NORTH RIDGEVILLE - June Yost still remembers the boy whose family sought help from North Ridgeville Community Care at Christmastime 20 years ago.
The boy received a new bicycle from the nonprofit organization that provides food, clothing, toys and financial assistance to the city’s residents. Two decades later, he wanted to give back to the organization that Yost founded.
"He said that bike made his Christmas," said Yost, who is retiring as North Ridgeville Community Care’s executive director at the end of the November after 31 years. "He came back years later and wanted to adopt a family in need.”
Three boys in a family each got a new bike that year from the one-time client.
“That's living up to our motto: 'Give a little, help a lot,’” Yost said. “Seeing things like that are what makes it all worthwhile.”
The story is one of dozens Yost can tell after serving thousands of families.
Now, at age 82, she’s ready to slow down. She will help transition Heather Kaesgen, her assistant, into the director's role and Daphne Yost, her granddaughter-in-law, into the assistant position. A 12-member board of directors will continue to oversee North Ridgeville Community Care.
"Helping is our passion," said Yost, a North Ridgeville native and the youngest of seven siblings who grew up on a farm. "I feel it's important for children to always be well-fed, clean and warm. When some people in need only receive $12-15 in food stamps a month, they need some extra assistance. Utilities can be outrageous, and rent is high. When you see the looks on the faces of the people who receive something they need or some help in their time of need, you know it's truly appreciated."
Working with many North Ridgeville businesses, seven churches, and the North Ridgeville Lions and Rotary clubs in the fast-growing city, North Ridgeville Community Care provides services to 1,000 people a month on average, Yost said. The organization receives about $750,000 a year in contributions and in-kind donations, she said, and clients include children, single parents and seniors.
Kalt Manufacturing has been a supporter for nearly 20 years. The North Ridgeville machining manufacturer participates in the Adopt a Family program, and company President Joe Kalt often contributes beef or pork for clients’ holiday food packages.
"We feel you need to give back to the community, and June has made it easy for us to do that," Kalt said. "The community has been blessed with her hard work and selfless giving over the years and glad to have been a part of it. We're grateful for June."
Mayor Dave Gillock praised Yost’s efforts and dedication.
"June is the face of North Ridgeville Community Care," Gillock said. "She has worked hard to make North Ridgeville Community Care what it is. She has helped countless people and families in need through the years, who have been appreciative and sometimes have come back to help the organization in return. We're grateful for June and all she has done to help people in the community, and we wish her well in her well-deserved retirement.”
Daphne Yost, who has been with the organization for six years, first came to work for June, whom she calls her grandmother, when Community Care bought a computer. June Yost didn't know how to use it, so Daphne came in to help out and worked herself into a job.
"We've got some big shoes to fill,” Daphne Yost said. "With Grandma retiring, she'll be hard to replace, but I say I'm filling the right shoe, and Heather is filling the left shoe. We want to make sure we're honoring her legacy."
Kaesgen, a North Ridgeville resident, and her family had donated to Community Care before she joined the staff five years ago. She was a stay-at-home mother who wanted to help and Yost quickly put her to work.
One of Kaesgen’s goals is adding 10 businesses as supporting partners.
"We're excited for June and moving forward with Community Care's mission of providing help and services to families in need," Kaesgen said. "We're always looking to increase donations and awareness of what we do. We're all passionate about helping our neighbors in need, and we want to make sure we build on that."
North Ridgeville Community Care almost disbanded in its early years.
In the late 1980s, Yost served on the Community Care Committee as part of North Ridgeville Middle School's Deter Dropouts program, which was partially funded by the state. When the state funding ended, it appeared that Community Care also would end. However its services were still needed. The Rev. Lori Haffner of the United Church of Christ of North Ridgeville and Lou Diehl of Fields United Methodist Church persuaded Yost to keep leading Community Care.
Besides offices, the organization’s building at 34015 Center Ridge Road houses a food pantry and an area for clothing, household items and toys. It also has an intake area for the Christmas Store, which helps families in need.
Community Care holds a garage sale twice a year and provides turkey dinners for 300 of its clients every year.
Yost recalled providing a Thanksgiving turkey for a man and his family several years ago.
"The next year, he came back with a big turkey in each hand, and said, 'I got a job!' He wanted to give back. That's how we've been able to continue doing the work we've done."
Yost’s plans for retirement include visiting family in Myrtle Beach and volunteering for projects such as helping organize donations for this year’s Christmas Store, which will open Dec. 19.
“I’ll go on whatever path God leads me,” she said.
Yost believes she is leaving the organization in good hands.
"I will miss the day-to-day work and time with my replacements, but I am confident that North Ridgeville Community Care will remain loyal in its mission by connecting people with what they need to be connected with," she said. "We have come together and worked together as a community, and that is how we were able to accomplish what we've done."
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