Cityteam Chester About Us

PH_04.13.11_009Located in the heart of Chester, Pennsylvania, Cityteam Chester serves those in desperate need throughout the Greater Delaware Valley. Dedicated, caring staff and volunteers reach out to those who are in need of a hot meal, safe shelter, and decent clothing. Cityteam Chester also offers recovery programs for individuals seeking to transform their lives from the destruction of drugs and alcohol.

We also connect with low-income families whom are in need of emergency food boxes to help stretch their income at the end of the month. Mothers with infants and young at-risk children, stop by every Wednesday afternoon to receive diapers, formula, and other baby items. You can make a difference by volunteering, donating or financially supporting this special ministry to the poor and homeless.

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Be Our Guests

“I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.” 

When men come to Cityteam in need of shelter, we consider it an honor to provide a safe, clean place where they can eat, rest and gain the strength to find a fresh start for their lives. Jesus seemed to be very concerned about the physical wellbeing of the people he met, especially for those who were in distress and so that’s become a central part of how we take part in sharing His love with people.

“With dignity and respect.” We say this almost every day in our work here. ‘When you help someone, help in a way that preserves their dignity and shows them respect.’ So when we invite strangers, daily, into our “home” we want them to be greeted with kindness and hospitality.

There’s one part though, of our hospitality that has been a struggle. Rather than try to explain it, why don’t you just take a look here:

That was our shower and bathroom for the shelter on our second floor earlier this year. Yeah, you’re seeing it right. We had patched and repaired it so many times that we were down to only a couple of working showers, our sinks were being held up by buckets and well…we were using a sheet as a bathroom stall door. It was bad. And we knew it. But we run on very lean resources because all of our funding, 100% of it, comes from donations people give us. So we were trying to make it work with what we had.

But we reached a tipping point this year when the leaks from the bathroom continued to cause damage to our first floor and no amount of patch work could redeem it. We needed a miracle. Finding a contractor who wanted this kind of job in our neighborhood was daunting enough…let alone finding the money to pay for it. So we did all that we knew to do–we prayed and we asked people for help.

In only a few months’ time, a few generous individuals contributed enough money and materials so that we could completely gut and remodel our homeless shelter shower that serves up to 40 men every night. You won’t believe how it looks now..take a look at these after photos:

We keep saying here how it looks like the kind of bathroom you’d find at a luxurious spa. God provides over and over again for our ministry here. But there has been something really special about His provision for this project. As you walk through our building today, the nicest room to be found is also the place where people come from the streets, tired and dirty. Hospitality for the stranger. A fresh start for the wandering soul. Jesus’ promises come to life. Thanks, friends, for being part of something really good here.

Special thanks to the donors who made this renovation possible:

Speakman Company, Val Kanter, Dick & Betty Wilgus, Peter & Val McNeely, Proclamation Presbyterian Church, Grace Bible Fellowship, Scott & Trudy Orthley, and Anonymous.

We highly recommend Chris Goodman at C. Goodman Carpentry who completed this work.

—-Kwinn

Kwinn

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

Made New

Hope Anniversary-175

“If I didn’t stop doing what I was doing, I was going to die.”

A man who has lost everything and everyone he held dear while battling heroin addiction. A woman who fought to break free from prostitution, but who is climbing, slowly out of poverty while raising three little ones.  A young man, just out of his teens, whose upbringing had left him certain he would die young out on the streets. They gather together after dinner at Cityteam’s Hope Cafe as part of a group of ten people who were ready to share how their lives are changing.

“A few months ago, I was on the streets, into gangs, and living in darkness. Now I’ve found a home.”

Hope Anniversary-156All of the beautiful stories we hear have one thing in common–each person had made their way to Cityteam in search of help. Some needed a place to sleep, others sought a way out of addiction and some were simply looking for a warm meal. They came in search of relief, which is offered freely at this place, with no strings attached. But, while visiting, they hear the stories of a God who restores, who makes all things new. For these 10, that restoration has become real over the past few months and years. And this is the day that these few will give testimony of what He’s doing and of the promise to come for their lives.

“I tried to live a life without God, and it didn’t work.”

These ten are not the first of us to experience this kind of goodness. The stories we read from when Jesus walked the earth tell of his love for humanity in all its brokenness. He came to give us freedom from the guilt of what we have done to oursHope Anniversary-188elves and to others. He came to heal and restore that which is damaged and destroyed. He has offered us the gifts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. And he died, that we might be spared. And so he calls us, to believe that this hope might be real, and to follow him. These ten have, and they are here to show us that following Jesus is something beautiful.

“I had been shooting heroin for a long time. I know that Jesus can save me, and I’m all in.”

Hope Anniversary-144So on this night we read from the Bible that Jesus is calling us to not just experience His grace and love for ourselves. He wants us to give it away by telling our stories and through being baptized. And so they do. They bravely face a crowd of friends and strangers and share some of the darkest parts of their pasts. Then they dip down into the water to surrender and bury what is old and to rise into what is new.  It is one of the most powerful evenings we’ve experienced at Cityteam Chester. Real people experiencing real change.  We can only pray that God will continue to use this place to bring His hope to people for years to come. And if we are so lucky, we’ll keep telling the stories of what He has done.

Thank you for supporting this place. Your prayers and generosity change lives.

—Kwinn

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” John 12:46

Kwinn

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

*Special thanks to Stephanie Oberti for the beautiful photos.

A Lighthouse in the Storm

Meet our newest team member, Nancy Craskey, through her story of serving at Cityteam.  

lighthouse

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows  me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. John 8:12

You can’t always stop the storms in life, something I know all too well. At Cityteam we see devastation of life’s storms in the lives of the people we serve. Most of us in this work have weathered many ourselves. When I think of these storms I think of the image of a ship trying to navigate treacherous waters doing everything in its power to reach calmer waters and safe harbor.

I joined Cityteam in October as their Major Gift Development Officer after 5 years of working with many of its programs as a volunteer with my family.   In my time as a volunteer and in the 3 months since I started as a staff member I have seen how Cityteam is often a shining light in what are the darkest times for people.

That’s why I find it interesting that every time I turn on to Sproul Street and I see our red brick building with the white Cityteam sign at the top in my front view mirror, in my mind’s eye I see a lighthouse. Whether it’s the simple yet strong brick building, or the fact that it is not surrounded by any other buildings or maybe it’s just how the Lord wishes me to see it every day. That’s just what I see….a lighthouse!Cityteam Chester Building

light·house ˈlītˌhous/ noun:

a tower or other structure containing a beacon light to warn or guide ships at sea

 

Isn’t that exactly what we have been called to do at Cityteam? Don’t we serve as that beacon of light?    Not only do we serve our guests with food, shelter, clothing and all the essentials for themselves and their families we strive to be a source of hope, of dignity and respect, spiritual nourishment and love.

I have absolutely no doubt that is what I was called to do and I often say that I feel like I won the lottery when I was given the job as Major Gift Development Officer at Cityteam. I have the unique pleasure of getting to love what I do because it marries my abilities with my sense of purpose in this world. I get to see a light come alive in the men who live with us, to see laughter in their eyes, hopes, dreams, and to hear their stories when we sit together at lunch. We bear witness to them navigating their way with our help to calmer waters and a brighter future.

We are all keepers of the light; the staff, the volunteers, our guests, and our many donors and supporters. That is how I see the work I do, this simple brick building is the Lord’s lighthouse in Chester. It is my job to make sure that like any building or endeavor that we have the funds to do the necessary work to continue to be a beacon and to let that light grow stronger every year. It is truly a labor of love and the most rewarding thing (other than motherhood) that I have ever done.

I look forward to getting to know you, thanks for reading!

Nancy

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Nancy Craskey, Major Gift Officer

 

December at Cityteam: 6 Easy Ways to Help

toy

Christmas is just around the corner!  If you have been wanting to celebrate by doing something special for someone in need, we have a few great ways you can do so at Cityteam. We have a list of over 1,000 families and over 2,500 children who can use your help.

1. “Adopt” a Child or multiple children who need toys for Christmas. You will be provided a child’s first name, “wish list” of favorite toys, and clothing sizes to give you a personal connection with the child you are helping. Click here for more details or contact adonahoe@cityteam.org.

2. Collect and Donate Toys and Food. Print out these lists of most requested toys and our most needed food items.Please note the requested deadlines so that your donations do the most good this year.

3. Drop In to one of these great events all over the Delaware Valley.

  • Wednesday, December 2, Dine Out at  Springmill Café in Conshohocken. They are donating a portion of all checks for the evening to Cityteam and we will also be collecting toys. 
  • Friday, December 4, meet up with K-LOVE at Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union and drop off toys.
  • Sunday, December 6Philadelphia Union Fans 5k & Holiday Family Party toy drop off 8am -12pm. You can still register for the 5k.
  • Thursday, December 10, members of Delaware County Chamber of Commerce is hosting a Holiday Business After Hours Event at Republic Bank, Media –– with a Cityteam toy collection.
  • Sunday, December 21, Cardinal O’Hara’s annual Family Christmas Mass & Tree Lighting includes a “Shower for Baby Jesus” collection of diapers, wipes and formula for Cityteam’s Mother Baby Program.
  • Wednesday, December 30th Iron Hill Restaurant in Media will donate 20% of Dinner Check to Cityteam w/coupon. 

4. Volunteer at one of our Christmas events. We have something for all ages, so check out the options by clicking here.

5. Donate  financially. Just click here and remember to select “Philadelphia” to keep your gifts local

6. Share this post with your friends and family to help spread the word of all the good you can do to share help and hope with families in need throughout the holidays!

Giving Thanks: 4 Ways You Can Help

2014 thanksgiving food boxes

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and we have been flooded with questions about how to get involved in serving our community. Check out a few easy ways you can help, there’s something for everyone!

1. Volunteer to deliver food boxes to over 900 families in need of food and Turkeys for Thanksgiving. We will deliver this Saturday, November 21st and we still need drivers.

turkey drop photo2. Listen to the WMGK John DeBella morning show on Tuesday, November 24th and donate turkeys at one of these great Turkey Drop locations  or make an online gift to sponsor the purchase of a turkey.

3. Pray for the individuals and families who have reached out to us for help for Thanksgiving. We are praying that each person on our list would come to know or be reminded of how God loves them.

4. Share our post with your friends to help us spread the word.

Thank you! ~Kwinn

Kwinn

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

Ever wonder how our deliveries work? Check out this great 6abc footage from our archives. (click here)

A Glimpse of Hope

She sways to the music with one hand in the air. It’s the old familiar hymn about Surrender, and she knows every word. I see her cry, smile, sing, and even dance a little. She looks happy, and whole.  While the song lasts, she has forgotten the torment of her pain, her addiction, and her life on the streets.

This woman, V*, walked into Hope Cafe for dinner that night and she stayed after for our worship hour. Many of us at Cityteam know her. We’ve seen her struggles and tried to help her in the ways that we can. Tonight, as I sit down beside her, I’m looking forward to the music and it looks like we have this in common.

The band plays a few songs, and the music is great. It sounds good, but it feels better.  I find myself settling down, chaos within me being smoothed out. I see that V is enjoying herself, too, and then the time comes to sit and talk about tonight’s Bible verses.

We are talking about Jesus. The passage says that all who are thirsty can come to Him for a kind of water that restores our souls. We all say a couple of things and V tells me she wants to go to rehab, this time for real. In the next breath, she tells me about her plans for her next drink. The demons of her past haunt her and alcohol has a hold that seems unbreakable.  Then she says the thing I’ll never forget.

“I know Jesus gets me,” she says and holds her hand to her chest. “He understands me, He understands my heart.” She’s right, He totally does. Sometimes we spend all this time trying to figure out God, trying to make sense of who He is. And there it is, the most important thing: Jesus has us figured out.

He gets us, all the parts of us. The parts that are not cleaned up, that are unhealed. He knows them all and He loves us richly. He understands and his response to our brokenness is not to abandon a seemingly hopeless cause but to make an offer to quench our thirsty souls. Thank you, V, I really needed that.

The music starts again and this is the one that gets her to sing. “All to Jesus, I surrender. All to Him I freely give.” I am moved by the peace she is granted in her momentary surrender. I join her, reminded of how good it is to sing to a God who knows it all and loves us still.

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*V’s real name has been omitted to protect her privacy

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

Thanks very much to Joel Gerlach for editing this story.

Spring is Here! Six Ways to Help at Cityteam This Season

Warmer weather is headed our way, at last! If you are looking for ways to get out and make a difference in the lives of people in need, check out our list:

1. Drive. We have an URGENT need for volunteer drivers to help with our daily food pickups. These pickups are the primary resource for our daily food outreach programs. Volunteer shifts are Monday through Friday 7:30-11:30am or 12:30-3:30pm. Email us at philadelphia@cityteam.org for more details.

hope cafe randy

Randy Conroy, of our Advisory Board serves at Hope Cafe

2. Serve. Gather a group and join us for our newest initiative, Hope Cafe, where our cafeteria becomes a restaurant style dining experience for our guests from the streets. Your team will be our waiters/waitresses, kitchen helpers, bus people and more while serving a delicious served to order meal to our community. Email eyespelkis@cityteam.org to get more information!

3. Pack and Deliver. Easter is one of our favorite holidays at Cityteam, celebrating the hope Jesus has shared with us all. One way we connect with our community during this time is through packing and delivering special holiday food boxes and kids’ Easter baskets. You and your family can get in on the fun by signing up online! (click here)

4. Support. Our seventh annual Angel Event fundraiser for our Mother and Baby program is coming soon on April 18th. This year’s luncheon and silent auction will feature live music and exciting auction items. All proceeds from this fundraiser support the young moms and babies we serve in our community. You can help by buying a ticket, hosting a table or contributing to our auction. Click here for more details, and see one of our favorite testimonials below.

5. Collect. As the weather is changing,  we are in need of outgrown children’s clothing for spring and summer. If you are cleaning out your kids’ closets and have clothing that you would re-use yourself, please consider donating to Cityteam.

6. Share. Help us spread the word to your friends by sharing this blog post.

As always, thanks for reading, praying and making our ministry great by staying involved.

–Kwinn

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

We’re Doing Something New

HOPEcafe_logo_CT_square“This is our restaurant, and these are our guests.”

If you have been for a visit to Cityteam, and if you’ve had the pleasure of talking to our chef and food coordinator, John Clifford, you’ve heard about his dream. His vision is that our cafeteria wouldn’t ever be called a “soup kitchen” even if there happens to be really great soup on the menu.

At Cityteam, we believe in helping people who have fallen on hard times. And we believe there’s a way to help people while preserving their dignity and  the respect everyone prefers to be shown. So it makes perfect sense that John would want people who are hungry–some without a home, others battling addiction, some elderly and alone–he would want the men, women and children eating dinner at Cityteam to walk into something as nice as what you might pay for somewhere else.

John Clifford, Food Services Coordinator

John Clifford, Food Services Coordinator


After a ten year battle with drug addiction I was left broken, homeless and in prison. Upon my release, I came into Cityteam’s recovery program in the spring of 2007. After God delivered me from addiction, I knew the only thing left was to serve Him and love those in need. Today I have the responsibility of serving over 21,000 people, physically and spiritually, in our food programs.


Serving dinner, well that isn’t a new thing at all for us. In 1989, Cityteam Chester opened its doors with only one offering for the community–a warm, nutritious meal and a kind word for people with no place else to eat. That first meal, donated and prepared by Woodlyn Baptist Church, was symbolic of the way Cityteam has continued to serve the community decades later–volunteers and partners pooling their time and resources to serve our neighbors in need.

Now, what began as a once-weekly community meal is now a full kitchen serving three meals a day, every day of the year. With each bit of growth, we have tried to remain true to our purpose of serving the way Jesus Christ did—filled with compassion, walking humbly and giving opportunity to share hope to people in the midst of painful circumstances. And somewhere along the way, as our food donations became more steady and we found more and more amazing volunteers, we began to think of ourselves as a kind of a restaurant.

“But this doesn’t really feel like a restaurant. Not really.”

Ouch. When a good friend of ours, an honest volunteer  who had been part of serving dinner at Cityteam spoke those words, John and I had to listen to her. You see, at a restaurant there are waitresses, and waiters, and people who help you find your seat. Your food isn’t plated up in advance and everyone’s plate doesn’t look exactly the same. Last year, after listening to this feedback, we realized we needed…more feedback. So we enlisted some faithful volunteers to be in a focus group to help us improve our meal program. They were honest, too. They shared the things they loved and they told us some of the frustrating parts of the meal program.

What resulted was an exciting idea. What if one night each week we turned our cafeteria into a café that actually felt like a restaurant? What if we did it in a way that gave volunteers and guests more opportunity to connect and share life experiences? What if we offered music and teaching about Jesus after dinner that was so inviting that people were excited to stay and invite others to come?

From those focus groups, Hope Café was born. Starting this weekend, our Saturday dinnertime outreach to the homeless and hungry members in our community will take new form by providing an outstanding personal dining experience, purposeful partner roles and appealing music and teaching. We are really excited and are looking for more groups to take on this project with us, almost like a mission trip right here in our neighborhood. Please help us share our vision and think about partnering with us!

Kwinn

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

Special thanks to Media Presbyterian Church and the Senior Craftsmen there who dedicated lots of volunteer hours and devoted their resources to help us spruce up the cafeteria in preparation for this project.

If you like our post, please share with your friends! For more information, reach out to us at chester@cityteam.org.

“All I Want For Christmas”

“Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year

Sleigh bells in the air
Beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there”

Remember Charlie Brown’s Christmas? Watch this little clip here if you don’t. At different points this Christmas, I have felt a little bit like Charlie. In my mind I know that this is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but recent events and personal losses of my own–well they are difficult. And sad. And I find it a little confusing balancing these things with the expectations of this season.

I keep finding reassurance, though, in realizing that a world seemingly overtaken by injustice, tragedy and loss is the very reason we celebrate the coming of Jesus. The reasons He came, then, are the very same reasons we still need Him, now. He brings hope, peace, and grace to us. And we still see this hope come to life, even today.

I want to share with you an update of a story I wrote a few months ago. (You can read it here.) Last December, I watched a heroin addicted man I know walk away from Cityteam and into the cold. He was without hope that he could change and I was losing hope that he might have any strength left to try.  Last Christmas, I prayed that he wouldn’t die before he could get the help he needed.

Now, a year later, everything is different. This man celebrated another milestone this month. He has over 9 months clean and he has successfully completed our learning center program and he is one test away from completing his GED. I look at the hopelessness we both felt last Christmas, and I look at what Jesus is doing in this man’s life today and I am inspired. The same Jesus the world needed, then–He is still changing lives, now.

Recently, this man  wrote a paper about what heroin addiction does to a person, one of many papers he wrote during his time in the learning center. And he’s given me permission to share it here, which I am proud to do. The last line moved me, knowing how differently he saw things not that long ago. It reads: “Heroin is a huge downfall in the United States today and we all have to join in the fight against heroin addiction and the war can be won.”

A war that can be won. That is real hope. “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”  Thank you, Jesus. Merry Christmas.

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

“The intense high the user seeks last only a few minutes. With continued use he/she needs increasing amounts of the drug just to feel normal.”

His research paper about heroin is really informative. Please take a minute and read it by clicking here.