WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU)– Just off Coal Street, in Wilkes-Barre, the line was moving steadily as one local mission made it a priority to take care of its communities.
Stefan Biggs is the operations director for Keystone Mission. He says the organization has been around for the better part of two decades with the goal of serving the homeless, hurting and hungry.
“So it started out as kind of a grass-roots thing, people working together and just making it happen,” said Biggs. “Eventually it rolled into the organization that we know where we’re serving over 1,100 families.”
The help doesn’t just come in the form of food, but clothes distributions and other events. It’s the constant caring that keeps those in need coming back.
“We have youth programming, including an after-school program that we run during the school year,” he added. “We have an adult clothing distribution and a kids’ clothing distribution where we give out diapers, bedding and things like that for children, once a month. We also have a separate food distribution with a variety of different foods.”
The monthly ‘Produce Market’ held in Wilkes-Barre is a chance for those in need to get a large bag with healthy produce, meat, and essential items. The last 11 months have seen the market go from serving 40 families to over 1,100. The Keystone Mission Staff says more than 3,600 individuals are getting the assistance they need.
Denise Acosta has been volunteering with Keystone for the last three years.
“I moved here from New York. My family and I didn’t have means of eating when we moved,” said Acosta. “We came here to Keystone Mission and they made sure that we had food to eat and Christmas gifts, which we didn’t have. I felt it was a blessing and I wanted to give back. Now I’m here at Keystone and I’m volunteering to give back and I love what we are doing here for the families in the community.”
She says the organization and these events are great because they help so many people who would otherwise struggle throughout the year. The only thing that holds the effort back is not being able to reach those who don’t know about the Keystone Mission.
“A lot of people don’t know where they can get help from. I send them right here,” she added. “‘Come on to Keystone, we’re going to help you.’ They’ve been helping everyone and it’s just been awesome.”
This drive is just short of a year old, but every month it gets bigger and helps more people in the community.