A non-profit organization providing food for area children and a locally owned coffeehouse, both of which started operations just last year, have received a big boost in recognition.

Bulldog Bags Inc., which provides meals for qualified children in the school district, and Morning Owl Coffeehouse received the Stow and Munroe Falls mayor's awards respectively at the Stow-Munroe Falls Chamber of Commerce's 13th annual community business awards luncheon at Acker Moore Memorial Post on Jan. 17.

Seven other businesses also received various awards.

More than 4,000 bags distributed

Stow Mayor Sara Kline said that, "In 2015, [Bulldog Bags] took a look around the community and took a hard look at some of the realities that Stow-Munroe Falls faced, including food and security."

Kline said volunteers realized that by providing food, which is distributed discreetly through the schools, they would be helping children who may not otherwise be getting the most nutritional food at home on weekends, "have the best opportunities to be learners, good citizens and ultimately good employees and business owners and members of the community."

Jan Mather, a founding volunteer with the organization, said "we are grateful to receive the mayor's award and for commitment and support from the Chamber."

"When Bullldog Bags was only a dream, we knew we wanted to be an organization that would be committed to provide eligible children in the community with nutritional support that would help them to be better students," said Mather.

Mather said volunteers met initially to plan on July 8, 2015 and on Jan. 28, 2016, got together for the first time to begin packing bags for distribution, with many individuals, organizations and businesses becoming involved to provide donations and/or "hands-on assistance."

In the nearly one year since then, she said, 4,215 bags were packed, each containing an average of 10 items, and delivered. Because the organization is able to purchase food at a lower cost through various sources, including the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, the average cost of each bag was just $2.19.

At first, said Mather, support was given only to children in kindergarten trough fourth grade, but this school year, it has been extended to fifth- and sixth-graders at Lakeview Intermediate School, as well as in providing "nutritional and hygiene items" to qualified Kimpton Middle School students.

In addition, she said, Bulldog Bags is starting to help Stow-Munroe Falls High School students purchase lunches at school if they fall through the cracks by being ineligible for the free or reduced cost lunch program, but still do not have enough money for a proper lunch at school.

Mather said Bulldog Bags, a 501(c)3 organization, is "run solely by volunteers."

"We are stewards of the resources that have been provided by our donors and we are committed to providing the best possible service to the students in the community and to expand this service as the opportunities present themselves," she said.

Kline said that Bulldog Bags has already proven to be a success in cooperation.

"It truly is the best of a collaboration between the faith-based community, the business community, the school district, the two municipalities involved and many countless community volunteers," she said. "Bulldog Bags feeds over 450 children every month with bags sent home for the weekendThey truly are making a difference to our community and truly building a community that will offer the best to all of us in the future."

Because Bulldog Bags is able to purchase food at well below retail prices; it prefers receiving monetary rather than food donations. Go to http://bulldogbags.org for more information, including how to donate or volunteer.

Coffeehouse is local

Munroe Falls Mayor James Armstrong said he had an opportunity to witness firsthand Morning Owl Coffeehouse owners Joseph and Danelle Hickin work on preparing their business to open because its location, at 297 North Main St., is not far from his Gaylord Drive home.

"I've had some experience watching this business grow as they're located in a place I walk my dog by every single day and I would see Joe and Danelle working on the building before they ever opened," said Armstrong.

Joe Hickin, who was accompanied to the stage by his wife, said Morning Owl Coffeehouse is local in more ways than one.

"We've only been in business for one year so we're pretty excited to get this award," he said. "It's family owned, family run, all about the community. All we have in our shop is products that are made in the local area, including coffee. We brew every cup to order and we just love coffee, love the community and thank you for the award."

Armstrong told the Hickins that the city appreciates having the coffeehouse.

"Those of us in Munroe Falls are very grateful to their contribution to our business community and I know my wife really appreciates having a coffeehouse within walking distance of our home and we hope for your continued success."

Other award winners

Seven other businesses also received awards, including:

Commercial property developer Albrecht Inc., which also owns the Acme grocery store chain, received the Stow-Munroe Falls Chamber of Commerce President's Award. Chamber President Jim Laber said Albrecht was chosen because in his experience as someone who works in an Albrecht building, the company manages its properties in a responsible way.

The Aldi discount grocery store on Fishcreek Road in Stow received the Retail Improvement award in recognition of the recent expansion of the store.

Esterle Mold and Machine Co. on Commerce Drive in Stow received the Industrial Expansion award for its 16,000-square-foot expansion.

The new Fairfield Inn and Suites hotel on Steels Pointe Drive won the Hospitality award.

J & E Development won the Commercial Development Award in recognition of its new 14,000-square foot commercial building on Alpha Parkway, which allowed for the expansion of flooring company QuestMark within Stow.

Thompson Electric Inc. received the Commercial Expansion Award in honor of its more than 7,000-square-foot expansion of its headquarters on Northmoreland Avenue in Munroe Falls.

Seasons Business Center LLC received the Industrial Development award based on its construction of two approximately 114,000-square-foot office warehouse buildings on the south side of Seasons Road, just east of Route 8, with the potential for additional buildings on the 45-acre site.

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