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New Love Center provides food to hundreds in region

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Dozens of volunteers help pack and distribute food at the New Love Center in Jersey Shore on Friday.

JERSEY SHORE — Hundreds of families in Jersey Shore had a merrier Christmas thanks to the efforts of Jersey Shore’s New Love Center on Broad Street.

Volunteers from the New Love Center recently distributed bags of groceries, food and other items to about 500 families in the area.

According to the Rev. Kerry Aucker, the director of the New Love Center, this is the fifth year the food pantry is doing such a huge distribution. He added that with the help of 100 volunteers the efforts have proven successful.

“We start planning for this in October,” Aucker said, and many of the families were lined up at 6:30 a.m. waiting for the doors to open.

Inside the red brick building of the New Love Center, clients were lined up throughout the building at different receiving stations. They received vegetables, bread and drinks at various stations.

The New Love Center was formed in 2015 and achieved nonprofit status in 2017 and is dedicated to serving “the greater Jersey Shore and surrounding area for the food insecure. Recognizing the need in this community the organization was formed by the citizens of the community.”

The center combats “food insecurity (because it) continues to be a major problem in this community for both the very young and the elderly. Over 50 (percent) of school children in the Jersey Shore School District receive a free breakfast and lunch program.”

Cheryl Cook, assistant secretary of Agriculture for Pennsylvania, came to observe the event and take a tour of the facility.

“It’s always a little special to be here for the holidays, but the truth is that these folks (volunteers and workers for the New Love Center) are here every week and the need is here all year long,” Cook said.

Cook explained she was invited by Aucker to see first hand what the New Love Center does.

“I try not to just show up and go ‘I’m here from the government,’ “ she said with a laugh, but added, “I love coming back to rural communities.” She said she is looking for ways to help with rural economic development because the residents “have such a sense of community.”

She sited the New Love Center as a prime example.

“(The New Love Center is) making the best possible use of every resource they have,” Cook said.

She added that it is “really rewarding to see how the whole community

comes together” such as businesses like Sheetz and The Weis Markets for donating food and working with the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and the volunteers from the New Love Center.

Local food pantries have a way of bringing different entities in the area together for a common goal, she said.

Sharon Atherholt, a co-founder of Montoursville’s Harvest of Hope Food Pantry, praised the New Love Center for its efforts.

“It has been an eye-opening journey to see how important these hunger agencies can be,” Atherholt said. She added, “While helping to meet the hunger needs of our community, it brought a community together. Thus giving a community back much more than we could ever give.”

Aucker said one client said she was able to celebrate the holiday.

“One lady said to me she would not have had a Christmas dinner if it was not for the food pantry,” Aucker said, adding he was thrilled by Cook’s visit. “I am honored to have her here and we are very proud of the volunteers who make the New Love Center and cafe possible, and glad to have Ms. Cook here to witness the tremendous amount of food being distributed.”

Aucker said the workers and volunteers at the New Love Center will continue to help the community and sited the Bible verse 1 John 3:17 as their guiding vision. The New International Translation of the verse states, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”

“We reach out in faith and share what we have because we have been blessed over and over again,” Aucker said.

For more information about New Love Center, visit www.thenewlovecenter.com.

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