Men Making a Difference

Meet Seven Stark County Residents Who Dedicate Their Time And Talents To Serving Their Communities

Article by Linda Feagler, Rachel Hagenbaugh and Jill Sell

Photography by Rylie Fuline Photography

Originally published in Canton Lifestyle

Frank Gagliardi

For 28 years, Frank Gagliardi, head coach of the Jackson High School girls’ soccer team, has left it all on the field. With more than 350 wins and 24 Federal League titles, soccer is the sport closest to his heart.

Born and raised in Cleveland, Frank played professional indoor soccer for the Canton Invaders for two years before settling into the community to coach. In 1999, he helped put together the Jackson Fury, a local youth sports club for children ages 6 to 15 that promotes the development of competitive youth soccer players.

“I’m a little more expecting of the younger players,” he says. “While they’re out there, I put a lot on them. They learn that they have a lot of freedom, but they are also accountable for how they act.”

Frank says he appreciates the creativity of soccer, which offers a delicate balance of instinct, athleticism, problem-solving and teamwork. It also provides an important correlation for how people should approach life.

“It teaches you respect, how to put yourself second and recognize there’s a bigger picture than yourself,” he says, adding that he feels blessed to be a coach. “It’s very rewarding.”

Jeff Talbert

Teacher. Coach. Principal. Administrator. Superintendent. As Jeff Talbert celebrates 30 years in the education field, he highlights a variety of roles that have allowed him to make a positive impact in the classroom, community and beyond. Now, he’s at the helm of the county’s largest district, serving more than 8,500 students and 1,500 staff members spread throughout 20 buildings. While the job has its challenges, Jeff says he feels blessed.

“Most individuals don’t get the opportunity to live their dream job that aligns so well with their core purpose,” he says. “I enjoy every aspect of what I do.”

Born and raised in Canton and a graduate of Timken High School, it was always Jeff’s plan to return to his hometown and give back to the community that helped him get where he is today.

“If it wasn’t for the teachers, guidance counselors and coaches going that extra mile, I might not have had the connections or opportunities I had,” he says. “It’s very important for me to make sure that the opportunities that were afforded to me as a child are available now and into the future.”

One of his greatest accomplishments in his three short years as superintendent is how the district navigated the pandemic. During fall 2020, Canton City Schools was the only large urban school district to be open with face-to-face instruction and provide a variety of learning options for students.

“It’s a testament to our ability to create a strong organizational culture around supporting our students in and around the classroom,” he says. “That’s going to impact our families for years to come.”

When it comes to the future, Jeff says the district’s main focus is creating a culture that encourages high-quality teaching and learning — making sure the students and staff are given the resources they need to achieve their goals.

“Everybody in a community, it’s their obligation to support that community if it is going to be successful. A community isn’t about one person; it’s about the group,” he says. “If we want our community to thrive, we have to invest in our young people.”

 Joe French

Children, teens and young adults struggling with emotional and behavior issues find a friend in Joe French. The CEO of Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health (C&A) — a Canton-based nonprofit dedicated to healing mental-health issues — took the helm of the 47-year-old organization in 2015.

“There’s such a positive connotation to hope — and the dreams, excitement and endless possibilities that come with it,” he says. “We want kids to understand that a temporary problem does not need to be fixed by a permanent decision.”

Now more than ever, Joe says his staff, which includes social workers, psychologists and counselors, are seeing young people with severe anxiety and depression.

“We’re losing our ability to truly communicate, which means many of the kids we see only do so through texting and social media,” he says. “As a result, they often become isolated because they don’t know how to have a give-and-take, face-to-face conversation that deals with what they’re worried about.”

Once a referral is received at C&A, an agency staff member meets with the family, discusses challenges needing to be addressed and creates an individualized Behavioral Health Service Plan. Not surprisingly, explains Joe, the teens involved are eager to become advocates for themselves and willingly participate in the proposed course of action.

“The kids we see are looking for some extra tools to put in their toolbox so they can ultimately get better and handle life’s tough times on their own,” Joe says.

In addition to his role at C&A, Joe, a Meyers Lake Village resident and city council member, also is active on a variety of boards, including those of the Stark County District Library, Family Council of Stark County and Leadership Stark County.

“We make a living by what we get,” he reflects. “We make a life by what we give.”

Mike Souza

For Mike Souza, being a librarian is in his blood — both of his parents worked for the Library of Congress. But it wasn’t until recently that Mike discovered that it was his passion, too.

“For me, it’s extremely fulfilling,” he says. “I really enjoy being a part of an institution that is a part of the community and helping people and connecting people in the community to information.”

As the adult and teen librarian for the North Canton Library, Souza orchestrates a variety of programming, from digital literacy and film clubs to reading groups, art and tech classes and much more.

“Libraries are important because are really in-tune with the community’s particular needs and filling needs that aren’t being met,” he says, noting the library’s mission to be a catalyst of inspiration and support lifelong learning “It’s a place filled with resources where you don’t have to pay anything, and everyone is welcome.”

Aaron Crewse

Coming from an family of educators, Aaron Crewse understands the value teachers have on children. When his daughter started kindergarten, he sought a way to get involved in her education, as well as give back to those who make such a tremendous impact on her life. Today, he’s the PTO president of Greentown Intermediate School in North Canton.

“We provide financial help for the 19 projects we sponsor each year, as well as volunteer for school-sponsored events,” he says, highlighting a busy end-of-the-school-year schedule for the PTO’s 174 members, which included a father-daughter dance, mother-son event, field day and teacher appreciation week. During the school year, members provide dinners for teachers during conference nights and support the school’s staff in whatever ways they can.

“My daughter chose not to play sports, otherwise I would have been a coach. This gives me an opportunity to be a part of her life,” he says. “It’s also my way of saying thanks.”

Adam Haas

As a child, Adam Haas admired every shiny red fire engine that crossed his path. As he got older, the respect for those majestic machines and the lifesaving heroes who operated them never cooled.

For five years, the 34-year-old has served Jackson Township — where he grew up — as a firefighter and paramedic. Soon, he’ll graduate from Stark State College with an associate degree in emergency fire services.

Adam, who is passionate about public safety and first aid, says he enjoys interacting with the public during events and fire station tours. It allows him to educate people about preventive measures — such as administering CPR and dangers of space heaters — that could save someone’s life one day.

“Let’s face it, when someone calls us, it’s not a great day for them,” Adam says. “But to be able to come out and help alleviate what’s happening means the world to us. We’re proud to help everyone in our community when they need it most.”

Dr. Dan Fuline Jr.

When his father was CEO of Community Services of Stark County, Dr. Dan Fuline Jr. spent a lot of time volunteering — visiting soup kitchens and women’s shelters and finding ways to lift up others.

“I was exposed to all of that and raised to give a helping hand when you can,” he says. “We as human beings need to keep pushing forward to help others.”

As the department chair, professor, management and marketing business, engineering and information technologies at Stark State College, Dan also is heavily involved in guiding students to live their dreams. He speaks to a lot of students about starting their own business, as well as serves on a variety of the college’s committees.

During his 15-year tenure, close to 1,500 students have graduated. Some go on to pursue four-year degrees, while others start their careers or become entrepreneurs.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity to be in my position, and I’m grateful for it every day,” he says. “It’s all about helping them get to that goal.”

"A community isn’t about one person; it’s about the group. If we want our community to thrive, we have to invest in our young people.”

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

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