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News and Musings:

Thursday, July 31, 2014
Give Two This Summer
 
Give Two This Summer graphic

WE NEED YOUR HELP!

Summer is a busy vacation season and this is affecting the availability of our usual youth program volunteers. We're short-handed on Monday evenings for our Light House program for children and youth.

Could you give a night or two in August and September? Monday evenings 5:45 to 8:15pm. Bring a friend!

Contact Heather Cotignola-Pickens, Youth Program Coordinator, at BHA at 233-6016 or youth@bha-pa.org.

Posted by Steve Schwartz   (7/31/2014 10:42:45 AM | link)


Thursday, July 31, 2014
Welcome Cassy and Abbey!
 
Picture of Abbey King (left) and Cassy Bates (right)

We are excited to welcome two new staff members to BHA!

Cassy Bates (above, right) joined us as a Case Manager in May after graduating from Messiah College with her B.S. in Social Work. Cassy will be working with current families in our Transitions program as well as serving as our Next Steps program case manager, in which she will provide connection and support to families who have graduated from Transitions or our other housing programs.

Abbey King (above, left) is taking on the new role of our full-time Office Administrator in which she will manage the day-to-day functions on the BHA office. In other words she make sure everything is running smoothly and help us all do our jobs better. Abbey is not new to us as she was the volunteer Event Coordinator for our Spring Thaw Bike Tour the past two years.

Welcome Cassy and Abbey!

Posted by Steve Schwartz   (7/31/2014 10:09:16 AM | link)


Monday, July 21, 2014
Join Us for BHA Day at the Ballpark!
 

Harrisburg Senators vs. Akron Rubberducks

HARRISBURG SENATORS vs. AKRON RUBBERDUCKS
Sunday, August 3, 2014
GAME TIME: 2PM   GATES OPEN: 12:30PM

Tickets are sold for $11. For each ticket sold, $4 is donated to Brethren Housing Association. Tell your family, friends, and neighbors to come out for a day of fun while supporting a great cause!

To Purchase tickets, follow these simple instructions:
  1. Go to the Senators website and select the August 3, 2014 Game
  2. Enter the special offer code: BHA and click the Submit button
  3. Click on the blue plus sign next to Box seat option
  4. Select the quantity of tickets you want for the Brethren Housing Association fundraiser
  5. Reserve your seats & continue to Check Out
  6. Create an Account
  7. Purchase tickets & Print tickets at HOME (If you do not print the tickets from home, they will be available for pick-up at Will Call)
  8. Come out and enjoy some baseball!!!

DOWNLOADABLE FLYER (345k, PDF)

RAIN POLICY: Check the Senator's website, www.senatorsbaseball.com, for updated information on the status of our game. If an official game (4 ½ innings) is not played then you can exchange your ticket or ticket stub for an equal or lesser value seat to any remaining regular season home game (subject to availability). Rain out tickets must be exchanged at the senators box office and early redemption is highly recommended.
PARKING: Parking on city island is $3 per car on game days.
 
If you have questions, please contact Emily Winslow with the Harrisburg Senators 717.231.4444 x 109 or ewinslow@senatorsbaseball.com

Posted by Steve Schwartz   (7/21/2014 3:05:06 PM | link)


Thursday, June 19, 2014
Block Secured with 203 Hummel Street Acquisition
 
Exciting news! We've acquired 203 Hummel Street, the final property targeted through our 20/20 Vision Campaign. We can now complete the restoration of our city block at the corner of Mulberry and Hummel streets.

A VISION FULFILLED
Key Strategic Property Acquired to Complete Block

The 20/20 Vision was conceived in 2009 to help BHA serve more homeless families than ever before. A centerpiece of that vision was acquiring the final property not owned by BHA on the northwest block of Hummel and Mulberry streets.

After years of prayer, amid stalling and wrangling from the prior owner, a team of board members working with experienced community leaders unlocked the key to acquiring this property. We owe special thanks to Wendell Hoover of Remax Realty Associates for navigating the challenging negotiation and acquisition process on our behalf. A generous BHA supporter stepped in to cover the cost of purchase and transfer. Brethren Housing Association is now the proud owner not just of this property but of all the adjoining properties and yards on its block.

WHAT IT MEANS

The property at 203 Hummel Street had long been a sore subject on the block. Drug selling and other disruptive and dangerous illegal activity continued to recur there, despite changes of tenants. The property also suffered increasing disrepair. But most challenging to BHA's Vision was the inability to combine the back yard for families in BHA's programs, preventing access to the yard and laundry facility from three of its seven properties.

Family safety. Building integrity. Participant access. With the purchase, families at BHA are already seeing some of these benefits.

WHAT'S NEXT

The acquisition comes at a time when other major renovation and building projects are underway, so we don't expect to use or renovate the new property immediately. But stay tuned as we consider a phased approach to developing this acquisition, starting with expansion of the combined back yard.

THANKS TO...

The acquisition owes much to your prayerful support over the past five years, as we know many churches specifically prayed for its release. It also owes much to the team of board members and volunteers who eventually lassoed it into the BHA corral:

John Sider, member of the Board
Brent Smith, member of the Board
Josh Stroup, chair of the Board
Paul Wessell, former Board member
Twila Glenn, former Board member
Heather Kelly, 20/20 Vision Campaign co-chair
Wendell Hoover, Remax Realty Associates
John Coles, Rhoads and Sinon LLP
BHA Supporter to remain anonymous
THANK YOU ALL!

Posted by Steve Schwartz   (6/19/2014 2:23:31 PM | link)


Wednesday, May 28, 2014
BHA's Service House Welcoming Applicants
 

What do I want to do with my life?

How is God calling me to use my gifts?


Image of workcamp and BHA youth creating sidewalk art

Most people, young and old, have asked these questions. But young people, especially toward the end of high school or college, are asking these questions more intensely. The Hummel House, a year-long community-based service program at BHA is building a unique place to ask and find answers to these soul-searching questions.

Last year, Chris Epp, BHA’s new volunteer coordinator, came on to fulfill a vision conceived in BHA’s 20/20 Vision Campaign, a volunteer service program to serve BHA and other local ministries with three elements:

  • Substantial urban service for at least one year
  • Intentional community, in the house and neighborhood
  • Guided discipleship training and mentoring opportunities
Epp is now rising to the challenge of inviting the first volunteers into The Hummel House. And he likes to challenge the ways we express our Christian beliefs.

"How do we live a more integrated faith? In the church, we're often presented with a dichotomy between serving our neighbors and loving God. The Hummel House brings these two traditions together. It's a wholeness that I see young people longing for."

Image of three people painting a roomEpp has seen a lot of young people. And he knows the Allison Hill neighborhood. He was the Director of the Discipleship Center of Eastern Mennonite Missions just two blocks from BHA until it closed two years ago. In his role with BHA now, he's reaching out directly to youth and young adults who might consider serving for a year in Harrisburg. It’s not always an easy sell.

"People have a lot of fears about the city," he concedes. "A lot of this work is about getting beyond fear, beyond the excuses...stepping out of comfort zones we've created, even in the church."

That's how a volunteer's training begins at the Hummel House. Noticing what's uncomfortable and working with it. It's stretching, challenging. And with the support of others in the House, it becomes intensely enriching. Epp sees the Hummel House appealing to people's sense of adventure, rising to the challenge of profoundly living out the Gospel.

"I've heard 'we have no business going overseas to do missions when we haven't figured out how to reach people in our backyard' and I agree," says Epp. "That's exactly the kind of self-reflection and applied learning that a young person will get out of their year of service here."

Might you—or someone you know—be ready for such an adventure?

Learn more on The Hummel House webpage or contact Chris Epp at cepp@bha-pa.org or (717) 233-6016.

Hummel House web link graphic

Posted by Chris Fitz   (5/28/2014 9:06:57 AM | link)


Friday, April 18, 2014
Eugenia Smith: A Remembrance
 
In the wake of her sudden passing this month, I've been thinking a lot about Harrisburg City Council Member Eugenia Smith. I've been thinking about what she meant the city of Harrisburg as well as what she meant to the homeless families we've served over the years at Brethren Housing Association on Hummel Street in Allison Hill.

Eugenia Smith speaking at our Diener House ribbon cutting September 10, 2013
At our Diener House ribbon cutting, September 10, 2013, Eugenia Smith thanks the gathered project donors and volunteers for restoring this building that she called home in the 1970's. (photo: Michael Todaro)
I was blessed to know Eugenia on a first name basis. It would be an overstatement to say we were close friends, but I had a number of interactions with her over the years. As I reflected on the times our paths crossed it struck me that they provide a snapshot into the impact she made in Harrisburg, and the void her early passing will leave in our city.

Snapshot #1: The BHA Office
For many years, Eugenia was the social worker for homeless students in the Harrisburg School District. Please understand the immensity of this task. The Harrisburg School District typically sees 300-500 students who face homelessness at some point each school year. It was an overwhelming task. Yet, whenever we had a need, Eugenia was there as an advocate and friend to these students and their families.

A typical scenario was this: a student had changed addresses one or more times during the year. This is typical: a family went from sleeping in a friends living room, to a homeless shelter, to our program. Some conscientious school principal or office worker would look at the student's recently changed address and say "you shouldn't be in our elementary school, you should be in the elementary school across town."

What they didn't know was that the law states that a child in homelessness should be able to stay at the same school for the duration of the year. This is key for some sort of stability in the child's life during significant personal upheaval. When our staff was unable to convince the school, we would call Eugenia. It would be resolved. Many, many times Eugenia came to our office on a task to assist or advocate for a child who was living in our program and attending the city school district. She was an angel and an advocate for these children.

Snapshot #2: Weed and Seed In Allison Hill
There used to be a program in Harrisburg called Weed and Seed, focused on "weeding" out negative elements in the community (crime and blight, for example), and "seeding" healthy new community initiatives. Community leaders like Eugenia and I would attend monthly meetings where we would discuss the efforts underway and learn how we could be involved. I clearly remember the day Eugenia stood up and passionately spoke about growing up at 203 1/2 Hummel Street and what a great neighborhood it was in the 1970's. She challenged us to rehab houses, mentor our youth, and help Allison Hill regain this level of community health.

What struck me was that our organization had purchased 203 1/2 Hummel Street a few years prior. It had fallen into complete disrepair, became a crack house and upon our purchase was merely a shell of its former self. I went up to Eugenia after the meeting and said "How, after all these year, did I not know you lived on our block, in a building we now own?!?"

Snapshot #3: Breakfast at the Club Diner
Based on the above story, when we launched a campaign to expand our programs including a complete rehabilitation of 203 1/2 Hummel Street, I wanted to ask Eugenia to serve on our campaign steering committee. We agreed to meet for breakfast at the Club Diner on 17th Street near Derry Street. You haven't completely experienced the charm of Allison Hill until you've eaten breakfast at the Club Diner.

So I asked her and of course she said yes and was enthusiastic about our plans. But that is not what I remember about breakfast. During breakfast we were interrupted about 4 to 5 times. If I recall correctly, about 2 or 3 times people stopped by our table to say "hey" to Miss Eugenia and check on how her family was doing or so she could check on theirs.

What I remember even more clearly are the two times she said "I'll be right back!" and jumped up to run outside and talk to someone walking down the street. She returned the first time saying "That was one of my students, and I needed to check how he's doing and make sure he's continuing on a good path. I told him to call me if he needs anything." The second time she wanted to check on an ailing family member of the person walking by.

Eugenia had a heart of gold and her actions matched her heart. What an inspiration this breakfast was to me.

Snapshot #4: The Diener House
Eugenia Smith speaks at the groundbreaking for our Diener House rehabilitation project, May 1, 2011
Eugenia Smith speaks at the groundbreaking for our Diener House rehabilitation project, May 1, 2011. (photo: Barb Myers)
So we rallied donations and volunteers and completely rehabbed 203 1/2 Hummel Street. We named the building the Diener House in honor of Ray Diener, a friend of BHA who died tragically in 2007 while responding to a call for help.

Eugenia came to our groundbreaking evening in May 2011, toured the blighted building, and spoke to our supporters of its former glory. She was thrilled by our goal to completely rehab the building and offered her support in anyway necessary. Then, in September 2013, she returned for our ribbon cutting ceremony. Before we opened the doors to most guests, we walked through the building with Eugenia.

One of the great satisfactions of this project was hearing her "oohs" and "aahs" as she entered each room, and as she reminisced about what this building meant to her and how beautiful it was now. It made a special day even more special, and I'm so thankful I could share this experience with her.

Snapshot #5: City Council
The last time I talked to Eugenia was at a city council meeting in December 2013. In the fall of 2013 we were planning for our next redevelopment project: tearing down 6 blighted buildings and replacing them with 5 brand new townhouses. This project will be transformative for our city block.

After our plans were approved at that city council meeting--no doubt with her endorsement of our organization playing a role--I shook her hand and thanked her for her on-going affirmation of our work as well as her personal encouragement. I also thanked her for all she does for the community.

I wish I could take her out for one last breakfast at the Club Diner to share these memories and how they illustrate to me what she meant to our community. But alas, it would probably be hard to convey all of these sentiments over just one breakfast, especially with all the interruptions and people for her to be checking on.

Love you Eugenia. Miss you Eugenia. Thanks for being an inspiration and role model to so many people, including me.

Grace and peace to you and your loved ones,
Steve Schwartz
Executive Director
Brethren Housing Association

City Councilwoman Eugenia Smith shares her delight at the rehabbed building at 203 1/2 Hummel Street--her former home--with project sponsors and volunteers.
City Councilwoman Eugenia Smith shares her delight at the rehabbed building at 203 1/2 Hummel Street--her former home--with project sponsors and volunteers.
(photo: Lydia Epp)

Posted by Steve Schwartz   (4/18/2014 9:37:04 AM | link)


Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Breaking Ground on a New Vision for Hummel Street
 
We were thrilled to break ground on Thursday, January 23 on a project that will transform a blighted corner into a neighborhood centerpiece! In partnership with PinnacleHealth System and local contractors, BHA will be demolishing 6 blighted buildings at the corner of Hummel and Haehnlen Streets (below left) and replacing them with 5 townhouses (below right).

Image of blighted building at 222-224 Hummel on left and artists rendition of proposed new townhouses at the same site on right

The townhouse development was designed by Benedict Dubbs, Principal at Murray Associates. PinnacleHealth System is handling site demolition and providing project management expertise. They are also enlisting their network of contractors to help with donated labor and materials to make this "extreme block makeover" a reality. Reynolds Construction and Pyramid Construction Services are sharing subcontractor recruitment and management leading up the construction phase of the project.

About seventy-five friends of BHA, including PinnacleHealth representatives, local government leaders, and contractors, joined us to celebrate our groundbreaking and hear how to get involved over a delicious lunch provided by PinnacleHealth. Watch for updates as the project gets underway.

Michael Young, CEO of PinnacleHealth, opened the groundbreaking ceremonies at 222 Hummel Street, the future home of the Hummel Street Townhouses
Michael Young, CEO of PinnacleHealth, opened the groundbreaking ceremonies at 222 Hummel Street, the future home of the Hummel Street Townhouses

Cyndi Tolsma, BHA Board Member and PinnacleHealth Board Member, outlines how the blighted buildings to her left and right will be replaced by 5 beautiful new townhouses
Cyndi Tolsma, BHA Board Member and PinnacleHealth Board Member, outlines how the blighted buildings to her left and right will be replaced by 5 beautiful new townhouses

Roy Christ, Director of Building and Housing Development for the City of Harrisburg, shares words of affirmation for the project, both on behalf of the city and personally
Roy Christ, Director of Building and Housing Development for the City of Harrisburg, shares words of affirmation for the project, both on behalf of the city and personally

Long-time friend of BHA, Patty Kim, shares her enthusiasm for BHA
Long-time friend of BHA, Patty Kim, shares her enthusiasm for BHA's work helping homeless women out of poverty as well as revitalization of the Allison Hill Neighborhood

Harrisburg City Council President Wanda Williams brings words of encouragement and affirmation on behalf of City Council
Harrisburg City Council President Wanda Williams brings words of encouragement and affirmation on behalf of City Council

From Left: Paul Wessel (BHA Board Treasurer), Cyndi Tolsma (BHA and PinnacleHealth Board Member), Patty Kim (BHA Supporter and PA State Representative), Phil Guarneschelli (COO of PinnacleHealth), Wanda Williams (Harrisburg City Council President), Roy Christ (City of Harrisburg Director of Building and Housing Development), Josh Stroup (BHA Board President), Michael Young (PinnacleHealth CEO), Steve Schwartz (BHA Executive Director) and George Grode (PinnacleHealth Board Chair) break ground on the Hummel Street Townhouses
From Left: Paul Wessel (BHA Board Treasurer), Cyndi Tolsma (BHA and PinnacleHealth Board Member), Patty Kim (BHA Supporter and PA State Representative), Phil Guarneschelli (COO of PinnacleHealth), Wanda Williams (Harrisburg City Council President), Roy Christ (City of Harrisburg Director of Building and Housing Development), Josh Stroup (BHA Board President), Michael Young (PinnacleHealth CEO), Steve Schwartz (BHA Executive Director) and George Grode (PinnacleHealth Board Chair) break ground on the Hummel Street Townhouses

BHA Executive Director Steve Schwartz leads a lunch program and project overview for about seventy friends of BHA and PinnacleHealth, including many community leaders, following the groundbreaking ceremony
BHA Executive Director Steve Schwartz leads a lunch program and project overview for about seventy friends of BHA and PinnacleHealth, including many community leaders, following the groundbreaking ceremony

Mackendra, BHA Program Participant shares her story of coming to BHA in a time of great need and finding friendship, support and stability
Mackendra, BHA Program Participant shares her story of coming to BHA in a time of great need and finding friendship, support and stability

PinnacleHealth COO Phil Guarneschelli shares why he is so excited about the Hummel Street Townhouses partnership with BHA and how he
PinnacleHealth COO Phil Guarneschelli shares why he is so excited about the Hummel Street Townhouses partnership with BHA and how he's challenging others to get involved

Dave Angle, CEO of Reynolds Construction, invites contractors to contribute donations of labor and materials to make the Hummel Street Townhouses a reality
Dave Angle, CEO of Reynolds Construction, invites contractors to contribute donations of labor and materials to make the Hummel Street Townhouses a reality

Benedict Dubbs, Principal with Murray Associates and Architect of the Hummel Street Townhouses project, shares his vision for tying in current elements of the community architecture with a forward looking design
Benedict Dubbs, Principal with Murray Associates and Architect of the Hummel Street Townhouses project, shares his vision for tying in current elements of the community architecture with a forward looking design

Architectural drawing of the finished townhouse community at the corner of Hummel and Haehnlen Streets, designed by Benedict Dubbs, Principal, Murray Associates
Architectural drawing of the finished townhouse community at the corner of Hummel and Haehnlen Streets, designed by Benedict Dubbs, Principal, Murray Associates

PA State Representative Patty Kim does constituent outreach with her new friend Zion
PA State Representative Patty Kim does constituent outreach with her new friend Zion

Posted by Steve Schwartz   (1/29/2014 4:24:22 PM | link)


Monday, January 27, 2014
MLK Day of Service 2014: A Day On!
 
Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service is always an inspiring day in Allison Hill. This year the community came together to clean streets, rehab buildings, paint rain collecting barrels, remove bulk trash, inspire youth (and be inspired by youth) through a poetry workshop and fellowship together over lunch.

At BHA, we joined with our partners at YWCA of Greater Harrisburg, Harrisburg First Church of the Brethren, Tri-County Community Action, Brethren Community Ministries, Habitat for Humanity of the Greater Harrisburg Area and the Harrisburg Rain Barrel Coalition to welcome about 250 volunteers for our fourth and largest ever Allison Hill MLK Day of Service. Thanks everyone for making this a great day!

MLK Day: We are the Dream.

State Senator Rob Teplitz kicked off the day with words of welcome in the morning, just before he made his way to a volunteer site with his family
State Senator Rob Teplitz kicked off the day with words of welcome in the morning, just before he made his way to a volunteer site with his family

Our lunch meal and program at First Church of the Brethren was packed as Ron Tilley, Director of Brethren Community Ministries looks on
Our lunch meal and program at First Church of the Brethren was packed as Ron Tilley, Director of Brethren Community Ministries looks on

Local poet, writer and community leader Nathaniel Gadsden challenged us to live out the legacy of Dr. King
Local poet, writer and community leader Nathaniel Gadsden challenged us to live out the legacy of Dr. King

This group of youth wrote collective poetry through a workshop facilitated by Nathaniel Gadsden, then presented their poetry over lunch
This group of youth wrote collective poetry through a workshop facilitated by Nathaniel Gadsden, then presented their poetry over lunch

Hummel Street outside First Church of the Brethren served as a central site for dealing with bulk trash removal and demolition project waste
Hummel Street outside First Church of the Brethren served as a central site for dealing with bulk trash removal and demolition project waste

This group of Messiah College students helped tackle some ambitious demolition work as part of a building rehab on Hummel Street
This group of Messiah College students helped tackle some ambitious demolition work as part of a building rehab on Hummel Street

Eager volunteers helped beautify the neighborhood
Eager volunteers helped beautify the neighborhood

Posted by Chris Fitz   (1/27/2014 10:00:18 PM | link)


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BHA Night At The Ballpark
Sunday
Aug. 3

Harrisburg Senators
vs. Akron Rubberducks
At Metro Bank Park
Get Details
25th Anniversary Celebration
Tuesday
Oct. 14

Sheraton Harrisburg Hershey
Get Details
* Dates and times of workdays are subject to change. If you plan to attend, please RSVP to Dennis Saylor, our Property Manager, at 717.233.6016 or dsaylor@bha-pa.org to confirm work day is continuing as planned.