Christian Service, a ministry founded by the late Sister Margaret McCaffrey more than 40 years ago to serve those in need, is planning to move its operations to Hope Connections at 2350 Levy Street.
A collaborative project led by Hope for the Homeless, Hope Connections is bringing several of the area’s non-profit organizations to a single location on Levy Street. In that way, the crisis needs of those who become homeless can be served by several agencies in one location.
Jane Snyder, president of Christian Service board, said the move is consistent with Sister Margaret’s original mission to serve those most in need, especially those in crisis. “Christian Service is doing what we do best,” Snyder said, “serving food, providing clothing and emergency assistance. The fact that so many will come here to be helped by a collaboration of non-profits gives us access to many more who need our help.”
“We knew from the beginning that Christian Service was the ideal agency to provide meals to those living in poverty and homelessness,” said Christa Pazzaglia, executive director of Hope for the Homeless. “The Hospitality House has been a meal provider in this area for over 40 years. The goal of Hope Connections is to bring experts together to link those in need with existing available services.”
Al Moore, interim executive director of Christian Service, now located at 1244 Sprague Street, is excited about the move, as he believes it to be the natural progression of the organization.
The new 10,000 square foot space is more than double the capacity of the existing facility, which will allow Christian Service to serve more people. A plan has been selected to provide a warm and inviting area, which also has space for the clothing ministry and administrative offices.
“We will be able to serve more people more efficiently (in the new facility) and focus on our primary mission, which has always been to serve those in need,”
Hope Connections is attempting to get funding for a bus to transport residents from other neighborhoods to the Levy Street location, including Ledbetter Heights and Allendale, to the Levy Street location.
However, Moore pointed out that the population of Ledbetter Heights has steadily decreased over the past years, meaning “fewer and fewer people use our transitional shelters.” He added that in the 70s and 80s, Christian Service was the only organization operating in the Ledbetter and Allendale areas, but now there are many organizations in the area.
By the end of the ‘80s, Hospitality House at 1200 Sprague Street was feeding at least 200 people twice a day. Later, when Freeman and Harris Café closed, it was donated to Christian Service, and Hospitality House moved into it.
In addition, two houses were obtained to offer transitional housing, one for men and one for women. But in the last year, the women’s shelter has had one resident and the men’s shelter has had four. Christian Service spends approximately $30,000 per year to keep the houses open and employ people to supervise them. Currently, the women’s shelter has closed and the men’s shelter has only two residents.
Last year, the Christian Service Board voted to streamline services, maintaining those it has always done best – food, clothing and emergency services – and discontinue programs duplicated by other agencies.
The board sees the move to Hope Connections the next step in the mission begun more than 40 years ago. A fundraising campaign to do the necessary improvements has begun, and Syder and Moore say grants are being written.