Methodist centers work to reach underserved

Tribune Chronicle / Bob Coupland Tayana Pannell, executive director of the United Methodist Community Center with locations in Warren and Youngstown, speaks at the annual fundraising event held at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Youngstown. The centers are planning new programs to meet the needs of the underserved in the area.

WARREN — The United Methodist Community Centers in Warren and Youngstown are working to expand programs to reach the underserved in both communities.

The centers held their annual fundraising event this week at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Youngstown, which included testimonials and tribute to those who have helped make a difference for local families.

This year, the United Methodist Community Center will have provided 96 years of service to women, children and veterans and others in need.

The Rev. Richard Smith, pastor of Brookfield United Methodist Church and a member of the center’s board, said the center has a convenient relationship with the national organization of United Methodist Women that provide some of the funding to support the ministries in the two centers, 309 N. Park Ave. in Warren and 2401 Belmont Ave., Youngstown.

Smith said the centers are going through a period of change.

“We have been around for a long time. We are doing a reboot. It’s like having a Microsoft computer when you get all the crazy downloads which keep you from working on it. We are going through change, which has slowed us down a little.

“There is a great deal of need in both Youngstown and Warren,” Smith said. “We are looking hard at where the people are we need to be serving and what are the best programs to serve them.”

Tayana Pannell, executive director, called the fundraiser “a time of rebirth of what once was and what will be to come to the centers. We are taking from our history the things that have worked and rebirthing them,” she said.

A slide show shown during the event highlighted the history of the center and tribute to past directors, Millicent Counts and Juanita Pasley.

The centers are supported by Methodist churches in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties and by the Mahoning Valley Methodist Eastern Conference district, Smith said. The United Methodist Women also provide support to the centers.

The centers offer programs for people of all ages with summer camps for children, assistance to veterans and programs for senior citizens.

Carol Oliver, senior assistant advocate for health and wellness, said she has learned a lot about senior programming and provides services to seniors at local high rises.

“We are trying to initiate some new programs for the summer such as fieldtrips. We ask the seniors what are the things you would like to have,” Oliver said. “We try to make them feel like they are special.”

Pannell said some seniors live on $1,000 or less a month, which is hard for them to get groceries, medication and utilities.

John Owens, family impact coordinator, said programs are held at the Trumbull Homes and Highland Terrace such as karate classes, chess and youth counsel program where teens and adults mentor children.

Miles Johnson, community outreach for Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership, said the teens help mentor children in the next generation.

Pannell said there is also the veterans peer program, in which veterans are picked up and taken to appointments and other places.

Smith said many people do not realize the United Methodist Community Center used to be the Rebecca Williams Center in Warren and the Pearl Street Mission in Youngstown.

Pannell said, “I knew about the Pearl Street location but learned more about the Rebecca Williams Center. That center hosted classes at the Highland Homes on sewing, cooking, children’s programs, language classes and GED classes.”

Smith said in addition to Pannell, past directors also deserve credit for all they have done.

“We are moving forward to reach those in the community who need to be reached. There is a lot of need in our community. We all have gifts we can use to help,” Smith said.

He grants were obtained from the Wean Foundation to help with programs and services.

Pannell said the centers remain committed to teaching, developing and empowering families in Trumbull and Mahoning counties.

“We will always continue to serve the underserved,” she said.

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