Don

Don Jeffrey vertical“Art has always been my ambition. Growing up, I wanted to be a cartoonist and write my own comic strip. I realized I needed to find a different job to make more money. I worked in retail for 30 years doing visual merchandising at Dillard’s, Macy’s, JCPenney, and Kohl’s. It was in 2016 when I decided to do drawings for myself.

“I started with watercolor, pen, and ink and mixed the three together. I liked how professional it looked, and from there my art just took off! My first art show was at Summit Artspace in Barberton at the ‘A Brush with Magic’ show in 2018. People thought this was the best work I’ve ever done. They liked them better than my comic strips. I also draw greeting cards for people. I haven’t bought a greeting card in 30 years!

“I used to take the bus when I was a student at the University of Akron. I would walk from campus to the library downtown and catch the bus to go to work in Chapel Hill. It was never a direct trip, you know, so I got to know the city pretty well.”

Sheila

sheila grant photo“I was a frequent rider of METRO for the past two years. I rode the #3, #9, #12, #7 and the #14 for travels to work and back, and to all of my other daily/weekly activities.

“I’ve worked at the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank for almost five years. I previously assisted in the volunteer center for four years through a partnership with Mature Services, now known as Vantage Aging. For the past nine months, I’ve been a full-time Foodbanker and serve as the Volunteer and Guest Experience Champion. I greet all guests in our lobby, help our volunteers check in, answer phone calls from people in need of food assistance, and help those looking for general Foodbank information.

“As the Volunteer and Guest Experience Champion, I have taken a lot of calls from people who are seeking help for the very first time. What stands out to me are callers who ask how the Foodbank works; this is another way of asking, ‘How do I get help with food?’ Other callers who stand out are people who can hardly speak because they are overcome with emotion and need. In both instances, I simply try my best to reassure the caller that that is why we are here – we are here to help. An interaction that really struck me was when a woman called the Foodbank with questions about our grocery distribution and what types of food items she might receive. Upon hearing the types of items she would take home with her, she simply started crying because she was so thankful.

“Every employee has stepped up to the challenge of working through this (COVID-19) pandemic. They not only work in their area of expertise, they willingly fill in in other areas as needed. (The pandemic) has heightened my consciousness of the importance of instituting safe practices in my daily life, and the ability to appreciate enjoying each day.”

Abigail

img_5457
Abigail is the Executive Director of Downtown Cuyahoga Falls Partnership.

“I typically walk to work, bars, restaurants, and shopping in Downtown Cuyahoga Falls from my nearby home. I also like to ride my bike, when possible. I used the bus system in Chapel Hill, North Carolina while I was an undergraduate. When I lived in Boston, I took the subway and buses everywhere. Then, when I lived overseas in Ukraine, South Africa, and Italy, I took buses, trains, and subways everywhere.

“METRO and public transportation in general is such an important asset to cities and communities, particularly in terms of equity and sustainability. Having a healthy public transportation system can provide mobility and open doors for folks. There are folks who work in and live near me in Downtown Cuyahoga Falls who rely on METRO RTA bus routes to get to work, the grocery store, and the pharmacy. I heard METRO RTA CEO Dawn Distler speak at the Akron Community Foundation’s Women’s Endowment Fund biennial forum on economic empowerment of women. She spoke to the importance of good public transportation in uplifting women in poverty. I was blown away by Dawn’s leadership and collaborative approach to her work. So, I’m a big fan of METRO!”

How Downtown Cuyahoga Falls (DTCF) Partnership has adapted around the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The DTCF Partnership has had to shift gears big-time because of COVID! Much of our work is to bring people downtown and increase foot traffic for our shops, often through big events and festivals. Despite the shutdown, we have an impact on the community during COVID by keeping downtown alive. We have rallied both our businesses to support the community and the community to support the businesses.

“For example, we helped share businesses were doing a bear-and-rainbow hunt in their windows during the pandemic for kids. We helped coordinate a Pay-It-Forward Campaign for Healthcare Heroes, through which the community could simultaneously support local businesses and provide a pick-me-up to our first responders by purchasing a selected gift or meal through a DTCF business. We also provided up-to-date information on how folks could continue shopping, eating, and drinking from local businesses in ways that involved minimal contact, online ordering, and curbside options.

“Our events we are planning are much, much smaller. For example, we were planning a big Chalk the Block Festival with artists, food trucks, and music for the community this summer, which had to be postponed until 2021. Instead, we are commissioning local artists to do chalk murals throughout Downtown for 5 weeks this summer. So, instead of bringing people all downtown at once for a 5-hour festival, we are inviting them to come as families over time to view and enjoy the temporary public art. Even our volunteer activities, like the planting of the summer planters on Front Street, involved social distancing and mask-donning. We are trying to come up with creative ways to get folks to support our small businesses through various campaigns and incentives.

“(The pandemic) has made me hopeful and inspired because I’ve realized how supportive Northeast Ohio is, and how resilient and innovative small businesses are. It has reinforced my belief in the importance of small, independently-owned businesses because it’s made clear how much we need their creativity and generosity in our communities.”

Blue Green

Blue Green'“I came to Akron a few days after turning 18 to attend The University of Akron. I lived on campus and took METRO RTA to Chapel Hill to shop at Twin Value, way before the BestBuy and Target that now inhabits the area. In the later years, I rode the bus to the hill on Montrose to work at East Side Marios as a pizza chef. Without METRO RTA, I would not have been able to survive in Akron during a time when I did not have a car. I appreciate METRO RTA and all the services that it offers.”

Blue Green highlighted METRO in his recent episode of Around Akron with Blue Green on PBS Western Reserve. The episode focused on how the Akron area is adapting to changes related to COVID-19.

“The goal of Around Akron with Blue Green is to inform, educate, entertain, and inspire people in Akron and Northeast Ohio. I spotlight businesses, people, history, and exciting things going on in and around Akron.

“With a lack of broadcast TV in Akron, I wanted people to see Akronites spotlighted on their televisions. I think it’s essential to a city’s identity to be represented on broadcast TV and news. Akron does not have an affiliate network station, but we have PBS Western Reserve, and they reach over 5.1 million homes in Northeast Ohio through broadcast, cable, and satellite TV. In Akron, children growing up need to see positive stories about their community; this instills pride and civic responsibility in the citizens of Akron.”

West Market Starbucks

8218bcd3-afbf-4d62-b8e9-1f860211c8a8When you live and work on one of the busiest bus routes, it makes sense to ride public transit – and that’s exactly what Melissa does. A regular rider, Melissa has befriended several METRO bus operators on her travels to and from her job at Starbucks, which is why they’ve been so prominent in her mind during the COVID-19 pandemic. Melissa said the bus operators’ kindness is her favorite part of riding, and is grateful for the service they provide.

“I wanted to show them appreciation for everything they do, especially now,” she said.

So, with the help of her team at Starbucks, Melissa coordinated a coffee delivery to thank METRO employees.

METRO thanks Melissa and the staff at the West Market Starbucks for the delicious, freshly brewed coffee! It was a treat enjoyed by all.

Julius

Julius“I’m an artist. I focus on portraits using colored pencils, pastels, paintings, and water paints. I got into art when I was 4 years old and taught myself how to draw. I never took any classes. Over the years, I focus more on details and my drawings get better.

“I’ve been riding METRO my whole life. I take it everywhere — to the grocery store, the library, to my mother’s house, and back home.”

Mike

DAP_Ambassador_Mike_Smith_ShaneWynnPhoto
Photo credit: Shane Wynn

“I’m from Huntington, West Virginia. I came to Akron in 1977 — my job brought me here. I was employed by Consolidated Freightways as a supervisor. Then I moved on to Pacific Intermountain Express. I was a company buyer there for about six years. I have a degree in transportation, so that’s what steered me in that direction. I’m also a former highway patrolman. I lived in Columbus and worked out of Delaware. I was a cop in Huntington City. I’ve done a little bit of everything.

“The important thing about being a Downtown Akron Partnership Ambassador is keeping the downtown area clean. I’ve been in a lot of places driving charter buses and semis, and you know the first impression is the lasting one. It looks better when you have clean streets. Trash stands out.

“Another important part of being an ambassador is you meet a lot of people: nice people, interesting people. Making the right impression when people approach you for directions or information makes a big difference. You can tell when you see someone on Main St. looking around — every building isn’t labeled with an address. So you approach them first and it takes the stress off of them. They appreciate it.

“Because I work from Sunday through Tuesday, I go and pick up any trash around the METRO terminal (Robert K. Pfaff Transit Center). When I come in on Sunday, that’s my first stop of the day. Doing both sides of the terminal and anything on the grass, and it makes it look better for Monday. Next month, I’ll pressure wash the platform on the Broadway side.

“I’m just a normal dude, retired and needed something to do, so I came downtown. Darrell (another ambassador) brought me on. He said, ‘I know you can work, because I’ve seen you around all the time.’ And it’s turned out to be a pretty good deal because the work is not hard, and you get to meet people. And that’s the idea: helping people go on their way and through their day without any difficulty. If you can relieve some of the stress with directions and what have you, it’s pretty cool.”

Jackson

Jackson

“My littlest grandson is infatuated with buses. I live on a bus route. When we’re on walks, he yells ‘BUS!’ whenever a bus passes by,” Janet recalls.

“The other day, two buses passed. We took him for a walk and saw four buses lined-up in the Giant Eagle parking lot. He was so excited. The bus drivers waved to him and spoke to him from a distance. He loved it. Once back home, we knew some of the buses would be coming by. We waited in our yard. My grandson was waving at cars, telling them to ‘GO!’, so he could see buses. It was too funny. It wasn’t long before two buses resumed routes. One driver waved at him and another driver gently tooted the horn. It was a great day! Thank you, METRO, and your kind drivers.”

Jackson’s grandmother was a bus rider for many years. Janet recalls riding off-and-on from 1973-1993, but more so during 1980-1990 when she was working at the former Hillhaven Convalescent Center nursing facility in North Hill. Now retired, Janet enjoys spending time with Jackson and her other grandchildren.

#IAmEssential

According to a recent report from TransitCenter, 2.8 million essential workers use public transportation to get to their jobs, proving just how essential it is to keep transit running during the COVID-19 pandemic. From the hard working operators who transport hundreds of passengers daily to administrative staff who perform behind the scenes, it takes individuals from different departments with different skillsets to maintain an essential service for those who depend on transit for life necessary trips.

Transit agencies across Northeast Ohio are working diligently to ensure the safety and well-being of their passengers and team members in light of COVID-19 by implementing new safety procedures and purchasing personal protective equipment and strong cleaning solvents, all while evaluating their resources to provide as much service as possible to their communities.

Join us in our appreciation and gratitude of the team members from Greater Cleveland RTA, METRO RTA, PARTA, and SARTA, who selflessly come to work every day to keep their communities moving during this difficult time. #IAmEssential #InThisTogetherOhio

Casey, Greater Cleveland RTA

Casey, Rail Equipment Manager, works tirelessly with staff to ensure cleanliness of all vehicles. He was instrumental in purchasing the Moonbeam 3 disinfectant to clean high traffic areas of the rail system and offices with UV light, keeping customers and employees safe. Casey joined RTA in 2012. Thank you, Casey!

Krista, METRO RTA

As an essential employee, Krista is responsible for a variety of employee management tasks to support and compensate METRO employees. She and the Employee Engagement team continue to research and provide resources to help METRO employees through this difficult time.

“I wanted to join the METRO team to be a servant of others and that’s exactly what I’m doing: providing employee relations and support to my colleagues who are behind the scenes and on the frontline serving our community,” Krista said.

Daryl, Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority (PARTA)

Maintenance Foreman Daryl is spearheading the effort at PARTA to install clear plexiglass barriers to provide the transit authority’s drivers with an added layer of protection during the coronavirus outbreak. Retrofitting PARTA buses with plexiglass barriers required Daryl to design a system that is convenient to use while still providing the needed protection.

“I like a challenge because there’s a greater sense of satisfaction when you’re finished,” the 20-year PARTA veteran said. The job required precise measuring, fabrication, and developing creative solutions to ensure that the system worked properly. The barriers swing out, away from the driver, in PARTA’s fixed-route buses for easy access. When closed, the barrier is latched in place.

As one of many essential employees at PARTA, Daryl is pleased with the contribution he is making. “It’s a good feeling to know that the work you’re doing is helping to protect someone,” Daryl added.

Tonya, Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA)

Tonya has been a Coach Operator at SARTA for 17 years. She is dedicated to transporting passengers to work, doctor’s appointments, and grocery stores on days full of sunshine, days of bad weather, and days of public health pandemic. Tonya performs her job with superlative customer service and a smile. Thank you, Tonya. You are an unsung hero!

Seth

image1
Photo credit: Alan Barnett, 2019

“I’m a music educator, composer, and visual artist. I moved to Akron from New York City almost three years ago when I accepted a teaching position here. I found Akron charming, and I’m in love with its potential. It certainly had enough going on to grab my attention.

“I love taking the x61 to and from Cleveland when I can. It saves a lot of time and money with parking. I just wish it ran later or on weekends. And because I live in Highland Square, it can be incredibly convenient. I also love taking the #1 downtown, especially on excursions to the art museum.

“I wish I could take the Akron buses to more places in town. I have to drive to get to work in Bath, but I love not having to drive to many other places!”