PRC nimbly coordinates wide-reaching responses to social equity issues impacting our region or the country at large, such as poverty, immigration, environmental sustainability, and social conflicts calling for restorative justice approaches.
Learn More about Current Projects:
One for One Community Support Teams
The purpose of our One for One Community Support Teams program is to overcome barriers of access by pairing advocates and clients to navigate everyday situations and access the resources that already exist in our community, with the support of PRC.
As we talked to our partners at Union Community Care, Nurse Family Partnership at Penn Medicine, and Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center, we saw small gaps in the system. These might seem like insignificant services, such as reminders to refill medications, but are vital links in the chain of care that don’t require specialized knowledge and, when left unaddressed, can lead to outsized future problems.
Recently, we were able to pair a released asylee with an advocate who committed to a weekly check-in call. Through their conversations, the advocate learned that this man needed to renew his license and had received a letter in the mail stating that he needed to pay $400 to do so. The man waited to ask his advocate on their next call, who then accompanied him to the DMV, where they found out that the letter was a scam. This is one example of how a volunteer can help someone with a seemingly small task, but make a substantial impact.
Instead of looking for a sweeping one-size-fits-all change, One for One advocates will be the relational point person who will help identify and overcome the barriers with their partner. We know it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of barriers or issues in our community, but the relational model of One for One allows volunteers to focus on one person, one problem at a time.
The specific jobs of support teams will change from partnership to partnership, but all advocates listen and build a relationship with their partner. These partnerships are mutual relationships that strengthen the fabric of our community as well as positively affect both partners. Advocates do not need to have all the answers, but with PRC’s help, they make connections to other social services and walk alongside their partners in everyday situations.
Thank you to Touchstone Foundation (formerly LOHF) for crucial pilot funding as we rise to meet the challenge.
Meals & Food Services
The Lancaster Community Meal Program is a loose network of churches and organizations that provides three free meals every day. During the pandemic, gaps formed as some providers had to close. PRC stepped in to fill the gaps by recruiting new partners, providing food, and serving meals.
We always offer choices. Choices give the guest dignity and allows them to select items that they enjoy. It also reduces food waste since each guest only takes items that they want and will use. This also allows us to cater to dietary restrictions due to religion, health, or other reasons, so no one goes hungry.
PRC created and maintains a website (OurCommunityMeals.org) so that an up-to-date schedule is always available. We regularly check in with Meal providers and facilitate conversations between providers to increase collaboration.
Tailored Nutrition for New Mothers
PRC partners with Penn Medicine’s Nurse Family Partnership program to provide food to expectant and new mothers.
Kim was an expectant mother receiving food from a food pantry. However, the food she received didn’t give her enough healthy options to control her gestational diabetes. A PRC volunteer delivered fresh fruits, veggies, and lean sources of protein to Kim every week through the rest of her pregnancy. The volunteer responded to Kim’s requests, based on her personal preferences and dietary needs. Kim’s nurse saw improvement in her health after the grocery deliveries began.
Temporary Shelter Meals
As social distancing and quaratines stressed local shelters, Tenfold and LancCo MyHome opened temporary shelter spaces. PRC provides all of the food for guests of these spaces.
Food was sourced from Central PA Food Bank and Commons Company and delivered twice per week by PRC volunteers.
PRC provides bond money for undocumented persons detained in Pennsylvania, so that they can remain with their loved ones throughout lengthy legal proceedings. This is a cycling fund. Money paid for bonds to the Department of Homeland Security can eventually be returned to PRC to be paid out again for another bond.
Being released from detention brings several benefits:
1. Being reunited with their loved ones instead of remaining in detention centers for months or years.
2. More direct access to legal and language services, meaning a greater ability to build a strong legal case.
3. Being eligible for a work permit and employment, so they can contribute to their families and to the broader economy.
Affiliations of the founding members of this bond effort include: Landisville Mennonite Church, Lancaster Friends Meeting, Parish Resource Center, Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center, and ALDEA – The People’s Justice Center.
2021 – BY THE NUMBERS
- 20,343 MEALS: provided by PRC through Community Meals and Temporary Shelter Meals
- 700 LOAVES OF BREAD: distributed to meal sites – that’s enough for 7,000 sandwiches
- 31 DELIVERIES OF FOOD: to low-income new and expectant mothers through LGH Nurse Family Partnership
- 153 PEOPLE volunteered 1963 HOURS of labor
- 77 PARTNER ORGANIZATIONS
Forgiving Medical Debt
In January 2020, PRC organized more than 20 churches across the theological spectrum to raise funds in order to forgive Lancaster County’s long-term medical debt. Long-term medical debt can devastate a family or individuals financially, leading to bankruptcy and poverty. LanCo MyHome (formerly the Lancaster County Homeless Coalition) lists medical debt as a leading cause of homelessness in Lancaster County.
Despite the pandemic, the churches exceeded the fundraising goal of $31,000 to purchase $3.1 million of debt. PRC partnered with the national nonprofit RIP Medical Debt to purchase all of the available long-term, defaulted medical debt in Lancaster, Chester, Dauphin, Lebanon, and York counties in July 2020.
PRC partnered with Union Community Care to offer COVID vaccine clinics, and with Lancaster EMS and Penn Medicine to provide flu vaccines at Community Meal sites.
Five PRC volunteers acted as Vaccine Ambassadors, regularly attending meals to build relationships and encourage vaccines.
One man was hesitant to get the COVID vaccine because he was afraid to feel sick afterwards. In conversation, we discovered that he relied on the Community Meals for food, so if he felt too sick to walk to a meal, he would go hungry. PRC packed bags of food for clients, including soup, crackers, and applesauce so no one had to choose between getting the vaccine or eating.
The Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) contained millions of dollars for COVID related rental relief. But applicants had to have access to a computer, printer, and scanner to apply. And many people had questions as they attempted to complete the application, but the helpline was overwhelmed.
PRC set up technology stations at Community Meal sites. Our volunteers and staff patiently walked dozens of clients through filling out their paperwork, what supporting documentation was needed, and submitting their application online. Thankfully, many of our clients finished their applications and received the assistance necessary to stay in their homes.
York Detention Center
Through PRC’s work posting immigration bonds, we discovered many other gaps in services. During the height of COVID, PRC was among the first organizations in the country to arrange for quarantining those leaving detention. As such, the National Bail Fund Network sought PRC’s advice for best practices.
Many immigrants leaving York Detention Center spent 24-48 hours on buses traveling to join their sponsors/loved ones. They often had nothing more than the clothes they were wearing when they were detained. As part of PRC’s short-term resettlement efforts, we provided kits with basic necessities to provide hospitality on their journey. PRC also worked at long-term resettlement for asylees who were released without sponsorship and could be homeless otherwise.
York Detention Center has closed, but PRC is continuing and transitioning its work with immigrants and asylum-seekers.
There wasn’t a simple way to find a current schedule of Community Meals in Lancaster City, so PRC designed, launched, and continues to maintain a website that will ensure up-to-date information is always just a click away! Check what meals are available today, download a schedule in English and Spanish, or see what changes are coming up at OurCommunityMeals.org.
How It Began
For over 45 years, PRC has been a gathering place for people of faith from many different perspectives, offering a space for them to exchange ideas and seek support from each other. Since the beginning of the pandemic, PRC has received calls from immigration attorneys, health care providers, social workers, pastors, and others who have clients with needs that don’t fit into the larger social services structures.
Now we are using our unique position has a connector to make a direct and immediate impact on the lives of our neighbors who face financial ruin because of staggering medical bills, who are held in detention because of their immigration status, and who are seeking new ways to solve deep conflicts.
Sometimes small barriers can keep people from accessing the services they need. PRC has found a niche in directing and easing the connections for persons trying to access these systems. We do this by partnering with organizations, locally and nationally. PRC often works with faith leaders who want to efficiently intersect with these networks, and connect in ways that are most helpful for those in need. PRC is able to do this because of the support of our member faith communities and organizations, volunteers, and donors, large and small.