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May Dugan : Development News

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May Dugan spreads joy and gifts during the holidays

Inspired by President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, the May Dugan Center year round ensures residents of Cleveland’s near west side get the food, clothing and services they need.  
 
But as the holiday season quickly approaches and the weather turns frigid, May Dugan has for months now prepared to make the season a bit more cheery for its clients who need a little extra help. Whether it’s help putting a holiday meal on the table or making sure there are gifts under the tree, May Dugan is prepared to lend a hand.
 
The season kicks off today with May Dugan's annual turkey distribution. In addition to its monthly food and clothing distribution, today, Wednesday, Nov. 16, May Dugan will also hand out turkeys to 350 families.
 
“It’s out biggest distribution of the year,” says May Dugan deputy director Andy Trares. GIE Media sponsors the distribution, while Platform Beer Co. stores the birds until distribution day.
 
Then on Thursday, Dec. 1, the holiday season really gears up as May Dugan adorns the 35-foot-high tree on the corner of Randall Road and Bridge Avenue – one of the tallest trees in Ohio City – with thousands of lights.
 
More than 400 people are expected to gather around the tree for the seventh annual lighting ceremony and May Dugan open house from 5 to 7 p.m. The joy of the season will be spread by the Urban Community School Choir and Mae Dugan’s Rhythm and Roots Senior Choir, formed out of a partnership with the Music Settlement’s music therapy program..
 
“The seniors here really enjoy performing,” says Trares of the choir. “The songs are important but their attention to the details is also important. They really like to go all-out and they take great pride in it.” For instance, last year the group dressed in all black and wore Santa hats.
 
There will also be kids’ crafts, a raffle and refreshments. “It’s a nice event that culminates in front of the building with the lighting of the tree,” says Trares. “It has become a tradition now.”
 
After the tree lighting Jukebox, 1404 W. 29th St., will host an after-party from 7 to 9 p.m. A portion of the total bar tab will go back to May Dugan. “Grab a little bit of food, a couple of drinks and support May Dugan,” encourages Trares. Both the tree lighting ceremony and after-after party are free and open to the public.
 
May Dugan's annual Adopt-A-Family program helps make the holidays a little brighter for select clients who have made progress in the center’s various programs. Thanks to sponsors who adopt a family and receive demographic information and a list of gift ideas, each selected family gets a few gifts to put under the tree.
 
“It gives a motivating factor to keep going,” says Trares of the program, adding that the requests are usually for practical items. Last year 160 people were served, thanks to 11 different sponsor groups. Trares says May Dugan now adds children’s books with all gifts donated. Interested sponsors can contact Trares to sign up.
 
“Holidays when folks are in need can be really tough,” says Trares, “Parents work around the clock and hear all the talk about Christmas gifts, and the kids see the commercials. I’m glad we’re able to fill that gap at this time of year and make it a little more special.”

This story is one of a Fresh Water series supported in part by the May Dugan Center.

The basics: May Dugan serves families in need with food, clothing and medical help

Sue Nerlinger likes to keep active. “Sitting around drives me cuckoo,” she says. “I can’t stand sitting around.”

So, when a Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis in 2000 threatened to slow her down, she kept working as an optician for W.A. Jones Optical with University Hospitals until the company closed in 2010.
 
Nerlinger's twins were just 10 years old at the time, and with the job behind her, she needed to get food on the table and was having a hard time making ends meet. She turned to the May Dugan Center’s Basic Needs Program, which provides food, fresh produce and clothing to Cleveland’s west side residents in need.

“That was one of the hardest things for me, to ask for help,” Nerlinger recalls.
 
Since 1969, the program has offered fresh produce at the Ohio City institution from March through October on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month, with the addition of non-perishable food and clothing on the fourth Wednesdays.
 
The produce and food comes through a partnership with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. Charitable organizations, such as the Hunger Network, St. Mark’s Church and Westlake PTA, also provide assistance and May Dugan accepts donations of household goods and clothing from the public Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
 
“Our primary goal is getting food in the hands of people who need it,” says May Dugan deputy director Andy Trares. “We have a racially diverse client base and there are folks here from all walks of life. We have younger folks in their 20s and 30s to seniors in their 70s and 80s.”
 
In total, May Dugan serves thousands of families in its 20 distributions in eight months out of the year. For instance, 322 families totaling 909 people were served in July, which is almost 75 more than the center saw in July 2015, says Trares.
 
Even during the parade to celebrate the Cavs wining the NBA championship on June 22, May Dugan was passing out food to 188 families representing 531 people. “While all of Cleveland was loving that we finally won the national championship, we were celebrating too,” says Trares. “But 531 people knew they could come here and get food.”
 
Nerlinger was so grateful for the help she recieved from the center that she became a May Dugan volunteer. “People were so kind to me I decided it was time to give back to the community, to the people who need it,” she says.
 
On distribution days Nerlinger lines everyone up, making sure they each have a ticket for food bags, and chats up the people waiting for services. “I make sure I take the time to listen,” she says. “It doesn’t help to sit and mope about anything, but I can help someone.”
 
Nerlinger has also taken advantage of May Dugan’s health and wellness program, which the center started offering in January 2012 during monthly distributions. Medical personnel from St. Vincent Charity Medical Center offer screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, type II diabetes, HIV and podiatry checks along with educational health seminars and workshops. ExactCare Pharmacy is often on hand to answer any questions about prescription medications.
 
More than 1,800 screenings were performed at May Dugan last year. “There are so many people who need to have their blood pressure checked and don’t because they can’t get to the doctor,” says Nerlinger.
 
In addition to the screenings, volunteers also help clients with health insurance questions about accessing insurance through the healthcare marketplace and enrolling in and navigating Medicaid.
 
A little more than a year ago, May Dugan implemented a senior programming component to its Basic Needs Program by offering craft classes through Benjamin Rose Institute, financial advice from the Ohio Savings Bank branch on Bridge Avenue and W. 25th Street and music therapy programming.
 
The program provides community members with the basic things they need to survive without humiliation and embarrassment. And sometimes May Dugan simply serves as a place where residents can find compassion and friendship.
 
“I go there and I volunteer and I leave there more of the time thinking, ‘I have hardships but I realized how lucky I am,’” says Nerlinger. “I have no reason to complain. My heart goes out to so many of the people there.”

This story is one of a Fresh Water series supported in part by the May Dugan Center.
2 May Dugan Articles | Page:
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