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Canton Repository | Law firms provide meals for Canton YWCA

May 1, 2020    •    3 min read

Originally published in the Canton Repository on May 1, 2020

Ordinarily, the YWCA doesn’t provide meals at its shelter in downtown Canton, although food staples are stocked in a shared pantry. But the coronavirus has required about 35 women and some children to remain on site due to concerns they could contract COVID-19 while out in the community and then spread it inside the shelter. Turnover has been kept to a minimum during the pandemic, said Kate Sedgmer, director of marketing and volunteer coordination for the YWCA.

“We had to make sure that everyone has access to food,” she said. “And that’s really where (attorney Greg Beck) stepped in — it quickly blossomed into a much bigger project, which we are so thrilled about.”

Meals have provided more than restaurant-quality food. Spirits also have been lifted. They include a woman named Karen who has been staying at the shelter for 67 days. “The food was very good, and they gave us plenty to eat,” she wrote in a note to YWCA staff.

She thanked the lawyers, judges and YWCA “for bringing us a little happiness during a stressful time.”

Added Sedgmer: “I can’t explain to you the jubilance the residents have had over this program — it’s a beautiful project and we’re so thankful to be part of it.”

‘Small way we can help’

The idea began when Beck called the YWCA’s chief executive officer to ask what kind of help the agency needed during the public health crisis.

“We can’t fight this battle with the coronavirus,” he said of local attorneys. “We’re on the sideline watching all these wonderful doctors and nurses (working during the pandemic), so we’re trying to see if this is a small way we can help.”

What started with a few law firms contributing to the meal donation project has grown. Several firms are either paying restaurants to prepare meals to be delivered to the YWCA or are donating money to the cause.

And it’s expanded to include the Domestic Violence Project’s shelter in Stark County, said Beck, who also helps the YWCA with legal matters. Supporting local restaurants during the governor’s stay-at-home order is another benefit, the attorney said.

Participating restaurants include Deli Ohio, Bender’s Tavern, BAM! Healthy Cuisine, Grinder’s Above & Beyond, Napoli’s Italian Eatery, Royal Docks Brewing Co. and That Little Italian Kitchen.

‘Greatest story never told’

Beck said the work of agencies such as the YWCA often goes unnoticed. “It’s like the greatest story never told,” he said of the nonprofit agency, which also provides educational support and other services for women as they transition to independence. “They do wonderful things.”

Cathy Mick-Jennings, the YWCA’s CEO, said the last two months have been unprecedented.

“I am so very proud to say that the YWCA Canton has stepped up and once again answered the call to support the needs of those that we serve through our housing and early childhood services,” she wrote in a statement. “However, this (food donation) initiative is proof that we are all in this together, as our community has stepped up to assist us with our mission.”

Launching the initial effort were: Baker, Dublikar, Beck, Wiley & Mathews; Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs; Milligan Pusateri; Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty; Pelini, Campbell & Williams; and Tzangas Plakas Mannos.

Other firms and attorneys have since joined the cause.

Assisting with the meal donations has been the Stark County Bar Association. Contributors also include Stark County judges in common pleas, municipal, probate and family courts, as well as magistrates.

Common Pleas Judge Taryn Heath enthusiastically accepted the invitation to help out.

“We’re all quarantined at home or isolated at home or sheltered at home, and you feel kind of helpless about doing anything for anybody,” she said. “It just presented the opportunity to do something positive and productive.”

‘Beautiful project’

Attorneys are also expressing thanks to the medical community, said Tony Brown, president of the Stark County Bar Association.

The Law Day Committee is donating 130 restaurant gift cards to employees of Stark County hospitals. Funds originally had been marked for now canceled Law Week events, Brown said.

Gift cards, valued at $50 each, will be raffled daily to hospital workers starting in May.

“I think at our essence we’re problem solvers,” Brown said. “We just happen to work in a system that is adversarial (by nature) … but the lawyers are really there to help their clients through life’s most difficult problems, and I can’t imagine a more difficult problem than going through a pandemic.”

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