An investment from the heart

Bucks County homeless shelter receives funding for brand new playground thanks to four local banks

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Swinging on the monkey bars and zooming down the slide at the local park are some of the best childhood memories. But what happens when the only playground available is rusted, broken down and a safety hazard? This was the case at the Bucks County Emergency Homeless Shelter in Levittown until four local banks donated $50,000 to pay for renovations.

The lineup: Pictured are (from left) Joe Schupp, Jim Collins, Randy Hanks, Rod Lynch and Dominick Paciolla, representing Customers Bank; Murielle Kelly and Ben Ciliberto, representing Family Service; Tim Wade and Cassandra Bell, representing M&T Bank; David Grow and Mike Rainone, representing BB&T; and Aliese Rosado and Chris Godshall, representing Meridian Bank. PHOTO: Nicki Bedesem

The shelter is owned and operated by Family Service Association of Bucks County, a nonprofit organization formed in 1953. Families are able to stay at the shelter for an allotted amount of time as they work to obtain housing again.

Renovations to the playground were much needed. Components were broken and rusted, and concrete footers were exposed. The parking lot, with its countless potholes, large cracks and lack of painted lines, didn’t meet PennDOT’s standards for parking facilities. The basketball play area was an unsteady hoop standing alongside the old parking lot without any separation of space. While the playground was broken down, the only spot the children could play was a small space in the dorms, which provided no room to run around in.

Family Service identified the need for these renovations to keep residents safe and healthy, and applied for the Neighborhood Assistance Program, a tax credit program in Pennsylvania that encourages businesses to invest in projects that benefit vulnerable populations. According to Nicki Bedesem, director of communications at Family Service, the nonprofit is the first in the county to use NAP funding.

Board members of Family Service reached out to four banks, Customers Bank, M&T Bank, BB&T and Meridian Bank, which were more than willing to assist. Family Service was awarded $50,000 in tax credits, which were purchased by the four supportive local financial institutions and funded the much-needed renovations.

“It’s helping low- and moderate-income people in the community,” said Joe Schupp, senior vice president at Customers Bank. “It’s a great way to put our funding back in the community.”

According to Bedesem, the children are loving the new playground. Features include a large swingset, which one boy fell asleep on the first time he tried it, and a fenced-in basketball court, which is great for older kids to release their energy.

“We are grateful for the support of Customers Bank, BB&T, M&T Bank and Meridian Bank. All four of these businesses stepped up to respond to a need in our local community,” said Ben Ciliberto, first vice president of Family Service’s Board of Directors. “Their support helps us better serve residents at the Bucks County Emergency Homeless Shelter.”

The Emergency Homeless Shelter is one of Family Service’s biggest programs, and acts as a temporary residence for individuals and families who have lost safe and stable housing. Upon arrival, they are given a discharge date but are allowed to stay as long as they are working toward goals, such as building a resume, getting a car and saving for an apartment or house. Though it’s not meant for long-term stays, the Emergency Homeless Shelter is the only one in the county that allows individuals to call it home while they’re living there.

“When a family comes, they’re residents. This is their address,” Bedesem said.

The 24-hour shelter serves approximately 70 people at any given time, and helped more than 27,000 children, teens and adults last year. On-site services include case management, counseling, budgeting, job search resources and health evaluations.

To learn more about Family Service or the Bucks County Emergency Homeless Shelter, visit fsabc.org.

If you or someone you know is homeless or experiencing a housing crisis, contact the Housing Link at 1–800–810–4434. ••