May 2011 Archive of News and Musings
Monday, May 30, 2011
Walk and Roll for BHA!
JOIN US SATURDAY, JUNE 11, 2011 FOR THE FIRST EVER...
registration brochure (PDF 951k)
Please join us and help make YEAR ONE a big success!
The Walk & Roll for Charity is a collaborative effort to raise funds for and awareness of six service agencies in Harrisburg. These six agencies are developing a thriving community by working together to foster hope and opportunity among the youth of Allison Hill. BHA is one of the six AHMP partner agencies and therefore a beneficiary of the Walk and Roll!
YOU CAN SUPPORT BHA BY SIGNING UP TO
WHERE & WHEN
- Walk 1 Mile on the HACC Campus
- Bicycle 3 or 6 Miles around Wildwood Lake
- Motorcycle 65 Miles through northern Dauphin County
The Walk & Roll for Charity will be held rain or shine
at Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) on
SATURDAY, JUNE 11, 2011. Directions and a map of
the Harrisburg campus are available at www.hacc.edu/
harrisburg/directions. REGISTRATION BEGINS AT 8:45 A.M.
HOW IT WORKS
Leadership Harrisburg Area volunteers are graciously planning and coordinating the project on behalf of the organizations. THANKS, Leadership Harrisburg!
- Download the registration brochure: registration brochure (PDF 951k)
- Send in your registration form to the address listed with a check payable to Leadership Harrisburg.
- Pick one organization for raise funds for. To raise funds for BHA, tell people you will be walking 1 mile, bicycling 3 miles, or motorcycling 65 miles to help homeless families get back on their feet.
- Using the sponsor form--make copies if necessary--ask your friends/family/neighbors/co-workers to sponsor you. IMPORTANT: Your sponsors should directly write their checks out to BHA (not Leadership Harrisburg).
- Join us June 11 and bring your sponsor checks with you. You can check-in at the BHA stand when you arrive. If you collect additional funds after June 11, you can mail them to us at:
BHA, 219 Hummel Street, Harrisburg, PA 17104
WALKERS (1 Mile): Two options are available for walkers. The first is a kid-friendly (flat and paved) 1-mile course around HACC's main campus. Partly shaded, this is a comfortable course for families or walkers who prefer a leisurely pace. The second option is a 3-mile hike around Wildwood Park, where walkers, bicyclists and wildlife seekers share the
path. (See Bikers description below for details.)
BIKERS (3 or 6 Miles): The 3-mile path around Wildwood Park is a scenic trail that meanders through woodlands on macadam and woodchip trails. The loop is partly shaded and somewhat hilly. Wildlife is abundant. Turtles and frogs in the bogs, egrets, ducks and swans in the lake, and chubby groundhogs may be seen on the trail. Three side trails and two boardwalk trails offer additional opportunities
for exploration and wildlife encounters.
HOGS (65 Miles): S-T-A-A-A-R-T your engines! It ain’t Daytona, but nothing beats the sound of V-twins rumbling down a country road. The ride begins with a short run up routes 322 and 225 to Clarks Valley and then heads east on route 325 (Clarks Valley Road) past DeHart Dam. A scenic 20-mile ride then turns south over Gold Mine Mountain to Fort Indiantown Gap, which promises spectacular views and challenging switchbacks. From Fort Indiantown Gap, the ride turns west down Fishing Creek Valley and back to HACC’s campus. For those who know the way, a stop at 3B’s Ice Cream at the mouth of Clarks Valley may be in
Using the Walk and Roll Registration Brochure (PDF, 951k)
Contact Steve Schwartz at the BHA Office (e-mail: email@example.com; phone: 717-233-6016) if you have questions or need a registration brochure mailed to you. Or contact Jess Malone, Event Coordinator for Leadership Harrisburg at 717-255-7573 or
Posted by Steve Schwartz (5/30/2011 8:08:56 AM | link)
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Homeless Horizons Bike Tour Recap
If you followed the Homeless Horizons Bike Tour, you know that BHA Director of Development Chris Fitz pedaled 260 miles around a seven county area over eight days (May 1 to May 8, 2011). He did so to raise awareness about the plight of homeless individuals. In doing so he highlighted the excellent work being done by non-profits, churches, government agencies, community organizations, and caring individuals offering a helping hands to persons faced with homelessness.
Chris' ride did not go unnoticed, as numerous local news organizations turned a spotlight on his efforts. Below is a recap of Chris' blog entries during and after his experience (and a few from me as I was with Chris the first two days of the ride), and the attention paid by area media.
HOMELESS HORIZONS BIKE TOUR BLOG DIRECTORY
May 18: Be a Hero with Me! Homeless Horizons Bike Tour Afterward
Snippet: "...I hope I am a hero, because a hero is someone who champions a greater good. Without that purpose, I would be just an ego. The more miles that passed on the Homeless Horizons Bike Tour, the clearer I became. Homelessness is a largely invisible phenomenon. The folks who stand out as "homeless" on the streets – often older adults with mental health issues – are a small percentage of those who live among us without a home..." - Chris Fitz
May 9: Day 7, County 7: the Homeless Horizons Peak Experience
Chris Fitz celebrates the end of the Homeless Horizons Bike Tour as he rode back into Harrisburg on May 8, 2011 with Scott Wise, who joined Chris for the final leg of the tour from Mechanicsburg
Snippet: "...New Bloomfield is a tiny town compared to any i'd stopped at prior. Perry County's seat, the village has fewer than 1100 people according to the last census. But the county's Housing Partnership with the United Way and many volunteers is making it home for five more homeless veterans, renovating a building just off the town square. The Veterans Housing Project allows vets, most of whom hail from Perry County, to a have a home close to home while also near important services..." - Chris Fitz
Chris Fitz crossed the Waggoners Gap peak in Perry County on Day 7
...continue reading "Homeless Horizons Bike Tour Recap"...
Posted by Steve Schwartz (5/28/2011 11:37:59 PM | link)
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Campaign Kickoff Block Party Highlights
On May 1, 2011 we gathered to celebrate the launch of the 20/20 Vision Campaign with a block party on Hummel Street. About 200 friends and neighbors gathered to party with us, sticking with us even as a light drizzle turned to steady rain.
The 20/20 Vision Campaign is an exciting vision to:
The campaign goal is $2.25 million over three years, which will allow us to fund growing programs and complete the rehabilitation projects necessary to achieve this vision.
- Serve more families
- Restore our city block
- Invest in youth and long-term collaboration
At the block party we were excited to announce that the week prior we surpassed the $1 million mark in funds raised. Thanks to everyone who is helping to make this vision a reality!
Here are some highlights from our special day:
Jill Kane leads neighborhood children in decorating planters. The pots will be planted and used on our block for beautification. (photo: Barb Myers)
The bouncy house was a popular destination for the kids! (photo: Barb Myers)
The Rain Dance Team from our community partner Center For Champions blessed the crowd with their performance. (photo: Barb Myers)
Three of our favorite people brighten the community room space that is under renovation as part of the 20/20 Vision Campaign: (from left) Theresa Eshbach, Janice Ruhl and Elizabeth Schwartz. (photo: Steve Schwartz)
Steve Schwartz surprises Rev. Wally Landes at the dedication of our new storage barn. The new laundry room for BHA families is named in Wally's honor due to his many years of advocacy on behalf of BHA, culminating in his fundraising efforts to make the laundry room a reality.
Campaign co-chairs Heather Kelly (center) and Janice Ruhl (right) announce the launch of the 20/20 Vision Campaign, a $2.25 million organizational expansion campaign. (photo: Josh Stroup)
City Councilwoman Eugenia Smith shares about growing up on Hummel Street. She lived in the building that is now being rehabbed by BHA as the Diener House. (photo: Barb Myers)
Barry Garman, volunteer project manager for the Diener House, invites the crowd to get involved with the rehab of this house through donated labor and materials, or inviting others to take part. (photo: Josh Stroup)
Pam Reist, associate pastor of Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren, comes to the microphone to offer a prayer of dedication on the Diener House. (photo: Josh Stroup)
Chris Fitz leads us in "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" as we wrap up the dedication of the Diener House. (photo: Josh Stroup)
John, Sharon and Barb Diener stand in front the Diener House, named in their father and husbands honor, Ray Diener. The rehabilitation project is just getting underway. (photo: Steve Schwartz)
From Left: Steve Schwartz, Chris Fitz and Heather Kelly prepare to ride off on the eight day Homeless Horizons Bike Tour. They will ride to Elizabethtown in the rain, Steve and Chris will continue to Lebanon the next day, and Chris will ride six more days after that with stops in Ephrata, Lititz, York, Gettysburg, Carlisle, New Bloomfield, and Mechanicsburg before returning to Harrisburg on Sunday, May 8. (photo: Elizabeth Schwartz)
(See more Campaign Kickoff Block Party pictures on BHA's Facebook page.)
Posted by Steve Schwartz (5/28/2011 9:23:29 PM | link)
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Be a Hero with Me! Homeless Horizons Bike Tour Afterward
"Do you see yourself as a hero?" Even after seven interviews, the reporter’s question caught me off guard, touching off some childhood memories of being a show off. Was I cycling around Central Pennsylvania with a big sign to "Honk if you help the homeless" for myself? Or as part of something bigger? I stammered at first, questioning my own motives and not sure how to respond. Luckily, the Fox43 news crew edited out the stammering for the story they aired last night about the Homeless Horizons Bike Tour.
But of course the best answer came to me ten minutes later while on the bike again:
I hope I am a hero, because a hero is someone who champions a greater good. Without that purpose, I would be just an ego.
The more miles that passed on the Homeless Horizons Bike Tour, the clearer I became. Homelessness is a largely invisible phenomenon. The folks who stand out as "homeless" on the streets – often older adults with mental health issues – are a small percentage of those who live among us without a home. I was pleased to see how the Fox43 News interview brought that out. And now that you're reading, I'm asking you to join me in being a hero, in making homelessness visible. We can only address poverty when we can see it.
"What can I do?" is always the best question at the end of any discussion, and it came up many times on my eight days on the road. There are many ideas – and I invite yours too. But here are a few really easy ones.
Look around you! Sit on your stoop rather than watching TV. Get a pulse of your neighborhood and the needs of those around you. Who knows, you might make some new friends over time!
Get your church or service group involved with an organized effort nearby. If possible, invest some time in training and getting to know the people you’re working with – and for. It'll be both more rewarding and more effective.
You can make a difference with your dollars. Knowing the work of an organization like Brethren Housing Association and so many others we met on our tour will make you a more effective steward. Don't just throw money out; research and invest in your community!
Bring joy! We often feel burdened and overwhelmed by homelessness and so many other "issues." But when we respectfully and compassionately approach real people living with such challenges, we are equally rewarded, especially when we leave behind our own burdens and guilt for the moment.
Most of all be a hero too! See yourself as a champion, whether for a family in need, a project that needs completed or a political debate. Yes, much of our work in the world is to listen. But in a time when homeless services – among many other needs – are under constant threat of budget cuts, your voice is needed more than ever. The shame and invisibility of homelessness combined with paralyzing instability make advocacy – and heroes – necessary. It was no one less than Jesus who walked that path. So join me. Be a hero. Lend your voice too!
Please check out the "Local Hero for Homelessness" video that Fox43 News ran.
There are two specific ways you can stay in touch with BHA on the web:
Posted by Chris Fitz (5/18/2011 4:56:38 PM | link)
Monday, May 09, 2011
Day 7, County 7: the Homeless Horizons Peak Experience
The first thing that strikes you when you cross the 1476' high ridge at Wagoners Gap is that you're not in the city anymore. At least, that's what struck me. The view of the valley is breathtaking, and one local told me about the bear and deer that frequent the mountainous woods there. That crossed my mind (but not my path) as i hurtled downhill into Perry County at 45+ mph.
Without a 70 lb trailer hitched to my frame, i arrived in New Bloomfield two hours after leaving Carlisle. My legs sore, but unchained, i felt like i was flying.
New Bloomfield is a tiny town compared to any i'd stopped at prior. Perry County's seat, the village has fewer than 1100 people according to the last census. But the county's Housing Partnership with the United Way and many volunteers is making it home for five more homeless veterans, renovating a building just off the town square. The Veterans Housing Project allows vets, most of whom hail from Perry County, to a have a home close to home while also near important services. The project, to be dedicated June 14, already houses four guys.
Oliver (name changed), one of the newest residents, arrived as the Housing Partnership's director, Jeannine Metulevich, was winding up a tour of the site. A modest, soft-spoken man sporting a Marines logos on his hat, Oliver is facing a serious knee surgery in the coming months. But that didn't come up in conversation. Instead we talked about his new home. "This place blew my mind, it was so big and spacious," Oliver said. "I still can't get over it." His gratefulness is authentic and heart felt, almost choked with emotion. I'm glad i made the trip.
With some local pizza in my belly, i set off again. The ride back to Carlisle goes faster since i return over Sterrett's Gap, a milder climb of only 950' elevation. I collect my trailer at the Carlisle Church of the Brethren where some brothers, preparing for their Women's Banquet, cheer me onto the last ten miles of the day. Somehow the trailer feels lighter. A tailwind? Or just knowing that it's my last evening homeless perhaps...
See photos and read stories on BHA's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/brethrenhousing.
AND MORE TO COME!
Posted by Chris Fitz (5/9/2011 5:18:47 PM | link)
Friday, May 06, 2011
Homeless Horizons Day Six: A First Friday in Carlisle
It was First Friday festivities in Carlisle - and free food from the Carlisle Church of the Brethren - that brought folks to our encampment. It was the most folks I've talked to in one day since this tour began six nights ago. But even though it's my sixth day, and my sixth "bed" in six nights now, it feels indeed again more like a first night. Fitting for a first Friday.
I'm staying at Safe Harbour, a shelter and transitional housing provider in Carlisle. They reckon they've served upwards of 5000 people in 25 years. I can now add myself to that tally. Even though I'm on this tour by choice, the constant moving, constant new beds, new sounds outside the window, new people I meet and usually like, it also takes its toll.
I talked to one single mom staying here who described how important it was just to stop moving, "to have the fridge and lightswitch and bed in the same place for more than a few days." That's what it's all about. Stability. You don't appreciate 'till you lose it.
Hundreds of folks I've met on this trip understand. They've honked their horns seeing my sign. They've come up to me and thanked me. They've told their story. And some just listened with open hearts. Last night I met youth and adults with the Gettysburg Church of the Brethren who exemplified this. Not only did they renovate and raise funds for the SCCAP family shelter, but they have also committed to making regular visits to the children in the shelter, cooking a meal, playing Santa Claus, and just playing. Yet even if most of them have never known homelessness, they understand instability. And they have become engaged with the real stories of their neighbors, not just an "issue."
Stability. Some of us have more of it than others. But we can all share it. If these youth can do that, surely more of us can too.
On this first Friday, another first night in another new space, I could use some of that stability. I am just grateful that my homeless horizon is near, that I'll soon be sleeping again in a familiar bed with a familiar family around me. May we all be grateful for those simple shards of stability we do have... and like every "First Friday", share them with joy!
Posted by Chris Fitz (5/6/2011 10:24:43 PM | link)
Thursday, May 05, 2011
Homeless Horizons Bike Tour: News Round-Up So Far
May 4: Highlighting homelessness by trekking across the state: Brethren Housing Association bike tour stops in York to address issue
(York Daily Record)
Christopher Fitz camped out at York Friends Meeting House Wednesday night and the night before that he was in a Lancaster homeless shelter. He doesn't know where he'll be sleeping tonight, but he's sure it won't be in a warm bed.
May 2: Coalition eyes family shelter in Lebanon County: The Homeless Horizons Bike Tour peddled awareness of homelessness in Lebanon County this week
(Lebanon Daily News)
Kathy Bechtel's downward spiral began after the death of her parents in 1998.
The Lebanon woman found herself homeless. And because of a leg injury she still suffers from today, the last time she had held a job was in the mid-1990s..."I was homeless and starving. We had nowhere to go," she said, fighting back tears. "I go to church and I pray. God, I pray. I say the same prayer every day." Had a family shelter existed at the time, Bechtel feels she could have avoided some of the pain and suffering she continues to endure. Bechtel was just one of several people who arrived Monday at Cup of Hope Café, 10 N. Ninth St., Lebanon, for a free dinner as part of the Homeless Horizons Bike Tour to bring awareness to homelessness.
May 2: York County native bikes to help the homeless: Christopher Fitz is preparing for a tour project that combines his concern for people who are homeless with his passion for biking
Fitz, director of development at Harrisburg-based Brethren Housing Association, began his bike tour at his office on Sunday. He'll ride more than 200 miles through Lancaster, Lebanon, York, Adams and Cumberland counties. His ride will conclude Sunday at his office. Fitz, 38, said he is doing the tour to help launch the association's 20/20 Vision fundraising campaign to raise $2.25 million to help more families in the Harrisburg area. The tour also is designed to raise public awareness of homelessness in the central Pennsylvania region, Fitz said. The economic downtown and the lack of affordable housing have caused increased homelessness, he said.
April 28: Brethren Housing Association to hold block party, house dedication, bike tour
The homeless are not only those who spend time in a library or ask for some change on a street corner. They aren’t only those who hold cardboard “will work for food” signs outside downtown restaurants.
April 27: Bike trek to highlight plight of homeless: Christopher Fitz will pedal through Lebanon County during his 215-mile ride next week
(Lebanon Daily News)
Christopher Fitz, director of development for the Brethren Housing Association, will spend the next week touring Dauphin, Lebanon, Lancaster, York, Adams and Cumberland counties via bicycle, highlighting the plight of the homeless.
April 26: Cyclist to pedal midstate for the homeless
(York Daily Record)
For one week, Chris Fitz will simulate the transient life of the homeless, stopping at shelters and community agencies around central Pennsylvania. And he's doing it astride a bicycle.
Posted by Steve Schwartz (5/5/2011 12:52:02 PM | link)
Wednesday, May 04, 2011
Homeless Horizons Day Four: Getting to Know York
Great evening discussion at the York Friends Meeting today preceded by a full overview of York's situation with three insiders. Look out for that in the Daily Record!
Posted by Chris Fitz (5/4/2011 11:21:17 PM | link)
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
Homeless Horizons Day Three: Ephrata Gets Creative
The sun was unexpectedly shining on our beautiful ride to Ephrata from Lebanon as I was joined by Matt Hershey, a pastor at Cornerstone Christian Fellowship and an old camp pal. On the back of my trailer is a sign that says "HONK if you help the homeless" and every day we've had a bunch of honkin' support, especially in the towns. Ephrata is bursting with spring as we arrived here to meet Rob Eshelman, a pastor at Ephrata Church of the Brethren who would be our local tour guide.
Our first stop was unofficial. Cloister Heights will be the site of a 15 unit transitional housing facility, and it's under construction. Without hard hats, we were cyclist-non-grata, except for the kind foreman who let us take some photos for the Ephrata Register. As with any project, they hit a snag in the form of bedrock since they demolished an old motel and are rebuilding new units in its place, foundation-on-up. It was inspiring to see what's been possible in such a prime location off Main Street, now to serve homeless families. And the Ephrata community has been overall supportive which speaks to the spirit of grace and generosity here.
The Ephrata Church of the Brethren is also building a Habitat for Humanity House on the outskirts of Ephrata, a duplex in a brand new development, actually. It was a change from the urban theme that's been so prevalent. A group of churches has teamed up to make the project affordable and workable for Habitat, which is currently experiencing tight times. By September, God willing, the duplex will be home to two families and a total of 10-12 parents and kids!
I'll be hitting more Lancaster County roads before getting to Lititz tonight and downtown York tomorrow. Drop me a line if you want to join me - on the road or at a stop! cell: (717) 571-5285 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Hasta la vista proxima!
Posted by Chris Fitz (5/3/2011 2:50:58 PM | link)
Monday, May 02, 2011
Homeless Horizons Day Two: Lebanon, Here We Come
Chris Fitz and I enjoyed the hospitality of Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren, before a beautiful and sunny ride to Lebanon. In Lebanon, a press event was held to raise awareness about the local homeless coalition's efforts to start a family shelter in the city. May God richly bless their efforts!
I headed home this evening due to other commitments, but Chris heads on to Ephrata by bicycle tomorrow. Keep watching for daily updates.
Check out the great story about the stop and the efforts of the Lebanon County Coalition to End Homelessness in the Lebanon Daily News at: http://www.ldnews.com/news/ci_17983826
Posted by Steve Schwartz (5/2/2011 10:59:56 PM | link)
Sunday, May 01, 2011
Homeless Horizons Day One: And Away We Go
Heather Kelly and I joined Chris Fitz on the inaugural leg, from our block party in Harrisburg to Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren. After riding in the rain, the lovely soup dinner from the McDonough's was wonderful, followed by a Taize worship service with a small group from the church. A great day...off to Lebanon tomorrow.
And a quick word of thanks to everyone who helped make the 20/20 Vision Campaign Kickoff Block Party a wonderful time of celebration. Thanks for braving the rain with us!
Posted by Steve Schwartz (5/1/2011 9:55:07 PM | link)
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