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South Williamsport, PA
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The New Love Center Feeds Those in Need

If your house is like mine during the holidays, it is filled with friends, family, and lots of food. I have been celebrating Thanksgiving, in particular, with my wife’s family for more than 20 years and it involves getting together a group that sometimes exceeds 120 people. There are tables of turkey with stuffing, potatoes,

If your house is like mine during the holidays, it is filled with friends, family, and lots of food. I have been celebrating Thanksgiving, in particular, with my wife’s family for more than 20 years and it involves getting together a group that sometimes exceeds 120 people. There are tables of turkey with stuffing, potatoes, gravy, and all of the usual fixings. Other tables hold casseroles and salads and desserts get an entire section of the large fire hall where we hold our annual Thanksgiving celebration. A prayer is said promptly at noon every year and the feast takes place immediately after that. I am actually getting hungry just thinking about it.

Though a Thanksgiving celebration of this magnitude may be atypical for most people, it is likely that some sort of sit-down gathering with large amounts of food and socializing takes place. Unfortunately for some people, however, just getting by is a daily struggle. Over 50% of the children in the Jersey Shore Area School District receive free or reduced school breakfasts and lunches. In addition, some area seniors often have to choose between buying medication or buying food because they cannot afford to do both.

This is where the New Love Center works to fill the gap. Recognizing a growing food insecurity, a dedicated group of people has stepped up. The New Love Center was organized in 2014 when the original Love Center in Jersey Shore announced it was closing. The Jersey Shore area churches then worked together and the new organization was created.

The New Love Center was incorporated in 2016 and received their non-profit status in 2017. Currently the organization is spread out over four physical locations that each performs specific functions: St. John Lutheran Church hosts the Food Pantry, Trinity United Methodist Church hosts the Cafe, First United Methodist Church partners for additional freezer space and holiday distribution, and the Phelps Chapel hosts the Back Pack Program for children. The American Legion Post #36 hosts the MilitaryShares program, though it is funded separately.

The numbers are impressive and show how much work is being put into this great program. In 2018, the New Love Center served 4,817 households, 11,437 people, and distributed 202,896 meals. In addition, 32,448 pounds of food was donated; not counting the donations the FBLA collected to make up their Christmas and Easter boxes. Among those served were 16 to 23 homeless. None of this would have been possible, however, without the huge number of dedicated volunteers, where 2,874 volunteers donated 9,844 hours.

Current operations include:

Food Bank and Pantry Food Distribution held on the 2nd and 4th Fridays of each month. The food distribution is held at St. John’s Lutheran Church , 229 S. Broad St., Jersey Shore. People eligible to receive food include residents of: Linden, Jersey Shore, Nippenose Valley, Waterville, Cammal, Slate Run, Avis, Woolrich, McElhattan, Lock Haven, and Flemington. Distribution times are 9 a.m.-noon and 1 p.m.-3 p.m.

Elder Share & CSFP (Commodity Supplemental Food Program) includes Senior Boxes for those over 60 and are also distributed at the Food Pantry during regularly scheduled times. This is an additional food box for senior citizens who meet financial guidelines.

The Cafe is located at Trinity United Methodist Church, 1407 Alleghany St, Jersey Shore and is in operation Monday through Friday. Coffee is served after 8:30 am and lunch from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

MilitaryShares is run by the American Legion, George W. Pepperman Post #36, 320 Seminary St., Jersey Shore where they distribute a box of food on the 3rd Thursday of each month from 9 a.m.-11 a.m. to veterans.

Backpack Program, through Phelps Chapel, delivers backpacks of food to the Jersey Shore, Avis, and Salladasburg Elementary Schools, and the Jersey Shore Area Middle School every Friday. The program currently fills over 200 backpacks each week for distribution.

With need and demand outgrowing the capabilities of the current space, the New Love Center purchased land where they plan to build a state of the art Food Hub facility where all aspects of the operation will be under one roof. In addition, the group plans to add new programs and services when the new facility is complete.

For the Holiday season, the November food distribution will be held on the regularly scheduled days. Christmas distribution will be held on Dec 13th from 8am-3pm and the facility expects to serve up to 500 families at St. John Lutheran Church. Participating families will then proceed to the First United Methodist Church were they will be given a Christmas box and a turkey for their Christmas dinner.

Among the many volunteers, are area students. Recently, as part of a community service project, the Jersey Shore High School Soccer Team helped to pack 500 boxes on Thursday November 7th. In addition, the FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America), made up of Jersey Shore Area High School students, has taken up the collection of food and packing of Holiday boxes, and helps distribute the boxes at the First United Methodist Church in Jersey Shore. They are currently in the process of collecting items to pack 500 boxes. “Their program WE SHORE CARE has won them many awards and we are so blessed to have their help!” said Christine Barner, Logistics Coordinator for the New Love Center.

“We know the numbers will be higher for 2019. We have been getting new clients each month as we went from packing 450 to 500 boxes each month! None of this would be possible without all our wonderful and faithful volunteers! Speaking for my husband Dave and myself, we feel the Lord has blessed us and are so happy to be able to be a helping hand! We’ve made so many new friends and Love helping others!” said Barner.

For more information or if you would like to donate or volunteer please call the New Love Center at 570-772-3275 or 570-244-8838.

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