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PVEN to host open house at new location

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    Camille Maillet, left, Clothing Closet coordinator and PVEN volunteer for 12 years, shares a laugh with Hope Christman, PVEN executive director and its only paid employee. Scan this photo with the Prindeo app to see a video. STACI L. GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

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    PVEN bought the former Grant Homes site in Sciota and relocated its food pantry, clothing distribution and offices to three buildings on 18,500 square feet of property. It is holding an open house from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Published September 12. 2018 12:20PM

Bigger is better out in Sciota, where Pleasant Valley Ecumenical Network now owns and operates an 18,500-square-foot property containing three buildings for its clothing, food, offices and social services agencies.

PVEN purchased the former Grant Homes property in April 2017. The group moved in earlier this summer. The first full clothing distribution held at the new site was on Aug. 31, and the first food distribution was on Sept. 8.

The public is invited to its open house from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday at 2234 Route 209. Speeches and a ribbon cutting will occur during the first hour, and then volunteers will lead tours from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and talk about what they do here.

“When you have two or three clients at a time, you have a privacy issue. You want to ensure their dignity,” said Hope Christman, executive director of PVEN and its only paid employee.

Privacy was hard to come by in the agency’s former location, a 3,100-square-foot space in a church that was gifted to PVEN.

Space was also limited at the former location, and there was little room to spread out the various items PVEN has to offer its clients.

Now, these things are spread out in three buildings, referred to temporarily as Building A, B and C.

Building A, which is the house passers-by can see from Route 209, has the main office, Christman’s office, a volunteer lounge, the “Dress to Impress” career closet, a cooking demonstration area, two conference rooms, and office space to rent to other agencies.

Hope’s mother, Nancy Christman, runs the “Dress to Impress” program, which is filled with business suits, scrubs, casual workwear, khakis and dress shirts. Clients can pick out an outfit before a job interview and return for more when they land the job.

“I got the job, I got the job — that’s what we like to hear,” Nancy Christman said.

Recently there was a homeless woman applying for a job in a nursing home.

“That’s what prompted me to keep the scrubs that were coming in, rather than passing them on to another agency,” Hope Christman said.

The “Dress to Impress” room is on the lower level, while the cooking demonstration area and rental office space is on the upper level.

They are working on a diabetic awareness program. They received grant money for an East Stroudsburg University student to intern in the fall to teach their diabetic clients how to make good food choices. The student can use the kitchen area for demonstrations.

“These choices include low-sodium vegetables and canned fruits in juice rather than in a heavy syrup,” Christman said. “Everything we do is for the betterment of the client.”

Other agencies can rent an office here West End people in need can access these services too without having to drive to other parts of the county.

“We are returning to our roots as a social services center, not only meeting food and clothing needs of our community but the social service needs as well,” Christman said.

Building B is the food pantry. In their old location, they could only offer pre-bagged groceries to their 250 to 300 monthly families.

There is a check-in and waiting area. The bay with shelves of food, freezers and refrigerators feels more like a Sam’s Club or BJ’s Wholesale than a food pantry.

Conor Savage painted the pantry orange and green for his Eagle Scout project. These colors are symbolic.

“Green is our PVEN color. Orange is the color of Hunger Awareness,” Christman said.

Now, there is ample space that they can be a choice pantry, where clients can select foods just as if they were in a grocery store and put it in their carts.

There are three benefits of this, Christman said.

“It is cost effective, so we are not buying foods they do not want. It ensures their dignity. And it makes sure they are being fed,” she said.

The bagged grocery distribution will remain the same on the third Tuesday of the month. Choice distribution will occur the first, second and fourth Tuesday of the month, and the second Saturday of the month. Clients must make an appointment.

“We will eventually add an evening of appointments. We want to make it accessible for working families,” Christman said.

The upper level of Building C is the Clothing Closet.

Upon entering, there is a check-in area and shelves of pharmacy items, such as shampoo, conditioners, shaving cream and feminine hygiene. Further back are shelves of towels, bedding and blankets. There is a long counter where volunteers remove hangers and bag the items for the clients.

“It’s nice having all this extra space,” said Linda Kitchen, who has volunteered in the Clothing Closet since January.

Clients have told PVEN volunteers that it feels more like a department store now.

“To them, it seems less like charity and more like normalcy,” Christman said.

There is the “Oh Baby!” section with newborn to 3T clothing; the “Man Cave” for men’s jeans, shirts and other items; “Campus Corner” with school uniforms for all ages and in colors that meet the dress codes of Pleasant Valley, Pocono Mountain and Stroudsburg; and “Happy Feet” is milk crates full of shoes to choose from in all sizes.

“We’re the only program of this magnitude in our community. The clothing is all free to those in need,” Christman said.

Clothing distribution is Fridays from 9-11 a.m. by appointment. Donations can be made Monday and Fridays 8:30-11:30 a.m.

Pastor Deb Scheffey, of Salem-St. Paul Lutheran Church in Kresgeville, blessed the Clothing Closet on Aug. 31 with Christman and several volunteers present.

“I was here yesterday for a tour. This is just a joyous place. Thank you for all you do,” Scheffey said after leading them in prayer.

PVEN started in 1985 as a clothing closet, and then incorporated as a nonprofit charitable organization in 1989. It now has more than 50 regular volunteers, an additional 50 special project volunteers and partners with 16 churches. PVEN serves six townships: Chestnuthill, Eldred, Hamilton, Jackson, Polk and Ross.

This property cost PVEN $525,000 and another $200,000 on renovations, Christman said. They updated the septic system and made the bathrooms and other amenities that are compliant with the American with Disabilities Act.

To offset some of the costs, PVEN received a $228,000 grant from the Hughes Foundation; a $75,000 grant from ESSA Bank; and additional large grants from anonymous donors and foundations, she said.

They also sold a $50,000 piece of property that was gifted to them.

“We still owe about $400,000 and have a fundraising committee to help pay down the expense, but we’re always looking for more help,” she said.

If you would like more information, to inquire about services, or to volunteer, please call PVEN at 570-992-3136.

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