About First Serve
For the past ten years, First Serve has been an annual day of service, held during the second Sunday in September, led by First Congregational Church of Hudson in partnership with the Islamic Society of Akron and Kent, Temple Beth Shalom of Hudson and supported by many other faith communities in Hudson and the Akron area.
At the onset of the pandemic, First Serve met with North Hill community partners and key community organizations to better understand their needs under these new circumstances. Once we had a clear understanding of the necessary adjustments, First Serve restructured its delivery model from a single day of service to a continuing summer of service incorporating all of the Summit County Health Department pandemic guidelines such as no groups larger than 10, providing PPE, concentrating on outdoor projects, and creating as many “do at home” projects as possible to ensure a feeling of safety for our volunteers and NH community members.
The North Hill Community is located north of downtown Akron. The neighborhood developed rapidly in the 1910s and 1920s, and became Akron’s preeminent immigrant neighborhood, home to a large Italian and Polish population. Today, it is once again Akron’s preeminent immigrant neighborhood, now home to a thriving and growing community of newcomers from Bhutan, Burma, and Nepal, according to Jason Segedy, Notes from the Underground. Projects are located at the Patterson Community Center, Sammis Park, Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority, neighborhoods parks, non-profit organizations, business and residential properties.
Not enough can be said, not enough can be published on the exceptional job Sue Wimer and the volunteers of First Congregational Church of Hudson are doing on North Hill. On Sunday, September 13, the First Serve army invaded Ward 2 ONCE AGAIN and started tackling project after project at four locations. No doubt, First Serve has become the model organization that unites people by providing opportunities for people of different backgrounds – cultural, economic, ethic, and religious – to come together and work side-by-side as a way to get to know one another bridging that gap. Wow! Thank you First Serve! You are welcome anytime on the streets of Akron!
Here are a Few of the 2020-2021 Completed Projects
This year, the pandemic brought many changes to the traditional First Serve by expanding the program from a day of service to year-round opportunities serving the North Hill community of Akron. This past winter, First Serve partnered with Hudson PTO, Hudson City Schools, and three Akron Public Schools – North High, Findley CLC and Harris-Jackson CLC.
North High School Teacher Grant Program
First Serve developed a Teacher Grant Program to support classroom initiatives at North High School. Funding for these grants came from the generous offerings collected during First Congregational Church of Hudson’s Christmas Eve service. First Serve provided funding to nine high school teachers who submitted requests for materials to enhance the learning experience for their students. Highlights of some of these grants include:
- Incentives for special needs students, teacher’s asked for gift cards to local eateries as a way to encourage students to establish and achieve goals in the 4th quarter of the school year.
- Each year, NHS holds its annual Cultural Fair, celebrating the diversity of the student body. Grant monies were used to purchase stage lighting, and reusable banners and decorations.
- Science students will now have the opportunity to use one of the one hundred wireless “mouse” for 3-D modeling using their school-issued laptops.
Right to Read Week
Partnering with Hudson PTO, First Serve introduced the Hudson City School’s annual Right to Read program to the students and staff at Findley CLC and Harris-Jackson CLC. Hudson PTO created a virtual Right to Read week that included four zoom sessions with well-known children’s authors and students from both school districts. Younger students were treated to pre-recorded visits from four authors who read their books and shared their love of reading. Due to the generosity of many in our church and the Hudson community, over 1,200 books were purchased; every Findley and Harris-Jackson student received an autographed copy of one of the nine books by our featured authors. After learning about this collaboration, a Hudson teacher reached out to her neighbor, a Findley teacher, to design a curriculum that would bring individual students from the two school districts together through virtual visits and projects. It is the hope that more teachers from the two districts will join in this project next fall, further connecting these two communities of students in an effort to form relationships.
Akron Cooperative Farm
June 13, the greenhouse given to the Akron Cooperative Farm by Trinity United Church of Christ has been reassembled! In addition, raised garden beds were built for use by the North High School Disabled Student’s Group, picnic tables were built, and the Akron Cooperative Farm sign was moved to a new location. What a beautiful and blessed day!
Dear all, what a fine day we had! Congratulations to all! It was a great privilege to be a part of all this goodness. YAY First Serve! Yay everyone! It would be hard to imagine a better day for the raising of the building. It was a JOY to see a structure built in a day, and to do some of the work as well to get it finished. SO many people to thank and acknowledge!!
It was a great day – with great crews, great leaders and I am glad to be back serving in north Akron!
Harris-Jackson Coat Distribution
Arts Now: Painting Hopscotch
First Serve in partnership with Arts Now, painted hopscotch at five different locations including: Cascade Village, Patterson Park Community Center, North High School, Valley View AHMA, and Harris-Jackson CLC.
First Serve in partnership with Akron Parks Collaborative, Friends of Elizabeth Park and Big Love, planted an edible landscape garden filled with fruit trees and bushes. In addition, two swinging benches were built and installed by First Serve volunteers and unwanted brush was cleared away from various locations throughout Elizabeth Park.
North Hill Community House
A team of volunteers deconstructed the old ramp at North Hill Community House and built a new ramp.
North High School
Volunteers at North High School installed a gravel pad under the bleachers on the football field – despite the rain! They also landscaped the Memorial Garden, hung photos of record holding athletes and several locker rooms received a new coat of paint.
A firewood storage shed was constructed to be used with the warming barrel First Serve installed in 2019.
Rooted in Christ Community Church
A new Rooted in Christ Community Church sign was constructed and mounted by First Serve volunteers. They also built an enclosure around the dumpster, trimmed trees on the property, and added to the existing retaining wall to make it higher.
13,900 Kits Assembled!
Throughout the month of August, First Serve Volunteers have been busy, at home, assembling 13,900 kits! Welcome Back to school packages were assembled for all Akron Public School Staff Members in North Hill. School supply kits were created for every student at Findley CLC to use at home to during the school year. Kindergarten Reading Kits assembled for students in Summit County. Backpacks were filled with school supplies for new students entering Harris-Jackson CLC this fall. School supplies were bagged for every student at North High School and kits were assembled for the program, Girls On The Run.
Supporting Akron Public School Teachers, Staff and Students in North Hill
First Serve has been at North High School working on projects this summer! Volunteers have freshened up display cases and bulletin boards, applied zip ties to unused lockers, painted several locker rooms, reframed and hung athletic photos, and landscaped areas around the building. We also painted a beautiful sidewalk mural that celebrates the diversity at North High. Thank you, NHS students from the Akron North Rotary Interact Club for volunteering. It was so nice to meet you!
North High School appreciates all of the support and generosity demonstrated by First Serve and its volunteers. We are excited to form this long-lasting relationship between the members of First Serve and the staff, students, and community served by NHS.
Chalk the Walk in North Hill
July 6 through July 31, First Serve is sponsoring a Chalk the Walk Competition throughout the North Hill Community. A team of First Serve volunteers assembled the kits on June 29th. They were then distributed to various locations such as North Hill Community House, Patterson Park Community Center, Valley View AMHA Community Room, and Cascade Village Community Center, for children ages 3-18 to pick up. Look at all the beautiful artwork that has been created!