Willoughby Rotary Club honors McKinley Community Outreach Center
By Amy Popik, The News-Herald POSTED: 01/07/15, 4:21 PM EST
Being recognized by the community is an honor, but the McKinley Community Outreach Center in Willoughby is all about helping others.
“It’s very nice, but it’s not what we are all about,” said Sue Penika, coordinator of the center.
“We are about serving people. It doesn’t matter if the whole world knows about us or if it is just the people who need it know about it, what matters is that we are here to serve people and help people who are really in need. The awards are great, but for me I would rather just be here doing the work.” The center recently was named the 2014 Distinguished Civic Organization by the Willoughby Rotary Club.
With the support of the Revs. Mike Currier and Don Perks, pastors at of Body of Christ Church in Willoughby and Willoughby United Methodist Church, respectively, along with the Rev. Eric Leissa, associate pastor at the Body of Christ Church, who all serve on the board of directors as well as offer spiritual guidance, the center focuses on helping those in Western Lake County in need and serving them with dignity.
“We appreciate this award because it draws attention to the ministry, but if this award means anything, it recognizes that when people of good will and good faith come together ... good things can really happen,” Currier said.
The faith-based outreach center at 1200 Lost Nation Road, which was formerly McKinley Elementary School, opened in June 2013 and has support from hundreds of people from the surrounding communities, as well as churches, organizations, businesses and local governments.
Five groups of people are primarily served at the center: the unemployed, underemployed, elderly, veterans and the disabled. The center also focuses on Western Lake County because it is an area that is underserved, Currier said.
Several rooms in the building are full with essentials, such as clothing for men, women and children of all ages, shoes, coats, furniture, linens, housewares and personal hygiene products.
There is also a food pantry that guests to the center can use as well.
The center offers other service for the community, including a place for students to study for the General Educational Development (GED) test; Ohio Guidestone Workforce 360 program, a program that works with 16- to 22-year-olds to offer life skills, personal improvements and work readiness training; and general health checks, such as blood pressure and glucose levels.
“We are working to get more services in the building,” Penicka said. “That’s one part we would like to expand. It requires money and manpower, and both those things go hand in hand. We are trying to get grants and other funding to address the needs of the people.”
Currier said the center will be pursuing more programs in the future to “help people help themselves” and “expand the level of support for the people we serve.”
Right now, the center is funded completely through private donations, and every dollar, donation and time given to the center is going to help someone in need.
“It’s a miracle,” Penicka said. “We started with $50,000 in June 2013, thinking that would last us six months, and we are still here.”
For the upcoming year, Currier said they plan to have an adopt-a-family program as well as the Mayor Anderson Open golf tournament, which supports the outreach center and iPads for Autism program in June, to raise funds.
For more information on the McKinley Community Outreach Center and ways to donate, visitwilloughbyumc.com/mckinley.
Willoughby Rotary Club also has named Willoughby Hills resident Dale H. Fellows as the 2014 Distinguished Citizen.
“Fellows is a person who cares very much about his community and makes an art form of balancing an extremely busy schedule that includes deep involvement with family, business, political party leadership, his church and numerous civic activities,” according to information from the Rotary Club.
Both award winners will be honored at a luncheon on Jan. 26 at Pine Ridge Country Club in Wickliffe.