Becoming Maribella

Maribella* opened her book, and read aloud in class. At the beginning of the year, she struggled to remember the sounds to each letter. Now, she opens the Dr. Seuss classic, Green Eggs and Ham, and tears through the pages, reading faster and faster with every turn.

While it may be commonplace to see children take massive strides in reading, in other ways, Maribella’s story is unique. Pre-K and Kindergarten students of Wonder Club Early Learning Center generally come from lower-income families in Lancaster City, and some are recent refugees to the States.

However, Maribella’s connection to Wonder Club is even closer to Water Street. Back in 2019 her family came to us as guests in our Residential Shelter. At 3 years old, the new environment, faces and routine left her struggling to keep up.

“She has such a desire to learn, she’s like a sponge,” says her teacher, Mr. Lee. “And she’s reading, she’s excited about reading, and a teacher can’t ask for more than that.”

“It was something new for her, because we are used to being by ourselves in our own apartment,” adds her Mom. Soon, her family decided on Wonder Club as a positive next step. Maribella came in nervously, sitting quietly, and afraid to ask questions
or play with the other children.

And like many parents, mom was anxious too. “Just to let her go, it was like I was having separation anxiety, because she was growing up, ”explained her mom. So instead of starting full time, Wonder Club worked with Maribella’s family to create an individualized solution. They hoped, over time, Maribella and her family would finally know they were in a safe place. She started out with half-days twice a week. But soon enough, Maribella was on her way to five full-days every week. And now, her attitude couldn’t be more different.

With a wide smile spread across her face, Maribella sprints up the stairs each morning. She’s ready to see her friends, and excited to start class with her kindergarten teacher. When she comes back to the Mission, Wonder Club is all she talks about, her mom says.

Staff have seen a difference too. “She has such a desire to learn, she’s like a sponge,” says her teacher, Mr. Lee. “And she’s reading, she’s excited about reading, and a teacher can’t ask for more than that.”

 

Thank you to all of the incredible supporters of Water Street Mission, and Wonder Club. Today, children from all around Lancaster City are learning how loved they are by God, and learning to love education!

Full of questions and energy, Mr. Lee says it’s not so much that she’s changed since she first began, more that “she feels free here and confident…she’s become more herself.”

As he explains it, each child “has a God-

given need to learn and have purpose.” Maribella is finding hers at Wonder Club, but mostly, she’s just being a kid, and really enjoying learning for the first time.

Full of questions and energy, Mr. Lee says it’s not so much that she’s changed since she first began, more that “she feels free here and confident…she’s become more herself.”

As he explains it, each child “has a God-given need to learn and have purpose.” Maribella is finding hers at Wonder Club, but mostly, she’s just being a kid, and really enjoying learning for the first time.

Thank you to all of the incredible supporters of Water Street Mission, and Wonder Club. Today, children from all around Lancaster City are learning how loved they are by God, and learning to love education!

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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