New Bethany Ministries

New Bethany Ministries

BRINGING LIGHT TO THE DISADVANTAGED

Light in the darkness. Since its founding in 1985, New Bethany has assisted more than 100,000 individuals in its role of providing opportunities for a secure future for the hungry, the homeless, and the mentally ill of the Lehigh Valley. 

And every December, many Lehigh Valley residents hear about New Bethany Ministries through “Luminaria Night,” an ever-growing festive night that sets the region aglow with simple, magical paper bag lanterns two weeks before Christmas.

This year, Luminaria Night is slated for Saturday, December 14th, and organizers anticipate more than 4,000 participants to illuminate their homes and businesses, sidewalks, and driveways, by lighting thousands of votive candles. In 2018, the event raised more than $100,000 for the women, children, families, adults, and seniors using the multitude of services provided by New Bethany, according to Sandra Bieber, Director of Development and Communications.

A milestone will be met in 2019, with a total of one million dollars raised since 1997, reports  Bieber. Highly impressive, particularly since Luminaria Night began as a small mustard seed of a program, brainstormed by a few neighbors in North Bethlehem, including board member Joanne Anderson, to assist one family. Today, the night has bloomed into a festive evening with scores of block captains, program partners, and volunteers. Additional fundraisers throughout the year include Souper Day, Spring Against Hunger, and the Chair-ity Auction.

Meanwhile, a tour of New Bethany Ministries reveals multiple beacons of light—from the committed staff to endless volunteers and a universe of betterment programs. Located in South Bethlehem, this remarkable non-profit extends its reach across Northampton and Lehigh Counties, from Easton, Allentown, Coplay, and beyond.

The organization’s goal is to help families and people who are capable of becoming self-sufficient and living independently. 

New Bethany is wired to assist individuals as they learn accountability and to make better life choices. “We believe in a holistic approach for the betterment of each person in mind, body, soul. We want people to succeed,” adds Bieber. The non-profit also strives to identify and optimize opportunities to improve the quality of life for people who may also cope with mental illness, disabilities, or extreme poverty.

On any given day, the south Bethlehem center is a hub of activity. A bustling soup kitchen serves 150 people a day. Guests are given access to hot showers, toiletries, lockers, and vouchers for the on-site laundry facilities—such details many of us may take for granted.

In 2018, New Bethany served 308 families per month, in addition to 1000 children, more than 4000 adults and 600 aging adults, through its varied services.

Additionally, an army of business and corporate sponsors plus 900 volunteers spent more than 17,000 hours in 2018 serving at New Bethany Ministries in a myriad of ways. In the summer, volunteers tend to a garden in the backyard, with fresh vegetables including cucumbers, beefsteak tomatoes, and cabbages. A striking sunflower greeted guests all summer long. Homes and buildings are painted, refurbished, and more.

New Bethany also offers temporary and transitional housing programs with a host of comprehensive social services. Case managers like Pam Lewis assist guests with schedules, goals, job search assistance, and financial planning. There’s an active clothing bank and parenting classes, and measures are taken to identify particular barriers each individual may possess.

A sparkling new “Digital Choice Food Pantry” allows eligible participants to log onto a computer screen and make selections based on family nutritional and menu needs. A color-coded point system separates food by nutritional content. Fresh, wholesome produce, meats, proteins, eggs, and dairy are an integral part of this updated program.

The nutritional goals and progress of each family are tracked through a partnership with St. Luke’s Health Network. Too much salt or fat? The canned item may be offered at the food bank, but it is labeled with a red sticker and given a higher point count. “We want people to make better nutritional choices for themselves and their families,” adds Bieber.

With job search assistance and referrals, each housing client is given two weeks to secure a job. For families in need, a large, bright dorm-like room can sleep a family of four. Larger rooms in the same facility can house a family of 10. As guests advance through the system, they graduate to long term rental solutions and programs such as the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement. “We have found that for many families, the provision of a security deposit, that first and last month’s rent, make the difference between living on the street, or having a roof over your head,” says Marc Rittle, Executive Director.

When a guest fails to meet goals, or are unable to adhere to the program, they may be discharged. However, with guidance and real-life help, the final goal is for each family or individual to move into permanent housing in three to six months. 

As Luminaria Night approaches, one loyal participant observes, “Lighting each votive candle in the chill of a December wind can be a tough task. However, early on, I realized how each candle represents a homeless or hungry person in the cold, and the hope they can find through New Bethany Ministries.”

Success stories glow like points of light as thousands of people have turned their lives for the better. “Miracles do happen every day, right here at Fourth and Wydonotte Streets,” sums Bieber.

For more information about how to volunteer, find help, or to be part of helping others through New Bethany Ministries, visit newbethanyministries.org.

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