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Empowering Communities

TomTod Ideas is one of several organizations that call Stark Library their home. These partnerships build cooperation, present development opportunities, and bring the community together.

Joel Daniel Harris, who had invested his life and energy in middle school students, was approached by a student, Leah, with an idea. Not just a good idea but a great idea. Leah wondered: “What if we could have a bunch of people sleep outside in cardboard boxes for a night? Along the way we could learn about homelessness and poverty, raise awareness about the issue, and raise funds for a local homeless shelter?”

In Joel’s mind, this idea sparked a bigger question: “What if middle school kids could be empowered to use their ideas and imagination to make the world a better place?” That’s how TomTod Ideas was born. TomTod Ideas stands for Tomorrow’s Ideas Today.

Middle school students are amazing people. They have a brilliant naiveté about the world that enables them to see the possibilities instead of the roadblocks,” Joel Says.

TomTod Ideas empowers middleschoolers to turn those possibilities into imaginative ideas that enhance the common good of the community.

The Library was so impressed with what TomTod Ideas was doing in the community that they approached Joel with the possibility of a collaboration—he jumped at the idea of housing TomTod offices in the Library. “One of the things that we love about being here at the library is that it is more than just a place to put our desk. Stark Library is an invaluable resource—a place where we can access information, connect to the community, and draw from the expertise and knowledge of the library staff.”

Remember Leah? She’s now a college student studying early childhood education. She credits TomTod Ideas for empowering her to use her skills to create a widely successful event that truly worked to enhance the common good.

Stark Library is an invaluable resource — a place where we can access information, connect to the community, and draw from the expertise and knowledge of the library staff.”
— Joel Daniel Harris, TomTod Ideas

BikeSmart and TomTodBikeSmart

One of the many ideas brought to life through TomTod’s partnership with the Library was BikeSmart. A few years ago, while attending Camp What If, Gabby, Devin, and Alexis had an outrageous idea. After observing that there were people in Canton who had difficulty accessing basic transportation – even for work – they knew something needed to be done. They thought: What If Stark County had a bike lending program that would give anyone who needed it access to better transportation, exercise, and recreation? And, what if it could all be free?

Gabby, Devin, and Alexis along with TomTod Ideas staff met with representatives from Stark Library, Canton Parks and Recreation, and Stark Parks to bring their dream to life. After much discussion, planning, and strategizing, BikeSmart was born.

BikeSmart now has eight hubs in the Stark County area, has added Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA) as a partner, and provides free bike rentals to Stark Library card holders. Last year, BikeSmart users made more than 8,500 trips for a total distance of almost 76,000 miles!

Thanks to Stark Library, Gabby, Devin, and Alexis, Stark County residents now have a free bike-sharing program accessible to all for a better, more reliable, healthier lifestyle.

TomTod Kids
TomTod Ideas

By the end of 2018, TomTod Ideas will have served more than 2,000 middle school students throughout Stark County and Northeastern Ohio using three programs.

Camp What If is a series of week-long day and overnight camps that immerse students in a variety of environments and experiences to help them spark ideas to positively impact their community.

What If 101 is a school-based collaborative program that connects students to the real world with speakers, field trips, and problem-based learning.

What if You Could is a mentorship program that helps middle school students put their ideas in motion to transform the world for common good.