Why Rodney Believes.

We have a program at GSS called This Is Why I Believe. img_1515

It’s a wonderful little program that provides an opportunity for men to talk about their faith journeys. Sometimes the speaker is a staff member, or a board member, or a pastor, or a volunteer, and sometimes it is a resident. What we often learn, usually to the amazement of the residents, is that we have all tripped, and we have all struggled on our way to accepting God’s grace and power into our lives.

Recently, I encouraged Rodney to tell his story, because I have felt such great inspiration in watching him open up and become successful.  Here is some of his story:

Rodney is now in his fifties and grew up in New York city. He is an only son and grew up with his mother, who is just seventeen years older than he is. He never had much exposure to church or The Word in his life, although his mom put Reverend Ike on the radio every Sunday. They lived day-to-day, earning just enough to get by, on the streets. His mother was into the numbers, and from a very young age, Rodney ran numbers for his mother. One of the first things that Rodney ever said to me was that all he knew was the streets and jail. Until very recently, Rodney has never had a job. Never.

Rodney’s mother moved to West Chester to be with her companion, and once when Rodney came to visit she encouraged him to leave New York behind. He did so, reluctantly. It is clear that Rodney and his mom had a very special relationship.

When she died, Rodney became homeless, and he lived that way for about six months in West Chester. He often took part in the Friday night meal program that is provided at the Episcopal Church Of The Holy Trinity in West Chester.

Rodney talked about the kindness of a woman that worked at this meal. One night she sat beside him asked him “What do you need?” They talked, and the kind woman quickly got Rodney into the system that organizes finding shelter for the homeless. In a short time, Rodney was invited to Good Samaritan Shelter.

I have learned that this kind person is named Cheryl Robinson Saab, who serves at this meal every Friday with her husband. I would love for her to know how great of an impact she had on the life of a good man by simply connecting with him in loving care.Seemingly small deeds of kindness can reap great rewards. You are a blessing to many Miss Cheryl.

Rodney arrived on November 2. That night he joined us at our regular Wednesday night Bible study. You could sense how foreign it was to him to be sitting in a room with a bunch of men and talking about Jesus. I did something unusual that night and I offered to abandon my prepared study if someone had something to ask, or if they had a particular Bible story or passage they wanted to discuss.

The Holy Spirit was clearly up to something that night. Charles, on his first night at The Shelter, offered Psalm 133. Someone remarked that 133 was the house number we were sitting in. Charles quoted the following, from memory.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity. It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments.

I asked Charles to repeat it slowly, starting with just the first verse, and then the second. We talked about how glorious and helpful it was for men to come together in this way to discuss the Bible, and how unusual it was for many.

As Rodney shared his testimony he talked about the feeling that came over him as he heard these words. He was having an altogether new experience. He told us how the sweat was running down off of his head, like the precious oil did.  He was changed at that moment and I can tell you that when we come together for Bible study Rodney is always present and his face radiates with goodness. He is transformed.

Since that night GSS has helped Rodney to find two jobs. He has moved into transitional housing and is saving money. He is spreading joy.

 Cheryl reached out to Rodney and sent him our way, but Rodney had to step outside of what he knew and was comfortable with to join us. 

Or was he guided?

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.


Getting to know Terry

Terry Weaver is a nice guy. That’s what everyone seems to say shortly after getting to know him, including me.

He is also warm, caring, unassuming, and bright.

Terry was raised in a fairly strict Christian household, and like many men he has had his moments of rebellion and less that perfect choices. He recently shared his story with the men of The Good Samaritan Shelter in a program called This Is Why I Believe.

As Terry shared his personal testimony with his fellow residents, all present were transformed by the strength of his faith.img_1460

Terry also mentioned that he had once struggled with an addiction, but turning just once to God to take away the temptation has been enough to keep him sober for the last nine years.

When I asked Terry how his journey had brought him to us at GSS, his reply was simple. “They laid off a number of people at my job, including me. I was unable to find enough work to keep up with my rent.”

Since coming to us, Terry has transitioned from Emergency Housing to Transitional Housing and now to Affordable Permanent Housing. He participates regularly in Bible study programs, although his job at the local Acme sometimes keeps him away.

Terry would like everyone to know that he is grateful for the work and support of GSS, and for the friendships he has established here. He plans to spend Christmas with his mother and nine-year-old daughter, back in Lancaster County.

We are blessed to have such a kind and spirit-filled man among us. Merry Christmas Terry!


What a blessing! by Denise Fitzgerald

Two years ago my daughter went away to college, and I had nothing to do but sit around feeling sorry for myself in an empty farmhouse with a husband and three dogs; I was  scanning Facebook continually and not even liking anything!  All of a sudden a picture  showed up of people  serving dinner at the Good Samaritan Shelter!  I said to myself, I want to do that!  I wrote to Nate Hoffer asking how does one do this.

Boy, oh boy, was I nervous when Nate responded right back by email at my place of work, saying that the guys at the Emergency Shelter were looking forward to us serving a meal!  Everything was done in one email, he made it so easy!

The next day I let everyone know at work know what we were ALL going to do! We were all excited and nervous at the same time! Everyone at work responded with what they were bringing, and if they were coming.  

Our first meal  was in November of 2014. We brought our food to 133 High Street and sat and ate dinner with our new friends from the Shelter.    Dinner and just hanging out with the men from the Shelter went better than expected!  I don’t know what I was expecting, honestly, I was just really nervous… I had never done anything like this. I was totally stepping out of my comfort zone!  

I’ve gone on missions trips out of the country before and always followed others. Putting something together like this and then really acting upon it overwhelmed me!  The thought of going to the shelter and just hanging out really made me nervous. I wondered what we would talk about, what would happen if no one showed up. What  if the men were mean to us…. these are the thoughts that ran through my head.

On our first night a man named John Moore greeted us and he couldn’t have welcomed us any better!  He acted like we were neighbors bringing dinner, just like you’re supposed to act!  We got the biggest welcome ever and felt right at home.

After that,it all fell right into place. We kind of all knew what to do, it was like ALL of us were helping each other out, just like a family. Someone set the table, another started spooning the food, we were serving each other and before we ate Mr. Scott Fitzgerald prayed over our meal and blessed us all!  And what a blessing it has been!  Blessing after blessing !!!

Every single second was filled up with laughter and talking, and helping one another until we headed out the door!  Even clean-up was easy, as our new friends helped with clean-up, washing dishes and putting together leftovers!  Our friends  even walk us to our car door every month now!   FRIENDS, we are all friends…being better together!!!  

It is two years later now, my other daughter went away to college and I was NOT surfing Facebook this time, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I want to keep on serving and hanging out with our friends from the Shelter!

I got our church small group  together  and we now serve and eat dinner  over at the house on 318 Main Street, the Breitegam House!


The folks from Scargill-McClurken Insurance company (including Denise and Scott Fitzgerald) after a dinner at the Emergency Shelter.

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


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