November 13, 2013 —
HONESDALE AREA, PA — Gloria Frechen got the idea to start the Community Service Center in the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Church because she was inspired by the saint Dorcas, or Tabitha, referenced in the Book of Acts (9:36–42) in the New Testament. Dorcas made clothes for the poor. Frechen gives clothes to people who need them, and gives in other ways, too, including rent money, food and household supplies. So it comes as no surprise when, during my visit to the SDA Community Center, a woman who was there picking up clothes called Frechen an angel.
Of Dorcas, Frechen said, “She just helped people. She did a lot of sewing and helped people. And then when she died everybody was really upset. I always wanted to be like her.” After 20 years of running the community center, many volunteers, and countless others who have been helped by Frechen, it seems Frechen might have accomplished living in the reflection of Dorcas. The same woman who called Frechen an angel added that, “she’s the light for a lot of people.”
The Community Center is in the basement of the SDA Church on Route 652 between Indian Orchard and Beach Lake. It is divided into two large rooms, and each is brimming with items. Much of it is clothing; other items include bedding, school supplies, kitchenware and appliances. It is open on the first and third Wednesday and Thursday of each month from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday. During that time, anyone may come in and take anything they want at no cost. Frechen said, “I had one girl come up to me and she had a really pretty little hat and scarf, and she said, ‘Am I gonna have enough money for this?’ I said, ‘I’m sure you will, because it doesn’t cost anything.’ She could hardly believe it.” Frechen said they get “tons” of people coming in, mostly due to the poor economy and people really being in need.
The Community Center wasn’t always in the SDA church. Frechen has been on a long journey, moving from location to location, all in the Honesdale area. She was in the Bailey building, an old furniture factory in Honesdale that went out of business. But in the winter there was no heat and in the summer it was too hot, and there was no bathroom. At that time, she was also running it by herself. Then when the building was sold, she had to move. Next, she went to Cozy Corners, but the space was soon taken over by a day care facility. After that, she moved into the present location—and has gained volunteers along the way.
Currently there are around seven volunteers, including Frechen’s sister Phyllis. One volunteer is Barbara Donatelli. She became connected with the center in 2006 when she moved to the area full-time after having a country house here. She moved the furniture from her old house into the country home and wanted to give that furniture to people who needed it and would not have to buy it. She said, “I couldn’t find anyone, and then I found Gloria, who ran this center and connected with these people. I was so happy; I gave her everything that we had, and it felt good.” She told Frechen that after she was all settled in she wanted to come to work. Donatelli now says that Frechen has “become a family member” and that she “is an angel. She’s truly one of a kind, and I’m glad I got to meet her and work for her, she’s really special.”
Donatelli said that the center “doesn’t ask questions; it says come take what you need.” I asked Frehcen how people react when they come in. She said, “If they’re new, they come in and they say, ‘We’ve never been in here before, what do we do?’ I say, ‘Just go shop. Get whatever you want.’ If they ask me for a bag I say, ‘Do you want a big one? Fill it up.’”
Anything that is in bad condition goes to textile recycling, or as rags to Frechen’s mechanic. Although everything is free, people are welcome to give monetary donations, which helps with providing gas, food and rent to those who need it.
Frechen just celebrated her 85th birthday on Tuesday. She says she thanks God, and that “if He keeps me healthy, then I will keep helping people.” When asked why community service is important, she said, “Because I love people. And I love helping. It’s just such a good feeling.”