Challenges Do Not Define, But Refine Your Mission

Challenges Do Not Define, But Refine Your Mission

April 1 began a new way of life for Pennsylvanians. Children, High School seniors, and college students had an unexpected ending to their school years. The unemployment numbers spiked—many left without jobs to support loved ones. Fear began to infiltrate homes, leaving many to ask the question, “Where do we go from here?” Or “How can I support my family?”

Keystone Mission identified those fears and quickly transitioned their resources to provide help and hope to the Northeast PA community.

Don’t Let Crisis Define You, But REFINE You.

The economic impact the stay-at-home order has on the community of Northeast PA will not define us. On March 23, the leadership of Keystone Mission began to rework its regular food distribution program to become a hub for all who were affected by COVID-19. The Mission started the Emergency Food Assistance Program, which provided a bag of food: meats, produce, and other non-perishable items. Individuals from families, shut-in seniors, and those unable to provide for themselves received food once a week, for however long they needed it. CEO (Commission on Economic Operations), US Foods, and The Canning House stepped up to become reliable partners to the Mission. Their support to provide help and hope has made the most significant impact on the community.

Keystone Mission has seen an overwhelming response to the Emergency Food Assistance program since March 23, providing over 260,000 pounds of food to over 20,000 individuals. 7,173 of that 20,000 are families, and 8,261 are children. Help and hope are available to all who are in need. 

The Emergency Food Assistance program is not the only support Keystone Mission is offering to the community. In April, the Mayor of Scranton, Paige Cognetti, and Keystone Mission CEO, Justin Behrens, partnered to provide emergency shelter to the homeless population until the end of the stay-at-home orders. The housing is at the Weston Field House (which is where Keystone Mission runs the Code Blue Shelter). The shelter allows 25 residents to receive a bed, food, showers, and case management with Keystone Mission staff. 

Refining Your Story Brings GIFTS.

Going through this community-wide crisis together has helped Keystone Mission refine, clarify, and better tell its “story.” This has resulted in astounding community response for support to Keystone Mission and the residents. We received a $20,000 grant through the Scranton Area Community Foundation and additional funds through the Mission to support the shelter. Due to the generous monetary gifts and donated meals from community members, seven guests have transitioned into permanent housing and are receiving social security cards and benefits, scheduled visits to local agencies for support, and additional help as needed. One group recently experienced a fire that displaced them in Scranton.

Gifts Bring Transformation & HOPE.

To date, 39 individuals have walked through West Field House doors. Examples of life transformation include an eighteen-year-old woman who is pregnant and using drugs. Through the relationships developed at the shelter, she is now dedicated to make a change. Keystone Mission staff worked to place her at a location where she will give birth to her child and she can start her life of transformation. Another amazing story is a 74-year-old guest who was homeless for most of his life and used a walker. Much like the eighteen-year-old, his life was changed because of the relationships developed. He now has his own home, the first one in thirty-five years, and life transformation can continue to happen.

The impact that Keystone Mission continues to have on the community of Lackawanna and Luzerne counties would not be possible without the incredible support of the surrounding communities and our God. Keystone Mission is looking to the future with excitement and hope. The leadership has used this time to re-think the organization’s impact in the community. It is in strategy to provide a more defined program to the homeless and low-income families. The Mission waits in excitement to share the vision for the future. 

Please feel free to contact Justin to trade ideas or encourage and serve one another in Christ:

Justin Behrens, LSW
CEO/Executive Director
T. 570.871.4795 ext. 402

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