Community Members Prepare for Annual Hope Conference

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – More than 50 business and community leaders gathered at the Covelli Centre on Wednesday to lay the groundwork for a broad-based event designed to address the needs of the Mahoning Valley. 

The annual Hope Conference is scheduled for May 18 and will feature vendors to break down barriers for returning citizens, those recovering from addictions and those facing other challenges.

Guy Burney, executive director of the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence, said the event is to get the community and local agencies connected to local people facing these issues.

“We’ll have pretty much everything that you can think of that’s a barrier or an issue for people – that agency will be here,” he said. 

Some areas include employment, mental health services, drivers license services, recovery systems, child support, food and clothing, Burney said.

Burney said this annual event has been taking place for about seven years.

“We started at YSU, and it was in a small room,” he said. “Now we’ve grown through the Covelli Centre.”

It is important to give this hope to the area and let people know that they can make it, Burney said.

“A lot of times, people want to make it but they just don’t know how or they don’t have access to the correct resources,” he said. “This is a day to concentrate on that population and let them know that they are valuable.”

Burney said he expects more than 130 vendors to be present at the event.

“Each year we have grown,” he said. “We had over 1,500 [attendees] last year. We are hoping to have more this year.”

Some of the speakers Wednesday included Kelan Bilal, owner of Excalibur Barber Grooming Lounge, who will offer grooming and facial services at the event, and Marilyn Montes, chief operating officer of the Mahoning-Youngstown Community Action Partnership, who will help people remove barriers to finding jobs.

John Caroline, Mahoning County Child Support and Job and Family Services managing attorney, will also be there to help with food stamps and medicaid benefits, child care and other barrier removal services.

“Generally, we are trying to get them [community members] to become a vital part of society, which they already are, and we just want them to understand,” he said.

Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown speaks about the impact of the annual event.

Carol Ramsay-Loomis, OhioMeansJobs Mahoning County manager, said her team will be there to help with finding jobs and getting training/certification.

Mahoning County Veterans Service Commision’s Corban Baker will be there to help veterans make claims and receive benefits and other assistance.

Dominic Mancini, chief operating officer  of Youngstown Red Zone said his agency offers addiction services and adolescent mental health services in surrounding area schools.

“Many of our clients have been coming to this for years,” he said. “This is our first year [participating in the Hope Conference]. We thought since we have benefited by bringing our case management clients here, that we should get involved.”

Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown said he was amazed by the impact he has seen from this annual conference.

“Individuals that we come in contact with, they probably have some crutch that we have to help them just become sustainable and do it on their own,” he said.

“You’re worth everything that we are going to do because our community is you – so we are so excited to really be here to expand this process and help,” Burney said.

The public is invited to attend the 2023 Hope Conference event from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 18. No prior registration or ticket purchases are necessary.

Pictured at top: Guy Burney, executive director of the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence, is surrounded by Hope Conference vendor participants as he speaks Wednesday.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.