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Neighborhood Spotlight: Shelter’s driving forces

Organizations like Family Promise of Carbon County exist in large part because of volunteers and few groups have been a bigger blessing to the Nesquehoning-based shelter than the Ladies of Towamensing Trails.

A group of around 20 women from the Albrightsville housing development, the “Ladies” linked up with Family Promise, which provides temporary shelter, meals, and fellowship to homeless and low-income families, around the holidays.

“We were really looking to get outside of our community to help support a cause and people in need,” Eileen Rugh, one of the group members, said. “We had done some collections for VALOR and animal shelters in the area. Through the veterans office in Carbon County, we found Family Promise and everyone immediately wanted to do whatever they could to help.”

Karalyn Williams, of Family Promise, said the connection couldn’t have come at a better time. She met the group in November 2022 and their contributions of pies, cookies and Christmas gifts for the families in the shelter helped make an otherwise difficult time of year extra special.

“They really made sure the holidays felt normal for our families,” Williams said. “You could just feel their love. They took our list and got what we needed and more. The kids faces on Christmas morning, they were overjoyed.”

Shocking to group member Ruthi Naphys was the fact that the holiday lists for the shelter families didn’t include toys. After stepping back to think about it, however, Naphys realized that would have been more of a want than a need.

“These families needed basic things,” she said. “They just wanted the necessities. Our group felt so blessed to be able to go out and shop for them. We had a gift wrapping night and it really brought us together too. We were able to add some items like a nice winter blanket or a robe, things they would not get themselves.”

Help from the Towamensing Trails ladies didn’t stop at Christmas. Williams was thrilled to get a call after the holidays that they wanted to continue volunteering at Family Promise.

“Volunteers are our heart and soul and the fact that these ladies continue to support us, they don’t know how much that means,” Williams said. “They donated a big freezer that we are using downstairs right now. They have coordinated birthday parties for the kids at the shelter. If I asked them to clean the kitchen, they probably would do it.”

Rugh and Naphys said they have become a part of the family at the shelter and thrive off the feeling of joy that giving back to such a worthwhile organization provides them.

“We’ve all been down on our luck from time to time,” Naphys said. “And when you’re down on your luck, that is when you need someone the most. I just continue to count my blessings that we were able to link up. It’s good to look outward instead of inward sometimes.”

The relationship has blossomed to the point where families at the shelter know the ladies by name and look forward to their visits.

“We didn’t want to just come in, drop off donations and leave,” Rugh said. “Talking to the families and the children, that is the best part. In the future, you never know how many of them are going to become volunteers themselves because of the help that was given to them.”

Family Promise is around one year into operating its new shelter site in the rectory of the former St. Francis parish in Nesquehoning. Williams said the organization has served about 40 families during that time. Six families are currently at the shelter, which has an active waiting list.

“We get a lot of support from the hospitals and schools as well,” Williams said. “When you combine that with help like the ladies from Albrightsville provide, it is the only reason we can do what we do.”

The organization also has plans to open a women’s shelter in the physical church building itself.

“Kara has a real vision here and when I think about what that church can become, it’s really amazing,” Naphys said. “What an impact she is having and we’re blessed to have a small part in that.”

Anyone looking to help out at the shelter, Williams said, can call Family Promise at 610-379-4757.

The Neighborhood Spotlight feature appears monthly in the Times News. To suggest someone to be featured, send details to tneditor@tnonline.com.

Eileen Rugh, left and Ruthi Naphys, members of “The Ladies of Towamensing Trails,” help unpack clothing donations Thursday at Family Promise of Carbon County in Nesquehoning. The group of ladies, who live in the Albrightsville housing development, began volunteering with the shelter in November and purchased Christmas gifts for the families and children staying there. JARRAD HEDES/TIMES NEWS