Women’s Mission Renewal Project
By Shelley B. Brooks, Director of Women’s Mission
Many years past, actor, John Cameron Swayze demonstrated the durability of a Timex watch by repeatedly and creatively trying to destroy it on national television (yes, this is a blast from the past commercial). The coined phrase of the watch company was, “It takes a lickin…but it keeps on ticking!” demonstrating that one could wear the watch on a daily basis, regardless of the type of job one had. The watch could take the wear and tear of daily life. Over the years their watches have been recreated with new styles, colors, and prices, however, the bottom line is that the Timex watch of today is still known to have remained dependable when one needs to know the time.
That analogy sort of explains how living and working in our old building, that we call our Women’s Mission, has been over the many years. The moment you thought it was falling down, another nail would hold it up just a little longer. The building has taking a lickin…but the Gospel of Jesus Christ is what keeps it ticking! This is the story of how it all began…
Pleasantview School, built in 1900, initially provided a space of learning for middle through senior high school students. Slate chalk boards and wains coating are reminders of the original purpose of the rooms that still hold the relics. Harrisburg Barber School moved into the building when the school’s numbers maxed and a new school was built. We are reminded of the student barbers’ training daily by the red and white striped barber’s pole that still stands erect in our living room. Then there was Alcoholics Services Inc. who provided services sometime around 1977. They housed and assisted individuals in recovery while creating a larger program that is still in operation today. The building had already taken a “lickin’” of wear and tear by the time the vision and need for a women and children’s shelter became imminent in Central Pennsylvania.
A lone donor provided the funds for the building, but years and years of visionaries, donors, volunteers, and friends have aided and assisted in the continual transformation of our building, located on 20th Street in Harrisburg; designing and creating the already worn building into a place that women and their children have come to know as…home.
Our doors opened as the Bethesda Mission Women and Children’s Shelter in May 1984. For the past 36 years, we’ve provided a safe haven for those in need of a secure home; a place of peace where one could rest their heads, gain their strength, and regain a ray of hope that had been badly dimmed by trauma, pain, and suffering. They needed a place to remind them that Jesus loves them, and that God is good.
The same building that housed a school, a barber’s training, and a social service program now would experience and serve thousands of women and children. And for those 36 years our building served its occupants well.
One can only imagine the number of times the door bell has rung—or how many times we have had to replace the doorbell in 36 years! How many worn walls needed replaced, or new walls creating much needed new rooms.
One can only imagine the need and number of clothing items that have been freely donated and distributed in various sizes to meet a need for a woman and a child who had nothing when they came through the door.
And one can only imagine the number of meals that have been prepared on a daily basis in and out of season. Our building has served us well.
However, there comes a time when even an old reliable watch needs replaced. It is that same time for us to look at letting go of our worn out school house. We have been praying, dreaming, and searching for several years of what God would have us to do for the next 36+ years of serving Women with children.
2020 is the year in which new bricks and mortar will begin to replace the old. Realizing that we can do no more with our 120-year-old building, we are long overdue in creating a new space for the needs of women and children. Our plans are to first demolish our annex building, which housed Transitional Living until it became uninhabitable, and then construct a new 19,000 square foot, four-story building that will provide the same ministry that Bethesda Mission has shared with all that know us by name and through experience: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We intend to provide short-term housing for single women and women with their children; long term recovery from addictions; transitional housing for women that have completed our addictions program; and we are introducing a new housing dorm and mentoring program for young adult women ages 18-24. Currently, we can house up to 20 women and children in our old building. Our new building will house 51 women and their children. And in this new facility will be programming that will assist women through reconciliation, restoration, and redemption.
Our plans are underway to begin this awesome project over the next several months. We pray and invite that you will continue your faithful journey with us as we watch God unfold a new space, with new bricks and new mortar that will provide a new shelter for those who need to witness and live in the love of Christ. We will keep you abreast of our progress over the next several months as Bethesda Women’s Mission Renewal Project has begun.
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