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After more than 2,000 hours of volunteer help from Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), the Homes of Hope facility in Ephrata, Penn., is almost ready to open its doors to help families with children who are experiencing homelessness.

The building was all but destroyed by a large fire two years ago. Volunteers began their work in August 2020 when they demolished the unsalvageable parts of the facility. By December, they were rebuilding the structure.

Larry Frey, one of dozens of volunteers who pitched in, was originally scheduled to volunteer at an MDS project in Bennettsville, S.C. But when that project start was delayed because of COVID-19, Frey instead spent a week in February volunteering at Homes of Hope. He traveled with eight other volunteers from Chambersburg, Pa., staying at the nearby Mennonite Central Committee guest housing.

Frey, who has served with MDS at least nine times as a weekly volunteer on larger projects, also regularly pitches in for local MDS efforts.

“The Homes of Hope project went really well,” said Frey, a member of Antrim Brethren in Christ Church. “After the initial delays with other projects, this was a great way to help the community.”

The project is a cooperative effort between Homes of Hope Ephrata, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and MDS, with the churches that support Homes of Hope providing volunteers and funds to help the MDS Lancaster Unit perform the work, along with local tradespersons and support from local businesses. The MDS Lancaster Unit is overseeing the work.

Lloyd Chapman, who chairs the Outreach Committee at Akron Mennonite Church—one of several local churches of the Akron-Ephrata Ministerium that formed Homes of Hope in 2003–said he has been very appreciative of the many people and organizations in the community that have assisted in the project.

“The community response came through in the form of the volunteers from the Homes of Hope churches; the MDS Lancaster Unit in its supervision of the construction and providing skilled volunteers; crews from the Groffdale Conference that did the heavy demolition, roofing and siding; numerous local businesses that have donated building materials as well as skilled labor for various needs; churches, individuals and businesses that donated money; and especially, the ability of all of these different organizations, businesses and people to work together to accomplish this work during some of the darker days of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chapman.

The role of the Akron Mennonite Church, as requested by MDS, was to chair a coordination committee for the project to ensure communication between the partners and that all the details and needs were covered.

The Homes of Hope ministry helps families with children who are experiencing homelessness by bringing them into a home setting for a four to six-month period for nurture, budget-coaching, and intentional training support.

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