AKRON, Ohio — Sometimes in life our greatest pain can lead to great purpose. That is what drives a Northeast Ohio man every day.
Lavar Jacobs is a bus driver for Akron Metro RTA.
He was born and raised in the Rubber City, and the spirit of Akron is imprinted on his heart like the tread of a tire. The streets and the people reflect where he’s from and where he’s going.
“Just doing what I can,” said Jacobs while driving his bus. “Taking care of these passengers and taking care of this city.”
All his hours behind the wheel have helped Jacobs arrive at his next stop in life: The intersection of pain and purpose.
“I actually came up with the idea of what to name the organization while I was driving the bus!”
Jacobs is the founder of Not Just October; a nonprofit dedicated to breast cancer awareness and wrap-around services, year-round.
Jacobs created the organization in honor of his mother, Kim Jacobs, who died from the disease. He says they were best friends.
“Being in the room when my mom took her last breath it really did something to me, and I had to go forward and make a difference in the world,” said Jacobs. “So, that’s what I’m doing right now through Not Just October.”
He is making a difference in the lives of women like Candance Johnson.
She owns and operates Candy’s Brow & Art Boutique.
“I was the first Black threader in Akron,” she said.
Candance has been perfecting her craft since she was a teenager and worked hard to open her own business.
Sit and talk with her and you instantly feel her heart, talent and tenacity.
Last year, a doctor checked out a lump she had found in her chest. She was diagnosed with breast cancer at just 32.
“I went in thinking: If this is cancer, you’re going to get through it,’” she recalled.
She says she had to shut down her business while undergoing treatment.
With finances and energy limited ahead of the holidays, Lavar and Not Just October stepped in. He had heard about what she was going through from mutual friends.
“He bought Christmas for my kids, which was amazing,” she smiled. “He did an amazing job – he got them exactly what they wanted. It meant a lot to see my kids happy. It made my heart very warm. Very warm.”
Candance says she’s forever grateful for Lavar’s help when she needed it most.
“He didn’t have to pick me to bless me with what he did,” she said. “I really thank him for that.”
She is now building back her energy and business.
“Go get your mammogram,” she encouraged all women. “Don’t be scared.”
Across town, at the Kim Jacobs Breast Cancer Resource Center, there are so many women and families can find help and support.
“This right here is very important; this is my mom and she’s with me all the time,” said Jacobs, pointing to a tribute to his mother inside the resource center named in her honor. “That’s why I like her here, you know, her presence is here.”
He says he feels her presence all the time.
Forever a son, and now a husband and father, as well, Jacobs sees all the opportunities to help women battling breast cancer.
Along with buying Christmas presents he offers wigs, massages, a food pantry, and more.
He fundraises to support it all and is constantly doing outreach - like when he took his message center stage at a recent celebration of survivors.
“I really, really hate the fact that my mom had to pass away for me to find my purpose, but I found it,” he told the audience. “I want to change the world and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
They keep fighting. So, Jacobs keeps fighting alongside them to help lighten the load.
“This is my everything; I wake up and first thing in the morning and I’m thinking about Not Just October," he said.
From housework to lawn care, Jacobs is there. Even on workdays at the RTA, he’s busy lining up services when he’s on break from driving his bus.
“If can’t find a company, I’ll probably end up coming out myself,” he told a woman over the phone who needed her leaves raked.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
“I think it’s totally God,” he said about the way everything always gets done.
“Akron is really near and dear to my heart,” said Jacobs. “I have a lot of memories of my mom, and it’s important for me to continue her legacy in this city. So, that’s what I’m going to do.”
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