Faith and work at REACH leads to compassion

Kevin Collins

Kevin Collins

April 29, 2007|by PEPPER BALLARD

Once a "one-way" person - caring only for himself - Kevin Collins found his Christian faith and went to work at REACH. Both, he said, have made him a more tolerant and compassionate person.

For more than a year, the retired correctional officer has worked as coordinator of services for REACH and program director for the group's Faith In Action program. On a daily basis, Collins organizes about 30 volunteers to give rides to people needing transportation to and from doctors' appointments. He also trains and recruits volunteers.

"I learned a lot of tolerance" through REACH, Collins said. "Prior to becoming a Christian and working here, I wasn't real tolerant of people and their situations."

Collins, 52, spent seven years in the U.S. Marine Corps before going to work as a correctional officer. He retired in 1999 after about 20 years working at the Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown.


After retirement, Collins worked for a telecommunications company and for a health insurance company.

It was also during that time that Collins and his wife, Pandora, sought something more. The couple began looking for a church and found their faith at the Hagerstown Church of the Nazarene.

"I found myself being led. There were changes made to who I was and what my purpose was in life," he said.

Now, Collins uses his abilities as a former correctional officer to be stern at the REACH shelter when needed. He began volunteering at REACH's Cold Weather Shelter about four years ago when the shelter rotated from church to church. He now works full time at REACH headquarters on West Franklin Street.

Collins also is a co-coordinator of Antietam Workcamp, a camp of traveling volunteers, which is co-sponsored in Washington County this year by REACH and St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Lappans.

From July 22 through July 28, youth and adults from across the country will converge on Washington County to paint and make repairs to about 70 houses within 30 miles of Williamsport High School. The approximately 400 youths and adults will stay at the school during the workcamp.

In early April, Collins was busy trying to find between 90 and 100 potential fixer-uppers, from which the camp coordinators could pick 70 appropriate candidates.

He and his wife have supported a 6-year-old Nicaraguan girl, Yorlene, through Compassion International, a Christian child-advocacy ministry, for the past four years.

Collins and his wife have five grown children, ages 25 to 32.


Name: Kevin Collins

Hometown: Hagerstown

Occupation: Coordinator of services for REACH (Religious Effort to Assist and Care for the Homeless) and program director for REACH's "Faith In Action" program.

What was your proudest moment?: "The day I came to faith in Christ."

Whom do you most admire, and why?: "It's hard to pick a person this day and age that you admire - and I try not to. I have to think back to my religion and that would be Christ." Collins said, "When you realize the pain and suffering He went through ... It's more suffering than I could imagine anyone going through."

What is the best piece of advice you ever received and who gave it to you?: He said Hagerstown Church of the Nazarene Pastor Steve Johnson warned him to be careful not to take on too much. "Take a look and do the things that are important," he said.

What is the next goal you would like to achieve?: True retirement.

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