When the York Rescue Mission became LifePath Christian Ministries almost three years ago, its new name reflected a shift in focus and direction. Using a holistic approach, the organization wanted to steer the individuals and families it served down a productive road.
For years, the mission’s primary emphasis had been “soup, soap, and salvation,” providing food, clothes, a hot shower and a place to stay, as well as Christian ministry, says LifePath CEO Matt Carey.
“We took a hard look at that,” he says, noting that LifePath wanted to take its ministry further.
He offers this allegory: “A lifeguard will save someone from drowning but doesn’t teach anyone to swim. We said we want to do more than just rescue people. That’s how we came up with LifePath.”
In addition to providing food, clothing, and shelter, LifePath teaches life skills such as financial literacy, how to do laundry, conflict resolution, and time management. That broadened approach is intended to move people out of a cycle of failure and into a sustainable life.
A self-funded ministry
To undertake that expanded mission and with no government funding, LifePath relies on monetary donations as well as sales of donated household goods at its three thrift stores, in York, Dover, and Dallastown. In an effort to better serve customers, the Dover store will relocate in late October to a 10,000-square-foot site at 2414 Eastern Boulevard in the former Wine and Spirits location in Springettsbury Township.
With sales of furniture, clothing, household items, appliances, and electronics being vital to LifePath’s ministry, the Dover store presented a problem: It isn’t structured to serve the community efficiently, Carey says.
“Parking isn’t good. Multiple floors is an issue. Space is an issue,” he notes.
The Springettsbury site, surrounded by numerous stores, offers the potential for a surge in customer traffic.
Sharing the good news
With the opening of the new retail location, LifePath wants to ensure that donors and customers are aware of the good works they are helping the organization perform.
There will be informational signs placed throughout the store and employees will deliver the message to customers at the cash register and to donors when they drop off goods.
“We want people to understand that this is how you supported what we do in the ministry,” Carey says. “From the time you enter until the time you leave, you will be told the reasons behind what we do.”
The York and Dallastown stores will embark on the same messaging campaign.
A focus on children
LifePath’s services include arranging for addiction treatment and health care services, providing divorce and spiritual counseling, and sponsoring summer camps and after-school programs for children.
As part of broadening its ministry to children, the organization is addressing the traumatic effect of homelessness on youths.
“We used to focus on Mom and Dad, not taking a look at children and what’s going on in their life,” Carey says. “As a young person living in a shelter, how they feel about themselves is greatly affected. We’re really focusing in on that. It was never the focus before.”
Currently, 16 children reside in LifePath shelters.
In another overture to kids, guided by the organization’s policy that “God always comes first,” LifePath uses its Cornerstone Ice Cream Shop in York, a summer operation, to engage city children with a non-threatening approach.
Unlike its thrift stores, the shop was never intended to make money, Carey explains. It is a place where employees might talk to children out on the sidewalk and welcome them inside, hoping to introduce them to what God can do in their lives.
LifePath’s plan is for the Dover thrift store to liquidate its inventory just before the announcement of the opening of the Springettsbury location.
At all three stores, shoppers will continue to leave with bags of bargains. Donors will still depart with the notion that they’ve helped someone less fortunate. But with the new messaging campaign, they’ll take something else with them.
“We want them to understand what their purchases are going toward,” says Carey. “Our thrift operation funds our ministry, which is about life-transformation services.”