Bethanna was featured in a front page story in the Hampton Times, a local Bucks County newspaper on September 4, 2018. Thank you to Samantha Bambino and the Times for telling our story!
Original article link: https://uppersouthamptontimes.com/nourishment-for-the-needy-f69970aa44bd
Nourishment for the needy
Southampton’s Bethanna provides adoption services, healthy food options and more to the community
By Samantha Bambino
Almost 85 years ago, before the days of modern transportation, people traveled hours to the Swigart household in Southampton, where a summer Bible study was held. For the Swigarts’ daughter Esther, it wasn’t uncommon to encounter strangers at the front door seeking a bit of love and guidance.
But one day, a woman turned up with her young son, asking a massive favor of Esther — “Can you watch my little boy? I can’t take care of him.” Esther obliged without hesitation, taking in the child and caring for him as if he were her own. Word quickly spread of her kindness, and soon, more parents were journeying to Southampton with the hope that Esther would provide a better, stable life for their children.
Little did Esther realize, her choice to care for that first woman’s son formed the foundation for what would become a thriving nonprofit organization that provides adoption guidance, food services and more to at least 1,000 families every month. Known today as Bethanna, the Christian agency holds fast to Esther’s initial showing of compassion and mercy, all while working to promote child welfare and family stability in the community.
Southampton remains Bethanna’s headquarters, though it has opened additional sites in South Philadelphia and Lancaster. Along with its physical expansion, the organization has widened its offerings over the years to include not just adoption services (which assist 95–100 children annually), but foster care, behavioral health services, outpatient mental health services, parent-child interaction therapy, comprehensive autism services, clinical transition and stabilization services, and Children’s Mobile Crisis, which provides on-site, face-to-face crisis response 24/7.
Though Bethanna just acquired it in 2016 from a closing church, the Jesus Focus Ministry Food Pantry has become one of its most well-known community resources. The pantry, located at Bethanna’s Southampton headquarters, is open five days a week and feeds approximately 1,500 clients a month.
“Our goal is to serve these families with the utmost respect,” said director Marcy Barnes, who explained how many pantries simply call clients by number. “It’s hard going into a food pantry.”
Barnes stressed that anyone who enters Jesus Focus is greeted with open arms, whether it’s someone in their 30s who just lost their house, or a grandmother raising seven grandchildren while their parents are in prison. They’re not just a number. Everyone has their personal story of hardship, and Barnes and her staff of 40 volunteers aren’t there to judge.
Rather, according to Barnes, their sole mission is to go the extra mile for those in need of some nourishment. Recently, a mother stopped by the pantry with her son, who was celebrating his birthday that day. Moments after the two left, a local supermarket dropped off a large sheet cake as part of its massive haul of donations. In true “Bethanna” fashion, one volunteer took it upon himself to personally deliver the entire cake to the family’s home to ensure the boy’s day was special.
As long as a person has a Pennsylvania ID and demonstrates need, they’re able to visit Jesus Focus Ministry Food Pantry once a week, though Barnes added that no one is ever turned away. Food is pre-bagged, with produce and desserts stored in a separate hallway — a setup that allows clients to “shop” and make their own product choices. The portions are accommodated based on family size, and include healthy items such as whole grain bread and Applegate lunch meat. As Barnes put it, there’s no bright orange “government cheese.”
So far this year, the pantry has received 69,055 pounds of donated food, and served 1,399 households, which included 2,037 children, 2,421 adults and 972 seniors. To operate efficiently, it relies heavily on the generosity of local donors and so far, there has been no shortage of that. On a regular basis throughout the year, food and volunteer support comes from Giant Food Stores, Wawa, Panera Bread, Wegmans, Costco, Boy Scouts, Southampton Estates, surrounding churches and more.
The police of Northampton and Southampton townships also get involved through the Battle of the Hamptons — a friendly competition between the two to see which community can collect more pounds of food. Now in its third year, the contest garnered more than 8,000 pounds this summer, with 5,431 coming from Northampton and 3,286 from Southampton.
As the holidays draw nearer, Bethanna will lean on local donors for Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas gifts. Last year, the organization was able to distribute $5,000 in turkey gift cards, in addition to 4,000 presents.
Along with its holiday drives, Bethanna hosts fundraising events, including the first Race Against Hunger 5K and Family Fun Run on Oct. 20, and educational opportunities for food pantry clients. On Sept. 13, there will be an intimate-sized cooking class to demonstrate how to turn inexpensive foods into healthy, tasty meals. Registration is currently open for both.
Though Bethanna was founded on faith-based Christian principles, Barnes stressed that no client is ever forced to partake in religious activities, which include Bible study each Thursday at 1 p.m. The positive, encouraging environment the staff works to promote is open to all, no matter their affiliation.
Bethanna and the Jesus Focus Ministry Food Pantry are located at 1030 Second Street Pike in Southampton. For more information, visit bethanna.org, facebook.com/BethannaCS, and facebook.com/JFMFoodPantryatBethanna. ••
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com