Though Simon Road Church of God engages its membership in a variety of activities, Valley residents know it as “the church that makes kolachi.”

Women of the church make, bake and sell the sweet pastry four times a year — around the first of June, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

Recently, a group gathered to discuss the celebration of the 50th year at its current location at 4750 Simon Road. They were Sheree Savon, anniversary committee chairwoman; Barb Cardarelli, anniversary committee and church pianist; Lucille Brink, president of Christian Women Connection; Marie Osborne, Sunday school teacher; and Pastor Eddy Howard and his wife, Patty, outreach coordinator.

Cardarelli said the kolachi is “made from a secret recipe.” “We’ve sold as many as 700 in a day but we try to keep it at 300-325 so it’s more manageable,” she said. But the number of orders attest to the popularity of the homemade product.

“People have told us it’s the best they’ve had,” Osborne said.

Another food element at the church is the Smart Choice food program, a national food distributor providing grocery relief to families of all incomes. For information, call Linda LeMay at 330-758-5108.

Howard said the church sponsors spring and fall clothing giveaways. “We just had the fall one in time for school,” she said. About 50 people came to the distrubution.

The church advertises a dinner at 12:15 p.m. the second Sunday of month. The event, promoting fellowship among members and guests, is coordinated by Merle and Ronni Steinbeck.

An anniversary dinner will be Sept. 15 with a special worship service at 10:45 a.m. with music by Rick Blackson. Speaker will be Dr. Randall Spence of Ohio Ministries of the Church of God. A continental breakfast will begin the celebration at 9:30 a.m. Invitations have been extended to former pastors and members; it’s open to all.

The Christian Women Connection supports various missions of the church including missionaries in Dominican Republic and Haiti, Brink said. The church has contributed to the Rescue Mission of Mahoning Valley and Hope Hill, a children’s home in Kentucky. At Simon Road, it has replaced flooring and bought a van. It also assists church members in need in different ways. “It meets the needs,” Cardarelli said.

The church also supports Children of Promise, which helps children worldwide with school and food, and the Linen Chest, which provides household items for missionaries. The church also has given to local animal rescue.

Members also participate in Operation Christmas Child, assembling shoeboxes filled with fun and useful items.

The small church of 50 or so members has a big heart. “This church is where everyone knows your name,” Osborne said. “We pay attention to people and make them feel welcome.”

“Our church is one where we share the joy and tears,” Savon said. “We’re a family.”

“A family of God,” added Howard.

A mix of traditional and contemporary music highlights services. “People like the old songs,” she said. Howard coordinates with LeMay, who projects the words of hymns on a display screen. A praise and worship service takes place at 6 p.m. Sundays. Pianists are Elaine Barker and Cardarelli.

Music plays an important role in worship, the group noted. “You feel the spirit,” Howard said. “Music touches the soul,” Cardarelli said. “It’s a spirit-led church.”

Osborne, a member since the 1950s, said the church on Simon Road was dedicated in 1963, moving from Palmer and Gibson in Youngstown because it was growing. She said the church bought nearby property, part of the original Simon homestead, for a parsonage. In the late 1970s, members renovated the house and honey was harvested from honeycombs found in the structure. “The honey was rendered out and it was good,” Osborne recalled.

Pastor Howard, ordained in 2000, has served since 2003. “What I preach is out of Scripture ... the truth is the truth,” he said.

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