Every so often while Mervin Kearse dishes out food at LifePath Christian Ministry’s food pantry in York, he’s approached by someone in line who will tell him, “thank you for the services and for the hot food.”
“I always tell them, ‘thank you for coming in’ and, ‘you’re quite welcome,’” Mervin says.
Mervin, a Stewartstown resident with special needs, has been a participant in several of Penn-Mar Human Services’ programs and started volunteering at LifePath one year ago.
Penn-Mar and LifePath formed a partnership where people like Mervin in Penn-Mar’s programs volunteer at the food pantry. The partnership gives LifePath access to more volunteers while giving Penn-Mar program participants a chance for community inclusion.
“The community just doesn’t understand people with special needs,” says Maricel Border, a community activity instructor with Penn-Mar. “They just look at them differently. I want people to look at Mervin and I just the same. This helps people know that we’re not any different.”
Outside of volunteering, Mervin works cleaning a camp in New Freedom three days a week and helps to teach safety training to other program members at Penn-Mar.
Mervin spends one or two days per week at LifePath. Some days, he makes sandwiches and serves soup, while other days he preps for meals and helps clean the facility. Penn-Mar helps him get to York by providing transportation from Glen Rock into the city.
Mervin says he looks forward to volunteering every week.
“I love to see the people out there,” Mervin says. “I love seeing happy faces, and when I’m going out there with LifePath to serve the food, I can see people have happy faces and put warm food in their stomachs.”