Allan and Marcy Shindel visited Lebanon County Christian Ministries for the first time recently.
The couple have been struggling financially due to health issues since moving back home to Lebanon County from Florida two years ago.
In the fall, Marcy and Allan both ended up in the hospital for serious health issues. As a precautionary measure, Marcy had to take a leave of absence from her part-time job to protect both herself and her husband. In June, she plans to return to her part-time job.
“This is the new world,” she said. “I will put the mask on and go to work.”
But the medical bills during their hospital stays – and other bills - just kept piling up.
“We just started getting bills and bills and bills,” she said. “I have Medicare. He’s waiting for disability. We’ve been getting desperate. All of our savings are being used now.”
COVID-19: LCCM executive director forecasts needs for food assistance, emergency shelter
After 2 job losses due to COVID-19, family of 5 turns to LCCM for food assistance
They turned to Lebanon County Christian Ministries for an emergency food order that supplies two weeks’ worth of groceries to get some relief.
“It meant so much to me that day,” Marcy said. “We really appreciated all the food. It was just so much food. I also got soap and detergent.”
The Shindel household is just one of 68 that has sought emergency food orders at LCCM specifically because of economic hardship as a direct result of COVID-19.
While the future is uncertain, Marcy looks forward to the day when she can resume normal life again.
“I look forwarding to taking a nice drive or going on a nice walk,” she said. “I jut want everything to be normal and no so nerve wracking.”
Since mid-march, Lebanon County Christian Ministries has provided emergency food orders for 65 households directly affected economically due to COVID-19, has served 8,053 free noon meals and has taken on an additional cost of housing shelter residents at a hotel as a precautionary measure.
In recent weeks, noon meal attendance has remained steady with 175 to 200 people served per day, but emergency food orders have decreased to pre-COVID-19 numbers. Shelter guests are living in a hotel, but for how long?
Life is uncertain heading into the summer months, but LCCM’s Executive Director, Bryan Smith, forecasted what food insecurity, housing, and other needs may look like in the near- and long-term future on LCCM’s recent Facebook Live interview held Tuesday, May 5, in celebration of #GivingTuesdayNow
Here are three things you should know.
1. Food insecurity
LCCM saw a major increase in emergency food orders within a week after Gov. Tom Wolf issued a stay-at-home order in mid-March.
Emergency food orders at LCCM provide a 2-week supply of grocery-style food to individuals and families in need of fresh fruit and vegetables, milk and other dairy products, meat and other perishable and nonperishable items.
Pre-COVID-19, LCCM served an average of 25-38 households weekly (including 70-100 individuals) and during the peak of COVID-19 the need spiked to about 50-60 households (including 130 to 140 individuals).
Since mid-April, households served have gone back down to pre-COVID-19 numbers due to governmental assistance, including unemployment, food assistance programs and stimulus checks, and, perhaps to a lesser degree, supplemental food box giveaways provided by various churches and organizations throughout Lebanon County.
After 2 job losses due to COVID-19, family of 5 turns to LCCM for food assistance
“I feel that this data has really shown that when the state subsidies and governmental assistance kicked up, its made an impact on the emergency need as well as some of the distribution of boxes going out through the community – that’s made an impact as well,” Smith said.
“We’ll go back to pre-COVID-19 numbers, but on our way back to pre-COVID numbers, we may see some spikes where governmental assistance isn’t there. That’s what we’ve been positioned for – we’ve been positioned as a faith-based entity, community-based nonprofit that’s here to take care of our neighbors and our community, and that’s really what we’re here for.”
Smith added that the biggest challenge in food distribution is balancing the limited availability of non-perishables in bulk food purchasing programs with the large amount of perishable items in donations from local businesses.
Meanwhile, the daily free noon meal continues to hold steady at 175 to 200 guests per day - pre-COVID-19, a busy winter day saw an average of 130 guests.
Meet Heather, LCCM's noon meal coordinator
“Does that ever go back down?” Smith asked. “I don’t know. Historians and friends of ours were telling us that LCCM was serving 250 to 300 people daily in the early ‘80s” when LCCM formed in response to the shuttering of businesses such as Bethlehem Steel.
2. Food supply
LCCM is still able to obtain food purchases from vendors, though there has been a slow down in product acquisition. LCCM acquires food through a variety of ways, including donations, state food funding, The Emergency Food Assistance Program, and grocery store donations.
“Early on, we saw the grocery store donations make a complete decline,” Smith said. “They went away because there was this mass run – everyone was out getting everything, bread shelves were empty. Those are things that we rely on to share with those who are in need.”
Recently, only 25 percent of LCCM’s last food order from our supplier was delivered, which is consistent with what some local grocers are experiencing.
LCCM, however, has not had any difficulty providing food for any of its food assistance programs.
3. Emergency shelter
Since March 13, FRESH Start Emergency Shelter and Resource Center guests have been staying at a local hotel as a precautionary measure. The resource center continues to operate for a few hours daily so guests can make meals and do laundry and check in with shelter staff.
LCCM staff is developing a plan for the yellow and green statuses that will eventually be assigned to Lebanon County.
In the yellow zone, Smith is working with some local community members to possibly transition guests out of the hotel setting into a less costly physical location that would still provides safety measures for social distancing.
Once Lebanon County can enter the ‘green’ phase, it is still unclear if there is a so-called normal to return to.
“Ideally, green would say hey, we can go back to where we were before with churches, but we are sensitive to the concerns of what churches are going to want to do," he said.
Churches have hosted the emergency shelter on a two-week rotational basis for seven years. Each day for two weeks, three to five volunteers from churches would donate their time toward working in shifts – including overnight.
“It’s taxing,” Smith said.
Additionally, cold weather shelter has been identified as a gap in services in Lebanon County. A cold weather shelter provides a safe, warm place for people who are homeless during the winter months where someone can show up to sleep with no requirements for entry, such as a drug test or a bench warrant check.
“It’s time to start planning two to three years down the road, as well as for the family-based shelter,” Smith said. “Is it time for us to start looking at a physical location? The reality is that it comes with a whole boatload of opportunities, but challenges. Do we need a physical location? Where is it? How do we fund it? …It’s going to look different on the other end. It’s going to be a challenge but let’s look at it as an opportunity to just kind of kick it up a notch for our community.”
After 2 job losses due to COVID-19, family of 5 turns to Lebanon County Christian Ministries for food assistance
After the birth of her son, Vanessa Breen turned to Lebanon County Christian Ministries for food assistance. Fifteen years later, she and her family found themselves needing assistance again, this time due to job losses as a direct result of the COVID-19 crisis.
“I’m a school van driver,” the Richland mother of three said. “There’s no school, so there’s no work for me.”
Just a few weeks later, her husband also lost his full-time job.
“Then it just hit home,” she said. “The first week, it really hit us hard…we didn’t know what we were going to do.”
Two job losses coupled with needing to pay bills and the stress that came with homeschooling three children was starting to take its toll.
The Breens recently sought emergency food assistance through LCCM to alleviate some of the financial burden caused by COVID-19 crisis. Emergency food orders at LCCM provide a 2-week supply of food to individuals and families in need throughout Lebanon County.
They gave me so much,” she said. “They gave me frozen foods and meat. The meat prices are going up and on top of that it’s harder to find.”
Her family isn’t alone.
Over the last seven weeks, LCCM provided 252 households with emergency food orders. Sixty-three of those households - including 192 individuals - sought assistance as a direct result of job loss related to the COVID-19 crisis. Households directly affected by the economic fallout ranged from individuals living alone to families of 7 and 8.
Though life has yet to return to normal, Vanessa says her family is thankful for the help when they needed it most.
“God has been good to us,” she said. “I just feel hopeful. Right now, in the beginning, all of this is just the hard part. I know we’ll be fine.”
Written by Andrea Gillhoolley, director of development and marketing, Lebanon County Christian Ministries. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Being involved with Lebanon County Christian Ministries for 20 years, Noon Meal Coordinator Heather Kumler has found her calling.
Kumler’s family began its involvement with LCCM because of her mother-in-law, Wenda DiNatale, being on staff at LCCM. As a mother of three, Kumler also encourages volunteerism in her children. She and her three children had recently volunteered for Summer Food Program, which feeds children in the county.
Even though LCCM did not always have a kitchen, DiNatale still found a way to provide the county with food and Kumler was able to assist.
“Before LCCM had a kitchen of their own, my father-in-law and I would cook meals (with DiNatale) and would serve as take out at churches in our community,” said Kumler.
Kumler's responsibilities now require her to oversee the food bank and offer volunteers guidance and direction to ensure that food orders are packed with nutritious and healthy foods. She also guides volunteers by assisting in the development of the menus for the Noon Meal Program along with developing the meals themselves.
Kumler looks back on her volunteer experiences at LCCM as preparation to fulfill her responsibilities as a member of the staff at the organization. With all of her experience as a volunteer at the organization throughout the years, Kumler would tell someone who is interested in volunteering that they will get much more out of the experience than they can contribute.
When volunteering, Kumler says, “volunteers are a blessing and a necessity to the ministry, though most times volunteers receive a greater blessing.”
Written by Jensen Burnheimer
Lebanon County Christian Ministries is working in conjunction with Lebanon Valley College students to tell the story of LCCM through the lens of its volunteers, guests, staff and board throughout the season of Lent
COVID-19: Food insecurity continues to grow in Lebanon County and 4 other things you should know about LCCM
Clint waited in line at the free noon meal at Lebanon County Christian Ministries on Wednesday.
The Lebanon man, a medical transport driver, has been to the noon meal periodically in the past but has come back recently because his hours at work have been cut down from 40 per week to about 25 – 30, if he’s lucky - as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
“There’s just not enough work to go around,” he said.
Unsurprisingly, demand for food assistance in Lebanon County - and throughout the world – is surging.
Lebanon County residents facing food insecurity are turning to food pantries such as Lebanon County Christian Ministries, the Caring Cupboard in Palmyra and J.O.Y. Pantry in Jonestown in greater numbers.
“Overall, we are seeing an increase in noon meal guests and individuals seeking emergency food orders,” said Bryan Smith, LCCM’s Executive Director.
More: Lebanon County households financially affected by by COVID-19 seeking food assistance at LCCM
What that need will look like in two to three months is anyone’s guess, but LCCM is making projections based off preliminary data collected in the first few weeks of the crisis that the need will continue to rise.
“I think the biggest thing is the unknowns,” Smith said. “While we’ve seen an upward trend in needs, we don’t know if those trends will continue to grow at the same pace or if there will be an exponential growth leading to higher demand.”
Here are 5 things you should know about how COVID-19 is affecting LCCM and how you can help.
If you or someone you know needs food assistance, please be advised of our modified hours. Call 717-272-4400 to schedule an appointment.
1. The growing need
Staff and volunteers began noticing a gradual increase in noon meal attendance numbers in mid-March. Daily attendance rose from it’s normal 130 individuals to 167, then skyrocketing to 212 in just one week.
Emergency food orders for individuals and families also steadily began to rise. LCCM sees an average of about 38 households needing emergency food each week, but recently it’s been averaging between 50 to 60 households each week.
Since mid-March through Friday, April 3, LCCM served 39 households financially affected by the crisis – those households include 116 individuals. Ninety-seven percent of those households experienced job loss as a result of the crisis, while 3 percent saw a reduction in hours at work. Ninety-five percent were working full-time.
In the chart below, we’ve included the total number of households and individuals served (normal need as well as households affected by COVID) over the past five weeks. You can see how the need spiked at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis during Week 3.
With only eight full-time staff members and one part-time staff member, LCCM heavily relies on more than 80 in-house volunteers throughout its many programs every week.
“We have absolutely seen a decrease in volunteers because a lot of our volunteers are at-risk individuals, and we respect that and appreciate and encourage them to stay home and do what they need to for their own health and their family’s health,” Smith said.
With that loss, LCCM has, however, seen an uptick in other volunteers who are able to step in and fill in the gaps.
If you'd like to help, sign up here and we'll send out an eblast as needs arise.
3. Safety measures and modified hours
LCCM is still in operation but has modified its hours and put safety measures in place to protect its staff, volunteers and guests. These changes include:
4. Food supply
LCCM is still able obtain food purchases from vendors though there has been a slow down in product acquisition.
“What we used to be able to call and have delivered in two days now has a three-to-five day lead time,” Smith said during a Facebook live chat with Dede Carmichael of the United Way of Lebanon County and Shila Ulrich, Executive Director of The Caring Cupboard.
Smith said LCCM must forecast what its food needs are going to look like three to four days from now for both the noon meal and emergency food orders, which is a moving target.
“The reality is that our numbers are changing so aggressively day to day that I’m not sure that we’re projecting exactly what we need and if we try to project greater than that three to five days out – we’re going to be in a world of hurt,” he said during the interview. “We’re banking on our food vendors to be able to keep supplying and sourcing us.”
5. How you can help
Food banks across America are experiencing an increase in need amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Rather than paying retail prices, LCCM works with vendors and retailers to secure food. This means that when you donate a dollar, you’re helping LCCM provide more food for individuals and families than if you donated food that you purchased at the store.
You can make a one-time donation,become a member of our Love Your Neighbor monthly giving club, create your own personal fundraising page for your birthday or keep us in mind for planned giving.
You can also become part of our large network of volunteers. You can sign uphere for emergency volunteering needs or check back here to see the regular needs when we resume normal activities.
Written by Andrea Gillhoolley, Director of Development and Marketing. Contact Andrea at email@example.com or call 717-272 4400 ext. 211
By Bryan Smith, LCCM Executive Director
Providing a homeless shelter is easy, right? I mean, just throw a couple cots on the floor and let folks come in and sleep.
Well, the reality is that it isn’t that easy.
Add to that when you designate your shelter as a family shelter - where men and women will comingle with families and children - and it gets a whole lot more complicated. Safety becomes a significant priority, not that it isn’t a priority at a men’s only or a women’s only shelter, but it certainly creates an interesting dynamic.
The FRESH Start Resource Center and Homeless Shelter has been making it work for the last three years at the LCCM building on South 7th Street.
Before FRESH Start, it was a partnership between Jubilee and Lebanon County Christian Ministries (LCCM) called HOPES. During the three years of service at LCCM, the team has learned a lot about managing the day-to-day operations.
Today, the FRESH Start provides guests with a full kitchen, laundry facilities, a children’s play area, a shower/bathroom, computers for housing and job search needs, and a common space to do homework, pay bills, and many other activities.
The overnight accommodations are provided by generous churches in our community and the volunteer membership who provide the staffing nightly. These spaces are considered congregate living spaces. Each church takes a two-week period to provide snacks and sleeping areas.
All our guests are required to provide a warrant check and a urine screen for illicit drugs.
Once both are clear, the intake process begins.
Offered a small bin for personal effects and storage space on a rack for food, our guests begin a week of acclimation to shelter life and then the case management begins.
What jobs did you apply for today? Have you worked to secure childcare so you can get a job? Did you go to work today and is your performance what your boss is expecting? Did you apply for SNAP benefits or MA? Did you go to your doctor appointment that was on your schedule? Accountability questions posed by our staff to ensure our guests begin to address personal responsibility and executing tasks to meet goals that have been established cooperatively with our team.
Now, enter COVID-19.
Our worlds, just like yours, were turned upside down.
We immediately began to establish an emergency plan of action. This plan of action was a multi-step plan that was intended to be proactive to our guests needs and the ever-changing COVID cases in our community.
We had anticipated a reduction in volunteers and a need to protect the volunteers in the churches. We needed to find a location where we were able to isolate our guests if needed, a place to have a refrigerator, a cooking device (i.e. microwave), and shower facilities.
Meeting all these needs is a hotel/motel. We partnered with a local hotel to establish aggressive rates and were able to quickly register all our guests. We also established a house agreement with each of our guests outlining the expected behaviors and the behaviors that would result in immediate dismissal from our program.
Additionally, we were able to modify our hours of operations and the time our guests spent in our resource center.
We established specific times and days for each family unit to come and prepare meals for the week, pickup needed food for the next week, do their laundry and get any other essentials. Every day our staff checks in with guests, which includes a COVID screening question. This gets documented every day to ensure we identify any concerns immediately.
Through partnership with Wellspan, we have a tablet device that should a guest respond “yes” to any questions on the screening, we could do a virtual urgent care visit at no cost. This plan has afforded our guests and staff with increased safety AND keeping folks accountable.
While there has been a cost associated with this, our decision has been reaffirmed with best practices coming from California. In a recent white paper titled, “Recommended Strategic Approaches for COVID-19 Response for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness – March 2020,” the document states best practices are hotel/motel environments. The Lebanon community has been working diligently to address three classes of individuals:
All three categories have ideal housing solutions to include hotel/motel to address social distancing and isolation.
We believe our early planning and action to partner into a hotel/motel space has provided the highest level of protection for our guests and our staff. After all, safety has been and always will be our priority for our guests, staff, and volunteers.
LCCM has seen a spike in the need for emergency food services during the COVID-19 crisis.
Please take a minute to listen to Bryan's message. We thank you for your continued support during this difficult time.
We need a metric by which to measure the success of things, including our love for Jesus. How do we measure the depth and sincerity of our love for the Savior? Three ways. We love him only as much as we love the least, the last and the lost. Read Pastor Steve Sabol's message.
Twenty years ago, Wenda opened up her cupboards and they were bare. A trip to Lebanon County Christian Ministries not only provided her and her family emergency food, but it started a ripple effect in Wenda's family and even the Lebanon County community.
We need a metric by which to measure the success of things, including our love for Jesus. How do we measure the depth and sincerity of our love for the Savior? Three ways. We love him only as much as we love the least, the last and the lost. Read Pastor Steve Sabol's Lenten Breakfast message.
Watch: LCCM's executive director provides update on COVID-19's effect on LCCM's operations.
Message by Pastor Steve Sabol, Lifeway Church
Editor's note: Even though the Lenten Breakfast is canceled for 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns, we still wanted to share Steve Sabol's incredibly important message with you during this season of Lent. We thank Pastor Sabol for his timely message and we thank you for your continued support. Please stay tuned next week on LCCM.us, our Facebook page and our newsletter as LCCM sits down and talks with Steve Sabol on video about his message,and faith in a time of global crisis.
We need metrics to measure things. On your Fit Bit, you may have a goal of getting in 15,000 steps a day.
In sports, the team with the most points when time expires wins!
Before I get into talking more about metrics, I want to share Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43) with you:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach, when feeling out of sight for the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use in
my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed
to lose with my lost saints.
I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears, of all my life;
and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.
The point is, we need a metric by which to measure the success of things, including our love for Jesus. How do we measure the depth and sincerity of our love for the Savior? Three ways. We love him only as much as we love the least, the last and the lost.
Miriam Webster Dictionary defines "Least" this way – adjective, “Lowest in importance or position; smallest in size or degree.”
Jesus taught us about the importance of what we do for “the least of these” in Matthew 25:31-46:
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. he will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left.
Then the King will say to those on His right, '"Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."
Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'
Then He will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.
They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison and did not help you?'
He will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."
Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
According to this passage, the basis for our reward rests on the acts of kindness each of us did for others, for in so doing, we did those things for the King himself. We can logically conclude that Jesus himself is present in even the most humble, lowly, or “insignificant” person.
In the words of George MacDonald, "The love of our neighbor is the only door out of the dungeon of self."
How we treat lowly and needy people determines how truly we love Jesus. When Christ-followers who have resources help the needy, the unconnected would be totally convinced of the validity of Christian love.
2. The Last.
Miriam Webster Dictionary defines Last this way: adjective, “Following all the rest; being the only remaining; lowest in rank or standing.”
Matthew 20:16, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
This mysterious reversal points out the differences between this life and life in the kingdom. Many people we don’t expect to see in the kingdom will be there. God offers his kingdom to all kinds of people everywhere. God’s grace accepts the world’s outcasts.
No one has a claim to God’s generosity; it is by his grace alone. No one has a claim to position in the kingdom; God will make the appointments—the last and first cannot be earned, bought, or bargained for.
Those who are invisible, who don’t even move the needle of the importance meter even a little. Jesus said the first will be last and the last shall be first.
3. The Lost.
Miriam Webster Dictionary defines Lost this way: – adjective, “Not made use of, won, or claimed.”
What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?
You can get to heaven with an empty stomach (thousands do every day). But you can’t get to heaven with an empty soul!
Lost can mean many things. Lost opportunities. Lost purpose. Lost hope. And of course, spiritually lost. Jesus proclaimed that he came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).
He reminded us of the value of the lost in his trilogy of parables found in Luke 15: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.
Luke 15:7 (TPT), Jesus continued, “In the same way, there will be a glorious celebration in heaven over the rescue of one lost sinner who repents, comes back home, and returns to the fold—more so than for all the righteous people who never strayed away.”
How do I love thee, Jesus? As much as I love the least, the last and the lost.
When "Jessica" had to take some time off from work recently, she relied on Lebanon County Christian Ministries for emergency food assistance.
She was experiencing symptoms of asthma but had to use Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) time as a precautionary measure at a time when COVID-19 cases are growing in the Lebanon County region.
“Not having my paycheck right away and waiting for FMLA put me in a bad spot,” she said. “LCCM helped me so much with food and I came over and got clothes. LCCM is a place you can go when you need someone to help.”
The assistance LCCM provided helped “Jessica” and her family with an emergency two-week supply of food.
You can help people like "Jessica" during this COVID-19 crisis by making a monetary contribution to Lebanon County Christian Ministries. A $100 donation will help LCCM provide a 2-week supply of food to a family of four. Can you help us today?
Though she’s hit a rough patch, she will be returning to work soon and is grateful to LCCM supporters for helping her during an unexpected leave.
“Even though things are tough, I’m not feeling it as much, thanks to the help with food you’ve given me,” she said.
“Jessica” is not the only person who needs emergency food assistance due to financial difficulties caused by the COVID-19 virus.
As of Thursday, LCCM received phone calls from 19 other households that needed help.
For others who may be going through a difficult situation right now, she has some advice:
“Don’t be afraid to reach out,” she said.
“Reach out to places that might be able to help you. And pray. God answers our prayers.”