By LINDA M. LINONIS
The sense of family, community and mission work that personifies John Knox Presbyterian led the church to open its doors to three community organizations.
In 1979, it began operating a Meals on Wheels site. Kathy Esseniyi, Meals on Wheels president and John Knox deacon, said the late Don Hoffman and Don Strohecker, who became members, brought the project from the former St. Luke Lutheran Church.
“We looked at it as a mission to serve the community,” said Chris Downie, a member of session, the governing body, at John Knox and treasurer of Meals on Wheels. She said about 100 meals are delivered weekdays by 35 volunteer drivers to recipients in Youngstown, Boardman, Canfield, Austintown, Poland, Struthers and Campbell.
Linda Jenkins, Meals on Wheels director, said she “had faith” that a suitable location would be found and it was at Calvary Towers, subsidized retirement housing.
A Housing and Urban Development grant will provide funds for renovation for a kitchen for Meals on Wheels. Jenkins and Esseniyi said the building owner, John Joyce, and architect Bruce W. Sekanick of Warren are “awesome” in their efforts to make a place for Meals on Wheels.
“A goal of the program is to help individuals stay in their homes with this assistance,” Jenkins said.
Leslie Kiske and Bobbie Grinstein are co-founders of The English Center, a site of Youngstown-city ABLE (Adult Basic and Literacy Education), which is relocating to the North Side. The lease has not been signed yet.
Kiske, a teacher with the center, said the new location, which is near Wick Park, had to be on the bus line because many students use public transportation.
At the church, the center rented seven classrooms to accommodate some 90 students representing 31 countries. She said classes range from basic English skills to college prep.
Kiske said because of the language issue information about what the center does is spread “by word of mouth” in the community, through churches and doctors’ offices.
She said The English Center has been at John Knox about five years and students and staff “had great interaction” with the congregation. “I feel like a family is breaking up,” Kiske said, adding that the congregation “had open arms and warm heart” for the center.
The center will relocate to its new site in early December.
Gerard Kelly, program coordinator for the Foster Grandparents Program operated by Family and Community Services in Ravenna, said he is “searching out possibilities” for a new location.
He explained that the program is part of AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) program for adults 55 and older. In Mahoning County, there are about 32 older adults who volunteer in Youngstown and Boardman schools. They develop relationships with and mentor students.
Though the program rented only one classroom as an office, it had monthly inservice training sessions at the church. “That was the nice part ... it has a wonderful auditorium and convenience of an elevator,” Kelly said.
Kelly also said the congregation made program participants feel welcome.
Esseniyi said because congregants volunteered for Meals on Wheels, it “was a real church mission.” Offering a site for The English Center and Foster Grandparents also fit into the mission work of the church.