An archdiocesan outreach that is “the only home” for many in Delaware County has had a makeover – and it’s ready to welcome more clients than ever.
Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop John McIntyre presided at a Sept. 7 blessing and rededication of the archdiocesan Catholic Social Services (CSS) Delaware County Family Service Center.
Located in Chester City, the site provides a wide array of support for area individuals and families, including parenting and prenatal education, a food pantry, hot meals, diapers and other infant items, feminine hygiene products, shower and laundry facilities, and mailing services for those without a fixed address.
“You are about to enter a building that is the daytime home, and sometimes the only home, of many people,” said Camille Crane, the center’s administrator.
She and Bishop McIntyre were joined at last week’s gathering by James Amato, archdiocesan Secretary for Catholic Human Services; Chester Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland, Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer; Dr. Monica Taylor, Chair of the Delaware County Council; and Sandra Garrison, Chief of Delaware County Department of Human Services and Community Supports.
According to Crane, the site last year assisted some 22,000 individuals with 3100 meals, 23,000 pounds of food, showers for 500, laundry access for 300 and mailing service for 75 persons.
In addition, “700 babies were diapered, 50 babies received formula and 250 moms attended parenting or pregnancy classes,” said Crane.
As “demand has informed CSS’s response,” she said, the agency – through the support of the Catholic Foundation of Greater Philadelphia’s Catholic Charities Appeal — invested in a $200,000 building-wide renovation, installing two additional showers, a multipurpose room, a “rest stop” for kids with bunk beds and seating, and a conference room.
New floors and fresh paint, along with an upgraded fire alarm system, have revitalized the site – as has the addition of members of Vagabond Missions, a Pittsburgh-based evangelization ministry that works with at-risk urban youth.
Three Vagabond missionaries – Katherine Douglas, Avery Starr and Emma Stovall – have been stationed at the site to “to bring the Gospel of Christ to save souls,” said Micah Spader, Vagabond’s Philadelphia area director.
Spader described Vagabond’s collaboration with CSS as the result of “divine intervention,” having met last July with Bishop McIntyre, Amato and Father Robert Ianelli, pastor of St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Chester, to discuss mission opportunities.
Such initiatives are more vital than ever, said Bishop McIntyre.
Referencing Matthew 5:14-16, he said “there is no room for bushel baskets” and no place for “(hiding) the light so that it doesn’t shine forth and give glory to the Father and bring others to Him. … We’ve already been set as a city on a hill.”
And that city is built on “a solid base of community and government partnerships” that are “core to mission,” said Amato.
Father Ianelli described CSS – which hosts a food pantry at St. Katharine Drexel – as “part of the lifeblood” of his parish.
The day-in, day-out work of the CSS Chester center is “incredibly impactful,” said Taylor. “You are changing lives.”
Client Shamyra Miller, who offered an impromptu testimonial at the dedication service, agreed.
Having battled drug addiction, she described herself as “so blessed” by CSS’s support.
“I thank this church, I thank all the staff here,” she said. “I want to say thank you. God is good.”
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