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St. Stephen’s Social Ministry History

Throughout its history St. Stephen’s has always served the community beyond its walls.  In the 1980’s the Parish under the direction of the Rector, the Rev’d Stewart Pierson, took a much intentional step by providing a home for Shepherd of the Streets, a program to assist those who had fallen through the cracks of the social service network.  Under this program St. Stephen’s became one of the sites for the first soup kitchen before the founding of the St. Vincent de Paul by Catholic Social Services.  St. Stephen’s also became one of the sites for V.I.S.I.O.N. to provide overnight shelter for the homeless.  Later this program became more incorporated into St. Stephen’s and changed its name to REACH.

REACH has been a program to aid those in social and economic distress.  It became a place for individuals and families to find food through its food pantry and monetary assistance to pay bills.  The program also provided a day drop-in center for the homeless.  The employees of REACH counseled those who came and offered referrals to social service agencies that advocated for the poor and neglected.  REACH also established a Giving Tree at Christmas by which parishioners could provide presents of clothing to youngsters and teens.

In the 1990’s under the Rectorship of the Rev’d Canon Donald Muller, St. Stephen’s made more significant steps to serve those in need.  The Parish sponsored the Interfaith Health Clinic in cooperation with Mercy Hospital and the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center.  Additionally, the Parish provided space for a clothing closet where people could obtain gently used clothing free of charge.  This history of service lead to the St. Stephen’s being designated a Jubilee Center by the National Episcopal Church.

Since 2006, with the arrival of the Rev’d Daniel Gunn as Rector, St. Stephen’s provides even more to the community.  The health clinic has merged with one sponsored by Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Church to provide greater services to the working poor and uninsured.  The Wilkes-Barre Free Health Clinic provides medical care, dental care, and dispensary services.  The clothing closet is open Tues 3-7pm and Wednesday 12 -3  with a volunteer staff and is a dedicated location for donations from Mens Wearhouse during their annual suit drive. The REACH food pantry works in cooperation with CEO to distribute food, additional sources of food for the pantry are provided by donations from the congregation, Gerrity’s and Target along with Auntie Anne’s.  Also REACH has become one of the designated sites for the Toys for Tots program.  More recently, the Parish has worked closely with Catholic Social Services to house, for several weeks each quarter, Mother Teresa’s Haven, the only shelter for homeless men.  The Parish leadership is also working with others to find a location for a permanent shelter.

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