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Published: Saturday, 10/2/2010

S. Toledo's Good Samaritan Outreach Center ends meals

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The last sit-down meals were served Thursday at the 1108 Broadway site. On Friday, Cherry Street officials began offering boxed groceries to the needy.

Cherry Street is handing out those staples to ease the transition and give it more time to figure out its next move.

Boxed groceries will be distributed Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays throughout October, said Amy Ambrose, Cherry Street spokesman.

Several regulars have been lamenting the loss of the Good Samaritan Outreach Center since its impending closure was announced about two weeks ago.

Dan Rogers, Cherry Street's president and chief executive officer, said he is committed to reopening a similar facility in that part of the city.

In a telephone interview Friday from Florida, where he is on personal business, Mr. Rogers said he is talking with other South Toledo ministries with the goal of keeping Good Samaritan's legacy alive through a collaborative effort.

He said the emotional impact of closing the center, which needed $200,000 of repairs, is being offset by new relationships being formed as a result of the talks.

"We hate the fact we have to close that facility," Mr. Rogers said. "[But] this thing is allowing us to dig a little deeper into the need and where it's coming from."

He said he is committed to reopening a Good Samaritanlike facility once more research is done.

"You can't get there until you know where the need is," Mr. Rogers said. "We have not abandoned South Toledo."

Some, though, admitted to feeling as if they have been abandoned.

Elizabeth Wymer, 32, a Good Samaritan regular since she was 13, was nearly in tears as she described the friendships she's made there and the special events, such as the distribution of Christmas gifts.

"It's going to hurt a lot of people," she said. "It makes me really upset."

John Shrider, 59, said he was a regular Good Samaritan volunteer since 1998.

"Some people were coming every day and some were just coming now and then. Some were coming to socialize. Some were coming to get a hot meal," Mr. Shrider said. "It's impacted different people in different ways."

Cherry Street acquired Good Samaritan four years ago when the former operators were struggling with finances.

Cherry Street decided to close the facility after an inspector determined the building's foundation was caving in and that some of its flooring appeared ready to collapse, Mr. Rogers said.

The building where Good Samaritan has been operating for 25 years is 114 years old. Efforts made in recent years to stabilize the building and bring it up to safety standards have not been enough, he said.

"It would be far more of an outcry if somebody got hurt," Mr. Rogers said. "How many times have we seen people ignore those warning signs and people get hurt?"

One homeless client, Peter Hatas, a former industrial engineer and one-time owner of an Old West End house, wasn't convinced.

"There's got to be other reasons," he said.

He said he'll miss the former Good Samaritan because of its family-oriented atmosphere.

"This was like a mainstay in this neighborhood," Mr. Hatas said.

Mike Drabik, a Good Samaritan volunteer, said he hopes crime does not get worse as more people struggle to feed themselves and their families.

"When that pulls out, there will be an abyss," Mr. Drabik said. "Men now sleep in alleys there. It's going to leave a gigantic hole."

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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