Church association meets to plan for year

WARREN — Members of the Mahoning Valley Association of Churches gathered this week at their annual assembly to plan for the new year, while also reflecting on the accomplishments of 2017, including opiod crisis work and racial dialogue efforts.

The Rev. Robin Woodberry, executive director of MVAC, which met Thursday at Blessed Sacrament Parish, said in 2017 an initiative was started called ”Hope for Healing and Recovery” doing work in the community as it related to the opioid crisis providing support, information and encouragement for addicts and their families.

Chet Cooper, MVAC president, said the newest church member, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, initiated the effort and asked for MVAC’s support.

Woodberry said in October, an informational event was held at Mineral Ridge High School attended by more than 200 people and a ”Carols and Caring” service was held near Christmas, with both providing support to families who may have lost someone to drugs.

Cooper said it is very difficult for families at the holidays, which is when addicts and families suffer the most.

There also was several events held to continue the dialogue on racism issues and planned projects. A healthy baby block party was held to help with that effort.

Plans for 2018 include continued focus on the two efforts and expanding them, Woodberry said.

”We are looking at broadening the two areas and finding resources to fund them. We also want to work on reaching into the different pockets of ethnic groups that exist in the Valley such as the Arab-American community and help to grow that relationship,” she said.

Woodberry said 2017 presented many challenges to the community, including Mahoning County having the highest black infant mortality rate in the state and Trumbull County leading the Valley in opioid related issues.

”This has prompted us to take a look at how we could be more of a positive impact in these areas. We know whatever affects our community affects us because the community sits in our pews,” she said.

”Our work is never done but we are always striving to build on the vision and mission started over 100 years ago,” she said.

l Upcoming events planned for the year by MVAC include: ACTION Commitment Service, 3 p.m. Sunday at Beulah Baptist Church; Interfaith Tea, 1:30 p.m. Feb. 6 at St. Columba Cathedral; annual meeting, 5:30 p.m. March 19 at Lockwood United Methodist Church; ACTION Banquet, 6 p.m. April 17 at Mt. Carmel hall; Taste of Faiths 5:30 p.m. May 14 at St. Charles Church; crop walk Oct. 14; and mayor’s prayer breakfast 7:30 a.m. Nov. 20 at Mahoning Country Club.

l Also held was the installation of 2018 board members: Cooper, president; Rev. Gena Thornton, vice president; Rev. Joe Witmer, treasurer; Minister Theodore Brown, secretary. Candidates for director Class of 2020 include Sister Mary Alice Koval, Rev. Kelsey Orosan, Robert Palmer, Rev. David Kamphuis, Craig Wagley and Tayana Pannell.

The MVAC includes congregations in Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties working cooperatively for diversity, racial harmony, justice and respect.

For information call 330-788-5914 or visit