July 30, 2014

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15 Minutes: Meet homeless advocate Cindi Manning

Cindi Manning
Age: 52
Lives in: Amherst
Pursuit: Helping homeless

Where do you work?

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I work at Oberlin College. I’ve been the Chemistry Resources coordinator for 19 years. I’ve seen a lot of wonderful students come through.

You’re also volunteering in a program in Lorain County.

I’m involved in Family Promise of Lorain County. We’re a homeless shelter that serves families in the county and I’m the president of the board.

What is the need this year? Is it better or worse than last year?

When we had the change in the economy we saw it start hitting us throughout this whole year. We get phone calls every day, but we can only take up to 14 people in our program at a time.

What does your program do for them?

During the day, our guests stay at a day center. At the day center — it’s a house — they can wash clothes, shower, have a place for the little ones to sleep. The school-age children go to the school they were going to before the crisis. We work with the parents. We have a case manager who gets together with them to develop a plan. We help them with life skills. If they need to get their GED, we help them to get back into that program. We send them back to college. We help them with resumes — we have computers that have been donated so they can look for jobs or freshen up their skills on the computer. In the evenings, they go to one of 14 churches in Lorain County for a week at a time. That’s where they receive meals, hospitality and overnight shelter.

If someone feels they need your services, is there a contact number?

Any of the agencies can refer the family to us, or call Family Promise at (440) 284-0494.

What’s this Choice Game you play at your Family Promise table?

The person who’s playing gets 10 $1 bills. They spin the wheel and either get “choice” or “no choice.” If you get choice, you read a question to make a decision to decide to buy a pizza on the way home or go home and cook, and therefore save your money, because you only have $10. If you have a question that is “no choice,” like a water bill past due that must be paid or they are going to shut off your water, you would have to give up $2 and pay it. At the end of the game if you have any money left you might get a prize. The whole concept of the game is to teach younger people about budgeting and life skills and how sometimes we have a choice and sometimes we don’t.

What got you interested in this project?

In 2005, I had a life-threatening event where I needed to have blood transfusions. I received the needed transfusions and so I’m here today. I have a strong need to give back to the community. I do work with LifeShare as well, to make sure there’s blood product on the shelf. Through there I met a neighbor and a friend who said, “You need to do this.” I felt like it was a calling. I truly believe this is my way of giving back on my second chance on life. I actually got to meet the gentleman who donated the platelets to help save my life.

What’s his name?

His name is Dave — I don’t know if he would want his last name known, but he’s from Lorain County and we’ve kept in touch ever since.

Do you have the option to meet or be “meet-able” so to speak, if you give blood?

No, that’s not an option. This was a very special occasion. Lisa Mayles at LifeShare had to go through a lot of work to do that. One is supposed to have anonymity. But for this being a special thing, Lisa met with the person and he agreed.

What do you do to enjoy life when you’re not working or volunteering?

I have a wonderful husband, his name is Tim Manning. We have been married for eight years. I have two sons one is Stephen, 26, going to Cornell for his doctorate in physics. Matthew, 30, is a graphic artist in Phoenix. My daughter Gretchen is with her husband, who is stationed in Alaska with the Air Force.

Chronicle photographer Chuck Humel shines the spotlight on the people of Lorain County each week. Know someone worthy of 15 Minutes? E-mail chumel@chroniclet.com.

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