Naida Oliver Enjoys Helping Others


Helping others must be in Naida Oliver’s DNA. She likes giving her time to support people who need it. As a Customer Service Representative with ASW, she enjoys assisting clients—answering their questions, resolving any issues, and handling their orders. Naida says she has a great group of customers.

Helping clients is only one part of her life, however. Naida enjoys volunteering her time within the Akron community. Last year she devoted 600 hours to volunteer work. She is committed to giving back.

A lot of her volunteer time is spent working with youth. She started working with young people because she thought, “Somebody’s got to step up for the kids.” For 19 years, she has volunteered with the West Akron Track Club, an AAU track team. Naida has also sponsored 2-3 student athletes per year. She enjoys introducing youth to networking, academic, and community outreach opportunities. As part of her volunteer work, she exposes them to positive coaching and mentorship, and teaches them conflict resolution. Naida was mentored herself as a teen, so she likes to give back.

Naida believes it is important to help youth. For any adult hesitant to work with young adults, Naida says, “You can’t be scared of youth. It is very challenging, but a joy, to work with kids.” From her work she has seen that if you show kids you respect them, they will usually respect you.

Naida believes kids want somebody to listen to them. During the pandemic Naida observed that youth lost structure and some of them “got super angry, feeling like nobody listens.” She also sees how some youth are negatively impacted by gun culture and some aspects of television, movies, and social media. She is also aware that there are other challenges particular to growing up in an inner city. Naida never wants to be a detriment to a child and believes, “God wants us to build up those coming behind.”

Naida’s approach to her volunteer work is to “leave things better than when you started.” As a mentor she always asks, “How can I get better?” and “Who do I need to help me do better?”  She does not want accolades for her service, but rather wants to be “part of the solution.” Like when she brought 3 cases of water for the football team on a hot day of practice. Or when she bought track shoes for a young man who could not afford a pair.

In her time with the track club, Naida has worked with 650 students over those 19 years. She is proud of the program, which has graduated student athletes who have gone to Ivy League colleges, have participated in Olympic trials, and have made it to the NFL! She still hears from former participants, over a decade after they graduated. Some reach out to her for advice. Others tell her, “You impacted me,” and “You helped me achieve my goals.” Hearing back from her former students helps to validate her work, as does knowing many are giving back to their communities. She has always wanted to help kids become change agents whether in Akron, Cleveland, or other regions.

Naida’s involvement with the track club has included helping to plan cotillions and other fundraisers, writing letters of recommendation, and conducting peer mediation. She has helped facilitate student internships with local professionals, including attorneys and physicians because she sees a need for more African-Americans in these professions. The professional exposure while still in high school, she believes, helps students better determine whether or not they want to pursue particular majors and identify what courses they might need to take to help them when they reach college.

Naida does not just volunteer her time for anything. She believes what she does must serve a positive purpose. She serves as the Treasurer for the Buchtel Community Learning Center PTA, spent time as Co-Director of cheerleading the Firestone Park Rams (with former co-worker Karen Johnson), and was involved with Project Ujima when it was first getting underway. However, her commitment to track has made it difficult to volunteer long-term for other projects, particularly since it is a year-round program with an indoor and outdoor season.

After 19 years of volunteering with the West Akron Track Club, Naida will be stepping back from her role at the end of this month. She believes the time away will help her refresh. She jokes with friends that she will be spending time growing grass in her backyard. If the past is any prediction of the future, Naida will not be away from volunteering for long. She believes, “If you have the means, you should give back—no matter how little or how much you have. God has blessed us all. Even little contributions count.” Unfortunately she’s found that, “a lot of people want to talk, but not take action.”

Naida brings her volunteer spirit and commitment to helping others to her job. She enjoys her work with ASW, where there is a more laidback, less-corporate environment. She admits that she had no idea who company owner and CEO André Thornton was when she first started working for the company. Her husband, a baseball fan, “fanned out” over the former Cleveland Indians Designated Hitter. Naida likes that Mr. Thornton is a Christian and believes ASW is a “good place to work.” She appreciates being able to come to work, do her job, and go home to take care of her family.

Naida has known her husband, Damon, since she was 19. They have been together for 28 years. He is a military vet who has worked in the post office for 25 years. Naida and her husband have two daughters: Dana, 26, and Drew, 22. Dana is a mom to Kamryn and a Tri-C student. Drew graduated Cum Laude from The Ohio State University in May. Dana has aspirations to be a coach and mentor, while Drew plans to be a change maker—perhaps in the legal system, in government, or in cybersecurity. Both of her daughters ran track for the West Akron Track Club. The youngest started running at age 4!

Naida is passing on the spirit of volunteerism to her daughters. Drew took part in the academically-focused Project GRAD Akron, for which Naida also volunteered. Drew’s participation eventually allowed her to mentor high school students while she was a student at Ohio State. Naida calls the program “awesome” and “one of the best programs to expand throughout the Akron Public Schools.” ASW is actively participating in Project GRAD Akron, helping to raise funds that will be dedicated to the Project GRAD Akron Scholarship Fund—a cause for which we are deeply committed.