Author Archives: Patty Whetsel

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Building Blocks Grad, Keiaina, is Thriving in First Grade!


OPEN M staff and volunteers work tirelessly day after day to help clients build bridges out of poverty.  One of the highlights for us is when a past client comes to visit with an encouraging update or good news to share. Recently, Education Director, Patty Whetsel, received a visit from the mom of a Building Blocks preschool student from 2013 to 2015. Keiaina and her family were struggling with homelessness and food insecurity at that time.  Life was so unstable and Keiaina was four days too young to start Kindergarten in 2014.  Building Blocks provided a much-needed refuge and support system for her and her mother, and helped prepare her with the skills she needed for school.  OPEN M also provided emergency food for the family.


Keiaina is now in first grade in the Akron Public Schools.  She is on the honor roll.  Her family has stable housing, and they recently welcomed a new baby.  Keiaina’s mother was touched so much by Building Blocks, and grateful for the support and encouragement Patty offered, that she wanted to drop off a school photo and share her good news.  We were so thrilled to hear it.  OPEN M is so proud of you, Keiaina!  We look forward to hearing about your future accomplishments.

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Bob Titus to Lead as OPEN M CEO

OPEN M Board of Directors President, Jeff Murphy, announced today that OPEN M’s Chief Operating Officer, Bob Titus, will become CEO effective May 1, 2017. Mr. Titus will succeed Dottie Achmoody, who is retiring after 20 years of service to OPEN M, with the last 12 as CEO.

OPEN M (Opportunity for People Everywhere in Need Ministry) is an ecumenical Christian ministry established in Akron’s inner city in 1968 that is dedicated to building bridges out of poverty for clients, many of whom reside in the Summit Lake neighborhood. It houses Summit County’s largest free medical clinic, operates one of the largest food pantries in the area and, several years ago, began the Community Works Connection, a highly successful job placement service helping clients transition into the workforce and receive the mentoring needed to succeed.

“Much of OPEN M’s recent success has been achieved under Bob’s leadership,” said Murphy. “While Dottie provided the spark for many of those initiatives, Bob fanned them into a flame by his tireless service. Bob is quick to give God and others the glory, but it’s clear that OPEN M wouldn’t be in the strong position that it is without his efforts.”

The OPEN M Search Committee received well over 200 resumes during its months-long effort and interviewed a number of outside candidates who demonstrated a strong commitment to non-profit work and serving those in need. In addition to strong organizational leadership and program development experience, candidates needed to demonstrate a compelling strategic vision for OPEN M and its future.

Murphy noted that, “When asked where OPEN M would head under his direction, Bob presented a vision that builds on the current foundation while recognizing that needs change over time. He made it clear that OPEN M must adapt its mission and methods if it is to stay relevant and truly engage with residents to make a holistic impact on their lives.”

“Dottie left big shoes to fill, but with the grace of God and the help of our dedicated staff and volunteers and partners in the community as well as the generous support from individuals, churches and foundations, I’m convinced that OPEN M can make an even bigger impact on the lives of those in need,” said Titus. “OPEN M has always been about providing a hand up, not a hand-out, and I look forward to partnering with an even larger group of stakeholders in the years ahead to make that a tangible reality in the Summit Lake area and beyond. 2018 marks 50 years of ministry for OPEN M. That’s an incredible feat that will allow us to reflect on God’s gift of the past as well as His promise for the future.”

“When Bob first came to OPEN M, I was convinced that he could move us in the right direction. His outstanding work implementing the Community Works Connection and leading day-to-day operations as COO have positioned him for continued success,” observed Achmoody. “I’m so thankful for Bob’s strong faith and an extremely competent and energetic Board that will help guide him.”

In order to ensure a smooth transition, Achmoody will stay on in a development role part-time for the remainder of 2017 working alongside Titus with community partners and funders to provide a strong base for a future under his leadership.

OPEN M is funded by individuals, churches, businesses and foundations and relies on its staff of 20 and over 1,200 volunteers to provide services to over 9,000 clients annually. The organization has grown from the four churches that established it to more than 70 covenant churches in 2016. To view its most recent annual report and learn more about OPEN M, visit

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A Calling That Has Changed Her Life

As OPEN M bids a fond farewell to Dottie Achmoody upon her retirement from her role as CEO on March 31, we look back at her extraordinary accomplishments, and the impact she has had not just at OPEN M but on the greater Akron community.


Dottie was born in Akron and graduated from Barberton High School. Her mother was permanently disabled by a drunk driver when she was a teenager. She became her mother’s caregiver as a young adult, delaying her own plans for college and career, but gaining inspiration from her mother’s gratitude, positivity, and perseverance. She raised two children as a stay-at-home mom, and began her college career at the age of 33. She earned a B.A. in Family Development and then a Master’s of Public Administration degree from the University of Akron, becoming a licensed social worker along the way.

Dottie’s career at OPEN M began in 1990 as Family Development Specialist, and Director of Programs, as well as Drug/Alcohol Counselor. She left OPEN M in 1997 to teach at the University of Akron, and then became CEO of Stow-Glen Retirement Village. After seven years away, OPEN M asked Dottie to return as an executive on loan while then-CEO, Tim Crouch, battled cancer. After a nationwide search for Tim’s replacement, Dottie became OPEN M’s new leader in 2005.

Growth and Expansion

Dottie is credited with transforming OPEN M from a little known organization with a primary focus on feeding the hungry, to a thriving multi-dimensional organization supported by extensive collaborations that serves more than 9,000 people each year. She has worked to engage cross-sector leadership, build community relationships, and establish collaborations to create community conditions and resources to build bridges out of poverty for individuals and families.

One of Dottie’s first assignments as CEO of OPEN M was to raise funds to accommodate the growing OPEN M Free Clinic. A 1,500 sq. ft. addition was added to the clinic in 2006. Because of her vision and initiative, OPEN M has acquired unused and abandoned properties surrounding our building over the years. In the years and decades to come, OPEN M will have the flexibility to expand and grow our campus because of this foresight.


Bridges Out of Poverty

Through her work at OPEN M, Dottie was integral in bringing “Bridges Out of Poverty” to Summit County. This initiative based on Dr. Ruby Payne’s Framework for Understanding Poverty, builds bridges to help people move from financial dependence to independence. Dottie has been consistently committed to Bridges since first bringing it to Akron years ago, and OPEN M remains a vital partner in the community-wide collaborative that has grown out of this work—Bridges Summit County.

A Paradigm Shift

Early in 2012, Dottie led OPEN M through a process to update our vision and direction. As an organization, we made a paradigm shift—moving away from crisis intervention and toward a development strategy focused on prevention. Ever since that time, Dottie has worked to expand and align each OPEN M program to this vision. In our Clinic, education permeates our practice from intake to medical visits so that patients can take control of their own health. We focus on prevention and good self-care to improve health outcomes and quality of life. In Family Development, “Bridges Out of Poverty” work remains a priority. Dottie brought early childhood services to OPEN M to focus on prevention and kindergarten readiness. Finally, she worked to establish the Community Works Connection Program to provide holistic employment services that provide a concrete path to self-sufficiency.


Community Works Connection (CWC)

Dottie worked diligently for years to grow her vision of a holistic employment program from an idea, to a plan, to reality with the launch of CWC in November 2014. CWC is now an established program here at OPEN M. At the end of 2016, more than 100 people were working in full-time jobs as a result. CWC has already changed lives and families, and the impact of this program will be felt for generations.

A Calling

When discussing her legacy at OPEN M, Dottie is quick to recognize that none of these accomplishments could have been achieved without the help of countless amazing volunteers, staff, and board members. OPEN M has always been more than just a job for Dottie. It truly has been a calling that has changed her life.


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Growing Clinic Needs Volunteers

The good news is that we’ve nearly doubled the number of new patients we were able to provide healthcare for this past year compared to the year before. The challenge is that we are having a shortage of medical care providers. Please help us spread the word that our clinic is in desperate need of medical professionals in the following areas:

Dentists:  Needed at any time!  This is our most acute need.  We will work around your schedule.

Dermatologists and Medical Massage Therapistsare needed any time.

Pharmacists: needed the 1st Wednesday of each month from 1:30-4pm and the 2nd Monday of each month from 9:30-noon.

Sign up for one day a month for up to 4 hours at a time and help our clients receive the care they need!  Please contact Nathan at 330-434-0110 ext. 409 or for more information.

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In an effort to take our work to a new level, OPEN M is taking part in an exciting project with the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank called Voices. Our Foodbank was one of two in the country selected by Feeding America, Fund for Shared Insight, and the Urban Institute to spend nearly two years on a project to develop sustainable ways to collect meaningful feedback from those we serve.  OPEN M is one of eight agencies that agreed to participate in this project out of the 500 programs in the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank network.

This community-based research project positions clients—people with lived experience—as the experts.  The Voices project asks for client feedback and changes the perspective of who we consider stakeholders in food security and our fight to end hunger.  We are acknowledging the importance of the clients themselves as partners in this work.  The project also requires participants (like OPEN M) to implement changes informed by that client feedback to improve our work.

Voices is helping us to really focus on hearing the needs of our clients and doing what we can to make changes to better serve the community.  Some of the changes that have already resulted from this project include an initiative to educate our volunteers for better customer service and providing food that is better suited to our clients with special dietary needs whenever possible (i.e. fresh fruits and vegetables, gluten free, and low sodium options).  We look forward to discovering more ways to collaborate with our clients in our ongoing efforts to serve their needs.

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Shout Out to Pastor Campbell

OPEN M would like to gratefully acknowledge Pastor Oliver Campbell, our OPEN M Chaplain. If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him, you are encouraged to join us for Food 4 the Soul in the coming months. This is a new service series that Pastor Campbell has organized on the third Tuesday of each month in our multipurpose room. Each month, we’ll hear from a new speaker and enjoy a hot meal together. Volunteers will be available to pray with anyone at their request.

Food 4 the Soul is just one of many projects Pastor Campbell has put into motion since he began working with us this past year. From the community barbecue last summer, to speaking in CWC, to Bible Studies and Food 4 the Soul, he continuously puts his passion for this community into action. Pastor Campbell takes advantage of every opportunity to demonstrate the love and life of Christ to those around him—in his family, at his barber shop, to his congregation at Centenary UMC, and here at OPEN M.

We’d like to extend a whole-hearted THANK YOU for your dedication and devotion to our community, Pastor Campbell. We at OPEN M count ourselves among the many people in Akron who are blessed by your ministry.

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One Year Anniversaries!

The CWC mantra is ‘One job. One year.’ We feel it is important to acknowlege the hard work that goes into reaching that very important milestone on the road to self-sufficiency. We’d like to offer our most sincere congratulations to the following CWC graduates who have been on the job for at least one year:

Anthony Bagnoli– Ohio E-Check

Heather Barahona– TL Worldwide Transportation

Kasadale Batties– Fred Olivieri Construction

Jacqueline Blair– TL Worldwide Transportation

Aaron Boso– Home Depot

Ka’Ress Boykin– North Coast Auto Mall

Jahlisa Bruster– Summa Health Systems

Darrell Bryant– Regency

Jesse Dancy– Ascot Valley Foods

Patricia DeSimone– Apartments on Second Street

Fred Diener– TL Worldwide Transportation

RaShae Greer– Universal Screen Arts

Jerry Johnson– TL Worldwide Transportation

Mark Johnson– Weaver Fabricating & Finishing

Te’Aira Lewis– Caring Touch Home Health Services

Alexandria Malone– Burger King

Dynasti Malone-Smith– Lowes Home Improvement

Terrance Parker– Levin Furniture

Antoine Portis– Trelleborg Wheel Systems

LaTasha Powers– Summa Health Systems

Cameron Shealy– Tahoma Rubber & Plastics

JaSunya Washington– Summa Health Systems

Steven Worley– Sirna & Sons Produce

Venus Young– Infocision

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Save the Date! May 20th, 2017

Walking the Talk 2017 is in the works!

Keep an eye out for your fundraising toolkit!

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In Loving Memory of Omar Riley

Omar came to OPEN M in March of 2015 to join our Community Works Connection (CWC) program. During our week of classes, he forged a friendship with every one of his classmates. Omar always demonstrated leadership. He spoke often and kindly of his children. He was a proud father.

After graduating from the CWC program, Omar went on to work for Akron Polymers for a year before being laid off. He quickly found another job because he believed it was his duty to take care of his family.

Each of our graduates are asked to write a ‘blurb’ on their graduation pictures. Omar wrote ‘Life Changing.’  He knew he was on the road to becoming self-sufficient. We were deeply saddened by the news of the unexpected passing of Omar and his family. Omar will always be remembered as a leader and a family man.

May God rest his soul as he and his family have transitioned home to Our Father.

We love and miss you, Omar.

In Him,

Vikki B. Thomas and the CWC team

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Spreading Christmas Cheer

As you may know, last week was our Christmas for the Love of Children food and gift distribution. In the days following the event, the entire staff here was beaming with Christmas spirit and joy. It seemed to touch each of us equally, but in different ways. For many of OPEN M staffers, the pure bewilderment of the parents and anticipation of each child’s excitement was the most impactful. 

I am always impressed by the individuals receiving gifts having such grateful hearts. First, there is a surprised look on their face followed by a big smile and a thank you. 

-Dottie Achmoody, CEO

It was truly magical… the faces of belief and wonder filled the air yesterday. From an innocent child with Santa to a parents that were so grateful for the gift of Christmas. We did a great job at mirroring Christ’s love thru gifts.

-Bob Titus, COO

It was a totally Amazing experience being an elf! I wish I could be there with each child on Christmas morning.. Such a huge blessing for Summit County!

-Tela Long, Getting Ahead Assistant

For others, seeing compassion build bridges to bring the community together was the most impactful part. And after all, building bridges is what OPEN M is all about!

The entire day was a moment for me!!! The joy, the entertainment, the celebration, the blessing that we can make people feel like “people”! We aren’t giving out handouts, we are providing blessings to individuals that are in “a time of need”! CFTLOC distribution is a blessing for all of us!

-Jennifer Wallace, CWC Case Manager

It warmed the cockles of my heart to watch each and every volunteer treat our clients as though they were their own family. Love and Dignity was abound and you could feel it! 

-Vikki Thomas, CWC Case Manager

With this  being my first CFTLOC, I loved seeing everyone work together and really make the day special for the families that received gifts. It’s such an awesome experience to be part of  a group that comes together to make such a wonderful difference within our community.

-Megan Allen, Transportation and Mentoring Coordinator

For some of us, possibly thanks to having young children, the experience hit home because we know the parents we served long to see the same joy in their children’s eyes we long to see in our kids’. Stepping back and trying to imagine walking a day in the shoes of some of these parents is truly humbling and quite honestly, overwhelming. 

Resilience, gratitude, humility, grit, love—these are the words that come to mind when I think of the families I met at this year’s Christmas distribution.  I think of the parents who walked miles in the cold to get here, the dad who could barely stand because of a back injury but still showed up, the mom who came just days after surgery, and the many, many parents who rushed in after a long day of work.  So many parents paused to look me in the eye (several through tears) and expressed their thanks. Over and over I met parents in deep pain and need, graciously accepting our gifts and working hard to love their children well this Christmas season.

-Michelle Unangst, Grant Writer

I saw my own three year old in the face of the children who came in with their parents. I saw her pure joy while they picked out their Barbies and read stories with Fran. These children smile and feel and hurt and love the same way my child does. The weight of what Christmas means to all children hit me. As a parent, I’m so thankful to have been a part of making Christmas extra special for these families. 

-Aimee Juarez, Marketing and Social Media

Could there be a better way to celebrate the birth of Jesus than to live by his example by loving and serving those in need? 

This Christmas, we pray each of our donors, volunteers, staff members and friends in the community will feel the blessing of peace and joy knowing that each of you have played a part in touching Summit County this Holiday season. As you celebrate with friends and relatives, please remember to say a prayer for the families we served at CFTLOC this year and for the children who will be opening their gifts on Christmas morning. 

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas.