Shares Sylvania’s Best Kept Secret

A visit to the Sylvania Area Family Services
by Mary Helen Darah

L-R: The SAFS team includes Tina Gonzales, family facilities manager, Dottie Segur, executive director, Chelsea Bray, social service coordinator, and John Brindly, youth diversion coordinator.

Sylvania Area Family Services recently came up in conversation at a function I was attending. I was startled by some of the misconceptions that were shared, especially regarding the lack of poverty in Sylvania. Nothing could be further from the truth. Roughly 6,000 people in Sylvania are living at or below the Federal Poverty Guidelines. In fact, 50 percent of the students are part of the free or reduced lunch program at one of Sylvania’s elementary schools. Thankfully, SAFS, a 501 (c) (3) organization founded in 1967, has been strengthening Sylvania, one family at a time, for over 50 years.

The only constant is change
There have been many new changes at SAFS. The first being Dottie Segur officially becoming the executive director in January of this year. Segur has been with the organization for 15 years. She began her career at SAFS in January of 2003 serving as the social service coordinator and administrative assistant. “It has been a smooth transition,” she stated. “I have known the ins and outs of the organization and have established relationships with the families we serve. SAFS really is a family from those we serve, our staff and with our volunteers. We are a small team, but we are mighty.”

There’s no ‘I’ in TEAM
Segur feels the SAFS “team” is the reason for the organization’s longevity and continued growth. “Chelsea Bray, Americore Vista Member, was hired as a full-time social service coordinator,” she stated. “She is a wonderful addition. She brings her incredible spirt, work ethic and passion for children and the families we serve.” John Brindly serves as the youth diversion coordinator. “How does one describe his uniqueness?” pondered Segur. “His compassion for these kids is so great and they really respect him. He methodically gets things done and has been a great mentor for the kids. I just overlook his Batman screensaver and a crate full of Diet Coke by his desk.” Tina Gonzales, family facilities manager, is also responsible for hall rentals and summer camp. “Tina does a fantastic job,” stated Segur. “Another well-kept secret in addition to our vital services we provide families is our lovely rentable spaces.”

Service above all else
The main service SAFS provides is their choice food pantry. “Families come on a weekly basis,” stated Segur. “We also host a monthly community dinner thanks to the generosity of ProMedica, McCord Road Church and 321 Church. Kingston in Sylvania has also provided dinners for our families and ProMedica provides a community lunch nine months of the year.” The organization also provides a personal care hygiene distribution service the first Tuesday of every month through Sylvania United Church of Christ. “You can’t purchase personal items with a food stamp card,” explained Segur. “Although the church graciously provides items, we are always in need of donations.” The first Monday of the month Senior Government Commodity Distribution is held. “A premade box of cheese and pantry items for those 60 and over is provided by Seagate Food Bank. Sylvania Recreation picks up the boxes for us. Also, for our seniors, we have health and nutrition classes once a year that is provided by Kingston of Sylvania. They receive a bag of groceries for attending.” The organization also hosts nutrition and health classes quarterly for families with children through the Ohio State University Extension. Participants receive a bag of groceries for attending. SAFS also distributes holiday baskets. School supplies and backpacks are distributed annually for students in the Sylvania School District. The organization also has a youth diversion program for first-time offenders that will allow participants to avoid a juvenile record once they successfully complete the program.

Check it out
SAFS hosts fundraising events throughout the year including the Ray of Hope, Chocolate & Wine Affair and the Vendor and Craft Show. “A big special event coming up is our open house on May 30, from 6:30-8:30 p.m.,” said Segur. “We recently renovated a portion of our building, including the offices, kitchen and multi-purpose room. We received a grant from Toledo Port Authority and a CDBG Community Development Block Grant. Come and explore our newly renovated facility while enjoying refreshments. We have been nurturing those in need in your community for over 50 years. We hope you come by and see us and most importantly, we hope the secret is out!”

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