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Jewell Cardwell: Masons come through again with groceries for needy

By Jewell Cardwell
Beacon Journal columnist

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Big, beautiful bouquets to the more than 40 Summit County Freemasons and caring community members who fanned out all over Northeast Ohio to deliver more than 100 food baskets and certificates to needy families as part of the charitable work of the Grand Lodge of Freemasons in Ohio.

“The Masonic Assistance Program is a year-round charitable outreach by Summit County Blue Lodges and the Scottish and York Rite Bodies and is designed to assist those in need,” wrote George Seabeck, secretary of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Valley of Akron.

The program provides groceries for needy families who are nominated by Veterans Affairs, area churches, the Salvation Army and social service agencies, including members of the Masonic fraternity and returning military veterans.

This year’s delivery area reached Litchfield to the west, up to Strongsville, across to Munroe Falls, Kent and south to Canton.

“This effort, which began 21 years ago as a Christmas food basket program, has been expanded to a larger year-round help initiative,” said Jeff Burton, event chair. “It is consistent with the fundamental beliefs of Freemasons, which are brotherly love, relief and truth.”

Special thanks to Matt Cowger, past master of Star Lodge No. 187, who donated his truck for the deliveries; Save A Lot No. 634 for its assistance in purchasing and loading the food; Newell Rubbermaid for donating the totes. A big tip of the hat to James F. Easterling Jr. of Norton, grand master of Masons of Ohio, 2012-2013.

“In addition to food donations, the 97,000 Freemasons of Ohio provide nearly $15 million in charitable giving annually,” Seabeck noted. “This year they gave $94,000 in college scholarships, contributed $125,000 to Special Olympics Ohio Summer Games, and funded $70,000 in free training for hundreds of Ohio schoolteachers to recognize students at nonacademic risk. They also provided $12,000 in elderly care and helped many needy Ohio families and individuals through the Charitable Foundation.” For more information, please visit

Thanks for generosity

The folks at Summit County Children Services are singing the praises of many generous elves. Here’s a partial list provided by Chris Vasco, director of public relations:

• A new anonymous donor (a businessman from Silver Lake) asked to work with the agency to “adopt” 100 children for the holidays. He provided one or two toys and winter clothing, spending about $60 to $80 on each child. His 40 elves shopped on the weekend before Thanksgiving, wrapped the gifts and had them ready to pick up.

• Children Services social workers Jeanne Cargill and Andrea Binns worked with an organization called Project St. Nicholas Returns, which donated $10,000 raised through the group’s Polar Bear Jump and a fundraising auction. Half went to the agency’s Beds for Kids program and the other half to gift cards for youths leaving the agency’s custody at age 18.

• First Night Akron donated Step 2 items (play kitchens, easels, and more). Last year, the value of these items was about $12,000 as shared by Suzie Graham, director of the Downtown Akron Partnership. Suzie made the connection with agency social worker Lisa Hamilton-Green, whom she shadowed through Leadership Akron.

• College sophomore Cortney Ellis and her mother, Michele, donated more than 160 teddy bears from Project Omi Bear (named after Cortney’s grandmother). This campaign is in its third year.

• “We Believe” donated toys for 35 children via the agency’s Holiday Adopt-A-Family program, and collected toys for the Toy Room and money for Beds for Kids. This is a bowling team and their friends, introduced by social worker Kristine Ruiz.

• State and Federal Communications provided household goods for those who have aged out of the system.

• Bill and Maryellen Barry purchased the LeBron James Family Foundation tree from the Akron Children’s Hospital’s Holiday Tree Festival and donated it to the agency.

• Children Services hosted an event for the Father Factor group to select toys for their children.

• KC’s 3rd Base restaurant in Akron collected more than $2,600 worth of toys, clothing and gift certificates for the Toy Room, which is expected to serve more than 1,100 children.

Embers of Hope

Mike Crissman, an Aurora firefighter, phoned to let me know about a one-year-old Aurora firefighters nonprofit organization, Embers of Hope Charity.

Members took needy people shopping and are providing toys to children from low-income families. The organization recently purchased and installed a tank for a family living without hot water.

To support this venture, Chad Price, owner of Dusk Till Dawn (a sweepstakes cafe) in Northfield, matched the amount the group raised during its Casino Night event, bringing the total to $8,000.

That money will be used to provide food and gifts for children and families at Christmas, Crissman said.

Free haircut with toy

Willie Derricott, co-owner of Chic Diverse barbershop and beauty salon at 88 E. Mill St. in Akron, is sponsoring a “bring in a new toy, get a free haircut” campaign now through Monday.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Instruments donated

Major bravos to Akron’s Hitchcock Fleming & Associates Inc., which has as its mantra “We march to the beat of a creative drummer.”

The company recently donated a wide array of percussion instruments to the Youth Excellence Performing Arts Workshop (YEPAW), so underprivileged kids can crank up the volume on their own creativity.

Groceries for a year

Congratulations to Robert Wilk, a Cuyahoga Falls resident who bagged Performance Racing Network’s “Win Groceries for a Year Sweepstakes,” presented by the AARP Foundation and Nationwide Insurance.

This means Wilk will receive a $5,000 gift card to his local grocery store.

The AARP Foundation, through its Drive to End Hunger campaign, has pledged a $5,000 donation to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.

“My wife and I were elated to hear we won,” Wilk said. “We are both AARP members and we have several charities that we donate to, so for AARP Foundation to donate $5,000 to a charity in our area is just fantastic.”

Jewell Cardwell can be reached at 330-996-3567 or