Across the world there’s always someone in need. Though we should strive to improve the world, not everyone has the resources to donate large sums of money or finance building projects. There are, however, many more small-scale actions that can be taken by a larger number of people.
Someone who is trying to make these small-scale actions into big-time gains is Care & Share of Erie County Executive Director Anita Kromer.
Care & Share of Erie County is a resource center that provides a variety of items for those who seek its assistance. Services can range from food to hygiene items to clothing. Its contributions have served more than 7,000 families in Erie County each year. Efforts to improve the organization have been taken up with Kromer’s arrival in April 2021.
“Working with others and collaborating is one of my passions because ultimately you are helping others,” says Kromer, who previously worked in various leadership positions in the area, including at Universal Clay Products and . “When you achieve this you gain participation, process improvements, innovation, efficiencies, and ownership in an organization. Engagement and stewardship is the key for success.”
This stewardship is evident in Kromer’s work with Care & Share, including what the organization has evolved into throughout the years. Care & Share started with the concept of providing food and clothing to those in need, and that need drove the growth of the organization, including the upgrade of one of its initiatives, a Choice Food Pantry.
“A Choice Food Pantry gives the individual the shopping experience and choice of healthy food they and their family will enjoy, as well as a clothing/houseware pantry (store),” Kromer says.
Kromer explains why it has been titled a Choice Food Pantry and not just a food pantry.
“The philosophy here was to provide a grocery store feel and experience to members of the community, allowing them to choose the food items they wanted and would use versus a prepackaged box of items they may not like, use and then ultimately waste,” she says.
The food pantry at Care & Share.
In order to keep up with the ever-changing needs of the community, Kromer notes that they have added more features to allow more people to take advantage of the choice pantry program.
Our Daily Help plan allows individuals that do not have a permanent place to come on the days we are open to get a few items from the food pantry to get through the day,” Kromer says. “Another program we instituted is to help seniors or people who have to walk and carry their groceries with being able to use their ‘allocation’ based on their family size – twice a month, instead of just once a month, to make it more manageable.”
Kromer notes that Care & Share is also piloting “My Choice Box,” an Instacart-like program for residents at the senior towers, as well as a possible expansion for veterans.
Under Kromer’s leadership, Care & Share is branching out to more than just providing these types of resources to the community with a potential new venture, The Hub.
“Potentially, Care and Share would be an entry point to help “triage” folks when they come in for our services to better understand if there were other needs or issues they needed assistance with,” Kromer explains. “We would work to identify these items to get them to a contact in The Hub that would then be able to ‘walk alongside’ the person to assist them to navigate the resources/agencies that could possibly help address their issue. We are resource rich in the City of Sandusky and Erie County. Many people are not aware of all the services or agencies that exist that may be able to help them with a particular issue.”
Since transportation can be a challenge for many, Kromer envisions liaisons from local agencies who could meet with residents at The Hub. Those liaisons would then help residents understand issues and what documents and paperwork they would need for that particular agency to assist them. Then, at The Hub, staff would help them acquire and copy documents and fill out applications, Kromer says.
Anita Kromer stands inside the Care & Share office on Jackson Street.
“For example, if an individual had a healthcare need, they could be assessed here by a clinical liaison to then have the appropriate appointment made with a provider to further assess and refer necessary treatment and transportation could be set up right then and there for their appointments,” she says.
With these programs and more on the horizon, Kromer hopes Care & Share and The Hub can be a place where Erie County residents can feel “welcome, respected and comfortable to let their guard down, to know that we are only looking to help our friends and neighbors to reach their potential. [The goal is] to help them attain their dreams through training programs and education that is offered by some of our wonderful agencies so that they can be self-sufficient and pursue the American Dream.”
Christian Smith is a youth writer studying at Sandusky High School. As an invested scholar athlete, he is involved in 20+ programs, organizations and committees around his school. He intends to study film acting and production in university.