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News Overview

Latest News from the Mission

Our News Articles provide information on all manner of topics related to the City Mission.  Our Subject areas include:  Events; Resident Stories; Donors Stories; Newsletter Repository; and Knowledge Share.  Knowledge Share engages a host of topics regarding homelessness, addiction and poverty.  Below you will find an opportunity to be “in-the-know” by joining our email list.  Checkout the "Podcast" section of our Knowledge Share articles page.  Below you'll find the 3 most recent articles from each of our topical areas .  

Events

A Passion in My Heart

Sherry Rorison, Manager of Women with Children Services
August 13, 2021

“I want the women and children in our program to know that they are loved,” said Sherry Rorison, City Mission’s new Manager of Women with Children Services. “We’re probably one of the first safe places that they can come and can be unconditionally loved and cared for.” Sherry has only been at the Mission for about two weeks, but she already has big plans. “I’d like to develop a strong program that is catered to their specific needs and that creates hope and healing for not only the mother and not only the child but as a family to strengthen the family bond. I really believe in my heart that the stronger the family, the more people individually think about how their behaviors effect the other members in the family.” For 30 years, Sherry worked with women and children at Light of Life Rescue Mission in Pittsburgh, and before that, she worked for the Salvation Army’s shelter for homeless women and children, so she brings both experience and passion to her role here at the Mission. “God has placed a passion in my heart for homeless women and children,” she explained. “And I can’t see me doing anything else.” Sherry knows that the residents living in our shelters have some kind of trauma in their past, and the first key to unlocking hope and healing in their lives is to confront that trauma head on. ”The only way to achieve transformation is for them to understand why they do the things that they do,” she said. “I’m not going to say you broke a rule so you’re on restriction. I’m going to say, ‘ok can we talk about why you chose that behavior.’ And to really dive into why they did what they did. I’m not saying there’s no consequences, but it’s having those hard conversations that is so important. Once they start to realize why they do what they do, then we’re able to work on a different way of learning.” But it’s not just about healing the mothers. The Mission’s Women with Children program is also about strengthening families. “We want to be able to focus on the family as a whole too,” Sherry noted. “So we’re going to work on family traditions, ways that they can bond as families, and family communication…And maybe that’s being able to go to the pumpkin patch or go to the swimming pool or have a picnic in the park.” “If the mom’s healing and the child is healing, then they’re healing as a family. That’s going to create transformation.” And since women with children are the fastest-growing homeless population in the US, we can really use your help to serve the families in our programs. Visit www.citymission.org and volunteer or donate today. Our women and children need your help!

Open For Business

ribbon cutting
July 22, 2021

“We’re very very pleased to be back in Monongahela,” said City Mission President/CEO Dean Gartland at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, July 19 for their new City Mission Thrift Store. Last summer, the building they were leasing for their store, just a few blocks away from their current location, was sold, so a new location was needed. “We didn’t intend on leaving,” explained Mark Vinoverski, City Mission’s Director of Hope Enterprises. “We have great relationships with everyone here in Monongahela, and the question we heard so often was when are you going to come back.” Ever since then, the Mission had been looking to find a new location in town. In February, they purchased the old McCrory’s building at 211 West Main Street in Monongahela and began the renovations to convert the space into a thrift store. It marks the first building the Mission has ever purchased for the purpose of opening a thrift store. With the support of countless donors, volunteers, and local churches, businesses, and organizations, the Mission was finally able to open the doors to their seventh Thrift Store and Donation Center on Monday, July 19. Christine Somales of Monongahela was the very first customer at the new store. “I shopped regularly at the old store,” she said. “I’m just so happy that you guys are back. The store looks awesome!” Somales was able to find a set of tea cups she plans to use for decorating tables at an upcoming Monessen Library function in October. “I live in Monongahela,” she added, “and I was watching the construction every day. It’s amazing how it just fits in with all the other buildings…I’m so happy to have the Mission back in Monongahela. We missed you so much.” All proceeds from the sale of items at City Mission Thrift Stores, support the Mission’s life-changing programs and services to reach the homeless and needy in our community. “We want people to ‘Thrift with a Purpose,’” said Gartland. “And our purpose is make sure that people’s needs are being met in our community and our county.” “We are the sustaining arm of the Mission,” explained Vinoverski, who runs City Mission’s Thrift Store organization. “Truly, the money we make here goes to support the programs at the Mission. We love what we do. We love the purpose of the Mission.” This is the seventh thrift store for the Mission, and according to Vinoverski, they are hoping to open an eighth store by the end of the year to bring even more revenue to the Mission’s programs and services. But for now, it was just an exciting day for everyone involved in the Grand Opening! There was cake and hourly give-aways, and a K-Love booth on-site with contemporary Christian music playing throughout the day. There was a steady stream of customers and a constant line at the cash register. “It’s a blessing to be here in Monongahela,” said Vinoverski, “and we’re looking forward to serving the community.” So come on out and shop, donate, or volunteer at one of the Mission’s seven thrift stores to help support this vital part of their ministry. Visit www.citymission.org/stores for more information.

Thrift With a Purpose

clothing aisle in thrift store
July 8, 2021

On Monday, July 19, City Mission will celebrate the Grand Opening of its newest City Mission Thrift Store at 211 W. Main Street in Monongahela. The opening ceremony will be held at 10:00am at the new store with prayer, remarks from City Mission staff and noted figures in the community, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and an invitation to shop the new store. The store will open to the public for shopping at 11:00am, with prize giveaways every hour, a K-LOVE radio booth on-site, and merchandise specifically chosen for our grand opening shoppers. Last summer, the Mission closed their Monongahela Thrift Store following a change in building ownership. They decided to re-open the store in Monongahela at a new location. “We have a good customer-base here,” explained Brian Johansson, City Mission’s Chief Operating Officer, “and I think they were sad to see us go.” So City Mission purchased the old McCrory’s building on Main Street, which had been converted into a flooring store and then sat empty for the past three years. Once the Mission purchased the building, renovations began. Community members stepped up to offer their time and expertise to paint, build, replace lighting, and complete other tasks to help renovate the space for thrift store needs. With all their hard work along with the great work of local contractors, the City Mission Thrift Store will be a beautiful addition to Monongahela’s downtown area and a fun place to find great deals. The new location, City Mission’s seventh Thrift Store, is just a few blocks from where the old store had been. It marks the first time City Mission has purchased a building for the purpose of opening a thrift store. 100 percent of the proceeds from all seven City Mission Thrift Stores support the life-transforming programs and services for the homeless residents at the Mission. Please visit www.citymission.org for more information.

Resident Stories

True Colors

Residents making tie-dye shirts
June 14, 2021

At ten minutes before 4pm on Monday, June 7, the rain started coming down. Brianna Kadlecik, City Mission’s Career Services Manager, had just started setting up for the second annual outdoor Tie-Dye event for the residents. Quickly, with help from the Mission’s Recovery Support staff, she moved all the tables and supplies under the pavilion by the men’s shelter to get out of the rain. “We want to create opportunities for our residents to have fun and relax when they’re here, and to take a break from the heavier and more difficult issues that they’re working through,” Kadlecik said, explaining why she was so determined to put on the event for the residents, even in the rain. “Events like this also help build community with the residents and they get to see each other and the staff in a different light.” Last summer, during COVID lockdown, it was a difficult and unsettling time for the Mission and their residents. During that time, the Mission staff worked hard to host fun activities to help boost the morale of the residents – activities like movie nights and coloring groups. One Mission resident had the idea for a tie-dye-t-shirt-making event. “Not only did that resident want to do tie-dye for the sheer fun of the event, but he also wanted to have something that reminded him of his time at the Mission,” Kadlecik explained. “I thought it was a brilliant idea and we both took time to watch videos and read articles about how to do tie-dye.” The event was so successful last year, with nearly 30 residents participating, that Kadlecik knew she needed to do it again this year. Thirty-two residents and seven staff members made a shirt last Monday, and five more residents plan to make shirts in the coming weeks. “I firmly believe in the power that self-expression and creativity have in our personal healing and self-care,” Kadlecik noted. “We get so many residents from various walks of life and some of them haven’t been exposed to the freedom of creating to express themselves or to purely have fun. “It’s a joy to see the residents smiling as they dye their shirts -- to hear them laughing, helping, and encouraging one another as they create their shirts.” You can help the men, women, children, and veterans who stay with us to have positive experiences, gain confidence, build connections, and live with hope along their journey to independent living. Visit us at www.citymission.org to learn more about our programs and services and to see how you can support our life-changing work in the community.

All Bases Covered

Tom Crooks in Front of Crabtree Kovacicek Veterans House
May 24, 2021

Tom is a Desert Storm-era veteran, serving in the US Army from 1990-1994. He grew up in Belmont County, OH.After his military service, for years, he was a salesman at Xerox. But, eventually, his health deteriorated to the point where he could no longer work or even live on his own. Suffering from severe hearing loss and the intense pain of two failing hip joints along with the loss of his job and his independence, he spiraled into depression. He finally sought help at the Veterans Center in Belmont County for his medical and mental health issues.To his surprise, the Veterans Center recommended him to a place he had never heard of in a completely different state – City Mission’s Crabtree-Kovacicek Veterans House. “It was actually my home state of Ohio that said, you know, basically, the best place for you to go to be able to get the help you need would be the City Mission in Washington, PA,” Tom explained. “And I thought that sounded pretty surprising.”Tom was encouraged when he heard that City Mission was a Christ-centered shelter. Even though he was raised in the Catholic church, he had fallen away from God at different periods in his life, and he knew that getting right again with the Lord was exactly what he needed to get his life back on track. “It’s well-rounded here,” he said. “You have a faith-based community. You have help for veterans. You have help for everyone. And it’s all those different programs wrapped together that you know, I figured I would give it a try.”So he got a ride down Interstate-70 and moved into the Veterans House at City Mission in October of 2019. Immediately, Steve Adams, City Mission’s Manager of Veterans Services, connected Tom with the VA, where he has been able to get help with his hearing loss. He is also currently on the waiting list for two hip replacements.Additionally, he is working with our staff at the Career Training and Education Center to restore a sense of purpose in his life by establishing education and career goals. Inspired by the compassionate work of the City Mission staff, he is even considering pursuing his Master of Arts in Theology and Christian Ministry through the online program at Fransiscan University.“You’ve got a support team here that handles everything in regards to education, job search, housing placement, so on and so forth. The whole core concept is basically preparing you to get back to independent living. So, all bases are covered,” he said of his experience at the Mission.“Before I came here,” he added, “I didn’t feel like I had any kind of a future. But now, you know, there’s light on the road ahead.” In November of 2020, after more than a year at the Mission, Tom moved out of the Veterans House and back to Belmont County, Ohio to be near his friends and family and his fiancée. Steve Adams spoke with Tom just a few months ago. “He is doing well,” Adams said. “He’s in good spirits.”Like so many local veterans who have struggled, Tom got the help he needed and rediscovered his passion for life at City Mission’s Crabtree-Kovacicek Veterans House. Your compassion helped Tom find his way. There are 22 more veterans in our Veterans House who could certainly use your help. Visit https://www.citymission.org/support/veterans to find out how you can help or call 724-222-8530 to learn more.

"I'm a Real Person Again!"

Brianna Kadlecik, Manager of Career Services
May 7, 2021

Imagine for a moment that you live in a tent under a bridge. You’ve only been homeless for a few weeks, and things are actually starting to look up. You just had a job interview earlier in the day that seems promising enough. You have relevant experience, and you feel like it’ll be a good fit. It is giving you the first glimmer of hope you have had in quite a while. If things go well, maybe you can even get an apartment within the next few weeks. Maybe your kids could even come and live with you again sometime in the near future. That’s what you’ve been praying for. On your way back to your tent for the night, you hear a rustling in the bushes behind you. Before you can turn around, you’ve been clubbed over the head with a rock. You’re lying in the dirt, slipping in and out of consciousness, but you feel hands digging in your pockets for your wallet. When you come to, you realize that everything has been stolen from you – your cash and credit cards, all of your ID documents, even the photos of your kids that you keep in your backpack. Thankfully, you get that job you were hoping for, but the company can’t hire you, because you’re unable to provide ID for their new hire paperwork. Early the next morning, you go to the post office to get your last unemployment check so you can buy food. You haven’t eaten in three days. But no place in town will cash the check for you, because you have no ID. You contact the Vital Records department to get a copy of your birth certificate, but you have to provide an ID. So you call PennDot to get a copy of your state ID, but they ask for your birth certificate. You can’t figure out how your life unraveled so quickly. At the end of your rope, with nowhere else to turn, you walk in the doors at City Mission. Immediately, you get a hot meal, a soft bed, a change of clothes, and you meet Career Services Manager, Brianna Kadlecik. “I can help you,” she says. She sits you down in the Career Training and Education Center and hands you an application. She tells you that the Mission has helped to provide roughly 850 identity documents for their residents since she started working there four years ago and already 133 pieces of identification since this past October.“90% of our residents come to us missing at least one of the key ID documents: Birth Certificate, SocialSecurity Card, or State ID,” she explains. “And the doors it can open up for you when you get them are amazing! Employment, housing, and things like that.”You tell her you were born and raised in Pennsylvania. “That’ll make it easy,” she says. And she explains that the best place to start is to contact the Vital Records department to get your birth certificate. As a social worker, she can make the request on your behalf. You just have to sign a letter giving her permission. That can really speed up the process and help you navigate the loop of having to provide ID to get your birth certificate. “Huge props to PA,” she adds. “They have a homeless fee waiver for birth certificates, which is tremendous. Not many states offer that.” Brianna explains that your application should go pretty quick, but sometimes out-of-state requests can get a bit tricky. She tells you a story about a former resident who came to the Mission in January of 2018. She was born in Texas. The only ID she had was an expired driver’s license from Michigan. Her parents were no longer alive, and she really had no family to vouch for her identity or make the request on her behalf. Brianna explained that they were between a rock and a hard place with the Texas Vital Records department and every application they submitted was rejected for six months.“Ultimately, she needed a state ID to get a job, but first, we had to get her birth certificate, because that unlocks all the other doors,” Brianna says. “I give her a ton of credit. She was so patient.” Waiting on the ID documents set her job search back several months, but Brianna and the resident never gave up. At the end of July that year, the birth certificate finally came in the mail. “When it finally came in,” Brianna remembers, “we were both over the moon. We had worked so hard. And she definitely needed it.” When your birth certificate comes in the mail three weeks later, Brianna hands it to you across the table in the Career Training and Education Center. “We’re here to help you remove barriers,” she smiles. “And this birth certificate is going to take barriers away and help you secure employment and housing and get you on your way to independence. It may seem like just a small, little thing right now, but it’s actually a HUGE thing.”You hold the crisp, new birth certificate in your hands. It has your name printed on it in bold letters.“I’m a real person,” you say, without thinking. “This proves that I’m a real person again.” Now, you have the documentation you need to get a job, apply for public housing, rent an apartment, cash a check, apply for student loans, etc. Just a few pieces of paper unlock all of these doors for you. City Mission has helped hundreds of people walk through these doors. With your help, together, we can help hundreds more. Visit www.citymission.org to learn more about how you can help. ‍

Knowledge Share

"A Firm Place to Stand"

City Mission Chief Operating Officer, Brian Johansson
September 15, 2021

On Monday at City Mission’s weekly chapel service, Chief Operating Officer, Brian Johansson, paid tribute to the twentieth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center first by honoring the veterans in our residential program who have faithfully served to protect our nation and then by telling the story of his own personal encounters in New York City on that day. On September 11, 2001, Johansson was the Director of the Bowery Mission, the third oldest Christian rescue mission in the US, just 10 blocks from the site of the World Trade Center. He was commuting to work that day, but the subways stopped running, all the bridges into the city shut down, and the traffic backed up for miles. Determined to help during the crisis, he found a place to park his car, and he walked over the 59th Street Bridge from Queens into the city while most New Yorkers were scrambling to get out. It took him nearly 4 hours to walk to work through all the chaos in the aftermath of the attack. When he finally made it to the Bowery that day, there were 50 people, covered in dirt, praying and crying inside the Mission’s historic chapel. He and the staff at the Bowery Mission ministered to and prayed with the victims, survivors, and the loved ones of those who were lost. Johansson, a native New Yorker, grew up the son of a pastor in a blue-collar neighborhood, playing stickball in the street with his friends. “We played stickball games where the manhole cover was first base,” he said, recalling those times in his life for the Mission’s residents and staff. “The Twin Towers were part of my childhood,” he added. “I saw them every day.” Many of those friends he played stickball with grew up to be New York City policemen and fire fighters who have their own firsthand accounts of that day. But Johansson’s story is a little different. He dreamed of becoming a New York City police officer, and after college, he even applied for entrance into the academy, but around that same time, he and his wife, Peggy, began to feel a calling to help the homeless. Every Wednesday, they would pack up some food and drive around New York City ministering to the street homeless. “In 1992, I got a letter of acceptance into the police academy – something I had been dreaming about ever since I was a kid,” Johansson remembered. But that very same week, he also received a letter from the Bowery Mission asking him to be the Director of their Transitional Center, which offers transitional housing for men who have graduated the Mission’s residential recovery program. After much prayer and soul-searching, he decided to follow God’s calling to serve the homeless at the Bowery Mission. By September of 2001, he had been promoted to the Director of the Bowery Mission, the position he held at the time of the attacks. In addition to his duties as the Director of the Mission, Johansson also volunteered as a New York state chaplain, a role he performed for 15 years. As a chaplain, he helped at both Ground Zero and the Park Avenue Armory. At the Armory, he prayed with families who desperately waited for news of their missing loved ones as the search for victims continued. Johansson recalled the despair and confusion of those days just after the attack. “Where there once was a straight and square building, there was now nothing but chaos and rubble. When you were standing at Ground Zero, you couldn’t tell east from west or north from south or up from down.” But he also remembered a message of hope from Psalm 40 that helped bring peace to many grieving families in the midst of all that chaos and suffering. “I cried out to the Lord, and He heard my cry. He lifted me out of the miry pit and set my feet on a rock. He gave me a firm place to stand.” And he encouraged the staff and residents of City Mission with that same passage. “We’ve all had little 9/11’s in our own lives,” he said. “We’ve all had tragedies, challenges, difficulties – whether it’s losing a loved one or struggling with addiction. We’ve all had something. Our response in those situations must be to draw nearer to God. It’s an opportunity for us to come to know Him more deeply. Don’t miss that opportunity.” “You may be in the midst of it right now,” he added. “You can’t tell left from right or up from down. The glass is broken all around. The beams are melting. Your world is turned upside-down. But if you just cry out to God. He will hear your prayer.” There are men, women, children, and veterans at City Mission right now who are hurting. Find out what you can do to help them today at www.citymission.org.

Donors

We Are Family

We Are Family. Sam Care staff and volunteers
June 25, 2021

City Mission’s Samaritan Care Center is our community outreach program, which serves low-income individuals and families in our community. In an effort to prevent those who live in poverty from falling into homelessness, we provide food, support, and resources to those in need. And with a 21% poverty rate in the city of Washington, 9% higher than the national average, there are plenty of people who just need a little help. “We’re here to serve the community,” said Anne Wightman, City Mission’s Samaritan Care and Community Center Coordinator. “We want to be here as a resource for community members who just need some help to get through their day or their week.” Samaritan Care’s food pantry, which gave away 9,492 bags of food to local families in need during 2020, is open to the public twice a week every Tuesday and Thursday from 10am-3pm. You can come in, grab a basket, and browse through the pantry, choosing your favorite items – just like you’re shopping at the grocery store. If you need prayer, someone will pray with you. If you need help with housing, they can offer guidance and applications for public housing. If you need public assistance, a SNAP Outreach Coordinator for Washington and Greene Counties will be on-site twice a month to answer questions and show you how to apply for food stamps and other benefits. If you need legal help, they have an expungement session twice a month with the Director of Family Legal Services. If you need diapers, a toy, or even clothes for your child, they can often help you there too. “We want to let people know the services in the community that are available to them,” Wightman explained. “And we have a good working relationship with other nonprofits in the area.” Wightman and her family of volunteers can help you find your way to the best local services for you. The Samaritan Care Center is ramping back up now after COVID changed the way they did things for the past year. Pre-COVID, Samaritan Care served close to 100 families per week. When the pandemic lockdown started in March of last year, Samaritan Care launched City Mission’s Pop-up Pantries, using four of our Thrift Stores, which had been shut down for retail by statewide regulations, to distribute food bags to people who had lost jobs due to the pandemic or who needed assistance for any reason. The Pop-up Pantries initiative was kickstarted by a grant from the Washington County Community Foundation and supplemented by generous monetary and food donations. Our Pop-up Pantries gave away 4,144 bags of food, each valued at around $20, during the first two months of the pandemic lockdown. Each year, Samaritan Care also hosts several events for the community. Our Bags of Love event last Thanksgiving distributed 275 bags full of ingredients for a Thanksgiving meal at home. Santa’s Workshop allowed community members to select toys and other Christmas gifts for their children or grandchildren, and 50 families received backpacks full of back-to-school items at our Back to School event in 2020. Right now, the Samaritan Care Center is ramping up once again and hoping to serve the community like they have in the past. “It’s important to us that we’re able to help community members in their moment of need,” said Wightman. “And we want people to look forward to coming here. Nobody needs to feel embarrassed to ask for help. It’s really a family atmosphere. We all love each other.” “We truly appreciate that God entrusts us to be His hands and feet in this community. To me, this isn’t work. What I do here every day is exactly what I want to be doing.” Samaritan Care needs your help to keep our shelves stocked. Please help us to support those in need in our community. Visit www.citymission.org or contact Anne Wightman at awightman@citymission.org or 724-222-8530 x266.

For the Kids

Leah and Lisa
June 9, 2021

On Thursday, May 27, volunteer, Lisa Anne Harmon, spent several hours at City Mission helping Leah Dietrich, our Director of Residential Programs, set up a new Children’s Corner in the City Mission dining room. The Children’s Corner offers a fun, comfortable, and safe environment for the children of City Mission residents to play and socialize while their parent(s) eat meals or attend meetings. City Mission’s Women with Children Shelter already has an outdoor playground and a staffed Childcare Center where children can play while their moms look for work, attend classes, and work on their recovery. The Childcare Center, though, is only open and staffed at certain hours during the week. The new Children’s Corner in the dining room will be accessible any time for children to play in social groups or with their parents. It will also be available, not only to children who are Mission residents, but also to any of our residents’ children who come for visitations. “This is a dream come true,” said Dietrich. “The Mission has been able to meet the challenge of providing shelter for Women with Children, but we were looking for ways Mission parents could continue to bond with their children. This area does that! Not only for our Women with Children living here, but also our men, who are dads, now have a space for visitations. Not just a space but a fun space kills will want to go!” Lisa Anne Harmon is an active supporter of City Mission. She is passionate about the work being done here, and she is in regular contact with the staff to find new ways she can help. She especially has a heart for the children in our shelter. “I want to give these children more positive views on life, so they can break the cycle of poverty and move beyond it to a better life,” she said. How can you help the Mission? Find your own unique way to support our work in the community. Visit www.citymission.org or contact Director of Volunteers, Sheila Namy, at snamy@citymission.org or 724-705-7137.

Newsletters

So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.    — Romans 12:5