Breaking Down the Walls: Warehouse Facilitator Mike Casertano

Everyday Mike prays a quick prayer. “Prepare hearts before me, and give me divine appointments.”

As Warehouse Facilitator, Mike receives all of your donated goods.

And this season is especially busy. Over the holidays we get an outpouring of support as people bring in their “non-perishables” and donated goods. As you can imagine, it take a lot of donations to prepare food three times a day for our guests—not to mention stocking up our Outreach Center where our community can come for some support and groceries for the week. When you drop off food (or other goods) Mike is the one who makes sure it gets where it needs to go so that everyone is fed and cared for!

Whats YOUR Story?

But what stands out about Mike is that no matter what he does, Mike keeps his eye on the real goal of Water Street: ministering to people, and sharing the love of Christ.

Even while driving the forklift, collecting donations in the box truck or sorting and orchestrating donated goods, Mike is open and ready to be there for anyone God might be bringing to him.

He starts by building trust.

With a warm smile and friendly hello, it’s easy to feel comfortable around Mike. Slowly, he tries to get to know the people around him so when God brings him the right moment, he can ask, “what’s your story?”

 “God showed me that years ago…we all have a story, and it’s all a part of His story…and it’s all important.”

Sometimes these moments come from working alongside guests who are helping him collect and sort donated goods. Instead of getting so wrapped up in the task in front of him that he ignores the people he’s working with, Mike tries to use each interaction as a chance to build community.

To Mike, that means trying to “be real,” about his own life. “A lot of times we hide behind things because it’s tough being vulnerable,” Mike explains. By opening up about his own life and walk with Christ—Mike breaks down the walls between him and our guests. And through his genuine, honest nature, Mike gets to be a part of many restoration stories here at Water Street. “We talk, we share our lives together. There are times where we’ve cried together, we’ve prayed together,” Mike attests.

Even though Mike plays a key role in making sure everyone here at Water Street is fed and provided for, he knows that in the end, we each need so much more than food and shelter. When he prays, he prays not only that Water Street has everything it needs, but for these “divine appointments” with guests so that he can share his hope and joy with others!

He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” Matthew 9:37-38

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An Update from Jack 5/4/2020

12/17/2020

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

President