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Church members work in unity at Waynesboro shelter

January 19, 2008|By ASHLEY HARTMAN

WAYNESBORO, PA. ? In the past, Unity Service Day was a way for various Christian denominations in the Waynesboro area to get together for a church service.

This year, the Waynesboro Area Fellowship of Churches (WAFOC) decided to do something different.

"We're doing a unity service project instead of a unity (worship) service," said Lin Smalec, president of WAFOC and pastor of Salem United Church of Christ in Zullinger, Pa.

Forty volunteers from a dozen churches in the Waynesboro area came out Saturday to volunteer their time at the New Hope Shelter on South Potomac Street in Waynesboro, Smalec said. Tasks included painting the shelter's family room, organizing clothes, kitchenware and other items in the thrift shop, and making clothing racks.

The day began with breakfast at the Way Station in Waynesboro. It was a way to introduce people to the Way Station and the shelter, Smalec said.

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"This is how we're expressing our unity this year," said the Rev. Heather Hughes of Rouzerville United Methodist Church.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Christian Unity Worship Week, which is Jan. 18 to 25 each year, Hughes said.

"It was originally conceived as a way for churches to come together despite (their) differences," Smalec said.

WAFOC chose the New Hope Shelter as its service project because there are "a different variety of projects that don't require a lot of skill, but can be done by anyone," Hughes said.

"So often we only do things within our own little church," Smalec said. "This is a way to work together."

For Ernie Houdeshell of Zullinger, who is a member of Quincy (Pa.) United Methodist Church, working at the shelter is something he has been doing since August. His wife, Shari, is the manager of the shelter's thrift store.

"(Shari) set records the shelter has never seen before," Houdeshell said regarding sales at the thrift shop. "We have more donations than we know what to do with."

Houdeshell began volunteering at the shelter as a night watchman, and used his truck for deliveries and donations. He now does maintenance for the entire shelter.

"I see this corporation, the New Hope Shelter for the homeless, as being just that ? hope," Houdeshell said. "In a world where costs are increasing at an exponential rate (and) more people are being forced out of their homes because of inflation and greed ... people need an advocate; people need New Hope."

On Saturday, Houdeshell oversaw a group making coat racks.

"These guys ? I showed them what I wanted (and) they took it by the horns," said Houdeshell, who has 18 years of construction experience. "I'm beyond grateful."

Linda Stoler, a resident of State Line, Pa. and a member of Salem United Church of Christ, said she volunteered Saturday because of a call from her pastor for help with the Unity Service Day project.

"I feel like it's a good time of fellowship, being with our Christian brothers and sisters," said Stoler, who was separating clothes in the thrift store by size. "It doesn't really seem like work."

Bob Cook of Waynesboro, a member of Christ United Methodist Church of Waynesboro, was sawing wood that would be used to make coat racks for clothes in the thrift shop.

"If you're a Christian, you have to find something practical to do (as a service of Christian unity)," Cook said. "It's practical, rather than sitting around talking about."

The New Hope Shelter is an emergency shelter for men, women and families, said Jenna Freeman, director of the shelter. The shelter can house 43 families at any time for six-week programs.

"We ask (those who stay here) to reach goals to achieve self-sufficiency," Freeman said.

People who stay in the shelter receive three meals a day, laundry service and a bed. All of the items in the thrift shop and most of the food the shelter receives are donated, Freeman said.

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