It may be hard to imagine not knowing where you’ll be sleeping from one night to the next, but for countless people living in big cities and small towns, it’s a reality. Masonic Village at Elizabethtown and its residents and staff are joining community efforts to help individuals who have found themselves without a place to call home.
Several Elizabethtown churches and the Community Cupboard of Elizabethtown have teamed up to assist the town’s homeless (read more: http://lancasteronline.com/features/faith_values/church-homeless-shelter-meets-a-growing-need-in-elizabethtown/article_3586f8b0-d682-11e5-887c-37195d53dda8.html).
As a member of the Elizabethtown Ministerium, Masonic Village’s Sell Chapel supports the shelter financially through the congregation’s Outreach Ministry, and Masonic Village staff provide weekly laundry services. Several residents have also stepped up as volunteers at the shelter. Some help greet guests and prepare meals, while others stay overnight to ensure guests’ needs are met.
Jeff and Mary James wanted to help because they knew there was a need, and they had never done anything like this in the past.
“We really never understood what desperate situations people can find themselves in,” James said. “It’s eye opening to see what others are facing and how lucky we are to be at Masonic Village and have the opportunity to help folks.”
Resident Pat Vohs spends much of her time caring for her husband and didn’t know many of her neighbors. She also wasn’t very familiar with the Elizabethtown community.
“As a retired registered nurse, I thought the shelter could utilize my knowledge and be a productive way for me to give back,” she said. “You feel like you’re doing something that needs to be done. I’ve gotten a lot out of it. It’s filling my time, and I’m getting to know others in the community.”
“I felt that I needed to do it,” resident Nancy Nentwig said. “I get very upset when I see people sleeping on the street.
“You learn to know so many new people and work with them. It’s very rewarding for me to see how appreciative they are of what we’re offering. And to watch them get jobs and get homes – that’s been really great.”
Upon hearing about the initiative at her home church, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, resident Marty Stauffer was immediately interested in helping and becoming engaged with the people at the shelter. After spending just one evening volunteering, she knew it was a good fit.
“It reinforced my feeling that it was a good place for me to be,” she said. “It is something that is helpful to these people. I saw them settling in and saw how comfortable they were. It was good to see homeless people have a nice, warm, safe place.”
It’s rewarding for everyone involved to see people at the shelter gain employment, find housing and “graduate” from the program. Volunteers are glad to be able to fill the need, although they’d much
rather the need not exist. As long as it does, the Elizabethtown community, including Masonic Village, will come together to help.
In 2015, the Sell Chapel congregation gave almost $71,000 in offerings towards its Outreach programs including The Children’s Playroom of Lancaster, CROP Walk, Jewel David Ministries, Hope Within and Communities That Care. The congregation also contributed $36,000 to Masonic Village’s Employee Assistance Fund which supported 33 employees.