A Christian center recently received an award for its three separate services to better the community in a variety of ways.
The West End Christian Community Center, 901 Diamond St., received the Harry Hosier Award for its help moving people from dependence to independence, empowering downtrodden people and helping a congregation move from inactivity to lively worship. The award is presented annually by the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church committee on religion and race. Hosier was an early black Methodist preacher.
Throughout the week, the center helps the community with its clothes closet, thrift shop and soup kitchen, Marge Thompson, executive director, said.
West End Community Center Executive Director Marge Thompson holds the 2012 Organizational Harry Hosier Award presented to the center by the Susquehanna Conference of the United Methodist Church, above. With Thompson are, from left, Lynne Girardi, clothes closet manager; Clara Smith, soup kitchen manager; and Sue Litz, thrift shop manager.
The ministry work began as a way to help the people in the west end of Williamsport after St. John's United Methodist Church and Newberry United Methodist Church combined into St. John's-Newberry United Methodist Church.
Two congregations only a block apart were unnecessary, so the center became a place to serve the needs of others.
Receiving the award for its community outreaches surprised Thompson.
"When I got the phone call to say we were the recipients, I was just in shock," she said. "I didn't know we were nominated. We didn't do it for recognition. We see the need. We do it for the ministry."
Sometimes that ministry extends further than filling a person's shopping bag and stomach.
"I can't always offer all the needs," Thompson said. "If I can't help them, I try to find a resolution if I can. ... If God gets them to the door, He knows I'll do everything humanly possible to help them."
Eight years ago, the clothes closet started to help people attain inexpensive clothing in good condition, Lynne Girardi, clothes closet manager, said.
The clothing donations that are accepted are those that are up to date, with no stains or rips.
Most of the items in the clothes closet are 50 cents or $1.
"It helps keeps us self-sufficient so we're not draining the church budget," she said.
The shop is not just for church-goers, but for anyone.
"It's a good use of God's money," Girardi said. "Spend $1 on jeans, not $28. That saves $27."
Accommodations also can be made in disasters, such as fires and floods, for people who need clothing.
Originally, the thrift shop was in the clothes closet, but growth forced a move to a nearby room, Sue Litz, thrift shop manager, said.
"We keep things inexpensive," Litz said. "It's only by God's grace and the blessing of our church that we can do that."
Anything for a home can be found in the thrift shop - blankets, towels, pots and pans, cups, lamps, coffee pots and more.
Like with the clothes closet, donated items can be gently used. Everything is washed before it's put out, Litz said.
Baby items and sheets sell very quickly in the thrift shop. The items that remain, and sales, are rotated every few months.
"People are so generous," Litz said. "This is my way - this is God's way of letting people know we're here to help."
Both the clothes closet and the thrift shop are open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to noon Tuesday and Wednesday, 4:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday and 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturday. Items also can be donated at those times.
The soup kitchen part of the ministry began two years ago this past March.
More than 10,000 meals were served last year and soup kitchen manager Clara Smith predicts this year will be near 14,000.
"We don't serve soup," Smith said. "It's regular meals the majority of the time."
The meals are possible with the help of area supermarkets that donate meats, breads, sweets and dairy products. Nothing is outdated or moldy.
The only items not donated are the paper products, which can cost a couple hundred dollars a month, Smith said.
Open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, people come from Williamsport, Loyalsock Township, Montoursville, Cogan Station and even farther to share a meal.
With just two cooks and some help from volunteers and community service workers, the soup kitchen is maintained.
The soup kitchen offers more than just a warm meal - it also offers a listening ear.
"The people that have something bothering them, they feel free to tell us," Smith said. "Their hearts can break, they can tear up. It's a social relationship all the way around."
Fellowship is big in the ministries. Some people come because they need the clothes or the food, but others arrive regularly because they need the chance to talk with someone.
"That's what (the West End Christian Community center) does," Litz said. "It helps people in need."
Some of the other programs and services the community center offers are Alcoholics Anonymous, the Elm Street Project for Newberry revitalization, Narcotics Anonymous, Northwestern Pennsylvania Optical Clinic and the YMCA summer day camp.