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

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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.”