Joe Tucker

A native of Akron, Joe Tucker grew up in Firestone Park and is a 2003 graduate of Garfield High School. After High School, he went on to receive his Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Mathematics from the University of Akron in 2008.  Joe spent one year in Philadelphia, PA working with Mission Year.  In 2009, he returned to Akron and began with South Street Ministries as a volunteer with the youth programs.  Joe currently serves as Executive Director of South Street Ministries, and he, his wife, and two sons live in South Akron.  Joe is an avid X-men fan, Akron enthusiast, and committed Christ-follower. This blog is the last in the 20/20 Come and See series. 

 

I am never bored at South Street Ministries.  2017 has elicited a wide range of emotions from loss, betrayal, and uncertainty, to joy, hope, and love — but never boredom.  One of the reasons that I am never bored is that I have a front row seat into God’s transformational work in the lives of so many women and men that come through the ministry — from college interns learning about poverty, to 5th graders stepping into 6th grade, to the life-long drunk celebrating 9 months sober.

I want to tell one such front row seat story about seeing God’s transformational work through the building of The Front Porch. 

The renovation of The Front Porch has been a seven year project. We started and stopped a few times over as we had the funds/capacity to see the space transformed. Now The Front Porch has a fully-functional kitchen, a suite of second floor offices, and a multi-purpose health room that hosts Faithful Servants Urgent Care Center twice a week.

But that has not always been the case.

I always love when those who had seen the building in its old state tour through once again. They cite their memories of debris and deconstruction then marvel at what has been done, what God has done through God’s people. One such group of people was a CLC (Christian Leadership Concepts) group from Hudson, who first came to The Front Porch in 2012. 

This group was completing their 2-year curriculum for the CLC and was challenged from that study to find a local place to serve. Not knowing where to start, they asked Christ Community Chapel leadership and were soon connected to Duane Crabbs.  Duane was invited to their group to share, and he did, telling stories of bars and bikers, drug-dealers and discipleship, and his own testimony and trials.

He didn’t give them a clear service project, but challenged this group to visit The Front Porch and get involved. So the group came to visit. Eric Harmon and I met with them to tell them about the scope of work that still remained to be done in the building, and they committed to walking with us through it.

Terry helped develop a plan for moving forward. Jim and Rick advocated for further support from their home church of Christ Community Chapel. The group brought in other talented individuals to see The Front Porch project through. Doug helped with web-design, and George committed to serve as the General Contractor for the project! This group of Hudson church-goers and South Street staff met monthly to pray and push things forward. In time we received the needed support to renovate the Café, provide a new roof for the clinic space, and eventually complete the second floor!

This is the story about a group of church-goers from Hudson looking to apply some meat to the bones of their faith. And in the service they provided, they impacted the trajectory of The Front Porch project and God’s Kingdom work here!

I share this story to highlight how partnerships work. Oftentimes the needs at South Street aren’t addressed by one-time service. It takes commitment and presence to see transformation take place. It also takes sacrifice and support.

When I consider and pray over the many men and women who support South Street Ministries, I call that group the ‘unlikely partners.’ It is the many moving pieces and people who come together to make a ministry possible.  As 2017 closes, I invite you to join that unlikely partnership.

Serve with After School or Open Gym.  Support financially.  Pray regularly. Like the small group that helped with The Front Porch, find some facet of South Street to plug into where you can see God’s Kingdom advance through God’s people!

As we reflect on 20 years of presence and ministry in Summit Lake, we honor Duane and Lisa and their family. We also recognize the hundreds of others that make South Street Ministries what it is today.  In whatever way you support, thank you for being our partner. Thank you for risking with us to see a community renewed for the sake of Christ.

 

To make an end-of-year donation towards the work of South Street Ministries, click here. 

Hannah Simionides

Hannah Simionides is a licensed social worker in the Akron community. Daughter of Duane and Lisa Crabbs, her passion for urban non-profit and inner-city ministry developed at a young age. She completed her undergraduate degree at Malone University, and her masters degree at the University of Akron in 2016.  Currently, Hannah is employed at Summit County Juvenile Court and helps coordinate a program for youth who live in Summit County and have been sex trafficked or are at high risk to be trafficked. Working with people on the margins has taken Hannah all over the world, and one of her favorite places to live and serve is Eastern Europe. Hannah is married to Peter Simionides, and together they live in Akron’s International District- North Hill. They both have a passion for engaging other ethnicities and diverse cultural backgrounds- as this is how they see Jesus’ image most clearly on display. This blog is a part of the 20/20 Come and See series. 

 

My partnership with South Street Ministries stems more from biology rather than choice. I may have a fancy Greek last name now, but I am certain Duane and Lisa pulse through my veins. Of course, I never had a choice to be born a Crabbs child either. None of us get the privilege of picking where we are born and to whom. Despite the seemingly lack of choice, I deeply honor and value the ways my parents thoughtfully invited us children into the story. After all- the Gospel is an invitation, not a forced mold, structure, or agenda to be pushed forward. From day one my parents allowed for us to choose in or choose out of the mission. What a gift it has been- both the choosing and the saying yes!

I can speak for all my siblings when I say that growing up in Summit Lake was unique. It was less of an “experience” and much more of life just happening. Racial and economic diversity was not something we simply witnessed, but it became woven into everyday life. The joy and the sorrow that unfolded within the community was not distant, but rather uncomfortably close. Creating my identity in our neighborhood was both natural and intimidating as I tried to make friends in homes that looked much different than mine. Running a ministry out of your home meant that sacred space is hard to come by. It means this: multiple people having a key to our front door, a yard full of young children, a constant meeting in the kitchen, my dad’s office in the dining room, church in our living room, and the occasional person in recovery in our guest room. Sharing physical space was easy in comparison to sharing the emotional and spiritually attention of my parents with so many in need.

The best part of all, is that my parents did not live on mission apart from us children. As a family, as one unit, we were often present in the dark and light moments. Part of South Street’s mission statement is “taking shared risks.” My parents did just that while raising us children. There are specific memories I hold in which life was not safe or easy. It was risky both spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally. These risks were shared together as a family, and because of that I saw the depth and richness of life with Jesus. This is the abundant and full life scripture talks about! I often think about the way C.S. Lewis wrote regarding Aslan. “Is he safe? Oh, course he’s not safe. But he is good.”  I wholeheartedly believe I would not be the Christ follower I am today without the decisions my parents made for me as a child, and the good work of South Street Ministries. I think many Christians abuse the idea related to being in the world, but not of the world. They use it as an excuse to isolate themselves from broken and hurting places. This was not my growing up experience. I saw the gospel in action every single day, in both word and deed.

It is really hard for me to comprehend all that South Street Ministries is now. For so long, it was two committed people wearing twenty hats. Just as my parents invited us children into the mission, they invited so many more “unlikely partners.” I am blown away from how incredibly designed the website is, or the fact there is even a blog that people read. South Street Ministries could now fully function if Duane and Lisa stepped away. What a testimony to the work of making disciples!

For the last 7 years or so I have not been involved in the regular rhythms of life in South Akron. It is a shock to my system to step back in. This many people care about Summit Lake? Another person bought a house here? That person is employed here? Recently, I attended an event in Summit Lake that was hosted at the Pump House. It was a beautiful, creative, and inspiring art event in which adult professionals collaborated with young people in the community. Although this particular event had nothing to do with South Street Ministries, I couldn’t help but to stop and wonder if we would all be here celebrating these successes without the prior decades of daily obedience from Duane and Lisa Crabbs. What joy it brings my soul to see the numerous amounts of people that commit to life in South Akron. What pride and honor I have in my heart for the two people I get to call mom and dad. My parents will be the first people to step out of the limelight, and highlight the courageous work of others in the community.  But for now, we pause, and thank God that the Gospel narrative came alive through their lives and Jesus used them in bringing the Kingdom to our little corner of the earth.

 

 

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

Ruth Webb

Ruth Webb is a resident of the Summit Lake community. She first got connected to South Street Ministries through Girls on the Run when the group came to Front Porch Fellowship after their 5k. A year after, she joined Girls Studio during the program’s collaboration with Gum-Dip Theatre. Ruth is currently in the 9th grade, and is passionate about friends, family, food, and helping others. After she graduates, she plans to pursue a career in nursing. This blog is a part of the 20/20 Come and See series. 

I got connected to Girls Studio by a close friend in my community. Girls Studio grabbed my attention because when I first walked into a session, everyone looked like they were having so much fun. They were doing crafts, laughing, playing music, etc. I really wanted to join, so the next year, I was a part of it. The last few terms in Girls Studio, we learned about theater and how to be a good performer on stage. I’ve been a part of Girls Studio for about two years now. Girls Studio has impacted me in many ways. Being in Girls Studio has made me feel like I belong. The people there also make me feel comfortable because we are all open with each other.

Girls Studio has made me feel like I can be myself because the people there are easy to be comfortable around and never judge people for who they are. One time we did an exercise similar to Simon Says and we were acting like ourselves (crazy) and we felt comfortable around each other. We aren’t afraid to show our true colors and be ourselves. It has also made it easier for me to talk to other people.

 Girls Studio has built my confidence because whenever I’m nervous, someone is always there to tell me that it’s okay, whether it’s an adult or peer. One day we had to go on stage and speak. I really didn’t want to, but my peers encouraged me to. After a couple of tries, I conquered it. We have also done some confidence building activities. One of them involved giving each other compliments. That activity helped me along with my peers.

Being in Girls Studio has helped me get over stage fright because when we are getting ready for performances, the girls there are always super encouraging, and we make each other feel like there is nothing to be afraid of. I remember standing on stage about to perform. I had been screaming all day because of my Cedar Point trip from earlier. Of course, I had lost my voice from that. Right after I got back, the performance was about to start and I was freaking out. Before I went on stage, I heard my peers cheering me on and helping me warm up. I messed up a little, but I had confidence and didn’t worry too much about it. At the end, I got so much applause.

Those were some of my experiences of Girls Studio. It has really impacted my life. Without Girls Studio, I probably wouldn’t be as confident as I am today. It is a tremendous program, and I have no words to explain the love I have for the people there.

 

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

Eric Harmon

Eric Harmon has worked at South Street Ministries since 2010 as the Project Manager for The Front Porch.  During his time at South Street Ministries, Eric also co-led the Barnabas Jobs Ministry with Toni Jones, and the Reentry Network with Donovan Harris.  He now works as a prison chaplain in Mansfield, Ohio. He and his wife Anne have two beautiful daughters–Evelyn and Alice. This blog is a part of the 20/20 Come and See series. 

 

When I was asked to write an article on my time at South Street Ministries over the last eight years, I thought “No problem, I’ll get that done right away!”  Well about three months later, I have finally sat down to write.  It is not that writing is a drag for me, but attempting to encapsulate what I have seen God do in the last eight years at South Street is not straight forward–it has not been simple.  

My time at South Street has been an all encompassing experience of life, faith, death, new birth, learning, and joy.  My only regret is that I did not record more of what I experienced, not for my own personal recollection, but only to share with others what I have seen God do.  To share with others what it is like when God sends his rain on both the just and the unjust–like the time when actual rain was destroying The Front Porch before the roof was finished, and I had no choice but to release its fate into God’s hands. But how could I put to words the process where my heart was broken and reformed so many times by the men that walked through our doors, so that even with the sadness of each failure, my heart still anticipated the love for and success for the next guy? This article is my attempt at sharing just a small artifact that records my witness to just how good God was over the last eight years.

Less than two weeks out of prison back in 2010, I sat in the same seat that Joe Tucker often occupies when you see him working in the Café.  South Street Ministries had yet to possess the building, but in that room were many of the people who would speak into and form my life over the next eight years.  In my attempt to “be about the right thing,” my Grandma reconnected me with Matt Simpson who “was about the right thing,” and he quickly welcomed me into his world and the community at South Street.  The first time I met Duane Crabbs I thought “Boy, this guy drives like a nut.” But he had the smell of Jesus about him, a familiar fragrance I had first gotten a wiff of during my stay in an Oklahoma prison.  Soon to follow were: Lisa Crabbs (who I thought had a refreshing sense of humor,) Toni Jones (we quit smoking together),  Ben and Adam Flossie (they became my quick friends), and Bobby Irwin (who was and still is the guy most like Jesus I have ever known).  While rehabbing the Batchel house with Matt Simpson, I met Anne Schillig.  I thought she was so awesome that I had to ask her out right away before the other guys figured it out!  She is now my wife.  God is good.

I quit my job and accepted an offer from Duane Crabbs to work as the Project Manager for the rehab of the Front Porch Café.  It was certainly a Holy Spirit moment and the Holy Spirit had found someone ignorant enough of construction and passionate enough to ignore the reality of just what bad shape the building was really in.  We would have it done in a year!  Seven years later we all said “It is finished.” Meanwhile, Nehemiah was shaking his head.  Within these years we opened the doors to the Café downstairs, created a jobs program for guys coming home from prison, and my two daughters, Alice and Evelyn, were born.  All the while, Sunday services were full of “The Presence of the Lord.”  During all of this I went to theological school, was ordained, and called to prison ministry “within the walls.”  Now that I have written just some of the events and people the last eight years, I realize just how full those years were.  God is good.

My last few weeks at South Street were so bittersweet as we said goodbye to our good friend Thomas Jones and I accepted a Job as a prison chaplain at Mansfield correctional for the state of Ohio.  As I told many people as I left, “I am going but I am not gone,” I still try to have a sandwich at the Front Porch Café on my days off.  While my new job is a great fit for my calling, nothing could have prepared me more than eight years at South Street Ministries loving some good people in some hard places.  God is good. 

 

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

Bob Pacanovsky

Bob Pacanovsky is an entrepreneur and was in the hospitality industry for over twenty years.  He now uses that experience to assist the Front Porch Café in a volunteer role with food and service related opportunities.  He relishes these opportunities to help the Front Porch Café grow and prosper.  When Bob is not assisting them, he is a full time Keynote and Conference Speaker who speaks on The Black Tie Experience- how to use the power of Hospitality to make lasting impressions. This blog is a part of the 20/20 Come and See series, and a special honor to the life and legacy of Thomas Jones .

I vividly remember the meeting that I had with Thomas early in the fall of 2016–I knew that he was getting “it”.  What was “it”?  It was the business part of the food service/hospitality business.  As I had continually mentioned to him (and the rest of the team at the Front Porch Café), when you give good food and service on a consistent basis, people were not only going to return, but also ask you the question–“Do you cater?”

But, with that answer came challenges.  What would you charge, what would you offer?  How many people would you cater for?  And so on. But for the first part of 2016, as the calls were starting to come in more to the Front Porch Café to cater lunches and other events, the pricing and menus weren’t there yet.  But the staff team was working hard to make sure these items were good to go, and the guy that was leading that charge (and learning the most), was Thomas.  I knew that by the end of 2016, everything would be ready to move forward with the catering aspect for the Front Porch Café.

About two weeks after that call, I received a call from Duane.  It stopped me in my tracks.  “Thomas is in the hospital and he has cancer.  And it is Stage 4.”  I can’t even remember what I said in response, but I started praying for him.  And I started thinking back on the friendship that two guys, from two separate worlds, formed over the last few years because of The Front Porch and South Street Ministries.

* *  *

Looking back, I met Thomas when I owned my catering and event business in Akron.  But I met him through The Front Porch.  I learned of The Front Porch and South Street Ministries through my nephew and his family a few years before that.

South Street was starting up for the Front Porch Café for the second time in 2013, and I volunteered my services to help them get the restaurant off the ground.  I met Thomas as he was volunteering for them as a cook. He was pretty shy and quiet, but I also knew that he had kitchen experience.  I needed part time staff for my business, so I asked him if he would like a job with my company as well.  What I saw was that he was a hard worker, and he wanted to learn more about food service.

That hard work and willingness paid off as he became the person in charge of the Front Porch Café just a year or so later.  At that time, I had just sold my company and told him that I would be happy to work with him and help him as he took on this new role.  My strengths have always been in customer service, as well as systems and operations, and we worked together on improving both of these for the Front Porch Café. He absorbed everything like a sponge, and while it took some time, we could both see that both the restaurant and the catering were growing.

More importantly, I found a friend that I never would have expected.  And I think I learned just as much from him about resiliency, trust, and faith as he learned about the business aspect of food service from me. 

* *  *

I kept hoping and praying for the best after I heard his diagnosis, and he kept fighting too. He always wanted to talk about how to improve the Front Porch Café when we met during this time, and he was still learning and listening to my advice, observations, and knowledge.  As I look back, he was really a true servant leader, although I don’t know if he realized that or not.  He had the respect from his coworkers and was always there to encourage them.  And he would lead by example.

I believe that he was the driving force in getting the Front Porch Café back off the ground.  I believe that the Café is poised for more success because of the foundation that he laid.  He is there watching over all of them and myself as well.  I think about him often, and I thank God for the time that I got to spend with him being a mentor, teacher, and most importantly a friend to him.  I received that in return and much more from Thomas.

Thomas left a legacy at the Front Porch and he made a difference in the lives of many different people by simply providing a quality meal with a friendly smile.  But he did much more than that.  He was that quiet servant leader, which is missing in some organizations today.  Most importantly to me…he was my friend.

 

 

 

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