People to People moving into a new year of hope

People to People moving into a new year of hope

Image Credit: Ellen Pill

People to People Ministries has been providing assistance to Wayne County residents in a variety of tangible ways since 1978. The nonprofit also offers much more than food, clothing and assistance with the needs of daily life. According to Joe Szeker, director of operations at People to People Ministries, the agency’s theme this year is “A Year of Finding Hope.”

“My goal every day is to try to bring hope or a smile to at least one person that walks through our doors,” People to People pantry coordinator Theresa Markley said. “People come to us for help with so many things, but most importantly, if we can be the light and hope in whatever circumstance they’re dealing with, that’s what it should all be about.”

Szeker said they’re focusing on meeting people where they are and listening to what is needed during these challenging times.

“People have been shut in for some time, so we want to engage in conversations to let them know we truly care for them and want to help any way we can,” Szeker said. “Our focus is to help the people we see build a better self worth and know there is hope for a brighter future.”

Developing and expanding community partnerships is one way People to People is continuing to find new and creative ways to reach out, engage and listen.

One such partnership is with the OHuddle mentorship program, which pairs community volunteer mentors with school-age children. Last year one collaboration between the two nonprofits helped OHuddle launch a laundry project to teach students the life skill of doing laundry.

“Whether through coordinated grocery deliveries, school-supply giveaways or weekly OHuddle site snacks, People to People has been generous and collaborative in serving OHuddle families,” said Sara Reith, OHuddle executive director.

This year they plan to work together to transform the People to People lobby into a more inviting and comfortable space. The redesigned space will include educational stations for children and informational stations for adults. Any community agencies or groups offering assistance, services or classes are invited to reach out to Szeker to have their information included.

People to People will continue to have all its traditional special projects in 2022 including the back-to-school event, Thanksgiving dinner boxes and Christmas toy project. All dates, times, and volunteer and donation needs will be posted on its website and Facebook page throughout the year.

Returning this year to the nonprofit will be College of Wooster student volunteers. People to People is building its partnership with the college and hopes to expand the student involvement.

Britta Treu is a junior at the college and in her second year of working with People to People. Treu said last year student volunteers worked with Szeker to come up with creative ways to help even with pandemic restrictions. They assisted with creating a brochure, sorting donations and boxing up food.

One of her favorite experiences last year was a huge delivery of donated food. “All this food came in, and I was there to help and sort,” Treu said. “I was so amazed at how much food people gave. It was a very cool experience. It’s such a good opportunity to actually get involved and get to know the people — the staff who are there all hours — and the volunteers are so inspiring. Having this opportunity to do something good and to help the community has been awesome.”

Having College of Wooster students and high school student volunteers is an inspiration to Szeker. “We just love the fact that the young people of today have the desire to help folks,” he said.

Coming up this year as a result of numerous partnerships and collaborations, People to People is looking toward creating what Szeker calls “parking lot events” — space for information, entertainment, food and activities to bring people to the agency and help increase awareness of its services and the wealth of services and assistance available in the county.

Szeker also hopes to offer tours to those who have never been inside the agency. Details regarding these events will be available on Facebook. Anyone interested in participating in providing food, services or activities is invited to email Szeker.

Currently, People to People Ministries needs volunteers in the clothing room. To volunteer, stop in to the agency and fill out a volunteer application.

Clothing needs include men’s jeans and sweatpants, little boy jeans and sweatpants, men’s boxer briefs, and men’s cold-weather gloves. The donation shed is open for drop-offs Tuesday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For questions about clothing donations, call 330-262-1662 and ask for Janice or email

To reach Szeker regarding the lobby transformation or parking lot events, email

Find People to People at and on Facebook. People to People is located at 454 E. Bowman St., Wooster.

The People to People staff and volunteers look forward to a year of growth, innovation and making a difference in the lives of the people of Wayne County. According to Szeker, the main thing is to provide hope and connection. “We’re just people helping people,” he said.

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