Ribbon cut on Chestnut Street Community Center, celebrating partnerships with LCCM and IU13

May 10, 2024 Lebanon Daily News By Daniel Larlham Jr.

The Chestnut Street Community Center was honored Wednesday afternoon with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by community members and local elected officials, commemorating the opening of both the Fresh Start Emergency Shelter and the Community Education center for the Lancaster Lebanon IU13.

The Chestnut Street Community Center, 611 Chestnut St., was founded by Laurie and David Funk in 2021 as an effort to revitalize what was the First Evangelical Church property. Along with Lebanon County Christian Ministries Fresh Start Shelter Program and the IU13, the site is home to both the Ministerio Vida Nueva en Cristo and Iglesia el Buen Pastor churches.

“It’s great,” Laurie Funk said of the ribbon cutting. “Mostly though, it’s seeing people coming and going from the emergency shelter, from the IU13 Community Education, people from all over the world are coming for classes. In addition, our churches are extremely active. I love the activity of what’s going on here and seeing that the spaces are being used for good purposes.”

Karen Groh, president and CEO of the the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce, Lebanon City Mayor Sherry Capello, County Commissioner Mike Kuhn, state Rep. John Schlegel and a representative from Congressman Dan Meuser’s office all gave remarks during the ceremony and presented certificates.

The Fresh Start Emergency Shelter, run by the LCCM, provides families with a safe living space as they transition from homelessness to independence.

“The initiative of needing to address homelessness in our community, particularly with families, is not something that’s new,” said executive director of LCCM Bryan Smith. “We’ve been doing this for a while here in Lebanon County but what we wanted to do was do it better, and I think that’s the special part about being in the 101st [district] and being in the city, is that we do things really well here and we’re always striving to do things better.”

The community center also hosts family reconciliation planning meetings with Justice Works Youth Care, Girls on the Run coach trainings, a partnership with Penn State Health and Cornwall Manor Trailside Farm for a community fridge, and a community garden.

They hope to develop more collaborative partnerships with more local organizations in the future.

The IU13, who have been utilizing the space since January of this year, offers ESL, high school equivalency classes in 7-week session year round. Starting in the summer, they will begin providing citizenship classes.

Currently, they’re running three classes during the night and four classes during the day.

Tara Pohlkotte, communications facilitator for community education at the IU13, said that the centrality of the new location and connection to the Chestnut Street Community Center has allowed them to offer more for their students and better spread the word of the services they offer.

The need for more space came out of the December 2022 flooding of the IU13’s 1 Cumberland St. building.

Josh McManness, program manager for IU13 community education, said the demand for their classes is very high across Lancaster and Lebanon counties.

“I think things are going really well,” McManness said. “We’ve got students in classes. Initially, I think with the location change we were a little concerned about that, but students are coming in every day and taking advantage of the services we have.”

Those interested in taking an IU13 community education class should go to start at IU13’s website, iu13.org.

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