To break the cycle of poverty and improve the health of our community, one family at a time.
To build bridges out of poverty by fostering health, wellness and nutrition for the body; education for the mind; and hope, joy and spiritual growth for the soul.
Opportunity Parish Ecumenical Neighborhood Ministry was formed in 1968, at a time of poverty, crime, riots, and war. In Akron, longstanding neighborhoods were being destroyed, and white residents were fleeing to the suburbs. Into that chaos, four churches came together to establish an urban ministry in one of Akron’s hardest-hit neighborhoods. Calvary Evangelical United Brethren Church and Main Street Methodist Church took $20,000 provided by their conferences, and began ministering to people via backyards and front porches. St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and Wooster Avenue Christian Church joined the effort, rounding out OPEN M’s original Covenant Churches.
We took the name Opportunity Parish Ecumenical Neighborhood Ministry to reflect the place (Opportunity Park) where we ministered, and the idea that the neighborhood itself was OPEN M’s parish. From the beginning, OPEN M has been open to all people, without regard to class, race, income or religious affiliation.
Bob and Sue Ralph took charge of the newly formed ministry on July 1, 1968. Their motto was, ‘When I see the face of Christ in the world today, He looks exactly like the person who needs me.’ From the beginning, our focus has been not only to provide for, but also to stand with, the poor and oppressed.
In our early years, churches provided office space, and our hot meals were served out of a small house on Princeton Street. However, the neighborhood itself has always been our base of operations.
For many years, OPEN M’s focus was on providing hot meals and serving youth. Among our original youth programs, Summer Work Camps gave youth from all walks of life opportunities to come together to complete neighborhood repair projects.
OPEN M established a nursing clinic in 1979, in response to the serious lack of available health services for the poor and working poor. In 1995, we transformed our nursing clinic into the Free Medical Clinic, significantly expanding services. Initially, the clinic operated out of six different locations, but in 1999, we consolidated our programs into a single 22,000 square foot facility, further increasing the programs we offered. In 2006, we added more space by expanding our clinic to include a full-service pharmacy, along with additional offices for medical personnel. In 2012, we began to transition the focus of our healthcare services, moving away from crisis intervention and toward prevention.
OPEN M now stands for Opportunity for People Everywhere in Need Ministry. Although our legal name has not changed, this better reflects what we currently do. We are developing new and innovative programs to help people in our community become more self-sufficient. Today, more than 1,200 volunteers and many additional Covenant Churches and other supporting organizations help OPEN M continue growing, but our core purpose remains the same: Feed the Hungry, Care for the Sick, Nurture Children, Build Families, and Strengthen the Community