The East Palestine First United Presbyterian Church on Rebecca Street has a long history of outreach in its community. Before COVID-19 shut their doors the church was regularly conducting community meals and ran Kingdom’s Kloset, a free clothing giveaway generally open during the community meals. In the past the church worked with The Salvation Army to process applications for cash assistance, they housed a Summer Meals feeding site, and administered kids outreach composed of breakfast and classes. Though this congregation is small, composed of approximately 20 congregates, they’ve made a huge effort to support the people in their community. 

The First United Presbyterian Church’s rich history of outreach made the new partnership with The Way Station a no-brainer. The congregation hopes that this partnership will produce a few things; revenue, a tried and tested model, connection to developed relationships, and long-term potential. 

The hope is that a steady revenue will permit two things; the hire of a Store Manager and the assurance that the local community will have access to used quality clothing at a reasonable price for years to come. Another incentive for FUPC was that the TWS thrift store model was established. There is no starting from scratch. As the volunteer staff at FUPC work to prepare the new store they’re doing it with TWS guidance and encouragement. 

When one partners with The Way Station the community doesn’t just get a thrift store the community gains access to the partnerships and programs TWS has cultivated over the years as well. For example, The First United Presbyterian Church will become a distribution site for baby’ diapers through Project MKC. Individuals and families will also have access to free hygiene items, adults and youth diapers, and female menstrual products.

The long-term goal is to be able to offer the same programs that are currently available through the East Liverpool and Columbiana Way Station sites. These programs include Jobs; Ready, Set, Go, Pathways to Independence, Side-by-Side, GLOW, and a community food pantry. 

The East Palestine store will open May 6th with regular starting hours of 10:00 am – 3:00 Thursdays and Fridays. 

In partnership with the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, The Way Station was awarded a Community Outreach Grant. The goal of the grant was to provide resources focused on managing emotional distress, signs, and symptoms of mental illness, and where to call/text to connect to help or services and supports. In partnership with Columbiana County schools 4,132 mental health bags were distributed to local 9th-12th grade students. Additionally, 500 families received Family Holiday Activity bags. Bags received by families and teens though similar in the desired outcome were different in content. For example, bags for the families included things like ideas for indoor games to do with kids and materials. The family bags also included fliers and brochures to organizations that can assist struggling families. One such organization was the Triple P Parenting Program which reported having several families reach out to them as a consequence of engaging with families through these bags. The teen bags also contained some fliers and brochures but we aimed to focus our efforts on activity suggestions and materials such as information of people to follow on TikTok and Instagram who encouraged positive mental health. 

To extend the reach of The Way Station’s efforts even further we collaborated with local professionals to create the Professional Advice to Managing Stress During a Pandemic video. This video is an empathetic approach to empower people through the unavoidable stress that the Coronavirus has caused. During the video speakers address Spiritual, Emotional, Relationship, and Mental Health issues. Speakers in order of appearance include Tammy Blackburn, Pathways to Independence Director, Pastor Larry Rose, Northside Community Church, Vicki Ritterspauch, Licensed Professional Counselor & Way Station Board Member, Daryl Hersh, Ozer Ministries, and Maureen Waybright, Recovery Coordinator at the Columbiana County Mental Health Recovery Services. 

 

If you or someone you know is considering suicide please utilize these hotlines:

Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation Crisis Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 Text: ‘4HOPE’ to 741-741

Columbiana – Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation (ohiospf.org)

Help Network Columbiana County 330-424-7767

Contact – Help Network of Northeast Ohio (helpnetworkneo.org)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255  Lifeline (suicidepreventionlifeline.org)

The Way Station, Inc. has been awarded an $11,000 grant from the Columbiana Community Foundation to replace the original flooring in the Columbiana location. Their plan is to use this time to do a few other renovations that will affect retail store hours and donation times. Renovations include replacing the carpet in the retail space and the flooring in both restrooms but they will also be relocating the food pantry from the middle of the store to the back of the building. “Moving the pantry is strategic in that it provides a much more discreet experience for our clients”, said new Food Pantry Director Ellen Stryffeler. Starting in March, individuals will park and gather in the rear of the building rather than standing in line in the store while others are shopping. The new food pantry space is larger and the additional space should provide more room for more food for people who need it. 

They will also be removing the current food pantry walls, creating more retail space to support The Way Station’s mission of displaying the love of Christ to individuals, families, and communities. Also, the additional space will allow for our customers to shop with more ease and access. In order to accomplish these renovations, the Columbiana location will not be accepting donations from March 1 through April 3 and will be closing their clothing bins in the parking lot during this same period. The retail store will be closed March 15-26. Please follow us on Facebook to see updates of the transformation and for any changes in our re-opening date. 

The Columbiana Way Station Food Pantry Director, Carla Ciavarella Sukosd, officially retired this March. At The Way Station, Carla was the face of several compassionate ministries throughout her 19 years. She co-developed and conducted Side-By-Side training, managed the DeVine Thrift Store and the USA direct assistance program (now known at Pathways to Independence), represented The Way Station at public speaking events and info fairs, and coordinated the Annual Thanksgiving Dinner, Christmas and School Supply Giveaways. The role Carla is most known for is her invaluable leadership as the Columbiana Food Pantry Director.
When asked for her final reflections on her time at The Way Station

Carla had this to say, “I didn’t expect people to change, my goal was to love people, to help people, and to show God’s love. I couldn’t do this work expecting people to be something, I just needed to do what I and The Way Station could to help them and love them. Sometimes that means making tough decisions but that’s love. For me my time at The Way Station was ministry, it wasn’t just a job. We all need God’s love and people need to be accepted where they are right now. Just help people no but included. People just needed to be accepted.”

Additionally, we’d like to announce our new Columbiana Food Pantry Manager, Ellen Stryffeler. Ms. Stryffeler is not new to The Way Station team as she has been the Outreach Coordinator and part-time Store Manager for 2 years now, joining the team in January of 2019. Ellen takes on this additional role with a background in food insecurity work as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Lunch Bunch Program and Healthy Oxford Hills. Ellen had this to say regarding her new role, “I look forward to getting to know our food clients better and being a resource to help them better meet their food-related needs.” Ellen will officially take over for Carla beginning this March. Please join us in welcoming Ellen to this new role and Carla into retirement.

The precautions that we’re taking at The Way Station’s in both Columbiana and East Liverpool overlap and diverge from each other to accommodate the needs and practicalities of each community. Below are the steps we are taking to keep our customers and staff safe.

Columbiana location at 769 Springfield Rd.

  • All staff and workers are prescribed to daily temperature checks
  • All staff, workers, and customers are required to wear a mask
  • High touch surfaces are sanitized every hour
  • Upon entry, customers have hand sanitizer and a bleach water mix to wipe off carts
  • Plexiglass has been put in place at the clothing desk and cash register
  • All donations have a waiting period before they are touched by our workers

East Liverpool at 125 W 5th St.

  • Practicing the same standards as Columbiana location
  • Open earlier for seniors and health compromised shoppers only

The third year, 2019, of the Hope Community Garden brought a new set of gardeners. They came for many reasons but all contributed to a colorful tapestry of growing plants and budding friendships. Where one grower brought gardening skills from his native Pakistan; one brought a life-time of growing tomato transplants from a local farmer; one 25-year-old man brought no garden experience but a determined and eager learning spirit; one gardener joined us mid-season to celebrate her return to the community (garden alumnus Cindy and friends had planted and cared for her space to greet her with crops already in production); one disciplined grower rode in on her bicycle in from home several days a week to give her space—and other ones—great care; and one 94-year-old living in a nearby condo faithfully watered the beds through a summer dry spell.

Our alumnus, Cindy M., continued her productive ways with climbing beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, and basil. She how knows how to create tall vertical trellis structures to provide a skyward foundation for her plants when they stretch upward over her head.  She was in charge of one of eight raised-bed garden areas, each one four feet by four feet for a total of 16 square feet.

By using our version of “square-foot gardening,” each grower starts by selecting crops that interest them and learning how to draw out a planting map that will allow proper space when their crops are mature. Starting on paper requires a little discipline but pays off in a big way. Properly placed plants perform well without crowding our neighboring crops or being disadvantaged by larger crops near-by.

Who wants to garden in 2020? No experience required. We garden together. Gardener Greg provides any help necessary from sketching to pest control to knowing when to pick. If you’re worried about committing to a long growing season, don’t fret Greg’s thought of that too. Sign up for a shorter growing season phase and if you want to stay for the whole season, that would be great too.

Phase 1: Short Season (now through July 4th –about 42 days)
  • Plant and harvest (pick and choose as you wish): Crops from seed- Radishes, Spinach, Cilantro Crops from transplants-Lettuce, Swiss Chard, Basil, Dill
Phase 2: Medium Season (now through Labor Day/Sept. 7th — about 120 days)
  • Plant anything
Phase 3: Full Season (now through Halloween/Oct. 15 –about 150 days)
  • Plant anything. Help with putting garden “to bed.”

 

Our hearts and prayers go out to everyone affected during these challenging times. Like so many, we have been specifically concerned for the school children who will now be home for weeks. For many of these children, school is where they receive their only regular meal. Although Governor DeWine and many local school districts are currently developing plans to feed the children, we felt it was our responsibility to act immediately. The Way Station is still collecting food and monetary donations to supplement for any family in need. Our goal is to provide one box of kid-friendly food, per week, to each family with children in the home until schools reopen.

At this time our thrift stores are closed until further notice. Our Executive Director and Board Members will continue to closely monitor the situation and follow all protocols set by the Center for Disease Control and the state of Ohio in regards to retail establishments.

We have temporarily suspended all donations with the exception of food, diapers and hygiene products. We were still able to hold our monthly food distribution as scheduled and between Columbiana and East Liverpool we served over 400 families. With the loss of our thrift stores, we need the support of our partners now more than ever to help us during this uncertain time. We truly do value and depend on your gifts and thank you for your loyalty, generosity, and prayers. Gifts can be mailed to PO Box 449, Columbiana, OH 44408 or on our website here.

The Way Station of Columbiana is excited to announce that we are currently accepting applications for an AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate position. Ohio’s AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate’s program, ShareCorps, is the largest charitable response to hunger in the state. Through gardening education and increased exposure and knowledge of food grown from the ground, we hope The Way Station VISTA will impact the lives of our community members.

During the duration of the VISTA’s commitment, they will work closely with the Garden Supervisor and Way Station staff to cultivate and facilitate a comprehensive garden plan to help educate children on all stages of gardening and in turn develop a curiosity for the foods grown within it. The VISTA will also take the lead in creating promotional materials and implementing a strategic plan for recruiting garden participants and volunteers. Lastly, VISTA members are tasked with encouraging children to connect with the natural world around them.

As a by-product of the AmeriCorps VISTA’s work we hope children engaged in the garden program will go home and teach those they interact with, parents, grandparents, friends, and neighbors about gardens, vegetables, and healthy food choices. As gardens are an easy yet sweat intensive answer to that ever-looming statement of, “I can’t eat healthily, it’s too expensive!”

To apply for the AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate position at The Way Station please visit ohiofoodbanks.org/recruitment or send a resume to TheWayStation146@gmail.com.

 The Way Station Inc. has named Chaney Nezbeth its new Executive Director. Nezbeth assumed the position following the retirement of Vicki Ritterspach, who served as executive director since 2010. Vicki will remain involved and will serve on the board of directors. Nezbeth most recently served as a development officer with the Youngstown State University Foundation. She has a strong nonprofit background previously working with Habitat for Humanity in Salem and she is currently serving on the board of directors with Junior Achievement of the Mahoning Valley. The Way Station introduced Chaney at their annual Simply DeVine Gala fundraising dinner held at The Links at Firestone Farms in Columbiana over the weekend.

The organization offers a six-week, 12-session, Jobs Ready-Set-Go program which provides training in résumé writing, online job search, interviews, workplace integrity and communication. Among the biggest advantages to the program are networking and connections. Area business owners and elected officials attend classes and meet with the students to help them identify their characteristics and traits that would be beneficial to a business. The students start to see the value they can bring to a career that they never considered before. Jobs Ready-Set-Go boasts a 68% success with usually eight to 10 students in a class and is held at the Columbiana location or at the county courthouse in Lisbon and the East Liverpool courthouse.

To help break the cycle of generational poverty, The Way Station begun its Pathways to Independence program October of 2018. Pathways to Independence feature a curriculum of classes to help people build their resources to get themselves out of poverty. Participants must commit to a year-long program that includes other incentives as they progress. Applicants are restricted to Columbiana County residents. Candidates must have a child in the home and fall within 150% of the poverty level. The organization will also help connect residents with local and county resources.

In addition to helping people get a fresh start, the DeVine Thrift Store offers reduced price clothing and household items for sale. They also provide emergency assistance kits, diaper distribution and monthly food distributions at both the Columbiana and East Liverpool locations.

The Way Station’s mission for over 30 years has been to reflect the compassion of Jesus to individuals and families who are struggling with poverty or joblessness by helping them to find full-time work and be self-sufficient. Their programming is funded by donations, The DeVine Thrift Stores, the occasional grant and the proceeds from The Simply DeVine Gala & Auction.

The DeVine Thrift Stores are located at 769 Springfield Rd, Columbiana OH, open Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Wednesday 9 am – 5 p.m. with half off all items starting at 6 – 8 p.m. and at 125 w 5th St., East Liverpool OH, open Tuesday-Friday 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. Both locations are open to the public and accept donations of your good and usable items. To learn more about their programs or if you are interested in volunteering, please contact The Way Station at 330-482-5072.

We’ve been organizing a Community Thanksgiving Feast for so long we’ve lost track of the years. This year the meal takes place Wednesday, November 27th at Saint Jude Church, 180 7th St. Columbiana, with the meal beginning at 1:00 pm. The meal is a time for people to come together, be merry, be thankful, and realize that they are indeed part of a community that cares. The meal begins with prayer and ends with all hands on deck to clean-up. Diners get serenaded by members of The Crown Theater and are served by local “celebrities.” The meal comes together through the generosity of local churches, businesses, and community members. On top of serving those who come and claim a seat, shut-ins can call and have meals delivered to their door in addition to providing people with the option of taking their food to go.

We request that diners please call The Way Station at 330-482-5072 to RSVP for the meal which allows us to plan accordingly.

If you are interested in volunteering or making a donation please call us. We have need for people to cook turkeys, deliver food, pick-up donations, prepare to-go meals, clean-up, and much more!