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The end of August and early September is always a busy time for back to school! Here at LEADERship, we’re getting ready to kick off our youth programs on September 9th and finalizing our class for the Signature program. As we say goodbye to summer and hello to Fall, we’re thrilled to be partnering with some other wonderful organizations to restart the Profiles Breakfast Series!

In partnership with Kent State University at Ashtabula, Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County, and Gazette Newspapers, we’re once again hosting this wonderful tradition in Ashtabula County. The first event is being held next week on Wednesday, September 7th. Don’t worry folks - we’re sticking to the first Wednesday of every month from September - May (with a break in January)...and it’s still hosted at the Blue and Gold Room.

Kick off the start to our school year around the county with breakfast and, more importantly, the chance to connect and hear updates from our community and region. We took your responses from last year to put together a great calendar for this year. We’ll hear from Dr. Bill Ayers, Interim Dean at Kent State University at Ashtabula on updates for the September Profiles. You can still RSVP through Friday for the event.

Check below for more information and REGISTER TODAY


As I'm writing this, I'm heading into a new endeavor in my volunteering journey. With LEADERship Ashtabula County, we always stress the importance of civic engagement – and with that is community involvement and volunteering.

The joy of volunteering is that you can pick from many opportunities in our area to give your time and resources. If you're into animals, there's an option; if you're into coaching – there's an option; if you're into gardening – there's an option (and these are just a few of so many!).

I was taking a professional development course a few years ago, and they had an ice breaker called "would you rather," where they ask a question and people choose which answer they would prefer. The question that really stuck with me was, "Would you rather focus on the community first or your family first?" – the room was split. The ideas argued were that to build healthy families, you need a strong community, versus to build a strong community, you first need a strong family. I believe the answer lies in the middle – at different points, you need to focus on your community, but at times you also need to focus on your family (very similar to that work-life balance discussion).

As people's schedules get busier, you may ask how to stay involved in volunteering. How do you stay inspired to give back? How do you stay motivated to help make Ashtabula grow? I see many wonderful leaders in this community who give of themselves to help our county. And in my position, I want to continue to support these leaders and organizations that serve Ashtabula. Every day, I'm inspired by so many who make it their mission to help others, and I strive to be a better person by seeing those traits of selflessness in others. I strive to give back to set a good example for my children and hopefully inspire others.

With that in mind, though, there are seasons where we must recognize that may not always be the case and step back – I know I've had to step back at times to focus on my family, just like I recognize that need in others at times. In acknowledging that, you can also see the continued need for community service and that by stepping back, other leaders can step forward, and when you return, there are new opportunities and ways to serve.

I can't encourage community engagement enough. Our communities embody the people who live and work within. As we kick back into our busy season of back-to-school, programs beginning, and dare I even mention the holidays (!), I'd like to know the following: how do you stay committed and engaged with our community? It changes over time, but what inspires you and helps to "refill your tank" when volunteering? And I'll close with if you're looking for ways to engage in our community, let me know because there's an opportunity for you!

Laura E. Jones Community Partner Award

The Laura E. Jones Community Partner Award is presented to an organization that LEADERship has frequently visited/worked with on projects throughout the past year and exemplifies the value of collaboration toward making positive change in Ashtabula. Throughout the 2021 - 2022 Program Year, Ashtabula County Community Action Agency exemplified what it means to be a community partner, not just with LEADERship Ashtabula County but with other organizations throughout Ashtabula County.

The Community Action Network was created as part of President Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” and Ashtabula’s Community Action Agency was initially established in 1956 under a provision by a resolution of the County Commissioners as the Ashtabula County Economic Opportunity Committee. Due to required changes at the federal level, the organization became a designated nonprofit and was renamed the Ashtabula County Community Action Agency in 1972. Per guidelines, the ACCAA has a governing board comprised of equal members from the public sector, private sector, and representatives of the low-income and vulnerable populations they serve. It’s under the leadership of Executive Director Judith Barris and Board Chair David Speelman.

With a mission to “help people achieve self-sufficiency and rise above issues of poverty,” all activities of the agency are designed to enable low-income individuals to attain skills, knowledge, and motivation to improve their lives. They also work to maximize resources and encourage cooperation and collaboration wherever possible towards the elimination of poverty for the betterment of conditions under which people live, learn, and work. The agency has shown its flexibility, partnership, and ability to leverage funds and diverse service offerings based on the unique needs of Ashtabula County.

ACCAA has proven the ability to adapt to the changing needs of Ashtabula County citizens with various agency departments - such as 2-1-1 Information & Referral, WIC, Head Start, HEAP/Utility Assistance, Weatherization, Audiology & Speech, Help Me Grow Home Visiting, Senior Nutrition, and the Dragon Empowerment Center. It collaborates with multiple organizations and entities to provide help to stabilize families during times they are struggling with difficult situations and empower them to gain the skills to help them become more economically independent.

It has shown LEADERship the importance and value of collaboration and working together to help enact positive change in the community and share its story and reach with our youth and adult participants. Making an impact on individuals throughout Ashtabula County and continuing to adapt its programs while educating all on what’s available makes LEADERship Ashtabula County excited to name Ashtabula County Community Action Agency as the recipient of the 2022 Laura E Jones Community Partner Award.

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