really want to be bothered," Kovach said.
One man sitting at Courthouse Square on Wednesday was reluctant to come over to Kovach's vehicle, and refused the meal.
Sam Straw, 58, of Warren, said he sometimes tries to act as a mediator between the center and reluctant recipients. He helped deliver a meal to a man named Jack, who first declined, stating he wanted to keep his hands free as he walked. A sleeping bag also was offered, but Jack said he couldn't take it because it was too bright and obvious.
"He's afraid of being seen while he's sleeping, especially if he's outside around the river," Corson said. Kovach said the center definitely will search for a black or camoflauge sleeping bag for him.
Aside from some reluctance, most of the recipients have been very grateful, Kovach said, and the center will continue to provide the food every other Wednesday. Donations of food and some winter wear are welcome and can be dropped off any time at the Hope Center, 3217 Surrey Road, Warren.
Project Hope's last stop was at Betty's Angels, a non-profit group in Warren that provides care for children whose parents are homeless, sick or otherwise unable to care for them.
Gantz said the Hope Center provides assistance to other nonprofit groups that take care of people and are on a shoestring budget.
Inquiries about Mahoning Valley Hope Center programs can be made by calling the center at 330-369-3010.