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 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.

———————————–

*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.

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.

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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Five Things About Cityteam Chester

PH_04.13.11_009Welcome to the Cityteam Chester Blog!  For our first post, we are sharing a few facts that you may not know about us.

 1. In 1989, before we even had a kitchen, our first ministry was serving one meal each week to hungry people in Chester.  Volunteers at Cityteam Chester prepared and served food to people sitting on milk crates at make-shift tables. Our cafeteria looks a little nicer these days and we now serve over 200 meals prepared in our kitchen every day.

2. Cityteam Chester is supported by over 500 volunteers and serves over 18,000 people each year. Everyone involved in Cityteam Chester has a unique story of how God is using them and changing their lives. Read my story here.

3. Each year, several families get to leave the urban environment of the busy city for a fun-filled week of family camp with Cityteam. What most people don’t know is that our youngest camper was a little boy who was only 1 month old! He will turn 11 years old this summer.

4. Our on-site Nursing Clinic, sponsored by Widener University, provides free primary health care to uninsured or underinsured men, women, and children. Our clinic was featured in Widener’s most recent magazine (page 14).

5. In the early 1900’s long before it became a place for homeless Cityteam Chester Buildingand addicted men to find shelter and recovery, our building was first a Buick dealership. Some time after the dealership had gone, the first floor was a local dance hall. Behind the layers of paint there are hearts surrounding the names of former Chester residents who had pledged their love to each other.

Check back for upcoming posts featuring stories, updates and photos of what’s happening at Cityteam Chester!

Kwinn Tucker, City Director

Kwinn Tucker, City Director