“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.
“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.
“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.
“I’m a senior at Tallmadge High School. I wanted to shadow a METRO SCAT Operator because my career plan is to be a handicap bus driver. I love driving around people. My experience was really nice. We went all around Summit County and had great conversations with passengers.”
“John and I have been together five years today, and married since August 2018. We met through coworkers. We instantly became friends. It was effortless. People always said ‘you guys are always smiling when you’re together!’
“He started working at METRO in March 2012 and I started in July 2012. I was an operator for 6 1/2 years before I got my new position in Customer Service. John will hit seven years this year as a bus operator. It’s been great because we understand our different work schedules and know each other’s tasks. We’ve participated in a summer softball league with coworkers and we attend the Working Women’s Committee events.
“We are both homebodies, except when we want to travel. We love traveling, going out to dinner, and spending Friday nights playing games with our kids.”
“I have two pieces of art on display, the African Spitting Cobra and the Blue Bird. I do mostly paintings and graphic illustrations. I’d like to start a book with my illustrations. I also do wood burning, knitting, and crocheting. I’m in the process of making a blue tongue pillow. I made a devil’s tail and wore it for Halloween. I have a 6-foot bookshelf full of yarn at home.
“I used to work at the Transit Center when it first opened. I was the only cleaner on the weekend. How cool is it that 10 years ago I used to work here and now I have my art on display!”
Amanda was one artist who had artwork displayed in the Transit Center’s art cases as part of the Summit Board of Developmental Disabilities’ exhibit ‘Look Beyond: An Art Show For All Abilities.’
“I’m a freshman at Kenmore-Garfield High School. I joined the Build Akron crew in the summer of 2013. I was bored one day when I saw people painting and doing work on houses, so I asked if I could start volunteering. I’ve done a lot of work around the community. When I look around I get to tell people ‘Hey, I did that!’ I makes me feel influential.
“We started (Summit Lake) Build Corps about two years ago at the old Pump House. We’ve learned about building, painting, electrician work, insulation, plumbing, and more. I’ve gained a lot of knowledge in the field and I could see myself being successful in the future.
“The project on Ira Ave. started in September with the demolition of the inside. It took us until now (January) to finish. There will be two apartments upstairs for people to rent, a community room downstairs, and a library. The idea, too, is we’ll have tutors come in and help students.
“We’re all about giving back to the community. That’s what this key symbolizes. We invite all to come back and watch how this house progresses and how it will serve the community.”
“I go by Master Lee. I have my black sash in Kungfu and a black belt in karate and Taekwondo. I study Chinese medicine and now practice Qi Gong. Check me out on Facebook.
“When I used to live in a bad neighborhood in West Akron, people would tell me they used the bus to ‘get out and see Akron.’ So I did. I tell people to use the bus and go see everything Akron. Taking the bus works good for me … until I save up enough money to get a car.”