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Akron Children’s opens new Unity Center focused on diversity, equity and inclusion

04-11-2024 (Akron, Ohio )

Akron Children’s has opened a new Family Resource Center and Unity Center.  

Both centers, housed in a 1,400 square foot renovated space, are adjacent and highly visible to patients and families on the third-floor of the hospital.

The new Family Resource Center will be a hub where families can connect with staff from Akron Children’s and community organizations for resources and information.

“In creating our new Family Resource Center, we considered how we can best help and support families in a different way,” said Heather Wuensch, director of community benefit, advocacy & outreach. “Our vision is fairly unique: To create one place with convenient access to all the support services a family may need. This is a really exciting opportunity to better serve our patient families and provide them with a place to gather resources or more information, or simply relax.”

Families can access the following services at the Family Resource Center:

  • Population health
  • Patient family library
  • Patient relations
  • Translation and language access services
  • Computer access and business center
  • Summit County Public Health WIC Clinic
  • Summit County Department of Job and Family Services
  • United Way of Summit & Medina

The center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and can be reached at 330-543-9674.

“Akron Children’s Family Resource Center is unique because of the number of external partners we have and the kind of relationship we're building with potential external partners,” said Bernett L. Williams, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer and vice president external initiatives at Akron Children’s.

“Our family resource center is going to support our patient families, our volunteers and our employees as well, which is another differentiator I’m very excited about.”

The Unity Center is part of the hospital’s ongoing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives and will serve as a welcoming space for employees, volunteers, patient families, and the community. The Unity Center will also house Akron Children’s DEI team.

Williams says the vision for the Unity Center is for it to be an open, welcoming space for employees and volunteers.

“We want people to come in and become familiar with this space. We selected vibrant colors and patterns and comfortable furniture because we want it to be a welcoming environment. The colors and the other details of the space were selected so people would feel comfortable coming in and staying a while,” she said.

Northeast Ohio-based artist Van Taylor Monroe was commissioned to create a mural that will be installed in the Unity Center. The center also features a unity wall, which showcases the word “unity” in several languages.

Akron Children’s DEI team is working to finalize a DEI and culture calendar and will host cultural and inclusive events in the Unity Center. The team hopes these events can help people expand their understanding of cultural issues, events and ultimately their colleagues.

“This work is not about trying to make anyone think a particular way,” Williams said. “I see it as opportunities to help expand our knowledge base, expand our thinking and understanding. Knowledge is power and with that knowledge, each individual can decide if they take action. We just want to make sure people are equipped with information.”

Jennifer Ross, director of DEI at Akron Children’s, adds that the goal of the DEI team’s work and the Unity Center is to make people more culturally competent.

“It’s about helping people navigate one another in a better way,” she explained. “When we can help people to understand differences and navigate those differences, we're making them much better colleagues.”

Akron Children’s CEO Chris Gessner Gessner emphasized the importance of the work Williams and her team are doing and how the Unity center will help.

“It’s our goal at Akron Children’s to create a diverse workforce that reflects our patient population and represents the communities we serve,” said Gessner. “Having an environment where our staff and patient families feel safe, understood, supported and welcome helps us provide the world-class pediatric care we’re known for, and the Family Resource Center and the Unity Center will expand and deepen these efforts.”

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