Gail

Gail“I was a prisoner in my own mind. I didn’t want to get on the bus because I was ashamed of what was left after my surgery – my speech impediment – but it’s gotten a lot easier. I’m a people person; I like interacting with different people and I’ve met people in my travels. I’m not saying I might not find my husband on the bus, but I’m cool!

“I spend about an hour on the bus getting where I need to go. I take the Route #2 to work at Goodwill Industries in the Arlington Plaza, and the Route #19 to my doctors appointments at Akron City Hospital.

“Public transportation is important because everybody doesn’t have the ability to drive or the financials to maintain a car and insurance. I can’t really say how many years I’ve been riding, but METRO bus has never hurt me!”

Alexa

Alexa - Access

Before arriving at ACCESS, Alexa had custody of only two of her four children, was home insecure, and struggled with addiction, but she knew she wanted to make a better life. After taking a leap into sober living for a few months, Alexa and her children found themselves without a place to sleep. She was able to bring her family to stay as ACCESS Shelter.

Alexa began taking full advantage of life skills programming as well as working through her individualized service program. She gave it her all, made strong connections with staff, especially the Health and Wellness Coordinator.

Alexa now has re-gained custody of all her children, has a job as a recovery coach at a non-profit, her own car, and the goal to help women experiencing homelessness and struggling with addiction.

Story and Photo Credit: ACCESS, INC

Shelia

“I’m a foster grandparent. I truly believe I was chosen to be a helper to others. From the beginning of life, this was my calling.

“I love working with the kids. We don’t know what their home lives are like. We know they need love and support, help with their schoolwork, and their families need help, as well. We try to lift up children and their families together.

“I love Akron and I always will. The Lord will continue to use me in whatever way he needs.”

Karen

Karen King“I volunteer at Akron Children’s Hospital and just recently hit 6,000 hours. I’ve been there 47 years. I do a lot of behind the scenes work for special projects, like putting a star around Barkers’ neck (a plush dog that is handed out to patients for comfort). I love doing those kinds of things for kids to help better their day. One time I had the mom of a 16-year-old come up to me and tell me how much I touched her and her child’s life. During the holiday season I also walk around with Santa. It’s a joy seeing kids faces light-up like a Christmas tree.

“Of course I take METRO to Children’s Hospital. METRO gets me to and from where I need to go! I’ve been riding for over 10 years and use SCAT to get to my doctors appointments. The bus operators are friendly and always help me get where I need to go. They always go the extra mile.

“Thank you, METRO, for all you do!”

John

John (1)“What drives me is seeing lives change. Just the other day I had someone knock on my truck window while parked at the grocery store and thank me for helping him out. That happens more than you would think.”

John oversees the Urbean Cafe in METRO RTA’s Robert K. Pfaff Transit Center. The Cafe is a workforce development program under Broken Chains Ministry that provides hands-on, real-world work experience, and life skills for those transitioning from a life of incarceration and addiction back into society.

John (2)
John is pictured with Urbean Cafe employees Chelsey and James.

“Urbean Cafe exists as a front for those returning citizens from jail or rehab. I have 10 employees — six full-time and four part-time — who all come from diverse backgrounds. We turn product and lives are being changed with a purpose to help people who are coming home from prison, jail, and/or rehab. Nonprofits are the backbone for reentry.

“I started off my career selling life insurance and I soon realized I wasn’t serving the people in the best way I could. So in 1981, I gave my heart to Christ. Every Friday I volunteered to lead four chapel services a day for those in jail and prison. I started developing care and concern for those who wanted to get their life back on track.

“In 1988, I started full-time with the Sheriff’s Office in Social Services and took care of inmate needs. I would preach the gospel and explain why they are where they are based off the gospel studies. In 1995, I left the jail and started Broken Chains Ministry. I had the desire to be more of value to the people and focus on workforce development. Seven years ago, we got the opportunity to open the Cafe.”

The Urbean Cafe supports local vendors and serves nearly 600 people each day. Travelers can choose from a diverse menu including our own locally roasted Urbean Cafe coffee.

“This place means everything to me.”

Reggie & Martha

McGuires“My wife (then-girlfriend) and I were out looking for a job. I went to apply at METRO. She got tired of waiting for me in the car so she went in and applied. They called her and didn’t call me until a year. I was like ‘what?!’”

“He was the one that originally wanted the job,” Martha laughed.

Reggie recently reached 25 years of safe driving, and together, the McGuires have more than 50 years of safe driving under their belt. What has kept them safe on the road all these years?

“Stay focused, number one,” Martha advised. Secondly, she uses a defensive driving strategy. “I’m a defensive driver, so I’m always looking to see what could happen next. I’m always planning ahead, and a lot of times I’m right (about what might happen). I’m always contemplating my next move.”

“You have to pay attention, slow down, and have your eyes and ears open at all times,” Reggie added.

Reggie and Martha have 29 and 28 years of service at METRO, respectively.