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Ex-law enforcement officer creates suitcase and bookbag initiative to help displaced children in Northeast Ohio

Posted at 6:15 AM, Jul 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-24 07:52:35-04

WELLINGTON, Ohio — Steve Neff worked in law enforcement for 20 years working with various agencies. He retired 15 years ago.

“Once I retired, I went back to the love of music and me and my son opened the store almost 11 years ago,” Neff said.

But what he saw while protecting and serving stuck with him.

“We saw many families that had issues and their children were actually removed by public agencies. It was pretty heartbreaking that they went in and removed these children and really didn’t take much with the children.”

So, while running his music shop, Wellington Music on Herrick Ave, Neff started a nonprofit called "Safety Service Fundraising" hoping to help.

Through working with social service agencies, Neff says he learned abuse, neglect and drug use continue to tear families apart.

And the pandemic isn’t helping.

Neff says more are kids stuck at home and are forced to deal with it all until they’re legally removed. When that happens, Neff and his team plan to have suitcases and bookbags filled with personal hygiene products to help those children transition. Neff currently has 500 bags ready to be delivered to those in need in Lorain, Medina, Huron and Ashland counties. He hopes the supplies will last through the end of the year.

“It’s simple, but it’s been a lot of work putting it together,” he said. “They’re going to be stored at the sheriff’s department so that public service agencies if they’re going to go do a removal they can stop and pick these things up and then have something to put the kid’s personal belongings in.”

The problem is that can’t happen until coronavirus cases in Ohio settle down. Lorain County is currently classified as an orange level-three county, according to the state’s color-coded county alert system. Yet, Governor DeWine announced on Thursday the county is still considered to have high coronavirus occurrences.

“We know these counties need them. We know the kids need them, but we also have to understand what the country’s going through with the coronavirus that everything’s susceptible right now to the virus,” Neff said.

Until then, Steve plans to play out the acoustic sounds of change while serving whoever reaches out for help, regardless of their age.

“If they needed it we will have it and will have it available for them,” he said.

Neff and his team need donations like small backpacks and suitcases. Those items can be dropped off or mailed to the Wellington Music shop at 117 W Herrick Ave, Wellington, OH 44090. All checks made out to ‘Safety Service Fundraising’ can be mailed to the shop as well.