Groups come together to keep our communities safe

A handful of organizations with a mission to help the underserved and disadvantaged came together on March 11 to host a unique evening of assistance in downtown Lorain.

Free food was available, as were testing for COVID-19 and HIV, according to event organizer Alisha Gatlin, founder and executive director of Cleveland-based Love In Action Ohio. Gatlin partnered with Lorain-based God’s Kngdom to host the event, officially dubbed Keep Our Communities Safe, in the basement of 423 Washington Ave.

“I feel like this county is more underserved than any county in the region,” Gatlin said. “We’re trying to start focusing our efforts in this area to bring resources like you see here today and more stuff to the community so people can get what they need,” Gatlin said.

The event had a festive air. Gospel music blared through the room. Representatives from organizations such as the Lorain Community Action Agency and Let’s Get Real, Inc, a nonprofit drug addiction recovery organization, sat at small tables where they were able to meet attendees.

Gatlin remained on her feet throughout the event, moving from table to table meeting and greeting partner organizations while mingling with attendees. She was sometimes followed by a man holding a camera which recorded the interviews.

Gatlin said her ability to listen to underserved people helped strengthen her organization.

“My heart is in this,” Gatlin said. “I’m basic. I am practical. I like to shake hands. I like talking to people. Why? Because then when I come back to the table and we discuss our next event, it will be different from what we heard about this one. So I’m coming back to Lorain County,” Gatlin said.

Lovin In Action teams up with more than 200 community partners, Gatlin explained. This allows her to offer everything from help with renting to enrolling in the SNAP program to finding a job or vocational training.

“We have so many resources to help these people,” Gatlin said.

The Gatlin organization has devoted its energies to getting people living in urban and underserved communities tested and vaccinated to fight COVID-19 during the pandemic, she said.

That’s part of why Skye Griggs, CEO of Lizzie’s House, a home health care agency, ended up partnering with Gatlin.

Griggs offered free COVID-19 testing along with free face masks and other PPE at the March 11 event.

“It allowed me to really help,” said Griggs, who, because she is a licensed STNA, is qualified to administer the rapid tests.

The COVID test was non-evasive. It did not involve the invasive nasal swab, which some are reluctant to undergo.

“It’s a small PCR test. We perform a quick buccal swab. We put it here,” she said, showing a small vial, “and send it to a lab in Texas. It’s really simple, not evasive.

Kingdom of God Minister Michelle McKinney led the food distribution. God’s Kingdom operates its pantry in partnership with Second Harvest. Twice a month it offers packed lunches and once a month it serves a hot meal.

On this day, she distributes what she calls “food boxes” containing basic foods like beans, rice, cereals, canned goods, potatoes, eggs, vegetables and fruits.

McKinney has been associated with the program for about six years.

“We started with brown bags and went out into the community with hot dogs, water and chips,” she said.

On days when her church offers hot meals, she will serve up to 70 people, she said. She usually distributes 30 to 40 boxes of food on the days they are distributed.

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