Henry Cimo is eight years old. Henry Cimo has a heart for others.

The door at Good Samaritan Shelter swings open constantly. Sometimes it is a man in need of a home. Often it is a local friend, stopping by with a donation. It might be a resident, checking in for a bit of help or counsel. Our office is often a cacophony of many voices, from many directions. We simply never know what the next adventure, inspiration, or need could be.  img_1416

Sometimes, it is a blessing. That is what young Henry Cimo represents to me. Henry, along with his Dad and sister visited GSS office yesterday. Henry held an envelope, marked “$40 for Homeless Shelter. From Henry Cimo. ”

Henry was donating his birthday money to the men of the shelter. When I asked him why he was doing this, he was thoughtful before replying, “I feel sorry for them.”

Pity, by itself, does nothing. Being aware that others are in need and acting on it is a blessing. I hope that Henry feels that blessing, and I hope his parents do also. I know that I do. Thanks Henry and God bless you.

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
and one who waters will himself be watered.” Proverbs 11:24

I was having one of those days…

nate-blogI’m sure you’ve had them.  You feel like you’re being consumed with the troubles and worries of your job or personal life. I would like to tell you that I am always an upbeat, positive person.  But, admittedly there are times when the stresses and struggles of our ministry weigh on me.
I was having a tough day a few weeks ago when I received a phone call at the office.  “Nate…it’s Tom…do you remember me?  I stayed in your emergency shelter several years ago.”   Now, we’ve seen a few hundred men come through our doors since Tom was with us, so it took me a little while to remember him, but then it clicked.

I could place Tom’s voice with his face, and I remembered his positive and friendly demeanor while he was in our program.  Tom went on to tell me why he was calling… “I just wanted to say thank you for helping me during my time of need.  I’m now working full-time at a pharmaceutical company, I’ve reunited with my wife and son and we’re living in a beautiful home.”  It was easy for me to feel the sense of pride and accomplishment in Tom’s voice.  He was in a much better place now, and extremely grateful that GSS helped him get there.

Since our phone conversation Tom has emailed me several photos of his family (Tom and his son are pictured above).  He’s most proud of his son and he is enjoying being in his life.  With your help, GSS provided Tom with the help he needed, so that now he can be the father figure his son so desperately needs.

Tom called to thank me.  But ultimately it is Tom who helped me by reminding me of the importance of our work while turning my difficult day into one filled with optimism and hope.

I thank God for this timely dose of encouragement.  And I am grateful to each of you for making it possible for GSS to help men like Tom rebuild their lives and reunite with their families.

With a grateful heart,

Nate Hoffer
Executive Director

 

 

 

 

 

One Giant Glass Of Lemonade

lemonade

Many years ago I saw a cartoon. Two children had set-up a lemonade stand side by side. On one the sign said “Lemonade-25 cents.” The other said. “Lemonade-$100.00”

The caption read: “This way I only have to sell one glass.” That’s what we are trying to do here, and here’s why.

A year ago GSS was given the generous gift of a piece of land just up the street from our current office so that we can build new offices.  If you have visited the GSS offices, you know why. We are in a too-small area that we currently rent. There is no privacy, and no spot to gather in for meetings. Conversations tumble together. Donations are placed in front of chairs and desks.

When hopeful resident’s come to us seeking shelter, we have nowhere to hold a private and confidential conversation.

If you have visited our offices you already know how often our door swings open unexpectedly. The door swings open to people in need, people wanting to learn about us, or people bringing donations. Our one small meeting table is often being used by auditors, local pastors, or business meetings for our Nourish business.

You may have also noticed the humble workspace for our Executive Director: a tiny computer table and a milk crate.

We need a better spot. We need to provide places for people to meet privately as they discuss their path to homelessness. Nate needs the ability to have an uninterrupted meeting or phone call with board members without walking out to the parking lot.

Our current vision is to provide a community area for residents, and the office spaces we need. We hope to also use this now-empty lot to add additional housing.

You may  know of our recent and wonderful gift of a home that provides housing for twelve more men. This gift also is requiring fifty thousand dollars of repair and improvement. We are well invested in this as it increases our ability to serve, while it delays any progress at all to begin the office project.

We really want to begin transforming this empty lot into a resource, and to do that we need money;big money. We are looking for a few people that understand the 100 dollar per glass metaphor.

This is a big project, so we need to think big and ask big. How far can you go to raise or donate the $300,000.00 dollars?

Or, we can put a lemonade stand on an empty lot.

A Person Who Needed A Car, Got A Car.

Trevor and Erin are the kind of young couple that people of all ages gravitate toward. They are thirtyish without a hint of entitlement. They are attractive and upbeat and they are serious about their devotion to God and Jesus. They are also kind, and humble.Their beautiful infant daughter adds to their charm.

Trevor recently approached me with a statement and a question. Trevor’s brother had helped them out by giving them a car some time ago. Now Erin’s grandmother was getting a new car and had offered her current vehicle to them. To many, this would be a bonanza of riches and good fortune. To Trevor and Erin, it was a chance to pass along the generosity that had come their way. “It just seems obvious that we should give this car to someone in need,” Trevor told me.

He continued that the car may have some miles on it, but he would be confident in driving it to Canada. After telling me that he was going to have the car inspected and checked thoroughly, he asked this question. “Do you know anyone that could use it?” Without knowing exactly who, I said yes immediately.

Men and women at The good Samaritan Shelter work hard to restore themselves to society and family. Three things are generally needed to attain this; a job, a home and a car. The order may vary, but these are the common elements and they are often a great challenge. You need a car to get to work, but you need a job to pay for a car. It can be a vicious and paralyzing circle.

Don came to The Shelter some months ago. He has been serious about improving his circumstances even in the face of some health challenges that could impede his progress. Always quick to volunteer when help is needed at home or in the community; he is a regular at Bible study and worship services. It has been inspiring to watch his transformation in The Lord. He was an obvious candidate for this magnificent gift. The look on his face as I told him of the offer was a mystical mix of both joy and wonder.

Today the transaction occurred. The photo shows them together at the big moment.IMG_6561

Trevor initially made it clear that he wanted to go about this with complete anonymity. It took a bit of convincing, but they finally conceded to meet with Don. I’m glad they did, for all involved.

Trevor and Erin were not looking to give away something that they had no use for. I receive offers like that all the time. Sometimes it sounds like this:“Hey Dennis, we have some old furniture that we are getting rid of to make way for some new stuff. Do you think that Good Sam would want it?” Now really, who wants some old furniture that is no longer suitable for your home?

Trevor and Erin polished up their car and made sure it was in great shape before giving it away. They are giving their best, not what is leftover. Just like God has done for all of us.

At GSS we often say “Come and see us.” We say this when people want to bring a meal or supply household needs. Our wish is that people will come and share a meal, or meet the people that are the object of their generosity. Rather than giving, we want them to share.

In sharing, we become connected as folks. In sharing, we give away an object, and we also give away a bit of ourselves. It causes joy for all involved. It’s a love thing.

The title of this piece is “A person who needed a car got a car.” It is a quote from Trevor and Erin. They don’t want this to be a story about them, and I have done my best to honor those wishes. But they can’t stop me from being inspired.

Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.

Hebrews 13:15-16

 

We’ve got to help this boy out.

Tim Barr is the Director of Resident Services at the Good Samaritan Men’s Shelter in Phoenixville. This story doesn’t begin with Tim, or end with him. It is more of a story about a new beginning.

The story begins with two women that I have come to know at the daily lunch program at St. Peter’s Episcopal church in Phoenixville. They recently asked me to join them for lunch, as they “needed to talk.” That’s not unusual. Her request was.

One of the women lives in Section 8 housing with her son. The son had a few weeks earlier invited a friend to spend the night with them. He had nowhere else to go following the death of his grandmother. The problem was that he wouldn’t leave, and I was being enlisted to throw him out.

The woman-of-the-house was conflicted. It was true that the boy had nowhere else to go. It was also true that him staying there was in violation of Section 8 standards and therefore a risk to her own housing situation. Adding to that, she was fearful that he might become angry or violent if she told him to leave. So…she asked me to do it. After overcoming my own cowardice and sense of apprehension, I agreed.

When I met him he was lying on the floor, peaceably listening to music. I asked him for his attention, and plainly reviewed the situation with him, which was basically that he had to leave and he had to do it now. He understood the risk that he had created for others. When he asked me “Where will I go?” I had no immediate answer. We discussed seeking out a shelter, but he had tried and no one would take him in because he had no I.D. He had no I.D. because he had no address to give.

He grabbed a bag and we walked to my car with no plan other than leaving . I suggested that we use a church or one of the local outreach programs in town as a bogus address to get him an I.D. Following that we would begin the search for a shelter. Somehow, this polite, twenty-three year old man, whom I had known for all of fifteen minutes had placed his confidence in me. I was not feeling at all confident about finding a solution. The job that I had signed up for was to get him out of the house, as a favor. Not knowing any more about his situation, I had assumed that there would be a friendly or family sofa he could land on. The only resource that he knew of was that his grandmother had suggested that there “might be some family in Virginia that would take him in.”

I work as a Chaplain at the Good Samaritan Shelter. I have no stake or authority in how it is run, I just get to know the guys. That morning I had been checking in with Tim about who had left or was leaving, and who was coming in. I knew that the Emergency Shelter was full.

I drove to The Shelter, and asked the young man to wait in the car while I consulted with Tim about how we might procure an I.D. and if he knew of a shelter that might take him in while we worked it out. Tim immediately got on the phone, only to learn that every shelter was full, or that the lack of I.D. was a deal breaker.

With failure at hand, Tim began to ask me some other questions that I simply was unable to answer. Finally I told Tim that I only met him a half-hour ago. When he learned that he was waiting in the car, Tim invited him in to see if he could offer some help based on a more full understanding of his situation.

We learned that he had lived in foster care until he was 18, and then had been bouncing around until he landed with his grandmother, who had just died. There was no sadness in his voice, just an explanation of facts.

After about ten minutes of conversation, Tim asked him for a few minutes to talk with me, and the young man took a seat in a corner of the office. I was feeling even more hopeless, hearing more of his story. As I was about to thank Tim for taking the time, he said, “We’ve got to help this boy out. We’ve got to.” Beautiful words from a beautiful guy.

The Good Samaritan Shelter is not limited by its number of beds. It is guided by the needs of others and by a loving Lord. Somehow, Tim reshuffled the deck and came up with a solution. The young man was astounded, I was grateful and relieved. Tim took care of things and went back to business.

And that is the inspiring business of The Good Samaritan Shelter. Every day.

tim barr christmas

Tim Barr spreading the cheer at a GSS Christmas party.

Lisa

It is a sad reality that sometimes life is just plain hard. The pressures of car payments and mortgages and kids tuition or day care just become a burden. These are the burdens of the fortunate. For those on the margins that burden can become a crushing weight.

In my work with those that have job or food or housing insecurities I sometimes feel overcome by how hard it is for some folks to get an even break. Mistakes made long ago with credit or addictions can make it impossible to even get a chance at a good job, or a car loan, or a mortgage or even to rent a desirable apartment.  Sometimes there is just no help available, and it is understandable why folks simply give up. Where is the mercy? On certain days, I feel like giving up also. April 14 was such a day for me. It was a day filled with disappointments for many. A day that makes me wonder why God sometimes seems to move so slowly, or be so far away.

As Chaplain of the Men’s Shelter at Good Samaritan in Phoenixville I am interested in, but not connected much with the work of the Women’s Shelter in Ephrata. The folks there are not well-known to me, but April 14 was the night of their big fund-raising dinner at Shady Maple and I had promised to attend. Although I was interested in going, I was running low on energy and motivation. I nearly chose to blow it off.

It began as a pleasant enough evening, seated with some fellow staff members and friends. Dinner was nice, people were happy to be there. A young woman named Lisa was invited to some up and share her story.

Lisa told us that she had been raised in foster care and then had been mostly homeless since she turned 18 and that program ended. She told of being a single mom with a young boy and no future, until she became resident at Good Samaritan. She began to smile when she got to that part of story. It was a beautiful smiling story of hope filled with gratitude.

This beautiful and confident woman spoke to me from a place of faith. Lisa is now working on her nursing degree and has become a house manager at GSS. There is a bright and secure future for her and her son. When she returned to her seat, I thanked her for sharing her story.

On the drive home I noticed that I had become energized again. I had been reminded that walking by faith is the thing that gets us through the darker times and that surely there will be some darker times. So, to the residents and staff and supporters of Good Samaritan Shelter I say this; be sure to keep telling your stories. It keeps us connected with the source of all that is good and possible. It is a part of the gospel.
Lisa2

Don’t Give, Share.

The organization that was begun by Mother Teresa is called the Missionaries of Charity. It is a sixty-five-year-old organization. There are four thousand sisters that have given up every earthly thing and have dedicated their life to serving the “poorest of the poor,” without wages. There are more than six hundred foundations in one hundred and twenty-three countries in service. This is the organization that willingly serves lepers and was among the very first to reach out to comfort AIDS victims without reservation. Although the illness was still not understood, there was no denying that people were suffering, so they fit the bill for Mother Teresa and her mission. Here is the shocking part: They have never had a fund raiser.

They have never had a fund-raiser and they do not seek grants. So, where does the money come from? From the message.

If you ever get a chance to dig up an old interview with Mother Teresa, I challenge you to try to count how many times she uses the word love. Love. Love is the key; both as a noun and a verb. But there is another word that describes and exemplifies how this foundation can continue to serve any one that shows up at their door. Share.

Sharing is a way to activate love. If you consider if closely, you can give without loving, but you cannot share without love and care. I suspect that this is the principle that has caused myself and many others to fall in love with the work of the Good Samaritan Shelter. It’s not like Good Will, where you can dump a pile of old clothes that you don’t want anymore as a way of giving to the poor. Certainly many people give to The Shelter, and those financial gifts are necessary and appreciated, but there can be something missing, a vacancy of sorts to that kind of giving, just as there if you drop off a meal and never lay eyes on those who  eat it. What’s missing is the sharing. And to share you need to touch. It is a sensory experience and it includes a connection between two people that affords the opportunity for joy.

That is the shared culture of the Missionaries of Charity and Good Samaritan Shelter. We are invited in to share with others from our bounty, from our experiences and with out hearts and hands. It is a connection between individuals that is not based on giving to help out a poor unfortunate, it is a chance to share.Sharing goes both ways, it is a mutual act of love that reminds us that we are equal in our humanity and loved equally by our God. Sharing is an opportunity to equal things out when our current circumstances show us that we need a hand or should lend one. Has love puts it in our way to give or receive something today?

You can give without connection, it’s the safe bet.

In sharing, you risk everything, Everything that we know becomes challenged and reevaluated.

Come to the shelter. Come and see.

To read more about our story, take a look at “The Good Samaritan Shelter Story.”