Filling stomachs and hearts is the year-round mission of the Cuyahoga Falls unit of Good Neighbors.
The all-volunteer group supplied 510 families with food and gifts through its annual Christmas drive, according to Kim Gaug, chairperson of the Cuyahoga Falls unit of Good Neighbors. The event was staged last month at the Jacob & Clara Faber Foundation in Cuyahoga Falls and benefited families from Cuyahoga Falls, Stow, Munroe Falls, Silver Lake, Hudson and Peninsula.
"Clients that I haven't seen since 2004-05 came back to us this year," Gaug said. "So many are hurting. I hear people saying they have to choose between paying their utility bills and feeding their kids. It scares me."
She said Good Neighbors is seeing an increase in the number of senior clients it serves, especially men. Eight hundred fifty-six adults and seniors and 581 children were recipients of the Christmas drive.
Gaug says she is grateful to the Faber Foundation for hosting the event and to the Cuyahoga Falls firefighters for donating their time and muscles to help make it a success.
Thanks to food drives conducted by local schools and churches, Gaug said the agency's cupboards were full and ready to dispense non-perishables to the less fortunate.
"Once again, the schools and the community came through for us," she said.
Not as fruitful, however, has been the agency's search for a new home. Good Neighbors is temporarily housed inside the First Christian Church, 2253 Third St., but due to its limited space there, it's had to suspend its distribution of clothing.
"People are saying to us, 'Where do we go to get free clothing?'" Gaug says, adding, "In the six-city area that we take care [of] , there's no place they can go to get free clothing.'"
The agency has been in existence since 1968. As it searches for permanent headquarters, St. John's Episcopal Church provides storage for Good Neighbors, while First United Methodist offers parking for its patrons.
Good Neighbors needs a building that's on a bus line and is handicapped accessible, with nearby parking and at least 3,000 square feet of open space.
"My wish for the new year is a building," Gaug said. "And for less people to need our services."
Unfortunately, she added, Good Neighbors sees a continued and increasing need for food and financial assistance.
Food donations may be dropped off on Tuesday or Thursday between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. at First Christian Church of Cuyahoga Falls, 2253 Third St., at the side door located on Stow Avenue.
Cash donations can be mailed to Cuyahoga Falls Good Neighbors P.O. Box 233, Cuyahoga Falls, 44222.
Gaug may be reached at 330-928-8057 on Tuesday or Thursday between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.
phone number: 330-541-9419