I was first introduced to Alliance through Sunday drives with my mother. We came to the Carnation City to do grocery shopping at Walmart. Afterward, we’d grab lunch at Heggy’s a little farther down State Street. We’d often pass the Mount Union campus, which always intrigued me. A few years later, when I was in seventh grade, I competed in the District 13 Science Day at Mount Union College. It was my first time to actually set foot on campus, and I was impressed. “Mom,” I said, “do you think I can apply here?” She assured me that, when the time came, I could apply anywhere that I wanted, including Mount Union. As it turned out, Mount Union was the only place I applied as a senior at GlenOak High School. Fortunately, I was accepted and became a part of the Alliance community after so many years of visiting. While at Mount Union, I interned at Channel 11, housed inside Alliance High School. The enthusiasm of Kyle Schwarz and Abbey Rogers was contagious, and I soon began creating my own television shows. This was the moment when I truly began to fall in love with the Carnation City.
After graduation, I became a Channel 11 employee, where I learned that the thing I love the most about Alliance is the people. My time at the station gave me an opportunity to meet so many folks who care deeply about the city. In addition to Kyle and Abbey, I can name Mayor Alan Andreani, Alliance Area Chamber of Commerce President Mark Locke, Alliance Council person Julie Jakimides, University of Mount Union President Richard Giese, Alliance City Schools Superintendent Jeff Talbert and Marlington Local Schools Superintendent Joe Knoll as among the many people whose enthusiasm about the greater Alliance community is contagious. I often call Alliance the forgotten city of Stark County, pushed off to the side by bigger communities. Sure, Alliance was once a railroad and industry hub, and with the decline of those businesses, it went into a slump like many other communities. But now the city has found its footing, is discovering areas where it can be successful, and is marching forward again.
Currently, I am employed as director of development by the Alliance Area Domestic Violence Shelter. Domestic violence is a tough issue to work around, and it’s sad that we have such problems in modern society. But Executive Director Kim Stanley and the staff are helping people to get back on their feet and resume their lives. She, like the others I’ve mentioned, is making a difference. As part of my job, I am involved in fundraising, training, public relations, and social media, getting the word out about Alliance in general and the shelter in particular. I also plan to join the Alliance Rotary and the board of the Alliance Farmers’ Market to help my adopted city in any way that I can. It’s funny, I don’t live in Alliance, but I care more for it than my own community. Those early shopping trips with Mom ended up shaping my destiny more than I would have ever guessed. A common refrain among people I talk to is that Alliance is “growing.” I’m glad to be part of that growth, and I hope other people join in, too.
By chris cugini Special to The Review Published: April 3, 2015
Chris Cugini is the director of development for the Alliance Area Domestic Violence Shelter.