Group’s use of rectory a step closer

Family Promise, a non-profit organization that has been giving a hand-up to families in need, was granted a variance Thursday by the city zoning hearing board so it can operate a day center inside the rectory next to Mater Dolorosa Church on Hepburn Street.

The non-profit organization provides a day center for families, some of them with children. Among the activities done in the center is helping the adults in the family prepare resumes and providing them with job counseling and other forms of support. It’s not a shelter, where the families stay overnight. Instead, it is a place for them to do laundry and it gives them a place to gather before they leave for the night to stay where other arrangements were made.

“We’re embracing our role, which is to serve those most in need,” said the Rev. Brian Van Fossen, pastor of St. Joseph the Worker parish. “We’re naturally excited,” he said of the board’s granting of the variance.

He considered the future work by the organization using the church building to be collaborative effort between United Churches of Lycoming County and Shepherd of the Streets ministry.

He believed the work there would provide a sense of unity of the area.

“We’re working toward a better tomorrow,” he said.

The organization will lease the space from the church.

“We’re working out the lease agreement,” he said.

Attempts to reach Melissa Magargle, the organization’s executive director, were not immediately successful.

Gary Knarr, city zoning officer, said he informed Magargle that the next step before operating the center in the rectory, would be to apply for a $90 occupancy permit and have the building inspected by codes officers to see if the building is code compliant.

The board voted 4-0 to grant a variance to the organization, which plans to lease the building from St. Joseph the Worker parish. Voting in favor were of granting a variance were Mary Lou Baldys, Bonita Kolb, Mary Zeitler and Judy Sarett. Linda H. Crockett was absent.