Article: Original article written by Craig Webb, published in the Akron Beacon Journal. Image: An areal view of the I Promise HealthQuarters on West Market Street in Akron. Photo courtesy of the LeBron James Family Foundation.
LeBron James has said it takes a village to help raise a kid and make a true difference.
And Tuesday’s announcement of the new I Promise HealthQuarters furthers his contention that a holistic approach is needed to make change not only in a child’s life but for the student’s entire family.
The new I Promise HealthQuarters will be the latest addition to the growing set of resources offered by James’ namesake foundation and will be situated right across the street from the now-under-construction House Three Thirty.
Like the old Tangier, the property and building was owned by the George family that has operated Bell Music Co. — which supplies arcade-type amusements to businesses — for decades out of the structure that includes offices and a large warehouse space.
AxessPointe to partner with LeBron James Family Foundation
The foundation has partnered with AxessPointe Community Health Partners to offer the medical, dental and optometry care along with on-site lab services and even a reduced-cost pharmacy.
Mark Frisone, executive director of AxessPointe, said everything just fell together to make this possible right when it seemed things were somewhat falling apart for the non-profit that targets the medical needs of underserved areas in Summit and Portage counties.
AxessPointe operated a fourth full clinic on South Broadway in Akron that had to close about a year ago when its partner, the Cleveland Clinic, opted to switch the services offered at the site. Frisone said they were looking for another spot in Akron to open up when they teamed up with the foundation.
“Bluest skies are on the other side of the darkest clouds,” he said.
A combination of grant funding and charitable donations will make the $3 million-plus project move forward.
Frisone said a lot of people, from the foundation to the city, have been working for months to make the project possible.
What’s unique about this particular clinic is that it will offer a wealth of services all under one roof.
For many, he said, the lack of access to health care — particularly when it comes to transportation, scheduling and even billing — creates barriers to preventive and critical care.
And to have it located in the heart of a neighborhood where it can serve the greatest number of residents both young and old is a plus.
“The greatest wealth for a community is good health,” he said. “The (LeBron James Family) Foundation understands this for the community.”
A key component for this particular project, Frisone said, is that it also includes mental health services. Often one’s physical health is impacted by one’s mental health, or vice versa.
“This is truly a transformational project for this part of town,” he said.
Peg’s Foundation also partnering with LeBron’s foundation
Coleman Health Services and Peg’s Foundation are also partners.
Hudson-based Peg’s Foundation has been working with James’ foundation over the last five years to offer educational support through mental health services for students to the tune of about half a million dollars per year.
Rick Kellar, president of the foundation, said the organization’s motto is to “think bigger” in its mission to help improve access to mental health care and treatment.
Creating a one-stop place for I Promise students and families and the Greater Akron community, Kellar said, to address both physical and mental well-being under one roof was simply something they had to be part of.
“Where the need is sometimes the greatest, you have the least resources,” he said. “There’s an opportunity here in Akron to do something different and change the world.”
The world can be a scary place, particularly in the eyes of a kid.
There’s a war in Europe.
Racial and political tension in America.
And violence is not far from the doorstep for many Akron school kids.
Just this past week an Akron teen was beaten to the death in an apparent dispute in the parking lot of the I Promise School that the Foundation and Akron Public Schools have partnered in running. The school was closed for the school year.
Coleman Health Services part of new facility from LeBron’s foundation
As much as we try to insulate our kids, Hattie Tracy, president and CEO of Coleman Health Services, said, children are exposed to violence daily, and it is taking a mental toll.
“This is no easy task for our kids to see and deal with on a daily basis,” she said.
That, coupled with the fears and isolation during the pandemic, she said, has created a greater need for mental health services and counseling for both children and adults.
Tracy said there is an opportunity with the HealthQuarters to make mental health services as readily available as seeing a dentist for a cavity or a doctor for a stomachache.
“We have an opportunity to work with some families who historically have been underserved,” she said. “This will be a much more elevated and collaborative level than we have previously done.”
George family promise is to help foundation help community
David A. George, whose family operated the Tangier and owned the building where the HealthQuarters will be located, said there’s been a lot of interest in the building — particularly as House Three Thirty takes shape across the street.
He said he’s fielded calls from developers interested in building everything from offices, to a fast food-restaurant, to a gas station, to even a marijuana dispensary.
But in the end, he said, the family decided — just like the fate of the Tangier — what was best for the neighborhood and the city was partnering with the foundation.
“Our top priority was helping the foundation transform this area of Akron,” he said.
The family’s arcade supplier business is not going away.
George said they are now in the midst of finding a new spot for the business that has been around since 1935 and has about 800 or so clients.
“We marvel at what the foundation does,” he said. “They are doers.”
Director, Communication and Advocacy