By LINDA M. LINONIS
When Anthony Madison was growing up at the former Kimmelbrook Homes, he connected with Neighborhood Ministries where the staff and programs were positive influences.
Madison, 35, his brother and sister lived with a great-aunt, Bessie Madison, now deceased, in what is now Rockford Village.
From the time he was 5 years old through graduation from East High School, Madison was involved in after-school programs and other activities at Neighborhood Ministries.
Now it’s his goal to reconnect not only with people he knew through Neighborhood Ministries but to reach out to everyone who was involved in the program no matter where they live now. That’s possible these days thanks to social media, which Madison is using.
Neighborhood Ministries will be on Facebook (Neighborhood Ministries Alumni) and Twitter (nmalumni) this week. In the works is the posting of videos of Neighborhood Ministries activities on YouTube.
Madison and Mark Samuel, executive director, said Neighborhood Ministries also will have a booth at Campbell City Fest to get the word out the old-fashioned way — face to face. The city festival is scheduled May 24-26 in Roosevelt Park.
Madison credited Samuel with the initial idea of the alumni association. “He was mulling it over, then came to me about it,” Madison said. Though Samuel had the idea, Madison is using his computer skills to give Neighborhood Ministries another presence online. He studied computer science at the University of Akron.
Madison has a heart to help Neighborhood Ministries because it was so instrumental in his formative years. “I tell Mark all the time I wouldn’t be the man I am today, professionally and personally, without Neighborhood Ministries,” Madison said.
Since 2003, he has served as a corrections officer at the Mahoning County Juvenile Justice Center. He said he sometimes shares his story with troubled youths and hopes his experience helps them. He and his wife of 12 years, Jacinda, live in Boardman.
Madison said the social media and alumni association will give Neighborhood Ministries participants the chance to tell their stories and reconnect with those with whom they’ve lost touch. “It was a safe haven for so many of us,” Madison said, adding Neighborhood Ministries was an alterative to the streets.
Madison said he couldn’t give a stronger endorsement of the program that addresses physical and spiritual needs. “This showed me what life could be like without crime, drugs and gangs,” he said, adding that’s the path some friends and acquaintances took. “I found out there was more to life than the projects.”
Neighborhood Ministries was the place where his birthday was celebrated for the first time. “It gave me such a sense of pride to know people outside of my family cared about me,” Madison said.
As a teen, Madison participated in JOBS (Job Opportunity and Business Skills) and received a stipend, which he used for school clothes and supplies. “Participating in that taught me responsibility, how to work with others, how to deal with issues and how to talk to people,” Madison said. Peer discussion groups provided a safe outlet to share feelings.
Madison also credited Samuel with first being a mentor and now a friend. A gesture from Samuel, who hugged his friend, made Madison realize the love between friends. The two share an interest in community theater. “He showed me a good example of what a family is,” Madison said.