Not everyone is able to enjoy a warm turkey dinner and a room full of family and friends during the holidays. With the pandemic still in the United States, many people have struggled with being temporarily laid off or having the business permanently shut down.
Homelessness has always existed in society and this year is no different, as organizations like the Agape Center have reached out to the community to bring about some holiday cheer.
Will Sloyer is a member of the Agape Center’s local outreach team and a senior social work major. He is saddened by the restrictions COVID-19 has put on their outreach, but is glad there are still some opportunities.
“We aren’t able to offer any service trips this fall semester for the students but there are still ways to participate in service,” Sloyer said. “Even in the pandemic, we are still supporting organizations, like the Salvation Army and Bethesda, who are addressing this issue of homelessness.”
Before COVID-19, the Agape Center offered several opportunities for students to participate in local outreach. Some of these involved the Bethesda Soup Kitchen, Bethesda Mobile Mission, Salvation Army Breakfast and Tabitha’s Knitting and Crocheting.
These services provide meals and supplies to those people who are experiencing homelessness. However, only one program is currently running now. This ministry is the Bethesda Mobile Mission which hands out various supplies and resources to individuals facing homelessness.
Silas Buckwalter is a senior biology major and a student worker at the Agape Center. His job is to coordinate Messiah student volunteers serving at Bethesda Men’s Shelter and Mobile Mission.
“The mobile mission involves traveling in a 15-passenger van filled with supplies provided by Bethesda Mission and dispensing them at several ‘tent-city’ locations in the evening throughout Harrisburg,” Buckwalter said.
Buckwalter pointed out that during the Agape Center’s ice cream social event in September there was a signup sheet for students to fill out to participate in the five outings this semester. He added that even though sign up for these outings are full, Bethesda takes a van out every Friday and Saturday and will accept volunteers who choose to go of their own accord.
Although the Agape Service Center was unable to hold many service opportunities, they are optimistic about more service trips soon. In the meantime, students are still encouraged to donate needed items to the Agape Center.
“As far as the supplies, there is a great need for cold-weather clothing items such as undergarments, socks, hats and gloves. Sleeping mats woven out of plastic grocery bags are also in high demand,” Buckwalter said. “Bethesda will also accept any knit clothing and care packages. Students wishing to donate items to specific organizations may do so through the Agape Center.”
While Messiah students are encouraged to follow community rules for COVID-19, there are still several opportunities available if they take the initiative to search them out.
Asking the Agape center and keeping up to date with Messiah’s current plans are just a couple of ways students can be informed of service opportunities. No one wants to be homeless, but it is our duty as Messiah students, Christians and human beings to serve those in our community.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me,” (Matthew 25: 35-40).