Emergency shelter in Bethlehem opens early

The info below was updated in the Express-Times, here and here.

[From Mother Laura Howell, rector, Trinity Bethlehem] Given the sudden onslaught of cold weather, we are opening the Emergency Sheltering Program in Bethlehem early.  People who are homeless and have nowhere to sleep can come to the Forte Building at 1335 East Fifth Street from 6:30 p.m. on.  We have volunteers for tonight (Monday night), but are in great need for other nights.  If you can volunteer, please call Deacon Liz Miller at 610-867-4741 X302.

At this point, we will be open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  We'll re-evaluate on Wednesday, depending on the weather forecasts.

There will be transportation to the Forte Building leaving at 6:00 from the front of Trinity Episcopal Church (44 E. Market St.), and at 6:30 from the **lower** parking lot of Cathedral Church of the Nativity (Wyandotte).

Please assist us to help those who most need help.

[Find background from February 2009 here.]

St. Anne's Trexlertown hosts Thanks4Giving

St. Anne’s Episcopal Church hosts Thanks4Giving event to benefit Shoe Charity Soles4Souls, participating in extraordinary challenge to harvest 250,000 pairs of shoes alongside thousands of congregations across the country

TREXLERTOWN – NOVEMBER 6, 2009 - Soles4Souls, the shoe charity that gives away free pairs shoes, has a simple mission: to find brand new and ‘gently worn’ shoes and give them new life on the feet of people in desperate need.  The charity has donated more than 5 million pairs of shoes to victims of natural disasters, people living in extreme poverty and even those laid off during the current recession.  One of the core groups that help transform the Soles4Souls mission from an idea into a living example of God's love is the church.

This Fall, St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, Trexlertown, and hundreds of other congregations across North America are participating in "Thanks4Giving," a Soles4Souls event where congregations will challenge themselves to harvest 250,000 pairs of shoes to be distributed to those in need worldwide.  Thanks4Giving is a unique opportunity for people to be thankful for what they have by sharing with those less fortunate with the gift of shoes.

"Churches have always been incredibly responsive to our programs," said Wayne Elsey, Founder and CEO of Soles4Souls.  "This engaging event will not only leave a lasting impact on the hearts of your entire congregation, but it will also help Soles4Souls continue our mission to 'Change the World One Pair at a Time,'" Elsey said.

The efforts of St. Anne’s and participating congregations will go directly toward helping put shoes on the feet of barefoot children around the world.  The U.S. government estimates that 300 million children around the world have never owned a pair of shoes.  A sad irony is that Americans threw away the same number of shoes into landfills last year alone.

At St. Anne’s, the Soles4Souls collection has been chosen as the parish’s annual Advent outreach project. A collection box for the shoes will be placed in the parish hall during December.  St. Anne’s is also coordinating this outreach in our community and additional collection boxes can be found at Cedar Lutheran Church, the Tilghman Street branch of Lafayette Ambassador Bank, Salon Cardeen, Hair Tech, and the office of Dr. Rita Valenti.  “We are hoping to be able to collect 1,000 pairs of shoes to help Soles4Souls meet their Fall goal of 250,000 pairs of shoes,” said the Rev. Canon Michael Piovane, rector of St. Anne’s.

To learn more about Soles4Souls and its upcoming charitable events, visit www.giveshoes.org or call 866-521-7463.  Churches can also email the Soles4Souls team at sunday@giveshoes.org to request more information on how to register for Thanks4Giving.

About Soles4Souls™

Soles4Souls is a Nashville-based charity that collects shoes from the warehouses of footwear companies and the closets of people like you. The charity distributes these shoes free of charge to people in need, regardless of race, religion, class, or any other criteria. Since 2005, Soles4Souls has given away over 5.5 million pairs of new and gently worn shoes (currently donating one pair every 9 seconds.) The shoes have been distributed to people in over 125 countries, including Kenya, Thailand, Nepal and the United States.  Soles4Souls has been featured in Runner's World, Ladies’ Home Journal, National Geographic’s Green Guide and The New York Times.  It has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, BBC, CNN and thousands of regional news outlets across North America. Soles4Souls is a 501(c)(3) recognized by the IRS and donating parties are eligible for tax advantages. Anyone can join our cause, and we need your help. Visit www.giveshoes.org <http://www.giveshoes.org>  for more information.

For more information please contact St. Anne’s Church office at 610-398-3321,


Chris Carmichael, Soles4Souls, 615-391-5723 ext 143 chrisc@giveshoes.org

Kim Dettwiller, Soles4Souls, 615-321-4073 kimd@giveshoes.org

Another Way of Giving

By Laura I. Chegwidden

Once again, new sweat shirts and pants along with underwear and socks were among the donations presented at Diocesan Convention.  Over 600 items were collected in response to the Diocesan Episcopal Church Women's appeal for these items.  Recently the donations of new clothing were given to the diocesan programs for distribution.  Two of the organizations that benefited were St. Stephen's Wilkes Barre's "Reach" program and New Bethany Ministries in Bethlehem.

Continue reading "Another Way of Giving" »

Out in the Silence at Stroudsburg High School

The Stroudsburg High School Student Diversity Council’s Gay-Straight Alliance will screen the PBS documentary Out in the Silence on Thursday, November 12, in the high school auditorium. Out in the Silence (57 minutes) chronicles the controversy that began after the announcement of filmmaker Joe Wilson’s wedding to another man ignited a firestorm of controversy and a quest for change in the small Pennsylvania hometown he had left long ago. Drawn back by a plea for help from the mother of a gay teen being tormented at school, Wilson takes viewers on an exhilarating journey through love, hate, and understanding in rural America. The documentary explores the struggle of being a gay teen in a small Pennsylvania town and the bullying, controversy and challenges that he experiences. It challenges viewers to rethink their values and helps close the gaps that divide communities. Read more here.

Continue reading "Out in the Silence at Stroudsburg High School" »

$250,000 awarded to Grace and New Bethany for group home project

$250,000 grant awarded to Grace Episcopal Church Allentown and New Bethany Ministries Bethlehem to work together on a group home project in Allentown

Grace Episcopal Church, Allentown, and New Bethany Ministries of Bethlehem received a Federal Home Loan Bank grant of $250,000 for a project they have undertaken together –– the renovation of a vacant building in Allentown that will be used as a group home for chronically homeless individuals. The grant was awarded on October 16.

Continue reading "$250,000 awarded to Grace and New Bethany for group home project" »

ECW Children’s Project

For the 2009 Diocesan Convention, the ECW will be collecting sweatpants and sweatshirts (sizes 5 to 18) plus undies for children at risk. Each delegate is asked to bring one package to Diocesan Convention. These items will be distributed to children at risk in northeastern Pennsylvania. After collecting from church members, each parish representative will then distribute the remaining sweatshirts, sweatpants, and undies to a local facility (or facilities) for children at risk. For more information contact: Dorothy Shaw, flamingo@epix.net; Marlene Hartshorne, mhartshorne@netcarrier.com or 610-780-4602

How many people can you feed on a lawmaker's $158 per diem?

[Posted by Bill Lewellis]

A column by Christopher J. Kelly of The Times-Tribune, Scranton
July 26, 2009

[snip, snip]

It was quite a haul - 155 items in all. Took two shopping carts to wheel it out to the car.

"A lot of folks are going to enjoy a wonderful meal as a result of this little venture," the Rev. Canon William Warne said as he closed the stuffed trunk.

Canon Warne is pastor of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Green Ridge. The Episcopal congregation has an open-door outreach program that includes a soup kitchen that feeds the homeless and families who struggle to get by in even the best of times.

Canon Warne and Fran, his lovely wife of 45 years, met me at the Weis supermarket in Clarks Summit on Thursday morning to conduct an experiment in evangelical economics. The object was to see how many hungry Pennsylvanians we could feed with what each of our esteemed state legislators has the freedom to waste daily.

What money can buy.

[snip, snip, snip, snip]

Allentown Weed and Seed needs continued state support

Allentown Weed and Seed needs continued state support
Op-Ed, The Morning Call, June 18, 2009
By Phyllis Alexander, Weed and Seed coordinator for community development.

Revitalization activities, such as Weed and Seed, are the smartest strategies for investing in communities. The data reflect this. During the last three years, the Weed and Seed employment counselor who works out of Grace Episcopal Church in downtown Allentown and who focuses on center city residents has helped more than 300 residents find full-time employment with benefits and brought in more than $6 million in salaries to the economy of our poorest neighborhoods.

Weed and Seed is a rather strange name for a program that saves the state taxpayers millions of dollars a year. The name does not convey the importance of this program, which weeds out crime and seeds opportunities in our most desperate neighborhoods.

Perhaps that is why Weed and Seed is misunderstood and undervalued by our legislators in Harrisburg. Perhaps that is why, despite a proven record of saving millions of taxpayer dollars a year, Senate Bill 850 completely cuts the state's support of this vital and successful program.

Continue reading "Allentown Weed and Seed needs continued state support" »

Rental assistance in the Lehigh Valley

[From the E-Newsletter of the Lehigh County Conference of Churches]

At last there is help for the little guy! Federal stimulus dollars for rental assistance will arrive in the Lehigh Valley this fall to help ordinary individuals and families who are homeless or about to be homeless. Persons who can demonstrate the ability to maintain stability in housing given short-term or medium-term cash assistance with rent or utility payments but who otherwise would become homeless without such assistance qualify. This includes person in emergency shelters, on the street, transitional housing, and people in arrears in rent. Persons needing mortgage assistance are not applicable and should contact CACLV for mortgage assistance.

The City of Allentown is distributing $1,072,597 and the County of Lehigh $574,614 with the majority of the funds going directly to rental and utility assistance. The Lehigh County Conference of Churches is one of 6 entities to receive City dollars and one of 5 to receive County dollars. We are the only agency to receive rental assistance dollars for both Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing.

The Conference of Churches appreciates the trust the City and County are expressing in its ability to help people obtain housing. These dollars coupled with our regular allocation of County and FEMA rental assistance dollars will enable us to assist nearly double the number of people for the next three years or a projected average of 280 to 300/year. PLEASE NOTE FUNDS WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE UNTIL THE FALL!

Unprecedented hunger in the Lehigh Valley

April 6, 2009

[The following op-ed was published in The Morning Call. The Rev Bil Kuntze is executive director of New Bethany Ministries in South Bethlehem, an ecumenical ministry of the Diocese of Bethlehem]

Today's economic crisis is weighing heavily on nearly all Americans as jobs, lifestyles, housing and higher education are changed or at risk.

But for many Lehigh Valley residents, the severe drop in the national economy is leading to unprecedented need for food assistance, a basic element of human survival, from the area's food pantries. At New Bethany Ministries, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of clients who come for our noontime meal, which, for many is the only hot food they eat all day. There also is an increase in the number of households that receive grocery assistance from our food pantry.

In the last year, we have increased our on-site daily meals from an average of 125 guests per day to about 230. Last year, we distributed 3,172 grocery baskets, with at least a three-day supply of food for an entire household, providing an astounding 155,475 off-site meals. In 2009, the number of households receiving emergency grocery assistance from New Bethany Ministries may double.

Continue reading "Unprecedented hunger in the Lehigh Valley" »

Northern Tier churches prepare Easter dinners for needy

Bountiful Blessings, representing the communities of faith in Montrose, has announced its annual program to provide a full Easter dinner for those in need in Susquehanna County. Individuals and families listed with Interfaith and other area agencies will be eligible for a dinner basket that includes a three or five-pound ham, vegetables, potatoes/macaroni and cheese, canned fruit, bread, and holiday candies. The baskets will be distributed on Wednesday, April 8.

BountifulBlessings Consortium2  

Consortium of Susquehanna churches and county agencies prepare for Easter dinner distribution on April 8. Bountiful Blessings is preparing for the fourth annual Easter Dinner for needy families and individuals in Susquehanna County.

Continue reading "Northern Tier churches prepare Easter dinners for needy " »

500 homeless students in the Allentown School District?

Monica called my attention to a Letter to the Editor in Wednesday's Morning Call wherein the writer pleaded for help for the victims of the recent fire in Allentown. 

What especially hooked me was the following paragraph: "A roll of quarters given to Russell 'Rooster' Valentini, homeless coordinator for the Allentown School District, will allow a small family to take the clothes from a burned apartment to the coin laundry to be washed clean. If your children are in school in Allentown, have them bring in a roll or two of quarters to their principal for "Rooster" to use. He already has 500 homeless students on his caseload. Now he has more."

The online version of the letter includes only the first sentence of that paragraph Although I point that out, my question is not s much about the reason for the online omission but it is about 500 homeless students in the Allentown School District. Can that be?

A little Googling resulted in these possible confirmations: (1) From a 2006 Moravian College news release: In any given year, Rooster has to manage approximately 500 cases with active files normally approaching 75 cases. (2) From a June 2007 Commission Report on Allentown's Plan to End Chronic Homelessness by 2017: From 2001 through 2006, the Allentown School District documented in excess of 600 homeless students annually.

Now, if that is so, where do they stay ... and what opportunity for creative and compassionate ministry might it suggest?


Finding room for the homeless in Bethlehem

By Dave Howell
February 5, 2009
[Updated February 12 and 18. Find updates below this story]  

    The recent cold weather has been a burden for all of us. For the homeless of Bethlehem, it has been a threat to their survival.
    Trinity Bethlehem’s Soup Kitchen is a five-day-a-week stopping point for many of Bethlehem’s poor. Since its beginnings twenty-five years ago, it has come to provide more than a hot lunch.
    Deacon Liz Miller, Soup Kitchen Coordinator, has become a guide to providing socialization for the often isolated clients, as well as bus passes, over-the-counter medicine, baked goods, assistance with medical issues, and housing assistance. Since last fall, social worker Marcie Lightwood has also been helping the guests. And Bethlehem Bishop Paul Marshall has been providing counseling twice a week.
    A crisis arose this winter when the Allentown Rescue Mission and the Sixth Street Shelter for Women were filled, and homeless Soup Kitchen guests could not find a place to stay indoors. One homeless client without resources was suffering from cancer, while another had an injured foot. Word went out on “Bethlehem of Pa,” the interactive internet list of the Diocese of Bethlehem, while Trinity rector Mother Laura Howell, Deacon Liz and Marcie Lightwood began many phone calls looking for help.

Continue reading "Finding room for the homeless in Bethlehem " »

Still No Room For the Homeless in Bethlehem

The following conversation, slightly edited, took place on "Bethlehem of Pa," our diocesan internet list, between Tuesday, January 13, and Monday, January 19, mostly between Jan. 13-16. It resulted in several Episcopal churches in the Lehigh Valley opening their doors during the day and overnight to shelter people from the cold. The subject line: Still No Room For the Homeless in Bethlehem. David Howell of Trinity Bethlehem, a free lance writer, has agreed to write a story for Diocesan Life based on this lengthy source material and interviews he will arrange.

[Updated February 14. Find updates here.]

Tuesday, Jan 13, 8:32 pm
From Laura Howell
, rector, Trinity Bethlehem
Friends, we have a problem. It's cold out and getting colder.  By Friday night, it will be zero degrees.  And there is no place for the homeless here except on the streets of Bethlehem.  All the shelters in the Lehigh Valley are already full.  Where are people to sleep?

At Trinity Bethlehem, we have been spending hours calling everyone we can think of--sometimes more than once--to get help.  But the mayor of Bethlehem is too busy to talk with us.  Northampton County officials suggest we have a meeting in the spring to deal with the crisis.  The police won't consider letting the homeless sleep in the parking garage to get out of the worst of the weather.  The Red Cross suggests warm grates and doorways.

Continue reading "Still No Room For the Homeless in Bethlehem" »

Good Shepherd Scranton helps homeless and poor

View this photo 
Good Shepherd lvolunteers, from left: Char Jeffers, Warren Shotto, Dave Jeffers, Ethel Dougherty,  Tom Dougherty, Kim Kandel, and Pam Shotto, in the large kitchen area were meals are cooked once a month  for those less fortunate. [Butch Comegys / Times-Tribune Staff Photographer]

At North Washington Avenue and Electric Street, amid the mansions in the heart of Green Ridge, the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd has been quietly feeding the homeless, the working poor and struggling senior citizens a monthly meal for the last five years.

Now, the regional Episcopal diocese has awarded the church a $200,000 grant to help it expand that mission.

The church will receive $40,000 a year for the next five years from the Diocese of Bethlehem to upgrade its kitchen, create a food pantry, renovate its clothing exchange, install showers and restrooms and establish an emergency shelter in the church basement.

Here's a link to the Scranton Times-Tribune story of January 8.

A word document with pics may be downloaded below.
Download Episcopal Church in Green Ridge

Find more info here.

Northern Tier Parishes Host Coats For Community

By Charles Cesaretti

This past fall the Episcopal Congregations of Susquehanna County hosted the Coats for Community Project in collaboration with the Montrose American Legion Post 154. Coats have been distributed at Christ Church Susquehanna, Christ Church Forest City, and, St. Paul’s Montrose.

“The outreach ministry of our Northern Tier Parishes has been amazing,” reports John Finlon, junior warden at St. Paul's Montrose, who acted as project coordinator. “Throughout the fall, our parishes distributed hundreds of coats to those in need. Christ Church Forest City distributed 186 coats and Christ Church Susquehanna over 100.”

Continue reading "Northern Tier Parishes Host Coats For Community " »

Diocese grants nearly $100,000 for social outreach from New Hope campaign funds

For immediate release, December 22, 2008
Contact: Canon Bill Lewellis, Diocese of Bethlehem
Email: blewellis@diobeth.org
(c) 610-216-2726; (w) 610-691-5655 x229; (h) 610-820-7673

The Diocese of Bethlehem, the Episcopal Church in 14 counties of eastern and northeastern Pennsylvania, has designated nearly $100,000 in grants to help with the launch of new social outreach programs by six congregations. These are the first of five years of grants for local social ministry projects that will be made from New Hope campaign funds. The balance of the $1.1 million designated for local needs will fund future projects.

Good Shepherd Church, Scranton, will receive $40,000 this year toward the establishment of a men's shelter, an expansion of the parish's Seasons of Love program that serves healthcare needs of the homeless and working poor. The multi-year plan ($200,000 over five years) is geared toward preparing for use of the undercroft of the church as an emergency shelter during winter nights and on those occasions when other needs displace families in the community.

St Clement's/St. Peter's Church, Wilkes-Barre, will receive $30,000 toward start-up costs for a day care center to serve low and middle-income families. This grant is also a multi-year project.

St. Andrew's Church on the Allentown/Bethlehem border will receive $13,000 to establish a food bank that will be open one full day a week.

St. Stephen's Church, Wilkes-Barre, will receive $10,000 to expand the services of its Clothing Closet/Thrift Store.

St. Barnabas Church, Kutztown, will receive $3,600 to provide monthly meals to the homeless, those on the margins and to college students.

St. Anne's Church, Trexlertown, will receive $2,500 to develop a program with women in prison to record them reading books that could then be listened to by their children.

The grants were made after reviewing applications submitted over the past few months. In the spring of 2009, parishes will be invited once again to submit proposals to seed new social ministry initiatives. The committee included senior deacons of the diocese, respecting the principle that this order of ministry is charged with interpreting the needs of the world to the Church.

Continue reading "Diocese grants nearly $100,000 for social outreach from New Hope campaign funds" »

Empty Bowl Project at St. Paul's Montrose benefits county food banks

Emptybowlproject2 Volunteers serve patrons of the Empty Bowl Project at St. Paul’s Montrose. The event benefited the Susquehanna Food Banks.

“It could not have happened at a better time,” reports Lynn Senick, director of the Trehab Food Bank, which serves Susquehanna County. “Our shelves are near empty, and donations are way down just when we are heading into the season with the most need.” Senick was reflecting on the success of the Empty Bowl Project which was held in Montrose on Saturday, November 8. The event was held at Historic St. Paul’s Church, Montrose, and raised over $1,500 for the Food Bank and the Feed A Friend (Thanksgiving) Program.

The Empty Bowl Project had its beginning in 1990 when a high school art teacher in Michigan helped his students solve a problem of creativity –– how to raise money for a food drive.

Continue reading "Empty Bowl Project at St. Paul's Montrose benefits county food banks" »