Aug 30, 2023
For Gwendolyn Gilmore, Executive Director of Rapha Academy, her passion for lifelong learning is matched only by her commitment to enrich and support the children, residents and families of her community. Spend a short time with her, and the love and passion of her calling are instantly evident from this dedicated educator, loving shepherd and community beacon.
Rev. Gilmore and her husband, Rev. Richard Gilmore, purchased the former Northwood Middle School last year. Rapha Academy is using the re-purposed facility to expand its highly rated childcare and early learning programs.
Their work and outreach are evident throughout Lorain County through their non-profit organizations, Full Gospel Faith Fellowship Church and Rapha Academy. For years, they have offered residents and families resources and connections to strengthen and enhance their lives and reach their full potential.
Rapha Academy was launched to provide working families with non-traditional daycare, offering care from 6 a.m. until midnight. Initially serving 11 children, the center has grown to serve nearly 150 children today, cared for by a skilled staff of 25. In addition, it offers after-school care and transportation for numerous students in the Lorain, Elyria and Clearview school districts and various youth and senior programs. It was an important education center that encouraged and kept students connected during the pandemic.
“Today, there is tremendous pressure on all of us. The world – and the household environment – can be very challenging,” said Gilmore, who was a math teacher for years in the Elyria City School District before retiring in 2015. “It is important to know growing up that the whole world is not crazy, and there are people that care about you.”
Northwood School, where the couple’s three children attended and she briefly taught, provides nearly ten times the space of their previous facility and opportunities for future expansion. Among the expansion plans is a charter school for kindergarten through fifth grades.
“We have focused our work on helping local families realize their full potential. We had great role models in our parents and good training from them on how to be resourceful, resilient and caring,” said Gilmore. “It’s like the old proverb says, ‘when one hand washes another, both become clean,’ when we come together, cooperate and share our gifts, we can find solutions and work to focus on people and the community to attain goals and growth.”
Strong connections to the community have been a hallmark of the couple’s work, including teaming with local civic, education and health organizations to offer everything from health screenings, leadership training, mentoring and business guidance. Buckeye Community Bank’s focus on strengthening the community attracted Gilmore after a trusted friend recommended it.
“Buckeye has been heaven sent. We have developed a great relationship with David Janowicz and the team. David took the time to listen and become interested in what we are doing and trying to accomplish,” Gilmore said. “We found kindred spirits at Buckeye, as it was more than a transaction but a partnership to strengthen the community. Our work together has been smooth, lightning fast and tremendously helpful.”
The critical role the Gilmore family, their teams and the organization have in fostering inclusive growth is something Buckeye President and CEO Ben Norton says strengthens the community through love and support.
“Gwen and Richard Gilmore have done amazing work strengthening generations of residents. They have become a cornerstone of providing the critical support, connection and opportunity when needed,” said Norton. “The Rapha Academy and Buckeye Community Bank share a belief that we can grow together when we invest and work together as partners.”
Learn more about Rapha Academy at fgffrapha.com.