Heroes Fighting Hunger

Dan Smith and Denny Kennedy in City Mission kitchen

In December, when Governor Wolf announced a second round of restrictions on indoor dining for restaurants, Dan Smith, the President and CEO at Equipment & Controls Inc. in Lawrence, PA, had an idea.

 “It started with a conversation at the kitchen table,” Smith explained.  “I saw two big problems.  You have local restaurant owners who have been in the community for years and have battled through COVID since March.  They probably just ordered all this inventory for the holidays and now they’re forced to shut down.  And then you also have people in the community who can’t afford to eat. And I just thought, if we could get the right people involved and put the funding in the right place, maybe we could put a dent in both of these problems.”

 Smith called City Mission’s Chief Financial Officer, Denny Kennedy.  They had worked together years ago when Kennedy was the CFO at Smith’s company.  “We had kept in touch over the years, and he told me when he started working at the Mission.”

 When Smith and Kennedy first brought the idea to City Mission’s President/CEO Dean Gartland, his first thought was, “what a tremendous idea. This can be a win-win for everyone involved. I was excited to see how this idea can be implemented. We started working right away to make this idea into a reality.”  

 “Really, all I had was an idea,” said Smith.  “All the credit goes to the folks who went out and made it happen.  I couldn’t believe how fast it all came together and how passionate everyone at the Mission was to get this going.”

 Smith made an initial donation to City Mission, and the Heroes Fighting Hunger program was born.  City Mission used the funds to purchase meals from local restaurants for the 160 homeless residents living on their campus.  So far, the Mission has supported eleven local restaurants, purchasing approximately 400 meals from each establishment, and those meals have provided lunches and dinners for City Mission residents throughout the month of January.      


City Mission Kitchen Supervisor, Anthony Cheverine, prepares lunch provided by Mission BBQ in Robinson.

“This is just such a great idea.  It’s a massive win-win for restaurants struggling with lowered revenue due to COVID-19, and for our residents here at the Mission as well,” said City Mission’s Chief Development Officer, Dr. Sally Mounts, who joined the program early on and quickly jumped into action.    

 Mounts reached out to generous donors in the community, and using Smith’s initial donation as a matching gift, was able to raise even more money for the cause. Donors to the new program include: Brian and Karen Shanahan, Mike and Kathy Makripodis, Jon Halpern of Pineapple Payments, and others.  

 “We’re all struggling to get to the other side of this terrible pandemic,” added Mounts.  “Anything that unites us in this effort is a bonus for the whole community. And since so much of our ministry centers around food and shelter, it helped us provide a real bright spot for our residents.”

 City Mission typically relies on food donations to keep costs low and financial donations to provide meals for the 160 residents who depend on them for food and shelter every day.  But the generous donations received as part of this project, enabled the Mission to spend more per meal this month, which helped not only to support local restaurants but also to offer their residents more upscale meals and a greater variety of options.  

 City Mission’s Food ServicesManager, Judy Sandy, came on board to organize the project, contact the restaurants,and put together a meal schedule.  “What an awesome idea this is,” she said. “It’s exciting.  It’s good for the restaurants and for our residents.”  

 Sandy reached out initially to eleven different restaurants who have worked with the Mission in the past, and every single one of them said yes.  “They were all excited and grateful.  Some of them even asked for the name of the donor so they could thank him personally.”

 “And it’s special for our residents too,” she added. “The variety of the meals is incredible. It’s like they’re getting to eat out every day.  These are places they can’t typically go, and these restaurants are actually coming to us. And the residents are so grateful. When they come in and see the food it’s like they’re thinking, ‘is this really for me?  Do people really care this much about me?’  It makes me cry to even think about it.”


Mission BBQ in Robinson has been providing lunch on Thursdays for the residents this month.  They served up kielbasa, pulled pork, pulled chicken, macaroni and cheese, green beans, baked beans, cornbread, dinner rolls, and their signature barbecue sauce – a worthy spread for someone who maybe just a few days earlier had no idea where their next meal was coming from.  

 “One of the main challenges for this project,” said Smith, “was really the speed at which it all had to happen.  The need is immediate.  Restaurants are hurting today.  People are hungry right now.  This all had to happen in days and weeks, not months, and I’ve been really impressed with the passion and energy of everybody at the Mission.”    

 “The hope is,” he added, “When all this is over and the restaurants are back up on their feet, hopefully they remember the Mission and pay it forward.”

 City Mission hopes to reach out to more local restaurants later this month and continue to offer support as long as the donations last.  Please contact Dr. Sally Mounts at 724-705-7122 or smounts@citymission.org if you’d like to donate to this program and support local businesses and the residents of City Mission.

January 21, 2021
Gary Porter - Communications Manager
Gary Porter
Communications Manager
Gary has been with the mission since 2017. He writes many of our resident stories, getting to know many of them and seeing their transformations at the mission from the start.

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A Quiet Space for Saige

City Mission Library in Memory of Saige Knapp
December 30, 2020

The City Mission Library in Memory of Saige Knapp opened on December 2. It has been a dream two years in the making for Shelby Lonce, City Mission’s Donor Relations Manager, who is working to honor the memory of her brother, Saige, who passed away in 2017. “When you lose a loved one,” she explained, “your whole life comes to a screeching halt. The rest of the world keeps moving, but you’re stuck.” Shelby and her family have been looking for ways to heal after their tragic loss. “The idea of donating books kept gnawing at me,” Shelby said. “It came to me in dreams.” When her brother died, Shelby and her family cleaned out his home. They packed away four boxes full of stuff. Three of those boxes were books. “Books are what helped him in his life,” she said. “he managed to keep all of those books even through time in jail and periods of homelessness. They were helpful to him. I wanted to get books in the hands of our residents too.” She started a book drive and got 80 books by the end of the first day and 200 brand new books at the end of the initial drive. When she donated the books to City Mission, Dean Gartland, the Mission’s President/CEO told her it had always been his dream to start a library for the residents. “And that became my mission,” Shelby recalls. Shelby developed a very specific vision for the library. It was very important that the books be brand new or in excellent condition. She did not wish to fill the library with books that look like somebody’s throwaways. “I don’t want our residents to think that they are anybody’s throwaways,” she explained. “I want them to feel and know that they are worthy. This is just a moment in their life on the way to better things.” Roughly a thousand books were collected for the library. Shelby made a list of all the books Saige had read throughout the last five years of his life, and she was able to get almost every single one of them for the City Mission Library. One of the classrooms in the Mission’s Career Training and Education Center was converted into a library space, and beautiful, new shelves were built and installed along the walls. Shelby procured an online cataloguing system and started coming in on the weekends to label, categorize, and sort each and every book. Quickly, she realized that this was a much bigger task than she was able to accomplish on her own. That was when Brianna Kadlecik, City Mission’s Manager of Career Services, jumped onboard the project. “It was just this amazingly perfect thing,” said Brianna. “I love books, and I get to sit in a room full of books and talk to residents about books. This is my dream.” Brianna took over the day-to-day management of the library, and she was immediately impressed with the quality and variety of the books. “When I do intake with new residents, I can think of books in our library that directly meet their needs and can help them with the exact things that they want to learn.” When Brianna told Matt, a City Mission resident and avid reader, about the project, he jumped at the chance to help. “Personally, I consider it a privilege to be able to work on this project,” he said. “I’m grateful that in this season of my life, God was able to use me to be a piece of the puzzle to help Shelby and her family. I’m glad I was part of that.” When he started working on the library, the books were all in piles on the floor. He worked to categorize, stamp, label, and organize every single book in the library. He volunteered his time on evenings and weekends, working for about six weeks to get the library ready to open. “Books have absolutely been transformational for me in my life. I’m a big believer in the power of books. Absolutely,” he explained. “Shelby saw fit to keep everything neat and organized and to make sure all the books were in good condition. That speaks volumes to me.” Matt is also excited about what the library space could eventually mean for himself and his fellow residents. “The library will provide a place for you to enter into the world of the book and allow the book to enter into your world. To enter that place of imagination. It could also be a place to do homework and study. Right now, there just isn’t that place. It’s tough. You have to scramble to get time and a place to study and focus.” “My hope,” added Shelby, “is that eventually the library can be a quiet space for residents to go. There aren’t too many of those places around campus right now.” Currently, during the COVID pandemic, the library is open primarily online, and only one resident at a time is permitted in the library space. Residents can view the card catalog online and check out up to two books at a time, and Brianna will have the books delivered directly to them. Eventually, once COVID restrictions are lifted, the library will be open for browsing. For one resident in particular, the library has already been a revelation. Lu is a refugee from Taiwan who is still learning to read and speak English. His face lit up when he walked into the library for the first time. He went straight for the kids’ section and starting reading and re-reading Dr. Seuss books out loud, practicing words he doesn’t normally see or say. “The delight on his face was just so genuine,” said Brianna, who was in the library at the time. “It was just a really beautiful moment. We’re giving him a resource he wouldn’t otherwise have.” The library is already proving to be a valuable resource for City Mission residents. And for Shelby and her family, it has already been a healing experience. Saige’s daughter, his aunts and uncles, and his cousins from all across the country needed some avenue to direct all the love they still have for Saige, and this library has been a unifier for them all. “It has been really amazing to connect with people who have donated books to the library and to share Saige’s story with City Mission donors,” she explained. “Saige is the reason I’m connected to the Mission. He is in the fabric of the Mission.” “Saige was so smart and kind and adventurous,” Shelby added. “He would read everything. He had a really good heart. He was so much more than his addiction. I just wish he could have known that.” “Saige struggled with self-worth. He struggled to separate his identity from his addiction,” Shelby said. But when he came to City Mission, everyone treated him like family. “I’m really thankful for what the Mission has been for my family,” she added. “I’m thankful that City Mission is here for our residents, because all of our residents are somebody’s brother or dad or sister.”