2020 has been a very different and difficult year around the world. What I have seen throughout 2020 is not only the isolation, challenges, and struggles of families, but how this community takes care of each other. Those of us at Perry Helping Perry have been fortunate enough to witness firsthand the generosity of the people of Perry Township whether past or present. What I want to tell all of you is THANK YOU because with each and every donation and volunteer hour received in 2020 they have allowed us to reach out to help lift up so many in our community during these unprecedented times. The way this community pulls together will never cease to amaze me and warm my heart. Words can not express how truly amazing each and every one of our volunteers are and how without them nothing we do would be possible.When asked what word I would use to describe 2020, the word I chose was Grace. The grace and adaptability our program directors, volunteers, and patrons have shown this past year is so astounding it is beyond words. We have all worked together to not only adapt, but to improve our programs to better meet the needs of our community. I want to reflect on 2020 and what we were able to accomplish as we start our journey together into 2021.
The food pantry held 21 food distributions in 2020 compared to our normal 12 per year. At those food distributions, we served 2,649 households which is equal to over 8,000 people. This year alone we have served 318 new families in Perry and spent nearly $20,000 at the Akron Canton Regional Food Bank for a total of over 113,000 pounds of food. In addition to receiving a grant from the Food Bank, we were also fortunate enough to receive a $15,000 grant from Perry Township as a part of their COVID grant.
This year included a lot of changes to our Clothes Closet Program. Through the generosity of Richville United Church of Christ and our faithful team of volunteers, the clothes closet program has been helping those in Perry for almost a decade. Even with their amazing support, we felt that we needed to make some changes to better serve our patrons. While the Clothes Closet was closed due to COVID, we moved into a location that allowed us to expand as well as becoming handicap accessible. In addition, the old Feist Hardware building allows us to be within walking distance to more of our patrons. Opening day at the new location was on August 1st. From August through October we had 203 patrons shop for themselves and their families. In that same timespan, with the bountiful donations received, we were able to distribute over 35,000 items to our walk-in clients as well as distributing any overflow to area senior and assisted living facilities, convalescence facilities, crisis situations, local churches, veterans, foster children and through agencies like the United Way, Red Cross and The Salvation Army for emergency situations ensuring no donation ever goes to waste. None of this could have been done without the commitment to making the most of the new location, the hard work put in by all of our volunteers to make this program a success, and the businesses that were willing to donate. The kindness and generosity of Perry shines through the smiles on our patrons faces.
Our Snack Sack Program has continued to help provide food for school age kids on the weekends. They receive their bags on the last day of the school week or for virtual students they can be picked up at lunch pickup. This year we are packing and distributing 360 bags weekly throughout all of our Perry school buildings. We are so grateful for our volunteer packers that have made it possible for the program to continue. We can not thank you enough and can not wait for things to become safe again so we can get all of our volunteers back with us packing.
After a two year hiatus the bike program was brought back in 2020. We started with 19 bikes donated by the Perry Police Department in April with a goal of trying to give out 50 bikes in the summer. The strong dedication to the program resulted in that goal being blown out of the water. From April through December 20th, we have given out a total of 186 bikes to kids and adults in the Perry Community. The biggest thrill was to be included in the PHP Christmas Assistance program where 54 bikes were picked out for children. The goal for 2021 is to have 300 bikes donated and to give out a bike helmet with each bike. Bikes can still be donated by dropping them off at Waikem Subaru.
We have two seasonal programs at Perry Helping Perry that are designed to help families in need. This year our School Supply Giveaway was able to help 65 families for a total of 144 kids. Each child was provided with a backpack, school supplies, and a shoe voucher before the start of the school year. At this year’s Christmas Assistance Program, we had 147 families for a total of 373 children signed up for Christmas assistance. The families were scheduled for a time and were able to come “shop” to pick out wonderful Christmas surprises for their children. As we look forward to 2021, the word that describes it for me is Hope. I have hope that we can continue to reach more and more families through our programs, hope that we can build stronger community relationships, and hope that we can find a way to have security in a world that will never be quite the same as it was before. No matter what this year brings I know one thing and that is we are in this together!
Warmest Wishes for a Happy New Year!
Melissa Thompson Chairman of Perry Helping Perry
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Thank you Patty Knotts!
Earlier this month, the Perry Helping Perry Board of Directors accepted the resignation of Patty Knotts, as Executive Director and awarded her with a new position on the Board of Directors as Board Member, Emeritus. Words cannot express our gratitude to Perry Helping Perry’s founder. Without Patty’s dream, tireless dedication, and never-ending commitment, Perry Helping Perry would not even exist. To say that we owe everything that Perry Helping Perry has become to her, is an understatement.
In her own words, you will find Perry Helping Perry’s founding purpose and continued endeavor. “As an elementary school secretary at Genoa Elementary, I saw firsthand families struggling. I wanted to help everyone. I always had the dream of doing more, and soon it became a reality. Perry Helping Perry is about a movement. A movement in helping each other. This movement requires that we work together and give of our time, services and ideas. Perry Helping Perry is about taking care of our community. We are working together to make sure that all children are fed and clothed and we’ll do whatever we can to help families that have fallen on hard times get back on their feet.”
The Board of Directors and her Perry Helping Perry Family are dedicated to continuing her work. While no longer in her former role of Executive Director, but now in her new role of Board Member Emeritus, Patty will be able to be as actively involved as she desires, without carrying the entire burden herself. By working together hand in hand to meet the needs in our community, the Perry Helping Perry Family will continue to work tirelessly to achieve her vision of no child in our community going without food or clothing and to help lift Perry families back on their feet.
The Perry Helping Perry Family hopes that you will continue to join us in Patty’s dream. By working together, we can help to make Patty’s dedication to this community a movement that provides hope and strength within the Perry community.
Thank you to Patty Knotts for giving us all a purpose and a vision to build a better community. Together we can work to be Perry Strong and weather any storm that comes our way!
With our humble and deepest thanks,
The Perry Helping Perry Family