In 2008, our country faced its greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression. Savings were lost. Jobs disappeared. Poverty swelled. This crisis has made an especially detrimental impact in Lorain County, Ohio.
Lorain County, a blue-collar working county located just outside of Cleveland, was built on the backs of steel workers and ship builders. However, as the industry dried up and jobs vanished, poverty set in. In 2009, Lorain’s poverty rate jumped by a third, claiming 33.7% of all county residents. Perhaps the most troubling statistic is that over half of Lorain’s senior citizens currently live below the poverty line. Many struggle to meet their basic needs such as food and shelter.
Next Step became aware of this problem when a local church and team of community leaders reached out to us as a means of partnership in revitalizing Lorain. A church and community already determined to bring life back to the streets of Lorain that were once alive. This began our journey.
We now partner with Neighborhood Alliance, Love Inc., and other local churches and organizations to do just that. Specifically, Next Step has partnered with Lorain County’s Neighborhood Alliance organization to help meet the home repair and construction needs of seniors in their community. Neighborhood Alliance has been compassionately caring for Lorain County since 1927, focusing on strengthening the community by helping low-income residents meet their basic needs. They deliver around 400 meals a day to Lorain’s senior citizens, provide daily shelter to many residents who are currently homeless, and provide childcare for over 100 children each day.
The families and senior citizens Neighborhood Alliance knows so well through feeding programs, are the same families we are referred to for home repair. But we quickly recognized that home repair is just a platform for the relationships we are able to form each week. Many residents struggle with feelings of isolation and loneliness. When they open their door for construction work to be done, we see it as an open door to show the love of Christ in a way that offers hope and dignity.
Other opportunities to learn and fellowship with this community throughout the week are: participating in a community scavenger hunt, a community cookout, Afternoon in the Park, community gardening, and serving with a local ministry one day of the week. Every person you meet, nail you hammer, and organization you work with, is an opportunity to come alongside the momentum taking place in Lorain. A momentum of renewal.