Anti-hunger, affordable housing advocate leaving

By Evan Goodenow -



Work as an anti-hunger and affordable housing advocate was fulfilling for Alan Mitchell — but too time consuming.

Mitchell, Oberlin Community Services food coordinator and Zion Community Development Corporation executive director, is quitting to become community investment officer for the Richland County Foundation in Mansfield.

The nonprofit, philanthropic group supports cultural needs, economic development, and social welfare.

Mitchell, who makes the change this January, said having one job will allow him to spend more time with his wife and 14- and 12-years-old daughters. “I can be a better father and husband and give them more of my time,” he said, adding that Mansfield is the hometown of his wife, Tiffany.

Mitchell joined the board of Zion CDC, which helps provide affordable and energy efficient housing in Oberlin, in 2010. In late 2013, he became interim executive director and in January was named executive director.

Mitchell’s work at Zion has included home rehabilitation, development of the first solar home, and redeveloping the nonprofit group’s financial literacy and home ownership programs. He also helped the group partner with Oberlin Community Services and the Oberlin Project, an economic and environmental initiative between the city and Oberlin College.

Zion board member David Sonner said in the release that Mitchell played a “vital role” in refocusing the group. “In a very short time, he has had many significant accomplishments,” said Sonner, who will serve as interim executive director while a replacement for Mitchell is found

Mitchell was hired by Oberlin Community Services, a nonprofit anti-poverty group, in 2012. As food coordinator, Mitchell purchases food for the group as well as overseeing donations and growing of food. In the last fiscal year, about 535,000 pounds of food were provided to needy people, more than double the annual amount from when Mitchell started.

Besides increasing food provided, Mitchell said he’s proud of starting the Choosing Healthy Options program for the group’s food pantry. It helps clients choose healthier food and encourages donations of food that is low in salt and sugar.

Due to a lack of money, some clients are often forced to buy unhealthy food because it’s cheap. That can lead to diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity.

Cindy Andrews, the group’s executive director since 2013, said the healthy options pantry is a model for Lorain County food pantries. Rather than handing people boxes of food like some pantries do, the program allows people to choose food based on their dietary needs and those of their families. “It’s a radical change,” Andrews said.

She credits Mitchell with helping obtain grants through the Lorain County General Health District and Second Harvest Food Bank. They have included $25,000 for a walk-in refrigerator and freezer allowing for more food storage. He also helped start a program that feeds 200 elderly people per month.

Andrews said Mitchell’s leadership will be missed. “He’s really done some great things for us, and more importantly for the community,” she said.

Mitchell, 40, grew up in Oberlin and said he’ll miss it. “Oberlin will always be home,” he said.

Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.


By Evan Goodenow