Mary T. O’Connor

Mary T. O’Connor is the Architect of the renovation of the Front Porch Café.  Previously she was the principal of a New York City based practice specializing in the non-profit arts community.  After taking a two year break to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer, she wanted to extend the experience of working with underserved populations in the United States.  While seeking an opportunity for community based, socially conscious design practice, she was introduced to South Street Ministries.   On strength of their faith and works, she moved to Akron. This blog is a part of the 20/20 Come and See series. 

The keys and the building at 798 Grant Street had been handed to Duane Crabbs at no cost in 2011.  The donation gave the ministry the potential for creating an operating home for enlarging South Street’s mission: “Unlikely partners taking shared risks to renew our community for Christ’s sake”.    A new roof and the first version of the café were fully operational when I first encountered South Street Ministries.   My entrance in this story happened during this outdoor kitchen phase of the café, where we parked in the lot and were greeted by Freddie, the grill side breakfast cook.

On the day before my dear friend Anne Schillig’s wedding day, my sister, girlfriend and I drove to Akron from Cleveland to meet with her fiancé Eric Harmon.  From the start, Akron seized my attention.   On the way, I noticed a gentleness about the topography. There was a feeling of enclosure within an elevated place, an embrace.  It was a geography similar to Pittsburgh or Rome to me, but more intimate.

Though he must have had many bridegroom-related tasks to complete, Eric somehow managed to find time for us on his last day as a bachelor.  He had supervised the installation of the new roof and the first version of the Front Porch Café, despite having no experience in the building trades.    It was a fantastic first impression through the windshield of the rental car.   Eric stood talking to an enthusiastic, spatula-waving man behind the outdoor grille.

I could not wait to get out of the car, reassuring my less enthusiastic companions that everything was going to be great.   They did not see what I already started to feel – there was a hum, a vibrancy, a destiny in this place, to be launched by an experience in alternate dining.

Anne, the bride-to-be, and I met as Peace Corps volunteers serving in the Republic of Macedonia from 2006-2008.   She was one of the youngest in our group, and I was one of the oldest.   Over the two years, we had developed an unlikely but deep respect and love for each other.   We never questioned what simply grew through mutual recognition and respect in unusual surroundings.  Improvisation and imagination are survival skills in the Peace Corps, and we worked and played together to support initiatives in community building.

As we approached Freddie’s grill station that day in July 2011,  I carried wonderful associations of Akron from a radiant childhood experience at Camp Christopher in Bath, Ohio.  That experience was my first awareness of a power far greater than myself, of a universal transformative spirit that rose from the love and binding power of our voices in the green hills of the Cuyahoga Valley.

Eric ushered us into the building, showing off the renovated space.  A special table had been set for our breakfast.  He introduced us to Tom Fuller, our guide for the morning, so Eric could engage in his necessary bridegroom-esque rituals.  Each plate from Freddie’s grille was beautifully prepared in a steady, slow beat – plate by plate.  It would be part of a rhythm that day, hearing already the steady soundscape of Akron – a familiar, rumbling frequency I recognized somewhere in the fluency of my language of space.  The divining rod of my own body indicated treasure in this soil in Akron.  I paid attention.

At one point on that hot morning, we drove up a long, tree-shaded driveway. We were told it was Duane and Lisa Crabbs’ house.  Tom said they had moved to the neighborhood of Summit Lake based on a calling to serve the inner city, and for the fifteen years since starting South Street Ministries, had raised their children and the organization from the house.  The home itself was impressive, a solid foursquare farmhouse.   We only stood in the driveway that day.

Aside from that initial unease when one first encounters what seems like a ‘bad area’, I was aware of a hum of energy coming through my feet.    The house was no different than the houses around it, aside from the truncated  basketball court immediately to the front of the house and the prominence atop a hill,  the highest point in the area.  There was the steady hum of the nearby freeway, the one that sliced through Akron, dividing it north south.   As I stood in that driveway, looking at that house, the voices of our group blurred and faded for a moment.  Something took hold of my soles, connecting me to the ground, as though my feet sprouted roots.

Where the veil between the known and unknown is lifted for a moment, we can get a brief look at the other side.  While we think of such places as somewhere in the wilderness – the desert, the woods – they can happen anywhere, these ‘thin places’.  They happen on boiling days in July, standing in a driveway of an old foursquare farmhouse on a hill on a mysterious morning of elliptical sightseeing in Akron.

This spiritual bookmark came in what was the middle of my otherwise engaged life in New York.  The voices of my companions came back into comprehension.  No one else in the group seemed affected.  So I just stayed quiet and got back in the car, reasonably assured that I was outwardly the same to everyone.

In less than nine months, I would return to Akron for the 15th anniversary celebration of South Street.  At the end of that second exposure to the ministry, meeting Duane and Lisa, I knew.   They had a building, I was an architect.  I knew.  I decided to move to Akron.  Together, we could bring that building, The Front Porch, to all it could be in the spirit of the mission of South Street.  I knew.

To become an unlikely partner in the work of South Street Ministries, click here. 

Terri Johnson

Terri Johnson first connected to South Street Ministries as a participant in Sunday worship at The Front Porch Café in 2013. There she found people from all sorts of backgrounds living as Jesus followers seven days a week. Having a heart for those who choose a life of ministry and sacrifice, she was led by the Holy Spirit to provide ministers with affordable housing. Terri opened a Christian community home three years ago in the Summit Lake neighborhood. The home is next to The Front Porch Fellowship church, the newly named congregation that migrated from the Café to Summit Lake (in the former Miller Avenue UCC building.)  Terri’s calling to support ministry leadership is also evident in her role as chairperson of the church’s board. As her roots deepened in the community, Terri moved from Hudson to a home in Akron in 2015. This blog is a part of the 20/20 Come and See series.

How did I get connected to South Street Ministries? I don’t remember the workshop title but the facilitator was Chap Clark, a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary. Sarah Emerick and I were at a youth ministry conference in Chicago.  I was a twenty year veteran of youth groups and Sunday School at a church in Hudson. Sarah was the Youth Director. Both of us were excited to escape to Chicago for a few days as we were frazzled with life’s challenges. We did not expect to have our view of the ministry turned upside down. Dr. Clark challenged our view of the church. Were we leading youth to sustain the church at its current state? Or, were we introducing the youth to the idea that the church should look like Jesus’ ministry?

At the end of the workshop Sarah asked Dr. Clark for contemporary author recommendations. He gave us three suggestions – Dallas Willard, Shane Claiborne, and I can’t remember the third. As I threw myself into Willard’s “Divine Conspiracy,” Sarah absorbed Claiborne’s “The Irresistible Revolution.”  And then we switched.  It was like putting on a pair of jeans that spent too much time in the dryer. Our time spent at our Protestant denomination church in an affluent town no longer fit.

A few months later, Sarah, the Youth Director of our church, called The Simple Way, the radical Christian community that grew from Shane Claiborne’s vision. She asked, “Is there anything going on in Cleveland or Akron like The Simple Way?” The woman on the phone responded with “Well, yes. We just had a group travel through Akron and they spent time with the folks at South Street Ministries.” That phone call led to an internet search, an address, and a few cautious drive bys. The address was Duane and Lisa Crabb’s house on South Street. I wasn’t going to pull into the driveway. It is is set back from the street a ways, and there is a daunting hill. It did not match my narrow view of a ministry.  But after a closer look at the website, I found the Front Porch Café. I was still just driving by at this point.

All this time Sarah continued to be employed, though the scope of her ministry expanded to family ministries and education. Jumping ship wasn’t an option for Sarah at this point. But the Holy Spirit was working on me. It was a Tuesday in the spring of 2013 that I felt a tap on my shoulder, and the whisper that said, “Go.” So I left my comfortable office in Richfield, drove to Akron, and walked into the Front Porch Café.

“Why are you here?” asked the chef behind the counter. Did my outfit that screamed “I work at an insurance company” tip him off that I wasn’t there to buy a sandwich? I explained that I was here because of a suggestion from The Simple Way. He pointed to a table by the office and said “Talk to Joe.”

Joe Tucker was gracious but cautious about my intentions in getting involved. He explained the ministry and invited me to explore incarnational concepts.  Joe started with the hard part. He told me that Jesus lived among the people, and that South Street believes doing life with those whom we serve includes living in the community. He told me the history of Crabbs’ family in the neighborhood, and about the national movement called the Christian Community Development Association. Best of all, he never assumed that I was a potential donor from Hudson.  He spoke to my soul.

Going to the first few Sunday services at The Front Porch was even less comfortable than my first few drives around the neighborhood.  But I was touched by the authenticity of the people I met.  When you ask someone “How are you?,” my previous church’s standard answers were “Good,” “Fine,” and “Another day in paradise.”  Ask someone at South Street Ministries or the Front Porch Fellowship, and you might hear “Fantastic, I am 87 days sober,” or “The devil is really working on me these days,” or “I am afraid for my daughter.”

This ministry was and is the closest thing to Biblical truth I have ever witnessed. Name a parable and there is a South Street story that confirms its teaching. The Sower–talk to the re-entry folks whose work is bearing fruit in the community because of good soil. The Woman at the Well–when the Word is offered to everyone no matter their origin or their deeds, people are set free from bondage. The Field–listen to the stories of people who have found the treasure hidden in the city of Akron and in their joy are ‘all in’ for Jesus.

What is my advice to someone who is considering stepping into South Street’s world? Come and see. Sure it is uncomfortable at the onset. It was for me. But that feeling disappears quickly as your eyes open up to the people around you.  And then you realize that the Kingdom of God is right here.

“I had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor…I truly believe that when the rich meet the poor, riches will have no meaning. And when the rich meet the poor, we will see poverty come to an end.” 
― Shane Claiborne, ‘The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical’


To become an unlikely partner in the work of South Street Ministries, click here. 


Zachary Arnold

Zachary Arnold is currently a resident of Husdon, Ohio. He says that service has always been an important thing in his life, and that it is something that his parents instilled in him as a valuable investment–the importance of investing in others. Zach says the Lord has truly blessed him and has given him great tools and support to succeed in his life. He is starting school at Baldwin Wallace this summer to study towards becoming a Physician’s Assistant. Zach hopes to use the medical education he’ll gain to help serve others in a more specific manner. This blog is a part of the 20/20 Come and See series.

I got connected with South Street Ministries through my church, Christ Community Chapel, in Hudson. I had been meeting with my Bible study group for some time, and God began to put on my heart the need for us as a Bible study group to serve. At that time, it was all about “we” or “you” needed to do something, and not necessarily that “I” needed to do something. When I was talking with my group about the need for us to serve, I could tell they were not nearly as conflicted about this as I. I think God works on people’s hearts individually, and slowly came to understand that though it may not have been the time for others to step into this conviction, for me, it was. So one day I walked into CCC of Hudson to discuss with someone what service opportunities were available around the Akron area. South Street Ministries really stuck out to me. I saw an opportunity to step in as an “unlikely partner” and step out of my comfort zone to be open to what God has planned in my life. I got a group together to head down to Bike Shop to meet Joe and Duane, and to help with some things around the shop. It was a great meeting, learning about South Street’s goals and values. It was something that I wanted to be a part of! I saw a group of people who really cared, and who were really in it for the cause–winning others for Christ.

I didn’t know where to plug in, but then I heard about the Summer Camp and AfterSchool. As one who values the next generation, I thought it would be a good opportunity to me to develop relationships with the kids and be a mentor in their lives. I entered into a completely new environment with nobody that I knew, and I had no idea what to expect. I was quickly embraced by the staff, other volunteers, and most importantly the kids. These kids really are something special, and I did not expect to be impacted by them like I was. I went into this experience thinking “What can I do for them?” or “What do they need from me?” and, as it turns out, I think the experience had a greater impact on me! It became the time of my week that I really looked forward to. I could feel God’s love when I was at South Street, and was given some sort of inner peace when I volunteered there. It was really cool to see growth both in the children, and in myself. The Summer Camp ended just as quickly as it started, and I wanted more. So I committed myself for the AfterSchool program too. It was great seeing the same faces and new ones, growing closer to Christ alongside them.

Volunteering was a very impactful experience for me. Living in a place like Hudson, it has been easy to seemingly remain in a bubble and not notice the communities around me. Just right around almost every corner, there are people that Christ died for that need support. I am grateful that God opened my eyes to this, and that I was able to lend a helping hand…and learn so much about living out Christianity in the process. It gave me the drive to serve throughout the rest of my life, and not to just sit back and be comfortable. There is so much to gain by stepping out of your comfort zone to serve in the name of Jesus. Through this experience, God has helped me realize that we all need help in one way or another. One thing for sure, we all need a Savior. In addition, we all have earthly needs that vary from person to person. As Christians, we need to come alongside each other as a support system, and South Street Ministries is a great way to get involved in eternally impactful service.

I think South Street “does Christianity” the way God desires with “unlikely partners” coming together as brothers and sisters in Christ–not distinguishing themselves as unlike one another, but as one. There is a non-judgement towards others’ backgrounds and upbringings, and a recognition that everyone needs Christ; we all have different perspectives in life and we are given our lives by God, for His purposes. I’m thankful that for a season, God felt it right to have my convictions lead me to partner in service–for His purposes.


To become an unlikely partner in the work of South Street Ministries, click here. 

Nancy Adams

Nancy Adams is grandmother to Joe Tucker, Executive Director of South Street Ministries.  She says she is a minor South Street Ministries donor, and states that 80+ years is an unlikely partner, but, nevertheless, is thrilled to be a small part of this ministry. She loves life and laboring for the Lord, having been a church secretary and pianist for over 20 years. Nancy now enjoys watching each Sunday her two favorite local Sunday morning worship services from Grace Church Bath Campus and The Chapel in Akron on her computer via Livestream (which she loves), hearing the Gospel and singing along with them.  She makes a joyful noise unto the Lord right there in her home! In the following blog she will share with you how and why South Street Ministries means so much to her today. This blog is a part of the 20/20 Come and See series.

This will be a rather long story as I’m in my early 80’s and have a long story to tell.  My name is Nancy Waybright Adams and I have a deep love for and devotion to South Akron, including Firestone Park and Kenmore.  To begin the story, my parents moved from Virginia in the early 1920’s with my baby brother so Dad could work at Firestone and live in Firestone Park.  They rented a duplex that just happens to be only two houses down from where their great grandson, Joe Tucker, along with his wife Susan and their two children, live today.  During the Depression, my parents bought a home in the Allenside neighborhood of Kenmore where I was born.  Many years later, my mother, who in Virginia had been a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse, began substitute teaching only in the Kenmore and Firestone Park grade schools.

The saga of my family connections to Firestone Park continues long after living in Kenmore.  My parents bought a rental duplex property on Archwood Ave in the Park. That home saw a lot of my family living in it.  My husband and I moved into it in the late 50’s/early 60’s where two of our three children were born.  My parents had intended to ultimately sell in Kenmore and move into the downstairs apartment of their Archwood home, and rent out the upstairs apartment to have freedom to travel in retirement.  Sadly, that dream never came to pass, as my father died in 1964 at age 64 after working 42 years in management at Firestone at the Plant Two Tube Room.  It was one year short of his retirement age.

In 1967, Mother sold her home in Kenmore and moved into Archwood, as my husband and I had bought our own home by then.  Mother lived there until her death in 1983 at the age of 86.  I inherited the property and rented it out for 10 years–some of those years to my daughter Jodi Adams Tucker, husband Pete, and their three young children, of which the oldest was Joe Tucker, my first grandchild. As you can read, Kenmore and Firestone Park are definitely in our familial veins.  

It is ironic to me that today Kenmore High and Garfield High are now combined. I went to Kenmore High graduating in 1953, and attended Goss Memorial Church in Kenmore where I met many friends from the South Street area, and the old Margaret Park Grade School that I still keep in contact with to this day.  Sad to say, I didn’t keep up with those areas that much until in the early 2000’s when my grandson Joe Tucker, with his Boy Scout Troop, volunteered and helped out at South Street Ministries.

I don’t know if you ever heard this story about my grandson, Joe Tucker.  When he was around 5 years old, he knew he had accepted the Lord as his Savior and wanted to be baptized at Fairlawn Grace Brethren Church where his family attended then.  As a tot growing up, he had a passion for dinosaurs and had decided he wanted to a paleontologist when he grew up.  I don’t exactly remember the question asked by the pastor baptizing him, but his reply was ‘I want to be a preacher’.  My first thought was a God-fearing preacher paleontologist.  YES…Amen!!  My second thought…I looked at my daughter and said, ‘It appears Lois and Eunice have their work cut out for them again’ (See II Timothy 1:5).  Joe, to my knowledge, didn’t waver from that call he seemed to have heard/received those many years ago.  Praise God!  My favorite times were holding Joe and singing with him “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Any wonder he’s still so precious to me along with his dear wife, Dr. Susan Tucker, and their two sons, my great-grandchildren.

Joe has opened my eyes and heart to the needs of inner-city Akron, including Firestone Park and Kenmore, all close to my family, and how South Street Ministries are helping to meet those needs today.  At South Street Ministries, Joe says they are being met by neighbors, interns, patrons, donors, board members, customers at the Front Porch Cafe, all being unlikely partners who bear witness to the heart of Christ. At my age and with some health issues, I must be content with being a donor financially and prayerfully standing beside the whole team at South Street Ministries.

I can’t say enough about Duane and Lisa Crabbs and their wonderful family.  I have never been inside their home, but I have seen Duane’s extensive library.  On my!!  Here’s an interesting story about their home. When I was a member of The Chapel, I was part of the Touching Lives For Christ Sunday School class.  One Sunday I was talking to the whole class about South Street Ministries. I don’t remember if Joe was the Executive Director yet. After class a lady came up to me and said, “Nancy, you know that house Duane and Lisa live in now? I was raised in that home on South Street.”  WOW!  Small world!  Just this past summer that same Sunday School class volunteered at South Street.  They did envelopes for newsletters and helped out at the Bike Shop and the lady who grew up in that house was a part of that group.

Over the years I have thoroughly enjoyed and saved all of the many Akron Beacon Journal articles about South Street Ministries.  Sorry to say I accidentally threw them out with some other old saved newspapers, as I’m preparing to leave my home in Bath Township after living for and loving my family here for 53 years.  I always look up in the ABJ their articles on philanthropic donation recipients and hope to find South Street Ministries among them.  Happily, I often do, and sadly, sometimes I don’t, but realize they must be shared around. I am presently a member of Grace Church Bath Campus and was thrilled when I learned that Grace Church serves and supports South Street Ministries as one of their outreach ministries into inner-city Akron.

What the staff at South Street have done with The Front Porch Café is just wonderful!  I’ve seen it from its beginning and they have greatly upgraded and enhanced it.  I started going to dine there after my husband Paul died in 2009.  I do remember well Thomas Jones, Executive Chef.  He would always say to me, “Hello Joe’s grandma.  We don’t see you often enough in here.”  God rest his sweet soul in his passing, and may God continue to bless South Street Ministries.  I went to the dedication of The Front Porch building at the 20/20 event last May.  It was amazing to be there, as the only other time I had seen the upstairs area was when it was nothing but studs.  I couldn’t believe what God and all His workmen had accomplished.  He provided the people, and the means monetarily and construction wise.  I was in total awe!  The furniture throughout is so beautifully appointed.  The beautiful Sun Room with windows everywhere.  The Faithful Servants Clinic in the lower floor back room, which I am thrilled about!  My granddaughter-in-law, Dr. Susan Tucker, is on Faithful Servants staff in that beautiful facility.

I am blessed and humbled to be a small part of South Street Ministries and their outreach. God has truly blessed its mission beyond all measure.  We thank Him, praise Him, and give Him the glory.

Now you know the many reasons why the many missions of South Street Ministries are precious to me today.


To become an unlikely partner in the work of South Street Ministries, click here. 


Yvonne Chappell

Yvonne Chappell got connected to South Street Ministries through the Youth Employment for Success program, a program of Jobs and Family Services designed to provide opportunities for youth to learn employment skills over the summer. Yvonne was one of our YES workers this past summer at the Front Porch Café and Summer Camp. She journeyed alongside us through a hard summer season, and was consistent in showing up and bringing her full self everywhere she went. After the summer, she was hired on staff at the Front Porch Café. Yvonne is currently attending Case Western University studying Psychology and Communication Science, with the hopes of becoming a child counselor. This blog is a part of 20/20 Come and See series. 

My summer at South Street Ministries has been full of opportunities, and new adventures. When I first began I was acutely aware of the many things South Street Ministries had to offer, from a Café to a Summer Camp. I’d heard the names of the different programs, wondering what they each looked like up close. I started at the Café where I washed dishes for most of the time; I was okay with this because I happen to enjoy washing dishes. The first week on the job was a waiting period before the Summer Camp program began and I wasn’t expected to return to working at the Front Porch. Through Summer Camp I got to experience the garden program, (honestly speaking, not my favorite thing in the world), but I will say that I love the initiative of teaching the kids about where their food comes from. An overall thing that I have witnessed in the entirety of South Street Ministries is the people and how they interact with the community around them.

There may be a bunch of programs under South Street Ministries, but one constant throughout is the group of people who give their hearts and time. At the Café you have Gary, a behind the scenes kind of guy, who keeps you laughing and on your feet. You also have Joe, the boss man, who is always in a meeting of some sort getting things done for the whole of South Street. And Jacqueline, or Jackie as I’ve come to call her, who graciously took me under her wing and taught me the ins and out of the Café; she is also over the garden program. Lastly there is Erin and Toni, two of the most down-to-earth women I have ever met, who continue to have my back no matter what. Gary, Joe, Jackie, Erin and Toni are The Front Porch–no matter who walks in the doors, everyone gets a “Hello” and a “How are you?” Most of all they embrace each other and lean on one another for support through loss, planning, and everyday life.

The Summer Camp program introduced me to the rest of the staff of South Street Ministries. There was Bobby, the biggest teddy bear ever, who all of the kids know and love. There was David, newer to the program, but just as important–running Summer Camp and Bike Shop with Bobby. There was Amber, the creative mind who comes up with super fun crafts. She is also an encouragement to the kids for them to express themselves through art. That there was the many volunteers that came on a daily basis.

While working at South Street Ministries I have seen many genuine acts of kindness. Anyone who walks into the Café can use the bathroom without buying anything–a small blessing with huge benefits for those who need it. For patrons who are less fortunate, Gary is always ready and willing to give a free meal no matter the cost. Also, within the community of the Café some people come in on a regular basis and they, too, will extend their time and money for anyone. For example, Don Drumm. who is a regular, comes in almost everyday, took time out to come back to the Café and install ticket racks in the kitchen for Gary (who by the way didn’t ask for this nor was he expecting it.)

This summer I had the great opportunity of finding some of my voice through helping the kids and working in the Café. When I first began this summer, everywhere I went I was slow to talk to anyone I was unfamiliar with. Throughout the summer, I began coming out of my “comfort zone” as I worked in the Café and had to greet customers and serve them. I began openly starting conversations and learning about people. When I worked at Bike Shop, I would talk to the volunteers that came through. After this summer I feel ready to jump into the social world at school and be comfortable in new conversations.

This summer was amazing for me. I learned how to make three different types of salad, sauté onions and peppers, and I even swaddled silverware! I wouldn’t change a thing from this summer, because through these various programs at South Street, I made new friends that have become like family. I wouldn’t change them for anything.


To become an unlikely partner in the work of South Street Ministries, click here.