Norva Ross has been at the helm of Pathways Enrichment Center in Lorain since 1995. Pathways serves all of Lorain County and is located in the middle of one of Lorain’s food desert areas. Since the pandemic hit in April, Norva has been open every week and has been serving twice the amount of families as she usually sees. Over 4,300 families have attended one of Pathway’s distributions in 2020. Norva was able to work with Second Harvest, National Guard soldiers, and her dedicated team of volunteers to improvise and adopt a drive-thru distribution model in a very limited space. She much prefers giving community members a choice of food, but always consults the food pyramid when planning out pre-packed pantry boxes.
In addition to food distributions, Pathways also gave out toys through their Toys Matter program. Norva calls this her “Ray of Hope” program because play matters especially in times like these. This underscores the fact that Pathways Enrichment Center is not just concerned with meeting community food needs. “We are about more than food. We provide more than meals. With our volunteers, we bring hope to people and it helps with social conjuring. It’s also about creating community around healthy food,” says Ross. Pathways provides for the community with empathy and love.
When asked about her motivation for this work, Norva stated that “my faith and God and my belief in miracles has gotten me through. I identify myself as a servant leader and feel rewarded in being able to make a difference while enhancing our community.” In addition to leading Pathways, Norva is a clinical therapist as well as a registered nurse. These skills have proven to be especially useful during the COVID-19 crisis as she has seen firsthand the mental and physical toll this pandemic has taken.
Looking ahead to 2021, Norva plans to continue to try and show families, children, and individuals a new path so they can be the best they can be within their own possibilities. “I am acquainted with deep suffering so I want to help individuals with in their own personal growth and in their own spiritual journey. I think we are very resilient and creative. Our future is being healed as a community.”
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