The second of two in a series by Cliff Lewis on the Lancaster County Council of Churches
Just as the Council of Churches’ (CoC) North Marshall Street exterior does not let on the full scope of services that are housed within, the entire headquarters itself is only one portion of the services that the CoC extends throughout Lancaster County. An interview with Executive Director Scott Fischer revealed a broadly spanning effort to address social needs within the city and beyond.
Fischer explained that the CoC was formed in 1947 as a way to unite the like-minded efforts of many churches throughout the county: “Church leaders wanted to work together cooperatively in different areas, and over the years, that cooperative work has produced a lot of community resources.” The organization has always synched its efforts to community’s needs at a given time. For example, through the ‘60s and ‘70s, the CoC was actively involved in serving a then-considerable migrant worker population.
In its early years, CoC funding was drawn 80-95% from participating congregations. Today, member-church donations account for 60% of the CoC budget. The churches themselves have not been giving less money, Fischer noted; but the CoC’s endeavors have continually expanded, requiring new approaches to partnership and funding. More individuals and businesses are supporting the organization than at any time in the past.
Read the rest of this entry »
The first of two in a series by Cliff Lewis on the Lancaster County Council of Churches
At 344 N Marshall St, the Council of Churches (CoC) headquarters rests behind a thrifty edifice: The simple white building is fronted with a modest parking lot and is adorned with little more than a few signs to identify the organization. But within those walls there runs an intricately patterned network of community services, each carefully modified over time to provide the highest quality care to the greatest number of people.
The CoC was initially formed under a different name in 1947 to increase unity and cooperation among the many churches and denominations resident in Lancaster County. The partnership has since expanded into an extensive system of community services supported by well over 100 local congregations.
Recently, Assistant Director Lindsey Hess offered NewsLanc a tour of the Marshall St center, from which a variety of community services are provided in a time-tested, well-organized manner.
A few doors beyond the front lobby lies the CoC’s food bank—what Hess describes as, “by far, the biggest” program run through the facility. The bank provides the usual dry and canned goods, as well as refrigerated items such as meat, eggs, and butter. The program has recently been reconstructed to a “client choice” model, in which food recipients are allowed to hand-select their groceries to best fit the needs and preferences of their families.
For this process, the bank is arranged like a scaled-down supermarket. Food is organized into three long aisles, sectioned out according to various meal categories. Staff or volunteers guide clients through the selection process, which typically ends with a cart full of free groceries. By closely engaging with clients, the CoC is able to continually refine their donation requests to better align with user preferences. Most of these donations come from participating churches and some individuals.
Read the rest of this entry »