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Nordonia Hills -- The year 2012 brought big changes to the Emergency Assistance Center, an agency that provides temporary assistance to area residents in need.
In July, the EAC's Board of Directors hired Joyce Hunt as the new executive director. She replaced Interim Executive Director Tom Tedeschi, a board member who stepped into the position in January and who during his tenure, oversaw a comprehensive computerization of EAC records.
"The things that are most important to us," said Tedeschi in early August, "we're looking for a director who will be active in the organization, is active in the community and is respected."
Hunt had previously worked with the EAC on food drivers, both as marketing director for the Macedonia Chick-fil-A restaurant for three years and as a children's pastor at Faith Fellowship Church in Macedonia for 12 years. She also has a bachelor's degree in business administration from Dusquesne University in Pittsburgh.
"It's a very viable organization," Hunt said Aug. 1, referring to the EAC. "I always wanted to be part of it."
"She has a heart for people," said EAC Director Randy Hyde. "She's going to be an asset.
Also in July, the EAC completed the process of joining the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank as a food pantry, another move that began under Tedeschi.
Hyde said the affiliation with the food bank would often allow the EAC to purchase food at a lower cost than it could previously, but local donations are still vital.
"[The food bank] will fill a gap for us, but getting cash donations, food donations and clothing are still something we'll very much be seeking," he said.
The changes, however, did not end there. In October, the EAC announced it entered into a three-year lease for a new facility on Olde Eight Road in Northfield Center, across from St. Barnabas Church. It has been in its current location, a hallway in Northfield Village's Summit Plaza since early 2007. The EAC will be closed during the move in January, with a hoped-for reopening at the beginning of February. In the meantime, extra food was distributed to clients in December to help tide them over.
Renovations of the new facility in October included taking down two interior walls and putting up a wall, painting and tearing up carpeting and laying down new floor tile. This was done by members of United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers Local 1050, employees of Alcoa Cleveland Works. The project was paid for with a $1,000 grant from the local's women's committee, chaired by Sagamore Hills resident Karen Becker, who also helped attain a $3,000 grant from the Alcoa Foundation, Alcoa, Inc.'s philanthropic arm. The company also paid the employees who did the work.
Hunt said the new facility will not only be easier for people to find, but will also provide more space with an increase from about 1,600 to about 2,600 square feet. She said this is necessary in the face of a surge in the number of people needing help. Last April, the first full month after the computerization of EAC records made statistics easier to develop, the EAC served 159 individuals. This steadily grew month by month, with 546 individuals served in November, the last month that figures were available before press time. This included 182 families with 202 children and 64 seniors. In addition, the EAC provided Thanksgiving meals for the 145 families that requested them and distributed Christmas gifts to about 200 client children in December.
EAC staff member Lori Babik said in November that the EAC is bracing itself for a surge in 2013 with an anticipated $50 monthly cut in Ohio's food stamp benefits.
For more information, including making donations, call 330-467-7945 or go to www.teacenter.org.