TOLEDO, Ohio — As anyone in immediate need of a helping hand knows, Cherry Street Mission Ministries can be a lifesaver, whether it's a warm meal and a place to sleep on a cold winter night or a safe place for domestic violence survivors.
But there's much more to how they help our communities.
"We are able to do things that other small communities aren't able to do. So we'll have people visit Cherry Street to get healthy again and then go back to the community that maybe they came from or maybe they'll choose a new community to go participate in."
Cherry Street Mission Ministries CEO Ann Ebbert says for the past 75 years, they've made it their mission to help people by eradicating poverty in the surrounding 25 counties.
Ebbert says they usually see about 1,500 people a year, but in the last year and a half that help has become more in demand and they're seeing an increase of about 30 to 35 new, first-time people a month.
"What we've seen is a remarkable increase in people coming to our front door who would be called first-time homeless. Right now we are seeing numbers that we typically see in the middle of February, which is our heavy, high season, as you can imagine. The pandemic really made it vibrantly clear that there are a group of people that have absolutely no other options."
Help is always available, but the assistance Cherry Street offers is more than you might think since they are much more than just a soup kitchen.
Cherry Street partners with both Toledo vocational schools as well as Owens Community College to offer career certificates for career-level jobs to teach skills for jobs in welding, tool and die, auto manufacturing, office specialists and even job placement.
"Everything from soft-skills, like how to have good attendance and a good attitude, to how to do a resume and how to have a great interview."
They also offer baseline healthcare, substance abuse help and mental health services and place an emphasis on creating healthy relationships; all of which are available to anyone in the community, not just residents.
"Because you can have all the skills but if you don't know how to create relationships," Ebbert says, "you don’t have the boundaries in your life that will keep you on track to use your skills."
Cherry Street is also adding new training classes next year in the building and construction trades and will be partnering with Mercy Health and ProMedica to provide medical beds for people getting out of the hospital but don’t have a home to go to fully recover.
Ebert says their mission to help others has a bonus, it also means helping themselves as well.
"That ability to look someone in the eye and say 'we're humans together and we're going to work through this together' is just an amazing experience to have as a staff person here."
Cherry Street Mission Ministries currently has 65-70 staff members and 2,500 volunteers working 24/7 365 days a year and can always use more help in terms of donations and volunteering.