The community-based efforts of local outreach organizations and ministries have come to the forefront during the past several months of the COVID-19 pandemic, meeting the rise in need for food, clothing and shelter.
With Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate nearing 8% last month, more people are finding themselves faced with the challenge of how to provide for their families’ basic needs.
That’s where the generosity of supporters of the Matthew 25 Grant Program fill in the gaps, providing much needed and, in some cases, life-saving support.
Through the Matthew 25 Collection taken up last fall, the program’s grant selection committee awarded $192,000 to community-based organizations serving people in need right here in our towns and neighborhoods.
Kim Roche, Director of the Diocesan Office of Stewardship and Development, said the committee was able to continue its work of learning about the work of the organizations that applied for the grants, despite social distancing guidelines, and providing funding via grants.
“The committee was focused on providing funding to organizations who were on the front lines of providing food, clothing and shelter to those who were most impacted by the coronavirus,” she said. “The committee members were assigned organizations to interview over the phone or by e-mail to understand the work that they are doing as well as how their organization was able to pivot and respond quickly to a changing landscape. In some cases, the application was amended to reflect new needs that still fell under food, clothing or shelter.”
Committee members met via Zoom to discuss applications and the amount of grants.
Roche acknowledged the efforts of the Matthew 25 Grant Selection Committee, especially Sharon Turner, who served as chair for many years.
“She will be stepping down and will be sorely missed,” Roche remarked. “She brought a deep knowledge of the non-profit community to the group.”
Roche said new members are welcome, and those who are interested may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-657-4804, ext. 245.
Through the generosity of those who donated to the Matthew 25 collection this past November, the committee has selected 32 organizations to receive funding.
In a thank-you letter, Ann Carney, Finance Coordinator of Community CARES, which offers emergency shelter, wrote, “We have remained open 24 hours a day throughout the COVID-19 health crises so that those experiencing homelessness have access to food, showers and other resources, along with a location where they can shelter in place. Our continued efforts to provide these services while keeping residents and staff as safe as possible remain a priority.”
Amanda Barnes, Executive Director of Healthy Steps Diaper Bank, another grant recipient, also noted the impact of the Coronavirus on struggling families: “In 2020, we have already distributed over 240,000 diapers to 2,200 children, and these numbers are continuing to rise as COVID-19 is drastically increasing the number of families who are seeking support from our diaper bank.”
A total of $192,000 has been granted to the following organizations, thanks to the generosity of donors to the Matthew 25 Collection:
Birthright of Sunbury, $1,000
Birthright is a pro-life 501 (c) (3) organization dedicated to reducing abortions in the Sunbury area. They also provide clothing to poverty level families in need of baby items. The funds will allow the organization to purchase three newborn outfits for infants living in poverty-level households. Many of the infants don’t have proper clothing to wear home from the hospital. St. Monica Parish in Sunbury supported Birthright’s application.
Brown Bag Lunch Ministry, $9,000
The Brown Bag ministry at St. Anne Parish in Lancaster started approximately 40 years ago, giving vouchers for a lunch at a local store. This eventually grew to making sandwiches in-house, developing volunteer teams and standardizing a healthy lunch. In 2019, the organization served 20,067 lunches to people of all faiths and situations. Funds from the grant will be used to meet the demand for more lunches for the hungry in Lancaster County. Currently, they plan to distribute 150-200 lunches per day. St. Anne Parish in Lancaster supported the program’s application.
Carlisle Area Family Life Center, $2,000
CAFLC was founded in 1979 and is a crisis preganancy and family resource center that helps women and families with their material and emotional needs. They provide free and confidential services including pregnancy testing, limited obstetric ultrasounds, lay counseling, community referrals, and maternity/baby clothes and supplies. The grant money will fund the center’s “Baskets for Babies” program, which provides pregnant clients with a large basket filled with all the basic baby supplies needed to welcome their little one. The center has seen an increase in the number of baskets given, from 78 baskets in 2018 to 91 in 2019. St. Patrick Parish in Carlisle supported the center’s application.
Catholic Harvest Food Pantry, $7,500
The ministry, established by Brother Charles O’Connor in 1985 as a mission outreach of St. Joseph Parish, has evolved with three additional supporting parishes: St. Patrick, St. Rose of Lima, and Immaculate Heart of Mary. The organization distributes food, clothing and personal care items to an average of 700 York County families monthly. Providing low income families with the “choice” method, clients are paired with a volunteer to choose the items they will take home. Funding will allow the purchase of healthy meats and proteins which are limited choices in the state and federal food programs. St. Joseph Parish in York supported the pantry’s application.
Christian Churches United, $9,000
CCU’s roots were in area churches partnering together to provide emergency assistance to the general public in the wake of the 1972 flood from Hurricane Agnes. By the late 1970s, an emergency assistance office was formalized and is now the central location in Dauphin County for homeless women and families seeking intake to emergency shelters, as well as rental assistance, utility assistance and other emergency aid. Over the years, CCU has expanded to provide long-term housing and support to men who were chronically homeless, mentoring and support to ex-offenders and various other ecumenical and community impact efforts. The funds will help CCU assist households in crisis to avoid homelessnes through a number of exisiting programs, help women and families with emergency shelter needs and provide assistance to achieve stable housing. St. Catherine Labouré Parish in Harrisburg supported CCU’s application.
Community CARES, $6,000
Community CARES is a 501 (c) (3) charity assisting the homeless population with emergency shelter, resources and supportive services since 2004. In 2009, CARES opened a Resource Center to meet the needs of residents during the day. The Resource Center is the only coordinated entry walk-in access site in Cumberland County. Cumberland Street Reach, an outreach program designed to engage, assess and assist housing those at-risk in Cumberland County, became fully operational in 2019. The grants will be used to continue the overall program expenses associated with operations. St. Patrick Parish in Carlisle supported their application.
Domestic Violence Services of Cumberland and Perry Counties, $10,000
DVSCP is a private, non-profit organization that was incorporated in May 1990 and is the sole provider of safe emergency housing and services for victims of domestic violence in Cumberland and Perry Counties. The agency is funded in part by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. In addition to the Emergency Shelter, the agency has a 24 hour toll-free hotline, counseling and advocacy services, assistance with obtaining a Protection from Abuse Order, accompaniment to legal and/or medical proceedings, education and community outreach, and AMEND, a batterers’ intervention program. The funds will be used to continue the overall program expenses associated with their operations. St. Patrick Parish in Carlisle supported their application.
Ephrata Area Social Services, $8,000
Ephrata Area Social Services was established in 1971 by a group of local pastors and community members to serve the needy in the community. In 2019, their food bank served 291 families, consisting of 242 kids, 420 adults and 82 seniors on average. The grant will provide funding for food to restock their food bank and for fuel for the vans used to bring those without transportation to the food bank. Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish in Ephrata supported the program’s application.
Guardian Angels Outreach, $5,000
Guardian Angels outreach began in 2014 serving a hot meal to 36 guests. Over the past five years, they have grown to serve more than 140 meals each week, distribute food pantry items and holiday food baskets and provide winter coats to needy families from the parish and community. Funds will be used to purchase food items to supplement the donations that create hot meals, to restock panty items, and to provide warm winter coats and accessories to children and adults from the community who do not have one. Holy Angels Parish in Kulpmont supported the outreach’s application.
Healthy Steps Diaper Bank, $7,000
Born of a need in 2013, this ministry serves babies and toddlers. This program assists where WIC or Food Stamps do not, as government programs do not allow funds for diapers. Volunteers collect, store and distribute a supplemental amount of diapers each day to families in need to enable them to meet the Department of Health’s diapering guidelines. Funds will be used to purchase diapers and cover other administrative and operational needs for the program. St. Margaret Mary Parish in Harrisburg supported the diaper bank’s application.
Lancaster County Project for the Needy, $5,000
LCPN has been distributing food boxes to families in need over the Christmas season for the past 32 years. The organiation expects to see an increase in the number of food boxes delivered during the holiday season this year as they expand to other communities in Lancaster County. Their application was supported by Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Lancaster.
Lebanon County Christian Ministries, $6,000
LCCM started as a food pantry in 1982. It now serves the entire county of Lebanon in providing food, shelter, clothing and other emergency services. FRESH Start Emergency Shelter and Resource Center opened in 2012 in partnership between LCCM and Jubilee Ministries. As of 2017, LCCM is the sole operator of the program. They serve any family facing crisis or emergency. The funds will support the Book Buddies program for children, provide kitchen supplies for guests to cook meals, office supplies necessary for job searches, obtain housing, child care, transportation and other services, and purchase drug testing kits. The organizations’ application was supported by St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Annville.
Manna for the Many, $10,000
Manna for the Many was established through the Shamokin Area Ministerium to combine resources and assist the needy. The pantry is open three days a week and its population is mostly elderly, at or below poverty levels. The organization reached 613 families last year. The funds will purchase food items distributed to those who visit the food bank. Their application was supported by Mother Cabrini Parish in Shamokin.
Manos Unidas Hispanic American Center, $10,000
Manos Unidas was founded by the Lantino Services task force and St. Francis Xavier Parish in Gettysburg. Their mission is integration of the community through services, programs and events that facilitate understanding and multicultural appreciation. Funds will support food purchases from the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank for the after-school program, and food for community celebrations such as Kids Day, Cinco de Mayo and Quinceanaras. St. Francis Xavier Parish in Gettysburg supported the organization’s application.
Mary’s Helpers Food and Clothing Pantry, $10,000
Established in 2008 by Sister Sue Ann Steves, this organization serves families in the 17113 zip code with food and clothing need. Mary’s Helpers will use the funds to continue to purchase food supply items for distribution to needy families. Prince of Peace Parish in Steelton supported their application.
Morning Star Pregnancy Services, $2,000
Morning Star Pregnancy Services was founded as Birthright of Cental PA in 1972. They are a non-denominational, Christian pregnancy resource center offering life-affirming alternatives to abortion. More than 30 volunteers, many from parishes within the Diocese of Harrisburg, help provide counseling, material aid, health services and referrals to other community organizations. The funds will be used to provide formula, infant clothing and diapers to clients. Each client in need will receive a layette which includes diapers, onesies, baby clothings and other necessities before the birth of the child, as well as continuing material support for the mother and child. St. Joseph Parish in Mechanicsburg supported their application.
Mother Maria Kaupas Center, $1,000
The center works with local school districts and parishes to assist families facing economic challenges and people who can’t cook for themselves. They also assist local families with food bags for the weekend and provide clothing as needed. Funds will suport the Buddy Bags program, which provides food for the weekend for local families and appropriate clothing for school-age children from economically disadvantaged families. Divine Redeemer Parish in Mount Carmel supported the center’s application.
New Hope Ministries, $1,000
New Hope Ministries was founded in 1982 as a Christian social service agency. The organization serves low-income families in the greater Harrisburg area. They also operate nine mobile pantry sites in the area and provide basic needs to families, including rent/mortgage assistance and utility payments. The funds will support the organization’s Housing Assistance Program, providing rent/mortgage assistance funds, utility assistance and program services to connect clients to resources to help achieve stability in housing. St. Joseph Parish in Mechanicsburg supported their application.
Off the Streets, $10,000
Off the Streets Lancaster has helped more than 2,700 people get off the streets, out of shelters and into stable housing since 2013. The organization uses a warehouse to store furniture and a van to facilitate moves of at least two families a week. The grant will enable them to house at least 16 families or an estimated average of at least 46 persons. All funds will be used to fund security deposits. The organization estimates a 25% increase in referrals and need for security deposits for housing this year. St. John Neumann Parish in Lancaster supported their application.
OMPH Benevolent Society, $3,000
Founded in the 1980s, the society provides food and emergency financial assistance to families in need in the Ephrata and Denver areas. The primary objective of the Benevolent Society is the management of its community food bank, which is open every Wednesday evening. A secondary mission is to provide financial assistance to families in emergency situations. The funds will be used to continue their mission of providing food and/or financial assistance to those in need. Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish in Ephrata supported their application.
Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, $6,000
Our Daily Bread was established in York County’s nine Catholic parishes in 1983, in conjunction with the local Catholic Charities. Today, more than 60 church and civic groups participate in supplying and serving a hot entree during the week. More than 2 million meals have been served since their first day, a daily average in excess of 275 meals. The funds will be used to pay off the balance on what is owed on the new walk-in refrigerator/freezers that needed to be replaced last year.
Our Lady’s Food Pantry, $2,500
This is a ministry outreach program of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish in Harrisburg. They rely on donations from food drives from schools around the holidays and the parish for both financial support and food donations. The pantry has seen an increase in the demand for food since other food banks in the neighborhood have closed. Funds will be used to purchase meats and non-perishable goods from the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish in Harrisburg supported the application.
Race Track Chapliancy of America, $3,000
The Race Track Chaplaincy serving at Penn National was established in 1984. They seek to meet the spiritual, emotional, physical, social and educational needs of the horse racing work force so they can experience God’s love firsthand. The funds will aid workers who have lost wages due to injury, illness or other situations unique to the racing world, such as weather cancellations or spousal abandonment. Since the cafeteria at the track closed 18 months ago, the chaplaincy has provided a hot meal to the workers. St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Mechanicsburg supported the chaplaincy’s application.
San Juan Bautista Social Outreach Program, $10,000
This ministry, which serves less-fortunate Hispanics throughout Lancaster County, was born in 2001. It supplies monthly community meals, distributes food weekly through their food pantry, provides holiday food baskets and provides lunch and dinner to more than 500 children on a weekly basis. This program also assists people with other critical needs, such as medicine, transportation and rental assistance. Additionally, this past year they assisted displaced families relocating from Puerto Rico to Lancaster County. The funds will allow the parish to continue their outreach programs in the community. San Juan Bautista Parish in Lancaster supported the application.
Shalom House, $1,000
Shalom House has provided emergency housing for women and children since 1986. To interrupt homelessness and root out issues surrounding poverty, they believe a multi-generational approach is necessary: a holistic model of wrap-around services and phases of housing appropriateness. The funds will help provide emergency shelter services to approximately 180 women and children experiencing homelessness in the coming year. In the last two years, approximately 35% of their residents have been children. St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Harrisburg supported the program’s application.
Silence of Mary, $6,000
This organization serves as a resource to those in need in Harrisburg’s Allison Hill section. They provide food, clothing, blankets and personal hygiene kits to the mentally ill, terminally ill, expectant mothers, children, homeless, refugees and immigrants. The funds will provide resources for the “assistance to others” program, which operates in needy sections of Dauphin, York, Cumberland and Perry Counties. They are also assisting local school districts with back pack food supplies tailored to the recipeints’ grade level and cooking ability. Holy Infant Parish in Manchester supported the organization’s application.
Southern York County Pantry, $10,000
The pantry started in the St. John the Baptist’s historic church in New Freedom, providing emergency food for the needy. It has been known as the Southern York Pantry since 2007. The pantry serves an average of 150 families each month. During the holidays in 2019, they served 375 families. The funds will ensure that the pantry can continue to offer a reasonable amount of fresh produce and protein in the form of fresh and frozen meats, chicken and fish. St. John the Baptist Parish in New Freedom supported the pantry’s application.
St. Francis Soup Kitchen, $10,000
St. Francis Soup Kitchen serves the Allison Hill neighborhood of Harrisburg as the only place for the homeless and others to get a hot meal. They have been providing this service since 1980. The funds will purchase food, kitchen supplies and equipment necessary to provide food for the hungry that come through their doors. St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Harrisburg supported the soup kitchen’s application.
The Caring Cupboard, $3,000
The Caring Cupboard serves individuals, families and households with demonstrated food needs and income no greater than 225% of the poverty guideline. Relying on volunteers and donations, the organization served 540 families in 2019. They also distributed more than 17,000 meals during the summer and more than 300 turkeys at the holidays. Funds will be used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables to supplement the food resources that are given to families in need. Holy Spirit Parish in Palmyra supported the organization’s application.
The Lord’s Lunch, $10,000
This program initially started as a Girl Scout Award project to provide a meal to the lonely, homeless, unemployed, working poor, mentally and physically challenged, senior citizens and children. Since its inception, they have added distributions of food twice a month and a summer feeding program for school-aged children. In 2019, they added distribution of fresh foods and dry goods two days a week. Volunteers sit, eat, talk with and help the people attending lunch. The funds will support food purchases for their four main programs: Saturday lunches where they served 2,355 meals in 2019; Good Food boxes where clients “shop” for their food items; Kids Feeding Kids Summer program for students who qualify for free lunch programs during the school year to select healthy snacks and meals for the week; and their weekly food distribution efforts where clients select fresh and non-perishable food from their stock. St. John the Baptist Parish in New Freedom supported the program’s application.
Transitional Housing and Care Center (Formally Gatehouse), $5,000
The Transitional Housing and Care Center provides shelter and services as a gateway to independence for homeless families and individuals. This organization is able to keep families together while they face housing crisis. They serve families in Montour, Columbia, Union, Synder and Northumberland Counties. Funds will sustain the Gate House in providing emergency shelter and transitional housing to homeless residents. Residents receive safe shelter, life skills workshops and career counseling. The staff facilitates connections to training and employment opportunities, permanent housing options, necessary health services such as drug, alchohol and mental health programs. St. Joseph Parish in Danville supported the center’s application.
Women’s Care Center of York, $3,000
This organization was started by Msgr. Brenner and others servng York city as a pro-life organization. They became part of the Women’s Care Center network in 2017. They provide free pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, confidential counseling and continuing care for families. Funds will be used to purchase travel systems (car seat/stroller combinations) and infant and baby supplies such as diaper bags, diapers and baby items. St. Rose of Lima Parish in York supported the center’s application.
This year, the Matthew 25 Collection will take place the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, November 21 and 22; gifts to the collection are welcome at any time during the year. To learn more, and to help, visit www.hbgdiocese.org/m25.
(Photos by Chris Heisey and Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness