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Full-time shelter in works in Mahoning

A GoFundMe has been set up for a full-time shelter in Mahoning Township.

Esther Meier of New Ringgold, who is also president of St. Vincent DePaul Society of SS Peter & Paul in Lehighton, organized the fundraiser for Bridgeway Community Services shelter.

The site is at 560 Country Club Road, on the property of what was once “Concern” in Mahoning Township. As of 9 a.m. Friday, no money has been raised for the $25,000 goal.

The mission of Bridgeway Community Services is to bridge the gaps of service in Carbon County through street outreach, emergency shelter, and transitional housing in order to offer a pathway to permanency for those facing homelessness.

By offering a safe place to land paired with comprehensive and individualized support services, they will allow people to reclaim their independence and thrive within the community.

The group’s plans are to save up to move into the new state-of-the-art facility, with a fundraiser goal of $75,000, Nancy Berchtold, a member of St. Vincent DePaul-Lehighton, who also serves as a board member of Bridgeway Community Services (Shelter), said.

Once they are able to move into the new shelter, the group will focus on transitional housing through a Transitional Living Shelter Program.

From there, the Bridgeway House Emergency Shelter Program will provide a safe and welcoming refuge for individuals experiencing homelessness.

Then, their Street Outreach Program will be a proactive and compassionate approach to connect with individuals experiencing homelessness directly in their environment.

Berchtold said Wednesday afternoon it will take the cooperation of everyone to see it through.

“We recognize that for the community, it’s going to take open hearts for Mahoning Township and the residents that are within a mile of the property,” Berchtold said. “It began in January in a meeting at St. Vincent DePaul Society at St. Peter & Paul Church with the call of help from our displaced folks who were living along the river.

“We began this effort in the St. Peter’s Community Resource Center opening up their doors for those who were homeless during the homefront, that’s where Bridgeway Community Services began. We now have this amazing property and three buildings that are ready to be moved into.”

Berchtold noted the $25,000 goal “because it’s going to be all volunteer managed initially while we wait to be able to file for grant assistance. We have calculated that we actually need about $75,000 to responsibly open Bridgeway Community Services.”

Berchtold noted that the board met Tuesday night.

“We are beginning our strategic plan in the warmth of our summer with a sense that we have probably only four more months until the temperatures drop dangerously, so we are looking at where we can realistically open the doors before the temperatures drop in the fall,” she said. “Although $75,000 may not sound like a lot to a lot of people, we just feel that we need that amount of base to be able to open up.

“I think we’re still really hopeful that we’ll be able to find the financial support to open up. The question is whether this will be the same as an emergency shelter, and we are looking at the strategic plan in terms of transitional because the property is absolutely perfect for both emergency and transitional and also looking at a full program of services.”

Berchtold added that the Bridgeway Community Services Board is fully aware of the need that exists.

“We’re very responsible,” she said. “We’re very passionate, and make sure we do everything we can to meet the needs of not only the homeless, but for those who are facing evictions, families who have been displaced by fires in the community, Bridgeway would be a place to find refuge and temporary shelter.”

Marissa Strohlein, a board member of Bridgeway Community Services who also serves as chairperson of the fundraising committee, mentioned several fundraisers that will be held to help fight homelessness in Carbon County.

Strohlein said the first fundraiser is the Mario Kart 64 Tournament will take place from 7-11 p.m. July 26 at the Big Creek Vineyard in Jim Thorpe. The door fee is $15, $10 of which will go directly to Bridgeway, with the other $5 toward the grand prize money for the champion of the tournament. All attendees must be over the age of 21 to participate.

She said another fundraiser will be the First Wheels for Warmth Car Cruise from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 17 at Lehighton Ford. The event is free to the public, but there is a $5 charge for those who wish to show their car.

Strohlein said they will also be doing fundraising in donations booths at the Carbon County Plant Fest from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 14 at 1375 Oak Grove Drive, Mahoning Township.

She said they will also be present with a fundraising booth during the Spellbinding Street Festival in Lehighton from 2-8 p.m.

Strohlein said any members of the community who are interested in finding out about their goals or getting involved may attend a meeting at 6 p.m. July 16 at SS Peter & Paul Church in Lehighton.

Also, she said any businesses who would be interested in hosting a fundraiser may contact her at marissa@bridgewaycommunityservices.com.

In May, Berchtold discussed the need for a full-time shelter (transitional and emergency) on the property. That month a homeless man was charged after a standoff in Tent City in Lehighton.

At that time, Jason Shiffert, 43, threatened to blow himself up and charged at officers at the tent city section near the D&L trail.

Berchtold said that in light of that, the community has to address the situation that exists.

Berchtold noted at that time that their shelter planning group was busy working on strategic plans, filing for 501(c)3 status, looking at funding sources. The group includes representatives of the local coalition of churches and other concerned people.

Berchtold noted the St. Peter’s Community Resource Center in Weissport, which in January opened so the homeless in the Lehighton area could have a place to stay during the frigid cold temperatures.

Berchtold said the group’s fundraising committee met in May to discuss funding options for the shelter.

Two people died in the Tent City homeless camp in Lehighton this year. The camp was disbanded by Carbon County because of liability and other concerns.

This farmhouse at 560 Country Club Road in Mahoning Township is one of several buildings that are ready to be moved into by Bridgeway Community Services. TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS
A GoFundMe has been set up for a full-time shelter at 560 Country Club Road on the property of what was once “Concern” in Mahoning Township. There are three buildings that Bridgeway Community Services is ready to move into. TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS