Making a difference in our community

Fall ecumenical lunches bring people together

COURTNEY HAYDEN/Sun-Gazette Pictured is Dawn Linn, CEO of the YWCA (left), and Gwen Bernstine, of United Churches of Lycoming County. Linn presented on Making a Difference in our Community and the strives the YWCA has taken over the years.

Speakers from the area come to share and discuss different topics within the community at the weekly ecumenical lunches held at the Pine Street United Methodist Church, 441 Pine St. At the fall ecumenical lunch on Sept. 19 Dawn Linn, CEO at the YWCA, talked about making a difference in our community through the YWCA’s work.

The YWCA helps make a difference in the community through its two programs — Wise Options and Liberty House, Linn said during her presentation at the fall ecumenical lunch. Wise Options is a “comprehensive victims service center.” Wise Options has been around for 41 years.

Through it’s sexual violence program, the YWCA has helped “198 adult victims and 27 children” in Lycoming County from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, Linn said. During that same time frame through its domestic violence program, the YWCA has helped “848 adult victims and 74 children.”

“Together, under the comprehensive victims service center and domestic violence and sexual violence, that amounted to 1,147 individuals who were provided some sort of resource advocacy,” Linn said.

Their second program is the Liberty House, which has been around for 15 years, Linn said. The Liberty House aids “homeless single women or homeless women with children.”

At Liberty House there are 39 beds and it provides education and tools for individuals restarting their lives at the YWCA, Linn said. Women in the program work with case managers that help clients work toward becoming self sufficient.

The program is funded from HUD, Housing and Urban Development, through the federal government, which is then broken down throughout the states, Linn said. Through HUD, the YWCA is required to take in individuals with a substance abuse or addiction.

To measure the success of the Liberty House program, the YWCA uses benchmarks from HUD based on HUD’s statistics for those entering and leaving the program as self sufficient individuals in the community, Linn said. The national average is around 60 percent while those leaving the YWCA averages at 80 percent, occasionally reaching 100 percent.

From July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, the YWCA has helped 79 women and 41 children find safe housing.

“Somebody doesn’t wake up today and say ‘I’m going to be an addict. I’m going to be homeless. I’m going to look for some domestic violence.’ Life happens and, really, anyone of you is at risk at any time and any place. Knowing the circumstances and knowing where to get the resources is extremely important,” Linn said.

The YWCA also receives outside funding from the support of the community through fundraisers, such as Over the Edge and The Boutique, Linn said. The Boutique provides clothing to the individuals in need coming through the program, whether they have no clothes or are preparing for a job. The rest of the clothing is sold.

During the fall ecumenical lunch Linn also shared a video about three individuals who went through the YWCA programs, their struggles and how they’ve grown since. After Linn’s presentation and video, she opened up a question and answer session.

People can volunteer their time to help make a difference in the community at The Boutique or by sewing for the YWCA’s new project Heavenly Handbags, Linn said. Heavenly Handbags are sold at Patinaz, 38 W. Fourth St., and benefits the Liberty House program. The handbags carry the stories of the people who have been through the YWCA.

By having the stories of individuals who have gone through the program “people will know when they are buying a handbag that they are helping to make a difference at the YW. They are actually helping someone,” Linn said.

The ecumenical lunches have been hosted for 40 years, said Gwen Bernstine, of the United Churches of Lycoming County. The lunches originally were Business Mens Luncheon which was an outgrowth from the Council of Churches Mountain Midweek Services during February 1958.

The Council of Churches is now the United Churches of Lycoming County, Bernstine said. The men from the Mountain Midweek Services, many which were Sunday school teachers, wanted to continue meeting to study the upcoming Sunday school lesson.

Regina Gross, of Williamsport and Church Women United, has been coming to the ecumenical lunches for a bit now and comes after Bible study with friends, she said. Gross enjoys the lunches, friendships and speakers that showcase the community.

Each week is a different meal, Bernstine said. At the Sept. 19 ecumenical lunch there was ham, string bean and potato soup with a tossed side salad, roll and brownies made by Heidi Potter, owner of Heritage Catering in Jersey Shore, Potter added.

Attendance varies weekly depending on who the speaker is, personal schedules and weather, Bernstine said. There is a cost. The lunches are hosted by United Churches and are open to the public and everyone is welcome.

To learn more about upcoming lunches, visit under “Newsletters.” To RSVP for a lunch, call 570-322-1110 or email