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July 7, 2019
Giving Back: Northeast Community Center
The newly-named Northeast Community Center has a meaningful mission: To assist the residents of the Marvine-Pembroke community of Northeast Bethlehem with basic needs and to empower them in attaining their highest potential, creating a unified community which supports and builds self-reliant and responsible individuals.
The name is new, but the work is not.
Founded in 1980 by the Bethlehem Council of Churches as Northeast Ministry, its name reflected its original religious connections. But in 1985, the organization transitioned to an independent social service agency—and while it maintains strong partnerships and still receives critical support from churches, there is no religious affiliation.
“There’s a reason we chose to change our name to Northeast Community Center,” says marketing and development coordinator Grace Young. “We’re an access point to everyone in the community, and they know they can come here and get the resources that they need.” One of the most vital programs of Northeast Community Center is its choice food pantry, where clients are able to select and “shop” for their own food in a neatly organized setting, much like a small grocery store. Managed by a team of hard-working staff and volunteers, the pantry serves the Marvine-Pembroke neighborhood, which is home to more than 2,000 residents, as well as the surrounding low-income communities. “We’re just a staff of five,” says executive director Paula Johnson, “but we have a great team of dedicated volunteers, and we could not do this work without them.”
A unique aspect of the Center’s food pantry is its holistic approach—because it’s open every Tuesday and Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to noon (plus one evening a month for people who work during the day), staff get to know the residents on a personal level, allowing them to connect residents to the Center’s numerous senior and youth programs, including a robust summer camp.
The name change will also help counter the misconception that the residents of Marvine-Pembroke would rather live somewhere else. Paula points to a 2016 survey that showed over half of the residents said they would continue living there if given the option. “Everybody we talk to says that it feels like home,” she says, “and I think it has a lot to do with having a Community Center at its heart.”
Learn more about the Northeast Community Center at neccbethlehem.org