Wednesday, November 22, 2017 Elyria 33°


A village gift for Grafton's Christmas in July


GRAFTON — Christmas will be coming a bit early this year for Grafton’s Salvation Army and Our Lady Queen of Peace Helping Hands Ministry.

And Grafton Mayor Shari Szczepanski was the sole person behind the gift to the village — a summer performance by the Singing Angels.

About a month ago, Szczepanski was listening to Clear Channel Radio when she learned of an online auction.

Once she logged onto the Web site, she found a package deal where the Singing Angels and Men of Independence, a barbershop chorus, would perform a concert in a local community.

“I thought this was the perfect opportunity for a fund-raiser, and I didn’t think anyone would bid on it,” Szczepanski said.

Her intuition was right and she won the package.

The Singing Angels and Men of Independence will be performing at Grafton’s “Christmas in July” concert on July 25 at Willow Park with all of the proceeds from the event going toward the two entities in Grafton that aim at helping those in need.

“My goal was to give the concert to a nonprofit organization in town. What’s unique about the Grafton Salvation Army and Helping Hands Ministry is that one is based in a Methodist church and another in the Catholic church. But, it doesn’t matter what (church) door these people go through on Sunday, they want to help people in need,” Szczepanski said.

The Grafton Salvation Army and Our Lady Queen of Peace Helping Hands Ministry help families who reside in the Midview school district.

For the past year, both organizations have joined forces to work together to help more families.

Grafton Salvation Army treasurer Jim Westermann could not believe his good luck when he learned that the proceeds would be split between his organization and the Helping Hands Ministry.

“To be honest, it was a pleasant surprise when the Mayor Szczepanski came to us,” Westermann said. “If we (helped people) alone, we could not help as many, but now we can take care of almost everybody because of the partnership.”

In 2008, the Grafton Salvation Army assisted 96 families, and according to Westermann, the number continues to increase as the economy worsens.

The money from the benefit concert will solely support the food cupboard at the Grafton Salvation Army.

Our Lady Queen of Peace Helping Hands president Darla Strah said Szczepanski’s “gift” answered her organization’s prayers.

“Our monies were being depleted and we were thinking of doing a fund-raiser. We do not receive any grant money, so all of our donations are from generous parishioners,” Strah said.

Prior to being the “Helping Hands Ministry,” Our Lady Queen of Peace had a St. Vincent DePaul Society, which received grant money, but the organization disbanded in recent years at the church.

Unlike the Grafton Salvation Army, which assists families in emergency situations, the Helping Hands Ministry is client-based and requires a screening process before people are accepted.

“Mayor Szczepanski was very generous in donating this gift. She wanted to do the most that she could to get the most (funds) for both of us,” Strah said.


  • What: Singing Angels benefit concert
  • When: Saturday, July 25
  • Where: Willow Park, 1125 South Main Street, Grafton
  • Time: Gates open at 4 p.m. with the concert beginning at 5 p.m.
  • Cost: $5 donation. Advanced tickets and $5 box lunches can be pre-purchased at Grafton Village Hall, Grafton Sparkle Market, Royal Oaks Golf Course, Grafton United Methodist Church and Our Lady Queen of Peach Church. Tickets can also be purchased at the gate. Box lunches will not be available the day of the concert.
  • To donate food items: Call the Grafton Salvation Army at (440) 926-3883 or Our Lady Queen of Peach Parish Office at (440) 926-2364.

All proceeds from the benefit concert will support the Grafton Salvation Army and Our Lady Queen of Peace Helping Hands Ministry.

Send your Grafton/LaGrange/Columbia news to Melissa Linebrink, 329-7155 or

Click to view comments
To Top

Fetching stories…