Bethesda News

Access and Opportunity at Our Community Center

Our approach to holistic growth is not limited to our Men’s and Women’s Shelters. Our Community Center develops the children of Harrisburg physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. To do this, we focus on providing them access to much-needed resources and opportunities that would generally be beyond their reach.

Stories of Struggle and Transformation

I want to share two riveting stories about kids and what they encountered growing through their childhood, teen years, and into adulthood.
A kid grew up in a troubled home, didn’t know his dad, and was essentially raised by his grandparents. He was gifted both academically and athletically. He was part of a gifted program through middle school, could dunk a basketball at 5’9”, and ran a 4.45 second 40-yard dash in 10th grade. He dropped out of school due to dire family circumstances, lived on his own, and supported himself through various jobs. He finally returned to school to graduate at the age of 20. This kid had no support structure and was left to fend for himself through these crucial, formative years. But God had a plan.

That kid, that man, is now the Director of Bethesda Mission’s Community Center. For 13 years, Andre Cooper has faithfully mentored, loved, and built into the lives of disadvantaged children and teens in the Harrisburg area. His vision for the

Community Center is one in which the facilities at 15th and Herr offer a safe haven for kids who, like him, do not have the opportunity to dream, be inspired, or reach goals that lead to a successful life, centered on a relationship with Jesus, the Creator of the universe and Savior of the world.

1 Peter 1:18 & 19 captures the heart and soul of Andre’s passion for this Community Center, as it speaks mightily to the truth in his life. It reads: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”

Like Andre, Youth Manager Nashon Walker’s life has been an incredible journey demonstrating God’s transforming power. Nashon grew up in Philadelphia. His parents were both addicted to drugs, so he and his siblings lived with his grandmother. By the time he entered high school, he was engaging in crimes with those around him. He was ultimately arrested and incarcerated in the same prison that held his father. While in prison, Nashon was mentored by a prison witness and came to faith.

After his release, he attended Kaplan Career Institute and graduated with a degree in Computer and Electronic Engineering. He transferred to Messiah College for post-graduate studies. Today, Nashon uses his gifts to encourage the youth at the Community Center, and he has become an example of what God wants to do in all of our lives if we will only respond to His call.

Each of the children and teens coming to our Community Center is made in the image of God. Each is gifted in some way with skills and abilities, and they only need access and mentors to reverse the empty way of life handed down from their ancestors. Because of Andre’s and Nashon’s experiences, they are specially equipped to help youth in those situations overcome the obstacles they are facing.

Access and Opportunity

Bethesda Mission’s Community Center combats a lack of access by bridging the gap between inner-city residents and life-changing resources. We offer engaging clubs (Art, Science, Sports, etc.), professional development, and training opportunities to even simple things like food.
There is a heavy focus on developing the students’ skills and attributes through the seven C’s: Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking, Character, Care, and Confidence. All of these elements promote individual growth within our programs. We also disciple children by building meaningful relationships with them and sharing the love of Jesus.

We offer various program opportunities to meet the needs and availabilities of as many children as possible. We have an after-school program that provides homework help and access to clubs; a summer camp that provides daily lessons, trips, and experiences; a workforce development program that acts as a paid internship for teens; a basketball academy, which gives students access to professional training; family dinners; and men and women groups.

And there have been countless success stories over the Community Center’s 32 years of operation, demonstrating our ability to make a real difference in the lives of hurting youth. Here is a recent example:

A current Messiah student named Leonard has been involved with the Community Center since 2nd grade. His nickname, Video, comes from his passion for photography and videography. Through our workforce and discipline program, he developed his skills, and now he has started his own business, crediting his experiences at our Community Center for inspiring and equipping him for such a venture.

Do you want to help us make a difference in the lives of boys and girls through providing them access and opportunities? Please consider donating to Bethesda Mission through our website at

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