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Tallmadge -- "God's up to something in Tallmadge and it's all good," according to Cindy Mandrell, founder and executive director of an interdenominational ministry called Community Outreach of Love or COOL. Mandrell says God intends to bless homeowners on Stadium Drive in the northwest section of the city on June 3 with free home and yard improvements, courtesy of the selfless service of church, business and community volunteers.
The annual COOL Day Project is staged the first Saturday in June in a chosen community. For the second year in a row, Mandrell says God has led the organization to Tallmadge. Last year COOL volunteers spruced up Danner and Peck roads.
"It's a pure gift with no strings attached," she says, adding, "We require nothing of the residents. We just want them to have a genuine loving experience with people of God."
The COOL initiative was born in Canton in 2008 when Mandrell, in her capacity as a Youth With A Mission missionary, joined Mayor Janet Creighton on prayer walks throughout the city on Thursday afternoons
"I got to meet the people in the neighborhoods and they were really, really wonderful people," Mandrell recalls. "But for a lot of them, the needs they had were overwhelming and if they had just had some help, it would've changed their whole outlook. And as I was walking, I just got a vision: What if a whole bunch of God's people with God's gifts and talents and God's storehouse of funds all came together and just blessed these people with His love?"
Etched in her memory, Mandrell said, is an image of a woman she encountered, trying to plant flowers in front of her home with a tablespoon.
When she bought a home herself as a single woman in 1983, Mandrell recalls wanting to plant flowers, too "but I couldn't afford the trowel because I was house poor. I recognized me in her. Our common obstacles, our common heart."
For the next two months COOL representatives and volunteers will prepare for "Project Day," by meeting with Stadium Drive homeowners to discuss what their needs and hopes are home-wise. Whether it's applying a new coat of paint, repairing a porch or planting flowers, Mandrell says, "you just sense a joy, a giddiness, in being given the opportunity to join God in the work that He's doing.
He's just bringing a freshness to the city -- we like to call it a spiritual awakening. We're seeing more enthusiasm and more of a hunger and desire to serve the community and we're just blessed to be a part of it."
Stadium Drive was chosen as COOL's 2017 destination last week and twice weekly prayer walks of the neighborhood have just gotten under way. Mandrell says she and area leaders drove around the city for three-and-a-half hours recently, asking God to lead them to the place He wanted them to serve. "We drove down almost every street in Tallmadge," Mandrell recalls, "and there was 100 percent consensus among us that Stadium Drive is where God wants us to be."
Based on outward appearances, Stadium Drive residents may not seem to have pressing physical needs, Mandrell says. But based on last year's experience on Danner and Peck roads, she says volunteers discovered many health-related needs which weren't initially obvious.
"We don't know what we're going to find when we start to talk to the people on Stadium Drive," Mandrell says, "but we know that God wants to bless these people and that there are people with needs. He knows that, so we go in with our hearts open."
Tallmadge Mayor Dave Kline says he is happy to have the COOL team back in Tallmadge and will be serving alongside the volunteers on June 3. "Last year, the COOL organization did what they promised and made a positive impact on our community," according to Kline. "I am supportive of this group's mission and look forward to serving the residents in the neighborhood selected this year. We welcome COOL back to our city and hope you will share in our excitement about this project."
Participating churches include: Northwest Avenue Church of Christ; SPAN Ministries; Tallmadge First Church of God; Our Lady Of Victory Church; and Tallmadge Lutheran Church.
Participating businesses and community groups include: Beaver Excavating; Carter Lumber Co.; Cobra Roll-Off Service (Canton); Jones Roll-Off Container Inc.; Jubilee Donuts; Leppo Rents; Petitti Garden Center; Republic Services; Sherwin-Williams; Tegrey Family of Coatings Inc.; The Henry Bierce Co.; Vaughn's Refuse; and Window World.
Volunteer registration for COOL Day runs through May 8. For more information, visit the COOL website at www.cooldays.org.
"We want people to see who God is through us," Mandrell says. "We want them to know how genuinely He loves them. That's why COOL exists -- to share His gifts."
Twitter: @ EllinWalsh_RPC