State Senator spends summer break visiting constituents

Press Profile
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series profiling State Senator Gayle Manning. Manning’s 13th Ohio Senate District encompases both Lorain and Huron counties. Last week, we talked with the senator, who grew up and attended school in Sheffield Village and raised her family her, including Ohio State Rep. Nathan Manning in North Ridgeville. This week, we hit the road with the senator as she visited constituents. 

 

BY MICHELE MURPHY

When Ohio State Senator Gayle Manning (R-OH 13) was elected in 2010, she made a promise to her constituents to be available to them. Actually, she looks forward to getting out into the district, which encompasses Lorain and Huron Counties. Despite a grueling spring schedule, filled with late night and early morning meetings about the state budget, she was clearly “pumped up” to hit the road once she was back home from Columbus.

On this day, she was traveling to three Lorain County nonprofit organizations. Then she was meeting with a woman to discuss a literacy project followed by an interview with a high school student wanting to know about elected life. Despite the full schedule, she called it “summer recess.”

As she drove to a 9 a.m. meeting at Lorain County Free Clinic (LCFC), she said she has worked hard to be visible throughout the district. She then admitted that she occasionally encounters a constituent who mistakenly thinks she moved to Columbus following her election six and a half years ago.

Pulling into Free Clinic’s parking lot, Manning explained that she was asked to visit following their move in May from a church basement to a retired doctor’s offices on Oberlin Ave. in Lorain.

LCFC’s long-time Executive Director Paul Baumgartner, accompanied by the program director and board chairperson, showed the Senator around. He shared that dozens of new clients had come through the doors since the move, which he attributed to their visibility on a busy street.

Baumgartner described the Free Clinic’s client base as working poor, saying they “bridge the gap for adults without access to affordable or timely health care.” In 2016, he said the clinic had 6,000 patients visits, with clients coming from every zip code in Lorain County.

Discussion turned to the state budget. Manning acknowledged that Baumgartner “did his due diligence” when he became aware of proposed state budget cuts to Ohio’s 50 free clinics. Manning related she heard colleagues say “They don’t need it (funding), they have medicaid.” She continued, “Paul explained to me that is not true because free clinics serve the working poor who often do not qualify for Medicaid.”

She said as she talked to her Senate colleagues, a few were not aware that they had a free clinic in their districts. Armed with research, she showed them locations of those clinics in an effort to get some of their funding restored.

Then the “M” word came up. Manning admitted Medicaid could still be affected in this budget depending on what Congress does with a health care bill. Baumgartner believes they “could be hit hard if people are taken off medicaid because then they will turn to free clinic for care.”

“Legislators need education,” said Manning. “We should be using our summers to tour these type of facilities.”

Driving down North Ridge Ave. to her next stop, Manning excitedly pointed to Dog and Suds, a drive-in restaurant. “That is where I had my first job!” she exclaims. As she drives, she talks about growing up in Sheffield Village, attending Brookside High School and meeting the man of her dreams, Jeffrey Manning. They married a few years later.

At Blessing House, Manning was greeted by co-founders Donna Humphrey and Sr. Mary Berigan. The organization is a crisis care center for children from birth through 12, providing a temporary, safe place for them when parents or guardians are experiencing an emergency. Since opening its doors in 2005, they have served 1300 kids, according to Sr. Berigan. She emphasized they come from every community in Lorain County, offering a straight-up answer, “Domestic violence, mental health or alcohol/drug issues are everywhere.”

While chatting in a play area where Sr. Berigan was showing the colorful hand or footprint of every child they have served imprinted on the walls, a little boy darted into the room. After checking the adults out, he began to play with an assortment of whirring, clicking push toys. A staff member stood close by observing him. Another little boy joined him, then a second caregiver came into the playroom carrying a little girl in the middle of a crying jag. One adult sat with the children and read a book, while the other spoke softly to calm the crying infant.

The co-founders and Manning smiled at what some might consider chaos. They saw the safety and connection that are features of Blessing House’s operating philosophy.

Discussion soon shifted to the state budget. Manning was able to help secure Blessing House a $300,000 capital improvement allocation which lit up their faces like little kids on Christmas morning. They said it would help them move forward with a campaign to build a new, larger facility to meet increased need for their services.

Next was a stop where staff from Grafton-Midview Public Library and four volunteers prepared to serve lunch as part of a collaboration with Lorain County Boys and Girls Clubs and Second Harvest Foodbank. According to library marketing coordinator, Tami Mullins, the collaboration allows them “to serve a nutritious meal to kids during the summer.”

They told Manning they feed an average of 30 children five days a week at that location. On this particular day, the ages ranged from toddler to mid-teens. Many arrived with mom or caregivers who sat with them as they ate.

Manning sat with one little girl who shared with her how frightened she was to start school in the fall. “You’ll love it,” encouraged the retired teacher.

She then rolled up her sleeves, donned plastic hair-netting, gloves and an apron and began serving lunch. She chatted with volunteer servers. Coincidentally, three were named Manning – no relation. As they served up lunch to the kids, they talked about the importance of volunteering. Manning, who is a graduate of Kent State University, also had fun talking with one of the young volunteers who attends her alma mater.

Then it was back in the car. She had now been going four straight hours without a break. She appeared unfazed, exuding the same upbeat attitude she showed first thing in the morning. It is clear she gets her energy from people.

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