IN Phoenixville Area Fall 2017 - Page 17

Birthday celebration at the shelter St. Mary’s has grown its services since 1987. More than 336,000 meals have been provided to residents, along with case management, counseling, and other forms of support that are part of everyday life for the resi- dents. Each family has a private bedroom (the shelter can support up to five families at a time). They share common living areas such as kitchens, living and dining rooms, playrooms and televisions. There is a sense of camarade- rie among the residents. Often, as they share meals or quiet time, they chat with each other, sharing information on resources, and giving each other a hand up as they all try to get back on their feet. The staff and case managers focus on programs to assist the residents, and go to great lengths to respect the dignity of the families in their care. Single individuals are not eligible for residence at St. Mary’s, and are referred to other locations better able to cater to their needs. However, those with children, from newborn to 20, are able to take advantage of St. Mary’s services. Many of the families served are referred to the shelter by a variety of different nonprofit organizations in the Phoenixville community, all of which are dedicated to serving the needs of the underserved. The shelter has seen much over the years, and well-kept records can attest to that. Recently, a young woman and her children arrived at St. Mary’s for assistance. In the course of conversation, the staff learned this was not her first time there. As a child, she remembered being there with her family. A quick check and records confirmed her recollection. Seeing multiple generations of homelessness is not new to shelter staff, but it’s something they are all working to prevent. As St. Mary’s seeks to expand physically, Sr. Bernadette and her staff are looking toward also expanding the mentoring and case management programs currently offered to residents to help improve their success. But these successes are not just happening after residents move on. One resident, a high school student living with his family, was accepted to a university, and with the help of St. Mary’s staff and generous donors, was provided with many of the tools he’d need to have a successful year of college. He received a laptop, gift cards for gas to get back and forth to school, and money to purchase things to help him adjust to college life. Additionally, the university set him up with the maximum amount of student employment hours to make his time at college sustainable. “To see a kid who has no home be able to go to a university was… wow,” says Sr. Bernadette. In order to continue its work, the shelter must have funding. It takes no government funding, relying on the generosity of others to keep those in need from falling through the cracks. The gala is a Play group volunteer Volunteers from St. Elizabeth’s Parish chance not only to raise money, but to tell the community—and the world—about the many ways St. Mary’s has helped people in Phoenixville over the last 30 years. Even if you are unable to attend the gala on Oct. 6, there are ways you can help. A silent auction will be held throughout the evening, with attendees bidding on items large and small, such as tickets to events or museums, original artwork, and sports memorabilia. Sponsorships are still available. If you are unable to sponsor the event at the current levels, you can make a donation. The mission of St. Mary’s is to provide temporary shelter for homeless families. St. Mary’s creates a community environment that fosters the dignity of each person, and continually seeks innovative ways to help families move toward independence. Nearly 2.5 million children and their parents will experience homelessness in America this year. St. Mary’s serves these families in our community who are experiencing homelessness, and supports them along their journey to find stability, independence and a place to call home. “We believe families should stay together, and we work to ensure that during the most difficult times in their lives they can do just that,” adds Sr. Bernadette. The St. Mary’s Franciscan Shelter 30th Anniversary Gala will be held Friday, Oct. 6, from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m., at Rivercrest Country Club & Preserve in Upper Providence Township. For information on tickets and sponsorships, visit  Phoenixville Area | Fall 2017 | 15