You did it. You amazing, brilliant, caring, generous community – you did it. As I was setting up for the event held at the shelter on July 27, I was there while families were leaving the shelter. I talked to each family and their children. I let them know that the community was working hard to make it so they would not have to be out in the hot sun all day. They were so appreciative and yet they understood what was going on, that funding cuts had caused the shelter to close during the day.

One gentleman made a point to thank me. I am apologizing, and he is thanking me. They are a young family with an adorable, little boy. He said when they found themselves homeless, he called around to different shelters for help. We were the only one who would allow him to stay with his family. He said most of the shelters he talked to are more like dorms with men separate from women and children. He thanked me because, at this difficult time in their lives, being together as a family was important. He knows they are safe and can focus on his plan to get back on his feet. His voice echoes in my head. He is so right.

Jenine, who had been homeless in 2015, came to the Home Sweet Home event and spent time with folks who came sharing her story. The quote she sent me as we wrote her story follows:

“The hardest part of being homeless was the stigma and the feeling of worthlessness,” said Jenine, “ I was angry, lost, and felt empty inside. I didn’t know how to fix myself or my situation. That is where the shelter employees and the local volunteers came in. They believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. They networked me through the community and supported me even when I was pushing everyone away. They didn’t just put a roof over our heads, they healed my heart.”

Knowing that folks care for you when you are having a difficult time means so much. When we doubt our ability, when we can’t see the light, others can shine and show us the way. Each of you who donated, wrote letters, baked pies and came to our event did that for the homeless shelter, our staff and the families that stay there.

We are working with Wellspan Gettysburg Hospital on some innovative partnerships around Social Determinates of Health related to homelessness and food insecurity — a great community benefit. That combined with the amazing donations from community members, the matching grant of $10,000 from David and Cynthia Salisbury and $25,000 matching grant from Sharon Magraw and the amazing Neighbor to Neighbor Campaign and all those who wrote letters, and the planning group (Harriet, Sarah, JR, Donna, Lynda, Leon, Tom, Mary and others) and the 107-plus donors, our pie and cake bakers and our volunteers, and more than 200 people who came to the event – you have allowed the shelter to stay open this year. You really are amazing.

I thought the shelter would close. I really thought the shelter would close. Like Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

With deep appreciation to a generous, caring community. Thank you so much for helping families have a safe place to get back on their feet. You have changed our little piece of the world.

Megan Shreve is the chief executive officer of South Central Community Action Programs Inc., whose mission is to: Empower families and engage the community to pursue innovative and effective solutions to break the cycle of poverty.

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