CANAL FULTON – When Joe and Kennedy Haight met at the Canal Fulton Speakeasy, there was an instant connection.
A native mentor, Kennedy made her way to town along the canal after graduating from college.
Born in New Jersey, Joe moved to the area to be close to his children from a previous marriage.
With the city as a backdrop, the two grew closer, becoming best friends and eventually – husband and wife.
Their love story began in Canal Fulton, as did their love of the city.
The Haights want to make sure everyone sees the beauty and potential in the place they call home.
They recently launched Canal Life, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the Downtown Historic District as a regional destination for arts, dining, entertainment and outdoor recreation.
How much better could Canal Fulton be?
Joe Haight worked in logistics for 16 years. He recently left the job that required him to travel frequently. He wanted to be more at home with his children and his wife.
While he knew he wanted to focus on his family, he wasn’t really sure what his next step would be.
More:Canal Fulton is trying to attract more police applicants
More:DeLong Lures restarts at Canal Fulton
The pair had discussed starting their own business and brainstormed ideas. They wanted to do something in Canal Fulton as a family.
“We started down the trail thinking about Canal Fulton and downtown and what they need,” said Joe Haight. “We already love it. How much better could it be if it were more aesthetically pleasing and tidier?”
The Haights were able to lead the attack and Canal Life was born.
“A lot of people in the area want to help and do things but don’t have the time or the ability to organize a big event or do those things,” said Joe Haight.
His experience in logistics makes him the right person to organize these ventures.
Canal Life’s mission is to create a visually appealing, prosperous and inclusive downtown through continuous cleaning and beautification, programming, marketing, economic development and advocacy.
The first Canal Life event involves the purge
The first event of the group will take place on April 30th. A drain cleaning is planned.
The Haights are working with the city, Stark Parks and representatives from Northwest Local Schools to bring the project to life.
Volunteers are needed for the morning and afternoon cleanup. Joe Haight said there are several ways people can help with litter pick-up. They need people willing to wade into the shallow parts of the canal, as well as boaters on the waterway. You can also use registration volunteers.
The cleanup begins at St. Helena Park. In the morning, the volunteers make their way north. The volunteers will make their way to the south of the park in the afternoon.
The group has partnered with Canal Fulton Canoe Livery and Campground to focus on the water zones. The livery also provides buses to take volunteers from the park to the cleaning zones.
“In Canal Fulton you can go to the Towpath, a restaurant, a bar, walk around and shop,” said Joe Haight.
Mayor Joe Schultz is grateful for the Haights.
“It’s about finding like-minded people who want to come out on a Saturday and make a difference in Canal Fulton,” the mayor said.
A few people can make a big difference, Schultz said, adding that it was evident when the city hosted its first Day of Care last year. Volunteers painted the boardwalk along the canal and helped with improvements around the Canalway Center.
“It’s just so meaningful that people think their community means so much to them that they take the time to make it look better,” he said. “It speaks volumes when you have people like this in your community who are willing to take the bull by the horns and try to improve their community. That’s what the church is about.”
Get the message out
Canal Life is still in its infancy, but the Haights don’t want to wait until they start making the city they love a better place to live.
The board now has two members: Tarrah Hale, owner of the Canal Boat Lounge, and Doug Cohen, a New Jersey-based sales professional who went to high school and played in a band with Joe Haight.
Joe Haight is also a board member but is looking for an additional member.
Kennedy Haight, who has a degree in business administration in healthcare, is the organization’s executive director.
The couple are currently self-funding the organization, but plan to offer memberships and courses and raise funds to fund Canal Life.
With a background in music, Joe Haight was signed to a record deal during his high school days and hopes to offer courses such as songwriting.
Future projects will focus on music and art, said Joe Haight.
Canal Life will be present at Olde Canal Days in July with a stand playing autotune karaoke.
“I wanted to do something to get people’s attention,” said Joe Haight. “It’s very different to step into a singing booth and sing along to a song.”
A fundraising gala is planned for August 26 and will feature art by Northwest students.
The artworks will be auctioned at the art gallery themed event. All pieces will be framed and put up for voting online. The winner of the competition will receive a cash prize.
In its infancy, Canal Life will focus on Canal Fulton, but Joe Haight said the long-term vision is to expand the program to other communities.
“We have chosen to live here. There are many great people in this city,” he said. “Right now our focus is where we live, our family and community and our focus is on helping those around us to be better, but that can be recreated anywhere. The idea of communities coming together and helping each other is universal.”
To learn more about Canal Life or to sign up for canal cleaning, visit canallife.org.
Reach Amy at 330-775-1135 or email@example.com
On Twitter: @aknappINDE