Sowing Seeds: Nina Maldonado, Girls Program Coordinator

As the Girls Program Coordinator, Nina has helped to create some of Teen Havens biggest events for teen girls in the community, including the Princess Experience, helping girls grow in self-worth and see themselves as daughters of God. But she also plans and leads programs throughout Teen Haven and you can find her teaching the gospel message and investing in Lancaster’s youth most nights of the week!

On weeknights after Teen Haven, Nina Maldonado piles her van full of kids and takes them around the neighborhood, dropping each one off at their home. As the van empties, leaving just her and the Teen Haven volunteers, the last few students suddenly come alive. “Van rides home, often times it’s like the last one or two kids in the van…they just start spilling their guts.” In these moments, Nina gets glimpses into everything God is doing in these young hearts.

Eyes of Jesus

But before she gets to see this inner growth, Nina has to sow seeds. With her natural passion and energy, Nina has a gift for working with Teens. She treats each student in a way that makes them feel so unique and special, that they grow to love and trust her. Even students who feel unseen because they are struggling in school, come from tough family lives or question their own self-worth—she chooses to believe in each Teen and see the “hidden gold,” in all of them. To her, their identity doesn’t come from anything they have done, but from what the creator says about them as children of God. “Anybody can see the mistakes, and the bad and the failures in people…but it takes the eyes of Jesus, it takes the heart of God to be able to see and believe what scripture says about them.”

“Anybody can see the mistakes, and the bad and the failures in people…but it takes the eyes of Jesus, it takes the heart of God to be able to see and believe what scripture says about them.”

One of Nina’s passions is helping young people discover their own gifts and callings. Sometimes she sees amazing success like when one student came back and asked to volunteer after she graduated. Even though it felt amazing to hear this young woman say she knew she wanted to take everything that was poured into her and pour it into someone else, Nina doesn’t take the credit. She always points back to God for the work He is doing in these young people. Not taking their success personally also helps Nina not take their mistakes personally either. Throughout the emotional highs and lows that comes from working with kids and entering the messiness that can go along with that, Nina remains invested, but not overtaken. Ultimately she has learned to rely on Jesus as the one who has already paid for all of our failures and who gets the credit for all our success.

The Van Ride Home

One night on a van ride home, Nina got to hear a quiet, young girl open up about something difficult in her life. When kids begin to really see and experience obstacles in their lives, it opens up the opportunity to show them how the bible gives us hope, even in hardships. In the van ride home, after they cried and prayed together, Nina got to be a part of a very personal, formative moment for this young girl. Afterwards she just thought “Wow.” Praising God, she said, “after all this time…I still get blown away getting to do this job.”



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