ICAN Housing - Robert

ICAN among local recipients of funding from United Way of Greater Stark County to carry out the Bold Goals 2020. (Canton Repository. Sunday, October 9, 2016)

Robert Allchin's green thumb experience this year might put him on the path to employment and financial independence through the United Way of Greater Stark County's Bold Goals 2020 initiative.

Allchin, who lives in an apartment owned by ICAN Housing, spent much of this year cultivating produce at one of the StarkFresh urban teaching farms, in the 600 block of Rowland Avenue NE. The idea was to give him a glimpse of maintaining responsibilities, such as agricultural work.

"We did a supportive employment pilot program," said Julie Sparks, executive director of ICAN Housing, which provides housing for local people with mental-health issues. "As it turned out, he was the most active participant out of 20. He put in the most hours on the farm. Robert became what we call 'the lead.' This particular urban farm started in March. The big picture is they develop some job skills and confidence."

ICAN is among the local recipients of funding from the United Way to carry out the Bold Goals 2020 project to improve the lives of area residents with specific needs. There are three focus areas: education, income and health. Allchin's road to progress falls within the income area. StarkFresh provided the knowledge and job-skills instruction, while ICAN supplied to labor for the urban gardening project. "It was a good opportunity for me," Allchin, 56, said. "It gave me a head start. I have been putting (employment) applications out. It gave me the courage to go back to work. I have a mental-health issue, and I haven't worked in a while. I learned a lot about plants and helping them grow. I learned a lot on how to trap groundhogs."

With the Bold Goals project, local United Way officials have some objectives they hope to reach by year 2020. They are making progress toward having all eligible students in Stark County ready for kindergarten. Another is making progress toward 100 percent high school graduation rate. A third goal is seeing that 70 percent of Stark County residents will spend no more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Another objective is increasing the number of residents who report they are healthy. United Way officials also want to reduce infant mortality and cut opiate substance abuse.

"All through the duration of his work he has received incentives, such as 30-day bus passes and gift certificates," Sparks said. "Our next goal is to help these men and women move into more traditional jobs." Allchin has been in touch with the Bureau of Vocational Employment. "I put an application in with them," he said. "I am waiting to hear from them if I qualify. I want to thank United Way for giving me this opportunity. United Way, for me, came up with this solution. And I don't feel like I got a handout because I earned it."