A Monthly Hero Profile: Carol Esch

How did you become interested/connected to Water Street Mission?

Several years ago I received a mailing from Water Street describing their work and their need for volunteers in various areas. I was intrigued by the idea of going on a tour of WSM, and when I did, I was so amazed at the breadth and depth of their services to their homeless guests! I started volunteering in Food Services and was personally touched by the equal care & dignity shown to each person – whether guest, volunteer, or employee.

What excites you the most about our work?

Water Street really seeks to realize the potential for restoration in every person that comes through their doors. No one is thought to be a lost cause. Every guest is treated with great respect as a child of God. And I’ve witnessed a number of success stories that make me teary-eyed when I think of them.

What made you want to support us financially?

The many services that Water Street offers – medical, dental, behavioral – are not only excellent but free to the guests. I wanted to be part of this important work and be able to play a small part in bringing health and wholeness to the guests.

How has your giving changed over time?

I started by volunteering in the dining hall, serving lunch twice a week as well as giving financially to seasonal drives. I then saw that there was a need for volunteers to help process donations, and I began volunteering in that area. As I saw that there were larger, annual events to fund certain areas in Water Street (like Top Chefs which benefits Health Services), I began giving to those as well. I am consistently impressed by the different areas of the ministry (Wonder Club and Teen Haven, for example) that are serving different populations (children and teens) so very well and have been moved to give to those areas as well.

Why did you decide to become a Monthly Hero?

Honestly, once I decide to support a non-profit organization, I’d rather set up an automatic donation. I know that Water Street is receiving my funds directly from my bank, while I don’t have to remember to send a check or use my credit card each month. It’s a win-win for me!

Can you tell us about a time you’ve encouraged others to become connected with us?

I’ve spoken to numerous people about the real joy of volunteering at Water Street and how I’ve personally seen lives being changed just by interacting with guests in the dining room. And they’ve signed up to serve a meal or help during Christmas, for example. But I’ve also shared with people about the beautiful new Providence Shelter and the way that it is providing a special space for single homeless people to feel cared for. The more people come and see the work that’s being done at Water Street the more they are naturally moved to donate their time and/or treasure to the Mission.


An Update from Jack 5/4/2020


Dear Friends,

Throughout this season, we have encountered a number of challenges in operating our shelter safely. Thankfully we have been blessed to see no community spread among our guests. This is due not only to the work of our team, but also the ways that upgrades to our facilities came at just the right time.

For example, Providence Shelter, which opened in November 2019, provides additional spacing and a top-tier air filtration system. We have also been able to implement the same air filtration standards in our dining hall prior to the most recent wave of COVID.

Because a high percentage of our guests have preexisting health conditions, we have had to be diligent in our safety protocols, doing our best to ensure their safety. For us that has included implanting all CDC disinfecting, masking and social distancing from the very beginning. This has led to major changes in roles and responsibilities of staff. Staff have taken over disinfecting in shifts all over campus. They have also delivered much of our support services and programs through zoom, hosting counseling sessions and classes virtually and meeting in-person with plexi-glass dividers only when necessary.

For meals, we’ve changed preparation and delivery to help minimize interaction of guests who live in different facilities. At times that has meant delivering meals to certain Residential Floors so we can keep smaller groups in the dining hall. We have also had to restrict guests’ travel on and off campus to only essential trips such as going to work, the doctors, shopping etc., in order to minimize unnecessary exposure.

Another change in this season has been how we do intakes. Currently, the intake process requires new guests to be tested for COVID-19. They await their test results in a separate temporary shelter we have set up, before entering Providence Emergency Shelter.

All of these changes have been made while severely limiting the number of volunteers on campus. At one point, all volunteering was completely put on hold. Now, we are running with a third of our normal volunteers.

And it’s been tiring, for both staff and guests. We have had times where many staff were working remotely due to their own health risks. Other times where staff or guests have been quarantined due to exposures. But even with all of the schedule changes, increased overtime, and cross-shift working, our team has done an amazing job persevering through all of the challenges.

What to Expect This Winter Typically we have over 200 total guests on campus, over 100 in our Residential Programs over and 100 in our Emergency Shelters. Although our Residential capacity remains about the same, we have had to reduce the available beds in Providence Shelter to ensure safe spacing overnight from about 75 to 55.

Winter always presents its own challenges, so we anticipate this year will be no different. Women in our Providence Shelter have moved over to the shelter at St. Mary’s across the street, run by the Lancaster Food Hub. During their stay there they have full access to all of our services, including showers, food and staff support. Not only does having women shift to St. Mary’s enable us to free up additional beds for men, it will help us keep the shelter populations separate and limit the risk of spread.

Thank You We have been so encouraged by the support we have received this year. Without a community coming around us and our guests, we would not be able to keep our guests safe and continue to guide them in their restoration journeys. We truly couldn’t do what we do without you.

Jack Crowley