Erie City Mission gives hope to those in need

Category:  News
Wednesday, February 8th, 2017 at 4:21 PM

Within the walls of the Erie City Mission lies an opportunity for hope, safety, recovery and a new life.

A row of neat and tidy bunks provides a place to sleep. A hearty kitchen serves a warm meal on a cold day. A chapel presents a place to revive and heal.

Founded in 1911, the Erie City Mission looks to restore the lives of individuals and families who have been impacted by the effects of poverty, homelessness and addiction.

The Mission, comprised of 12 programs and seven locations, aims to meet the needs of those struggling in the community, offering food, shelter, guidance and outside resources to help individuals get back on their feet.

Director of Strategic Development, Tiffanie Page- Collazo, explained that the Mission is a safe place to come to for help.

“The Mission is where you come when you need healing and when you really want recovery,” she said.

The New Life Program Building provides 38 beds for participants who work 8-12 months while being provided addiction recovery classes, counseling, internships and spiritual development. According to their website, 59 percent of graduates in the program remain sober after one year.

Page-Collazo explained that while the men receive assistance in the program, it isn’t handed to them. They must work for it.

“All of the gentlemen work alongside Mission staff and volunteers in the kitchen, housekeeping and other operations,” she said.

“It’s just about keeping them on task toward their goal and life’s ‘regular schedule.’”

Page-Collazo also talked about the amount of time the men work daily in the duration of their program.

“They’re busy from seven in the morning until five at night, and then have other requirements per their treatment plan to fulfill each day.”

She added: “They’re literally working for their recovery. They’re working to raise up their integrity and self-esteem in a very loving environment.”

The Samaritan Care Shelter for men invites guests to stay for 60 days with access to warm meals, hot showers, laundry facilities and case management. They have access to a monitored game room to bond with other guests and staff, as well as the opportunity for a haircut in the barbershop, where the guests give one another new hairstyles.

The Grace House also looks to act as a safe and supportive place for single women, without children, to live while participating in spiritual healing, counseling and addiction recovery.

Page-Collazo recognizes the Mission as a place to discover one’s identity.

“I’m in that mindset that the Mission changes question marks into exclamation points,” she said.

“What I mean by that is both our guests and our participants come in questioning: ‘who am I?’ ‘where am I going to go?’ ‘where am I going to stay next?’ Through their treatment and programming with the Mission, they leave as an exclamation point,” explained Page-Collazo.

“They’re not broken anymore. They realize who they are, [that] they matter, and that there is something else for them to do.”

According to their 2016 annual report, 8,477 families were provided with free food, and 5,747 households were provided with free clothing.

Those in need not only have options for a place to sleep, but also access to essential items for daily life.

The Family Care Center provides men, women and families in need with food, clothing and household items. According to the Mission’s website, 50 households use the clothing pantry from the center, and 600 to 700 households use the food pantry per week. This also serves as one of two food pantries in the Erie area that isn’t restricted by zip code or income.

The Mission also has two enterprise Thrifty Shopper stores in Erie and Girard. The funds generated from these retail locations provide direct support to the services of the Mission.

Here, you can find clothing, accessories, furniture and household items for all ages.

The main dining hall, meanwhile, crushes the hunger of men, women and children by providing up to 200 meals daily and 145,717 meals annually. Individuals participating in the New Life Program use their skills to put food on the table for guests, as well as meals for themselves.

Every single day, individuals and organizations receive truckloads of donations of food to the dining hall, and clothing and household items to the donation center.

The Edinboro community recently demonstrated the importance of helping those in need.

The Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) here at Edinboro University took on the initiative to help the needy in the midst of the holiday season. Donation boxes were placed in Compton Hall, Earp Hall and Highlands 6. Donations of clothing, shoes and non-perishable food items in the boxes would all benefit the Mission.

Khaliq Satcher, Edinboro’s PRSSA president, felt this was a good way to bring the community together, as well as develop the organization’s philanthropic initiatives.

“It helps everyone realize that we are all in this together, despite how divided or how crazy the big issues going on are,” said Satcher. “You can always do something small to help someone else in your backyard. I think that’s so important.”

This year alone, 2,000 volunteers joined the Mission, resulting in 55,580 volunteer hours served. This generated an estimated $444,640.

Sam Steff, of Albion, is one of those volunteers.

“After I retired, I needed something to do,” said Steff. “God was good to me, and I needed to give back.”

One can help out the Mission by sorting food and clothing, serving a meal, conducting a personal hygiene or diaper drive, and so much more.

Page-Collazo stresses that in the end, treating and doing things for the people in need with compassion and respect is extremely important.

“When I look at and talk to these people, I don’t see them as just needy people,” said Page-Collazo. “I look at them as if they were my sister, my mom, my dad, my uncle. I look at them as my family. They are my family.”

Allison Duda is the photo editor for The Spectator. 

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