By LINDA M. LINONIS
The Way Station, a faith-based, nonprofit organization, shows people “the way” through a variety of programs that engage recipients, donors and volunteers.
The Way Station’s name originated with its first site on East Park Street near railroad tracks and a stop off. It’s now located at 769 Springfield Road after a short time on Route 14 West.
Vicki Hopper, director, said those in need find their way to food, clothing, prayer, education, work experience and emergency assistance with utilities, rent, housing and prescriptions through the Way Station.
Donors and volunteers see “another way” that they might not encounter as they meet people of “all socioeconomic backgrounds,” Hopper said.
“The Way Station is a kind of a resource center. It’s a place where people find things they need or we help them find it elsewhere,” Hopper said. “Those who have a heart for helping can reach out to someone who is hurting.”
And at this season, plenty of heart is needed.
Carla Sukosd, who handles direct assistance and coordinates special events, said this year’s Thanksgiving meal took place the day before the holiday at First Christian Church.
Some 300 meals were served; half were takeout orders.
“Volunteers make it happen,” she said of the dinner and monthly food distributions.
Now, the Way Station is heading into the Christmas season with its adopt-a-family program. Though sign-up for the project has ended, Sukosd said the organization tries to help families who didn’t sign up.
Adopting a family is a meaningful way to follow Christ’s suggestion to feed, clothe and help the less fortunate. The program is geared to help babies through 18-year-olds.
“The biggest need is for teens,” Sukosd said. She noted people seem to enjoy buying toys for children, and that need is usually fulfilled by the many donations.
Both Sukosd and Hopper said gift cards that teens can use are especially needed.
People who adopt a family can elect to buy toys for Christmas gifts.
They also might buy gift cards the parents could use for food, gas and other items, Sukosd suggested.
Last year, 266 children in Columbiana and East Liverpool had gifts under the tree, thanks to the program. “It’s all anonymous,” said Sukosd, who provides age, gender, sizes and gift ideas to those who adopt families.
Along with Christmas gifts, Hopper and Sukosd said donations of food, money and gift cards benefit the adopt-a-family program.
This year, there are 170 families registered, but Hopper and Sukosd said the number will probably match or exceed last year’s as the holiday nears and emergency help is sought.
Hopper said the Way Station’s efforts wouldn’t be possible without “community partnerships” and volunteers. All faiths and people from a broad social background step up to help, she said.
Hopper said the help the organization provides to struggling families and the benefits for those in work experience make her job gratifying.
“I always knew I would be doing something to help people,” said Hopper, who has a degree in psychology. “I’ve never loved [doing] anything more.”
“God meant for me to do this,” Sukosd added.
The faith component is meaningful, Hopper said, in that there is no agenda. “We want people to experience Jesus in a positive way,” she added.