By Bill O’Boyle email@example.com
PLAINS TWP. — Justin Behrens, executive director at Keystone Mission, Thursday said a $25,000 grant from the Millennium Circle Fund will help build the community, not just the homeless.
Keystone Mission’s Transformation Center at Wilkes-Barre Parkview Circle was chosen as the 2022 recipient of the grant, said Luzerne Foundation President/CEO C. David Pedri.
“This grant will help us greatly to continue to teach homeless men skills that will last them a lifetime and it will help us build community involvement,” Behrens said. “We will use this money to benefit the homeless men who come into care at our 15-bed Male Transformation Center through many life-transforming opportunities.”
In announcing the winner of the grant, Pedri said Keystone Mission laid out a new vision to combat homelessness locally that he believes resonated with the voters.
“We are thrilled to partner with Keystone Mission as they embark on a new venture here in Luzerne County, Pedri said.
Pedri added that the Millennium Circle is always looking for new members. He said for a one- time tax deductible donation of $2,000 payable over five years, any person could be involved in philanthropy and making a major difference here in Luzerne County.Pedri said anyone interested could go to the website for more information — www.luzfdn.org.
In his presentation at Thursday’s luncheon, Behrens said the need for Keystone Mission is a center to bring residents into a 24/7 shelter and provide intensive training to break the cycle of homelessness.
“The homeless population is increasing in Northeast Pa.,” Behrens said. “Our 15-Bed Male Transformation Center allows men to work through the 5 Pillars of Transformation — Heart & Mind, Self-Care, Life Skills, Job Readiness, and Spiritual Training.”
Behrens said this structured programming will address the core of homelessness, specifically in Northeastern Pennsylvania. He said partnerships with community agencies/organizations connect the residents with medical/mental health and drug/alcohol professionals and introduce them to taking primary care of themselves.
This also includes obtaining government IDs — SSA, birth certificate, and driver’s license. Behrens said partnerships with local churches and businesses introduce residents to “a relationship with Jesus” and team them with the necessary skills to get on them back into society.
“We expect each resident who enters our program will spend 8-12 months learning all the skills to improve themselves,” Behrens said. “Our goal is to build into the lives of these broken and hurting men by giving them the right opportunities to become independent, sustainable individuals.”
Pedri said the Millennium Circle, created in 2000, was the innovative idea of Mary Siegel, whose vision was to create an endowment pool of charitable dollars and engage community members to be the “eyes and ears” of the community by identifying unmet or under-served community needs and funding them responsibly. After a few years, Pedri said Cherie Aponick accepted the role of spokesperson and continues to be involved.
Since its inception and through 2022, Pedri said the Millennium Circle will recognize $464,000 in grant awards to local charities.
“The Millennium Circle fund is genuinely making a difference,” Pedri said. “Each year, we select a new advisory committee from existing Millennium Circle members who wish to help steward the process. This year’s Advisory Committee met on Oct. 20, to narrow the applications from 35 to 5.”
Pedri said the Committee carefully read the summaries for each charity, asked questions, and shared insights to arrive at the following finalists:
• Commission on Economic Opportunity — Parent Pathways of NEPA
• The United Way of Wyoming Valley — See to Succeed
• Keystone Mission — 15 Bed Male Transformation Center
• Greater Wyoming Valley Area YMCA — Youth Feeding Program
• McGlynn Center — Outreach Program Expansion
“Working together makes our community stronger,” Pedri said. “If you have a cause near to your heart and want to make a difference here in Northeastern Pennsylvania and beyond, please call us at the Luzerne Foundation. Do you want to make our community better? So do we. Let’s do it together.”
Photos by Bill O’Boyle | Times Leader