The Rev. Inez Ellis says it's time for the Youngstown community to say thank you to the men and women who put their lives on the line for us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The Rev. Mrs. Ellis has spent the last several months organizing an appreciation day for members of the Youngstown Police Department, Youngstown Fire Department and Mahoning County Sheriff's Department.
The community is invited to come out from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 16 at the Youngstown Playhouse, 600 Playhouse Lane, off Glenwood Avenue on the city's South Side, to thank the safety forces for their continuing efforts to protect and to serve.
"If you tell people 'thank you,' I believe it will be an inspiration for people to do better," Mrs. Ellis said. "This [appreciation day] is what I think can be done to make things better in Youngstown."
Carolyn Lockett, the playhouse's director of development and outreach, said this is just the kind of event that's needed to let city residents know the facility is there for community use.
"This is [the] first time the playhouse has been used this particular way, and we're excited about it," Lockett added.
Including more: The event's theme is "Unity in the Community." Mrs. Ellis had an appreciation program for the police department a few years ago but wanted to include firefighters and the sheriff's department this time.
She said the safety forces are the watchmen or guardians for our society.
"They are courageous. They are willing to lay down their lives for us, and the Bible says, 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,'" she added.
She has asked city officials, businessmen and women, and everyone she can think of to contribute something toward the free event.
Schoolchildren from the city's private schools -- New Hope Academy and Eagle Heights Academy -- made thank-you cards.
The cards will show what law enforcement officers and firefighters look like and what they do when they are off their jobs.
"Police officers and firefighters have families and live in our neighborhoods. I hope the card making will teach children to respect those who protect us daily," Mrs. Ellis added.
She said Al Bright, professor of art at Youngstown State University, has volunteered to prepare large, standing cards that the community can sign and which will be presented to the various departments.
Events: Judge Thomas Gysegem of Warren Municipal Court will speak at 2 p.m., and a skit on how 911 is used, written by Mrs. Ellis, will be performed by some local women she's recruited.
There will be food served and musical entertainment galore. The Youngstown Connection (the music and dance ensemble culled from the city high schools), the Golden Age Follys, the Tony Romeo Dancers, choirs and local soloists are all slated to perform.
Western Reserve Transit Authority will use its trolley to transport people to the event.
Also helping in the effort are members of the city's block watch groups, who have worked closely with the police department to help stem the crime rate in various neighborhoods, Mrs. Ellis said.
The minister doesn't drive anymore. She's had a history of health problems, but her husband, Roy, has been making sure she gets to her appointments. They have been married for 52 years.
More help: Mrs. Ellis, who lives on the South Side, said she can still use some help in putting together the final details for the appreciation day. She's asking for volunteers from church kitchen committees to help serve or prepare food.
Anyone else willing to help in any capacity should call her at (330) 782-6489.
Mrs. Ellis, 73, has used hundreds of dollars of her own money to pull this off. She said, however, it's not about the money and it's not something she's doing because her son, David, is a deputy sheriff and a former city police officer.
"These people watch over our parents, children, homes and businesses every day. It's time we stop and recognize that fact with an outward show of appreciation. Actions always speak louder than words. This is a chance for people in our city to come out and say two simple words: "Thank you."