Article 4

Showing those with the money those with the heart

Deposit on an area’s future


Summit Lake activists show bankers area, how it is now, and how it could be

By Carl Chancellor

Beacon Journal staff writer

It was a different kind of drive-by that took place Friday in Akron‘s often-troubled Summit Lake community.

For the better part of an hour, a dozen bankers, sitting shoulder to shoulder with neighborhood activists and United Way officials, craned their necks looking out the small bus’s windows as it weaved through streets pocked by boarded-up houses and overgrown vacant lots.

Community activist Duane Crabbs, who runs South Street Ministries, stood at the front of the bus acting as tour guide, explaining to the uninitiated the good, bad and ugly of the 58-block Summit Lake neighborhood.

Crabbs, a former firefighter who moved to the neighborhood with his family nearly a decade ago, ran down the facts about Summit Lake: nearly 70 percent of the property is rental; it has the second-highest crime rate in the city; most households are run by single parents; and four out of every 10 residents dwell in poverty, making it the city’s second poorest neighborhood.

However, it wasn’t Crabbs’ intent to scare his sightseers. He, along with folks such as Michael Starks, Summit Lake Neighborhood Association’s community organizer, were out to convince the bankers that investing in the community makes sound business sense.

“There are some real problems, but there are opportunities that exist as well,” Crabbs said.

As the bus turned on to Coburn Street, Crabbs proudly pointed to the well-kept, moderately priced single-family homes that were built on the neighborhood’s northern edge in the late 1990s. He said the homes give a hint of the community’s potential.

Starks, who was raised in the Summit Lake community, said another strength of the community is its diversity: roughly 65 percent black, 30 percent white and 5 percent Asian.

As if on cue, the bus pulled up to a brightly colored Buddhist Temple, which serves the neighborhood’s Laotian community.

“We also have the city’s only Islamic mosque,” Crabbs added.

The tour also included stops at the Summit Lake Community recreation center, P.R. Miller’s eclectic art studio, a small manufacturing company, Lincoln Elementary school and Open M, a local nonprofit organization that offers hot meals, a food bank, a free clinic and after-school programs for students.

Katie Rennard, United Way‘s vice president of resource development, said her agency’s role in Friday’s tour was of a facilitator.

“We wanted to inform donors of the wonderful things going on in this community,” Rennard said.

It was the United Way that sent out invitations to the bankers representing FirstMerit, Fifth Third, Key, National City and Charter One. She said the United Way, which funds a number of efforts in the neighborhood, wanted to “use its clout” to bring business leaders together with community leaders.

“I absolutely see the positives,” said Mark Rusher of Fifth Third Bank.

Rusher said the tour was the first time he had had the opportunity to see the Summit Lake neighborhood first-hand.

“This was more than a joy-ride for me. Fifth Third is here to be a big part of the community,” Rusher said. He said he would be looking to provide people with the opportunity for home ownership in the neighborhood.

“I know there are buyers out there looking for loans, but they are often afraid to reach out to banks. That’s why banks need to be more proactive.”

Denise Hicks, an assistant vice president with FirstMerit, said she had her eyes opened.

“I was very impressed,” she said.

Hicks said FirstMerit has experience with community development projects in other poor Akron communities, and sees no reason why the same can’t happen in Summit Lake.

Starks, who knows more than a little about being down and out, said that for too long there has been a sense of apathy in Summit Lake.

“Somewhere along the line, Summit Lake was disconnected from the rest of Akron,” Stark said. “People feel discouraged, they feel there is no hope on the horizon.”

However, Stark said he senses an attitude change in the community.

“That’s the key. You revitalize a community by getting into people’s minds, getting into people’s hearts. You do that by keeping hope alive,” he said.

Stark, Crabbs and others are hoping that Friday’s tour helped put a different light on Summit Lake.

“We have a ton of heart. We just don’t have the resources,” said Crabbs, talking to the group of bankers.“If you can bring the infrastructure, we can bring the heart.”


Carl Chancellor can be reached at 330-996-3725 or cchancellor@thebeaconjournal.com.

Article 3

Kids’ bikes come together


By Jim Carney

Beacon Journal staff writer

It was a lesson in brotherly love.

Scattered around the dimly lit basement of the former O’Neil’s department store were more than 20 volunteers trying to beat a deadline, building bicycles in time to give them away.

It was a daylong effort to put together 210 bikes for children aged 8 to 11 by Saturday for the Children’s Bike Ride at the LeBron James King for Kids Bikeathon.

Youngsters who will take part were selected by administrators from Akron‘s Recreation Bureau and the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority. The children are active at city recreation centers or are AMHA residents.

The 210 bikes were donated to the James Family Foundation by Schwinn but arrived in Akron late Wednesday night and early Thursday morning unassembled. So a call went out for volunteers to put them together in time for Saturday’s event.

And the volunteers showed up. Among them were several off-duty Akron firefighters and even Deputy Chief Larry Bunner.

Bunner busily opened boxes and put the parts out in work areas around the enormous basement.

Firefighters Bill Hailey, John Beavers, Jim Knafel, Rob Hoch and Ken Johnson used part of a day off to build bikes.

“It’s easier than cutting the grass,” said Knafel, 36, of Akron, who said he would have been mowing his lawn if he were at home.

Looking at the stack of unopened bikes, with only about 25 finished, Johnson knew there was a lot of work still to be done. “It’s a lot of bikes,” he said.

Three men — David Axelrod, Brad Golden, and Alexander Foster, all resident interns at Haven of Rest — worked feverishly.

Golden, 48, said he was glad that inner-city youth would be given the bikes. “It’s a wonderful thing,” agreed 52-year-old Axelrod.

University of Akron retiree Dick Henry, 72, brought his tools to the O’Neil’s building Thursday and quietly worked by himself. “This is my third,” he said. “I’m getting better at it.”

Volunteer Jesse Williamson, who once ran the South Street Ministries bicycle program, was pumping out bikes at a 10-minute-per-bike clip.

The 42-year-old, who would like to run his own bike store someday, said he has been building bikes for years and has the knack.

He said he hopes the bike recipients catch the love of biking that he has. “It’s a joy out of this world. It’s unbelievable.”

The children who receive the bikes, he said, also understand that “it is better to give than find the easy way.”

Duane Crabbs, 45, who runs South Street Ministries, was working on a bike next to Williamson; he looked around the basement at the work being done and smiled. “People pitching together make this stuff happen,” he said.

His organization began its bike ministry several years ago. In the program, young people who spend 10 hours helping to build a bike from old parts get a finished bike in return for their “sweat equity.”

And what was accomplished Thursday by putting so many bikes together couldn’t have happened without lots of work from lots of places, Crabbs said.

“The power of LeBron’s name draws people,” he said.

But the Cavaliers basketball superstar, Crabbs said, couldn’t put all the bikes together by himself.

And so the call went out, based on the name of LeBron James, and volunteers showed up. “This is what builds communities,” Crabbs said.

Kent Starks, a spokesman for the James Family Foundation, said all 210 bikes were assembled by 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

About 25 volunteers were involved.


Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or jcarney@thebeaconjournal.com

 

 

 

 

Posted on Sat, Oct. 22, 2005

Article 2

Church outside the walls

 

By: Marc D. Greenwood

Date: October 23, 2002

 

A harried and splintered Duane Crabbs found himself torn; two adamant calls vied for his allegiance.  One call involved his vocation as a firefighter with the Akron Fire Department. The second call required him to abandon his thirteen-year career as a firefighter and head the fledgling South Street Ministries; a work headquartered in the impoverished Summit Lake area in Akron, Ohio. The position lacked a salary or medical benefits—imperatives for a husband and father with four children.  Yet, Duane Crabbs believed that God was choreographing his affairs. But how would he know his were truly blessed by God?

Crabbs apprenticed with P&S Ambulance, and was appointed to the Cuyahoga Falls Fire Department in April 1986.  He reveled in the job:  wielding a hose at a scorching, working fire, rendering treatment to trauma victims, and engaging in the  ubiquitous gallows humor at the fire station. Notable evangelicals: Richard Foster, Anthony Campolo, Rich Sider, and especially John Perkins inspired Duane to develop a comprehensive and integrated faith. Perkins, from Mendenhall, Mississippi, leads a grassroots ministry that has spawned models nationwide. Perkins advocates the three R’s: Reconciliation to God and man, Relocation, and Redistribution of skills, knowledge, and abilities to empower the poor.  The three R’s resonated with Duane, "It gave me a framework for what I was doing," said Crabbs.  In Duane’s words, "Good theology is a right way of living out the gospel."

By 1987, the Crabbs had outgrown their home. Duane and Lisa developed a triple tier criteria system to streamline the purchase.  The home had to be located in west Akron near their church, the home had to be roomy and affordable on one income—Lisa didn’t work outside the home. For some inexplicable reason, their Realtor steered them toward Cuyahoga Falls, a largely white community. The Crabbs prevailed and found a home that met their criteria. The home sat in a picturesque neighborhood surrounded by friendly neighbors. The purchase incited a firestorm from friends, family members, and co-workers.  This foray, living in a culturally diverse area gave them a taste of what Duane described as, "Resisting the cultural current."

Many constituents couched their true feelings by voicing words of concern.  They reminded Duane of his work schedule, as if he had forgotten. "You’re gone for 24 hours a day, what will happen to your family?"  In this case what was unsaid revealed more than what was spoken. Duane noted, "Whites have a much more perceived fear of blacks than vice-versa."  Some friends set forth theologically skewed questions, "Aren’t there enough blacks to evangelize the blacks?"  They forgot the record of the Christian Church, which reveals numerous examples of cross-cultural evangelizing. Crabbs wryly notes, "Reconciliation is often perceived as a black issue, instead of a Christian issue."

"I felt a growing tension, receiving the material blessings of the Cuyahoga Falls Fire Department, and chafing at the galling lack of diversity," said Duane. He began to think in earnest about working in a diverse community. Emboldened, Crabbs tested for the Akron Fire Department. He relished the idea of rendering care in his own community, working among people he loved and respected.  Crabbs, an erudite man, failed the personality portion of the exam. His Falls Fire co-workers hazed him. "It is obvious that God doesn’t want you working there," Duane’s mother said. Lisa’s concerns were more pragmatic. "I was concerned about the increased work load, including more structure fires, increased exposure to trauma patients gushing deadly blood products, and the walloping pay cut," she said.

In 1992 Duane retested for the Akron Fire Department, landing high on the eligible list, a virtual shoe-in, provided he passed the vision test.  Duane surmised that his deplorable, uncorrected vision would disqualify him; devised a scam, he memorized the eye chart.  Awash with guilt, Crabbs confessed his duplicity to the nurse.  She was incredulous, but noted he failed the test.  He received his rejection letter by mail.  Per Civil Service Rules candidates are entitled to appeal their disqualification. Duane amassed a mountain of supporting data to buttress his appeal hearing. The vision test presented an impregnable barrier, having withstood 70 challenges between 1988 and 1990.  A forlorn Crabbs lost.

His mother appeared to be a prophetess.  Suddenly help emerged from an unexpected benefactor. Uncle Sam.  The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) parted the fierce, bureaucratic waters, Duane strode to appointment with the Akron Fire Department in October 1992.

Duane completed the requisite training period, and began working at fire station  Number Six; the experience was exhilarating. "I was constantly connecting with the people," he said.  He experienced the grace of God, he willingly submitted to strong, black leadership. Doctrinal propositions received an infusion of life, forged in the crucible of daily tensions. "My ideas incarnated into life experiences," Crabbs said. “I was relating cross-culturally in reciprocal relationships." But all was not well.  Duane befriended impoverished children, and brought them to church; the one place where they should be welcomed. His evangelizing hit a wall, a racial caste system. A church leader explained, "My children’s only respite from their blackness is church—no ruffians will wreck their youth group." Soon the Crabbs sought a new fellowship.

A seven-year-old asked Duane, "Who’s that?" referring to Lisa.  "Is that your old lady?"  Duane composed himself and informed the lad that Lisa was his wife.  Prompting the inevitable follow-up, "What’s a wife?" The incident seared and goaded Duane to think, plan, and act.  After much discussion, Duane concluded, "This is a values issue.  The only way we can make a difference is by becoming a part of the community." There were 14 churches within a narrow geographic area, but they didn’t impact the area. "Churches no longer connect to a geographic area; we are a commuter society, a virtual society,” Crabbs said.

Lisa remembers, "Duane’s growing convictions were causing some difficulties."  Duane was contemplating the unthinkable: moving to the grimy, blighted, Summit Lake area. The very notion of relocating was repugnant to Lisa. Duane suggested they pray about the matter. Distraught, Lisa countered, "I pray that we won’t ever live there."  Lisa remembers the arguments and crying, as she grappled with the call, experiencing abject fear of the unknown. Duane refused to manipulate his wife by twisting the Scripture teaching on submission and demonstrated servant leadership. "When we are on the same page, we will move," Duane said. Liberated, Lisa got in touch with her feelings and the will of God. "I prayed without resentment or hurt feelings," Lisa said. It still took a couple of years of praying, talking, and meditating on the Scriptures for the couple to get on one accord.

On Christmas eve of 1995, Duane drove Lisa to the site of their future home. A cavernous structure, occupying an acre of land. The price was affordable—cheap even, but the house had been condemned by the Health Department. The motivated seller desired to dump the property. Negotiations began, and a deal was struck. Christians who believed in the work contributed the down payment. Now the Herculean task of renovation began. It took a year to bring the home into compliance with the building codes. Workers on the project soon became acquainted with the more stringent "Lisa Standard." 

 

"I refused to move my family into a shoddy home," Lisa said. Friends and volunteers convened each weekend to work. Neighbors marveled as the project gained steam. "We were becoming a part of the neighborhood," Duane said. Dave Baker contracted pro bono during the project, as did Ron Burney, who painstakingly labored on the project as a gift of love. In the midst of the excitement, nagging doubts besieged Duane. "I feared that my faith was presumption." In those lonely moments Duane received solace from a quote by George MacDonald: "The true disciple shall thus always know what he ought to do, and never what another ought to do."  God confirmed His leading, "Time and again people with the right gifts came alongside and bolstered the project." Believers helped complete the massive amounts of paperwork. In March 1997 the Crabbs moved to 130 W. South Street.

By late 1998 Duane was experiencing what he called, "The push-pull factor." The ministry work energized him yet it also taxed him. He was taking more leave from the fire department. "I was standing in two worlds," he said. He relished his work at the fire department, but believed, "ministering in the city was the ultimate privilege."  Duane was seriously considering leaving the fire department, but Lisa voiced grave concerns. "How are we going to eat. I have four children," was her sobering question. Duane believed God was directing him to minister full-time. "Faith is not substantiated until you’re at a place of no return," is how Duane remembers that period. Lisa felt vulnerable. "We would have got more support to go overseas (as missionaries)," she said. She learned to trust God in order to trust Duane.

 

In February of 1999 Duane left the Akron Fire Department to lead South Street Ministries. "I’ve been faulty but never false,” Duane said. He’s erred, but he admits the wrong and seeks to live a righteous life.  A blessed normalcy pervades the Crabbs’s home. Telephone exchanges are interrupted in mid-sentence as Duane or Lisa prepare lunch, or tend in other ways to the energetic brood of four children namely: Joshua 15, Bethany 13, Hannah 9, and Jonathon 7.  The children are healthy, happy, and well adjusted.   Duane and Lisa are gentle dogmatics, lacking the work-performance grimness of the ascetic, or the censorious self-righteousness of the legalist.

 

"Our purpose is to extend God’s kingdom and righteousness in South Akron.  South Street Ministries works at being a hospital for sinners rather than a hotel for saints. We are a bridge to connect struggling people with one another and the Great Physician so He can heal us to live and love, laugh and cry in the midst of our often messy lives," writes Duane in a newsletter: a church without walls. Sunday mornings find them conducting service at the Crosier Street correctional facility. Sunday evenings are reserved for youth services at the Interval Brotherhood Home. IBH provides comprehensive residential alcohol/drug treatment for its patients. Thursday evening fellowships convene at the home of South Street Ministries. The Ministry helped neighborhood youths restore 150 bicycles.

 

"And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward." Matthew 10:42

 

Contact Marc at  MARCD1110@aol.com

Marc D. Greenwood, Lieutenant/Paramedic, has served with the Akron, Ohio Fire Department for 22 years, currently assigned as Fire Supervisor at Safety Communications Center.  My work has been published in the Akron Beacon Journal, Around The House, The Heart Behind the Hero, The Voice, EMS, Nursing Spectrum, Fire Rescue, and Fire Engineering.  I am married and have four sons.  I am a minister affiliated with The House of the Lord in Akron, Ohio, and write articles focusing on men’s ministries for Around the House.

Article 1

Akron man believes learning to live together will improve race relations

Published Tuesday, December 2, 1997,
in the
Akron Beacon Journal

·  Father teaches family about racial tolerance by moving to inner city

By Kymberli Hagelberg
Beacon Journal staff writer

The current state of race relations came home to Duane Crabbs in a report from his 11-year-old son a few months ago.

“Joshua came in one day from playing outside. He looked really upset. He said, `Daddy, Kennard called me a honky.’ ”

For Crabbs, it was a chance to give his son another lesson in race relations — something he and his wife do daily — but not always in such dramatic form. The Akron firefighter-paramedic and his wife, Lisa, have made a 20-year pact to live in an integrated neighborhood. The goal is to raise their young family — Joshua, 11, Bethany, 9, Hannah, 5, and Jonathan, 3 — in an environment in which race is not an issue.

Crabbs’ family is striving for their goal amid the backdrop of Clinton’s town meeting on race tomorrow. Clinton chose Akron as the first of four sites — in part because of the Coming Together Project, a community effort to improve race relations.

“In a lot of ways, President Clinton and Coming Together have focused attention here, but there’s still a lot of work to be done,” Crabbs said.

Last year, the Crabbs left their safe haven in West Akron and chose a new home on West South Street, again with racially mixed neighbors, but this time in one of the poorest neighborhoods of the inner city.

And things changed.

“Our yard became a gathering place again,” Crabbs said. “But one of the things we found out early was when the kids were left without supervision, a fight would inevitably break out.”

In every fight, the group would split along racial lines, which left Crabbs in the embarrassing position of having to explain a racial slur to his son — a foreign concept for the boy.

“I didn’t know what to say,” the father admitted with a smile. “So I asked him what he told his friend.

“After stating emphatically that he wasn’t a honky, Joshua looked at me with this puzzled face and said, `Daddy, am I one?’

“Finally, I had to explain that word was his friend’s way of putting him down because of the color of his skin.”

The conflict is a perfect example of how difficulties are addressed between blacks and whites of any age, Duane Crabbs said. “Once something hits, it’s like this curtain pulls back and for just a second you can see that there really is this great racial divide. Like the yard, there are a lot of places where it looks like everyone is getting along until there’s a problem.”

One of the neighbors told Lisa Crabbs that the kids would not ever get along. “I don’t know what planet you’ve been living on, but that doesn’t happen here,” the man said.

But more often than not, these days it does happen there.

The kids still gather in the yard, usually without incident, and the family’s black-and-white cat has been dubbed Oreo — as a joke, not an insult. “I think the kids were just trying to claim us and see what we would do,” Lisa Crabbs said. “They didn’t know us yet.”

Duane Crabbs, 37, was a member of the Cuyahoga Falls Fire Department when the first black member was hired in 1989. “I began to hear a lot of dialogue about what it meant for a black guy to come onto the department, and I took some teasing because of my convictions. One time I brought kids from the church youth group to the fire station. They were almost all black. Of course, the first thing that happened after they were gone is that one fireman came down and said, `Duane, my wallet is gone.’

“It’s firehouse humor,” he said and shrugged. “He was trying to play me, but he was also poking a little fun at himself. He understood the stereotype.

“Cuyahoga Falls gets the name Caucasian Falls, but these are not bad guys. They’re good-hearted people,” he added. “It’s just the lack of one-on-one contact and genuine interaction that makes it awkward.”

Crabbs decided to end the uneasiness, beginning with his own family.

Outreach programs
Friends call him a true believer. In 1992, while working as a Falls firefighter, he founded the local chapter of Love Inc., a California-based clearinghouse that pairs Christians with skills to those in need. He also has been instrumental in arranging a variety of Christian outreach events including prayer vigils and ride-alongs between local clergy and police. His new organization, CitiVision, is a Christian leadership foundation that has chapters in 25 states.

“Duane gave up a lot to make this move,” said Dave Baker, owner of Stow Glen Retirement Village. The friend and philanthropist bought the Crabbs family home on West South Street and coordinated a staff of 40 volunteers who helped with remodeling.

“(Duane) took a $5,000 pay cut when he changed jobs and lost seniority to live his mission,” Baker said. The large, renovated, four-bedroom home overlooking Interstate 77 doubles as South Street Ministries. Bible-study classes are held there on Thursdays. Sunday school is in the planning stages.

“I’m fascinated by why Duane and Lisa chose to do this,” Baker said. “There are people who are called to be like Jesus in the city. Those are the people that I want to assist.”

There have been other sacrifices. Because the transient population is so large, the Crabbs children have less freedom in their new environment. Last week, a stranger walked into the home through an unlocked back door. He was in the living room before Lisa could wake Duane from his nap.

“Really, what it comes back to is can we balance our sense of mission to be caring neighbors with our desire to protect our children? The guy really did just walk right in like he lived here. It was crazy,” Duane Crabbs said. “He was really a little confused. We’ll never know his intention.”

Both Duane and Lisa say they moved to the neighborhood not to save it, but because it is where they feel they belong. “It would be false for us to say we are not here to make a change,” Duane Crabbs said. “We are, but it’s also to be respectful. There’s an Aboriginal quote that I really like. `If you’ve come here to save me, don’t bother. But if you’ve come here because your liberation is bound up in mine, let us work together.’

“The Crabbs are ready to work,” he said. “The whole world is coming to this country. The kids who are going to be underprivileged are the ones out in white suburbia who have very little cross-cultural experience. We feel very fortunate. Our kids will be able to cross those barriers, not because we preached it, but because we lived it.”

What do you do with “peace” (as represented by the ideal of “home”) once you have it?

I just lost the post that I’m attempting to re-write now, and am very frustrated about it!
We’ve been in Ohio for about a month, and in the house we just bought for maybe three weeks now. It feels very good to be here. This is a working-class neighborhood of small, simple homes (though the larger community of Cuyahoga Falls is relatively white and affluent) and I think it will be a good place for Samuel to grow up in. Being in this house has been wonderful so far- a real blessing to my family, and I am so thankful for it. Moreover, this community has much to offer a relatively young family, and that too is good. Still, as is the case with everything in my life, I carry tremendous guilt about being a homeowner. As a result of the complex nature/nurture matrix in which my personality, temperament, upbringing, and experiences play such a huge part, the laudable idea that no one is truly “home” until we are is twisted in my belief system into the notion that none of us, especially me, should really have a home just yet then. This belief is exacerbated too by my recent experiences living in Christian community in Philadelphia, and I’m sure it will be some time before I have a good sense of what it really all means. In the meantime, I know that God calls me always to follow Jesus, to build his kingdom, and to love and serve those in front of me.
I am still looking for work, as my second interview with the local Boys and Girls Club did not result in a job offer. Please pray that I find something meaningful soon.
I came across an article in the Akron Beacon Journal about local pastor Duance Crabbs, and then his congregation was recommended to me by a friend who used to live here. His is an incredible story about making the hard choices to follow Jesus by living among those he felt called to serve. Some of those choices are very challenging to me as they seem to represent the opposite of choices that I’ve recently made, although of course my journey has been a bit different. Even so, I am inspired by Pastor Crabbs already, and so I recently tried to get in touch with him, and when he called me back we spoke for about 45 minutes. It was a good conversation, and we made plans to get together soon. Christian Community Development Association principles are very important to him, as they are to the leadership of the church community in Philadelphia that I just left. Anyway, I’m excited and will be listening hard to Jesus for direction about what kind of relationship God wants me to have with him and his congregation. I did some research on the internet about him and found a number of articles about his journey, which I’ll include in subsequent posts, as they’re kind of hard to find online.