Johnson praises work at campus | News, Sports, Jobs

MINERAL RIDGE — After becoming familiarized with a facility that is a conglomeration of agencies, resources and support services for those with developmental challenges, US Rep. Bill Johnson also was struck by something intangible.

“I’m extremely impressed with the facility and what you’ve done. Kudos to all of you for what you’ve done to pull this off,” Johnson, R-Marietta, said.

The congressman made the remarks at, and pledged his assistance for, the Mahoning Valley Campus of Care at the end of a 90-minute tour he took Friday of the sprawling facility at 1960 E. County Line Road. He also met with a variety of stakeholders and mental-health professionals regarding the agencies and their offerings.

The Campus of Care, which debuted in 2020, is a newly renovated, multi-faceted residential and workforce training center that houses numerous agencies that include I Am Boundless Inc., Compass Family & Community Services, Alta Behavioral Healthcare, TWI (The Workshops Inc .), Flying High Inc. and Cadence Care Network.

The facility was formerly the Youngstown Developmental Center.

Also on hand were representatives from the Western Reserve Port Authority, which was responsible for renovation work to the 10 buildings on the 35-acre parcel, Sarah Lown, WRPA public finance manager, noted.

Other participants were the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board and the Trumbull County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

Johnson’s first stop was Access Healthy Foods Mahoning Valley, which produces fresh foods for the Mahoning Valley Mobile Market, a large vehicle that resembles a traveling grocery store and is set up to bring fresh produce, poultry and other items largely to areas that lack access to such foods. Johnson toured the vehicle, which has a freezer, refrigerator and shelves of fresh foods on either side of a single aisle.

Access Healthy Foods also prepares meals for the Valley’s 11 Head Start programs that serve about 760 children up to age 5, Jeff Magada, Flying High’s executive director, noted.

Johnson then toured TWI (The Workships, Inc.), which opened its Mineral Ridge location in February for adults in Mahoning and Trumbull counties with developmental challenges.

“We encourage and empower them to find independent employment,” Rachel Doty, marketing director, said.

TWI’s aim is to provide job training for such adults, and the facility has several labs to teach job skills for specific professions that fit employment needs in the area. One lab is a facsimile of a hotel room in which they learn housekeeping skills; another resembles a small restaurant and store, where they learn to be servers, Doty noted.

The clients also earn money as “they go through their employment journey,” she said, adding that a high priority is helping them be as independent as possible.

Toward the end of his tour, Johnson participated in a roundtable discussion with a variety of elected officials and mental health professionals, who discussed their agencies’ offerings and services.

Also mentioned were some of the Campus of Care’s plans and growth. Those include building a greenhouse across from a small orchard, on which are rows of young fruit trees.

“This has everything. It’s wrap around; it’s jobs. It’s like a family,” Mahoning County Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti told the assembly.

Duane Piccirilli, the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board’s executive director, said that housing continues to be a top need in the region. He and others told Johnson they hope a vacant building on the property can be used to house homeless women veterans and their children, who could receive services they need on the campus.

Also part of the tour was state Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, who noted that she helped secure $400,000 in capital funds for Mahoning County for Flying High Inc.

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