May 17, 2009

Harrisburg group supports at-risk youth

I wanted to share another of Harrisburg’s somewhat hidden treasures with you. The Joshua Group is a mentoring organization located along Market Street in Allison Hill. The group supports and works to rescue the futures of street kids in that particular neighborhood. They offer hope in the form of educational and vocational opportunities. You don’t get much more important than that around here.

One branch of the group is the Joshua House, which provides around-the-clock supervision and an intensive life-skills support program to non-adjudicated males in need of guidance and counseling. The goal is for these young men to become self-sustaining members of a community.

The Joshua Group also organizes a Save Our Students Fund, which has enabled the group to place more than 20 deserving, at-risk high school students into a private city school. This intensive mentoring program gives potential drop-outs a chance to set higher educational standards for themselves without having to face the obstacles of the local public school system.

The organization operates a resource center where more than 150 streets kids come each month to take advantage of tutoring opportunities, job search and placement programs, and classes to help prepare for GED and SAT testing. It also includes a walk-in counseling service for those in immediate need of help.

Another component is the J-Crew – an after school mentoring and tutoring program that partners 7th and 8th grade students with a group of older Joshua Group kids. They spend time together working on at-risk youth prevention skills, homework assignments and recreational activities. The program is successful because the kids are eager to seek the advice and encouragement of someone who can directly relate to life growing up in Allison Hill.

The group also offers a transitional home, which allows youth to experience the responsibilities of self support and paying rent while still having the support of the Joshua family when they need it.

The final element of the Joshua Group is its urban farm, which grows and sells organic vegetables while providing education, service and vocational opportunities to youth.

Many of the children the Joshua Group comes in contact with are simply looking for a way to put some sanity back into their lives. If you find yourself wanting to reach out and further support this initiative, there are a number of avenues you can take. To find out how you might be able to help, call (717) 236-4464 or send an e-mail to

I invite you to find a way to connect yourself to this group and help to support it. Their donation needs include school supplies, office supplies, household and cleaning supplies, personal care items, cold-weather items and gift cards.

To make a monetary contribution, please click here or send a check made payable to The Joshua Group to 1442 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101.


May 14, 2009

Clean up the streets of Harrisburg

My sphere of influence in the Harrisburg area recently allowed me to discover a group that I am rather excited about. Floored about, in fact, particularly because of what they're trying to accomplish within the local community.

First, let me tell you how you can help. Then I'll tell you about the group.

Sycamore House is organizing a Trash Away Day and Neighborhood Bar-B-Q for Saturday, May 30. Allison Hill is often known as an area where some shameful individuals choose to randomly dump their garbage and unwanted possessions. The group hopes to help reverse that trend a bit by cleaning up the alleys of this neighborhood between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. that day. They will concentrate on the areas from Market Street to Regina Street, between 18th and 20th streets. Trash bags and a free lunch at noon will be made available to all who are able to attend.

The group will meet at the corner of Market and 19th streets in Harrisburg at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. A Bar-B-Q will take place around 4 p.m. at this same spot following the clean-up as an opportunity to socialize and spend some quality time with your neighbors. What a great way to make a difference -- at no cost whatsoever -- while interacting and connecting with the community. I invite you all to come out and help clean up the streets.

So what in the world is the
Sycamore House? It is an intentional Christian community that calls Harrisburg home. The idea is for members of the house to help each other, their church and (perhaps most importantly) the surrounding community in any way, shape or form possible. In essence, they’re looking to make a positive difference in the lives of those less fortunate living within our own community. This is at the very essence and core of what Change 101 is all about.

The group began with its first community downtown about three years ago along Front Street in conjunction with St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral. This year a sister community erected in the Allison Hill neighborhood of Harrisburg next to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. The church allows the house members to live in the rectory rent free in return for a certain number of hours of community volunteer work each week. I love it.

If you can’t make it May 30, perhaps you’ll have some time to stop by the group’s used book sale the weekend before during Artsfest. The festival is scheduled for May 23 through May 25 along Riverfront Park in Harrisburg. The book sale will take place at 223 N. Front Street, in front of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The proceeds will benefit Sycamore House.


May 6, 2009

Shopping for good causes

I recently came across a couple of Web sites I thought I would share with you all. It's not always the easiest to choose a cause out of thin air, so why not do some browsing? The Point and MadeBig appear to allow you to do just that.
Now I'll be honest here -- I haven't spent a ton of time on either site. Right off the bat, The Point makes a lot more sense to me. The site allows you to start your own campaign and raise money or contribute to a cause that has already been created. There are a couple of featured campaigns, but there is a handy spot where the causes are broken down by categories -- education, international and health are just a few examples. Some of the causes within the categories request donations -- others are merely looking for support. But don't listen to me -- go have a look-see for yourself.

Another site I came across this week is MadeBig. You'll have to do your own research to decide if this is something that you want to spend some time on, but if you find yourself playing games online a lot, why not see if you can simultaneously do something good for the world. Basically, the idea is to create an account and then play a bunch of games. As you win and collect tokens, you can pick causes to which you can contribute your tokens. When you pledge support to a cause, MadeBig commits to supporting the cause. The site also offers various categories of causes, including arts and culture and hunger and poverty. Go check it out.

If you don't decide to use these sites, perhaps you'll at least come across a cause that you rings true with your own ideals so that you can find your own way to support it. Whatever it is, get out there and give it everything you've got. I promise you won't regret it.

Happy changing,