The Berks-Mont News (

Friend, Inc. honors dedicated Friends

By Roxanne Richardson, For 21st Century Media

Friday, October 25, 2013

Kutztown—Friend, Inc. Community Services presented a Certificate of Recognition to St. Mary’s Catholic Church as well as a Volunteer Recognition Certificate to Joyce Esser, Kempton, for her hundreds of volunteer hours.
“We always send thank you notes and say thank you all the time, but I think sometimes it’s important to recognize the people that support you. Especially with the volunteers, because they give so much of their time and a lot of times don’t even get recognized for that,” said Sandra L. Wise, executive director for Friend, Inc.
On behalf of the Faith Justice Group of St. Mary’s Church, Louise Olsheski, Topton, Darla Molnar, Topton, and Laurel Delaney, Kutztown, accepted the certificate presented by Wise.
“Every month we have a special collection called the Parish Partnership and we contribute to three different programs one being Friend, Inc., the Ecumenical Kitchen in Allentown, and a program down in New Orleans called Lantern Light Ministries,” said Olsheski.
Ten years ago, Esser had been on the board for six years and felt that it was important to volunteer in order to understand what was going on. When her term was up on the board, she continued to volunteer helping with Friend Fest and the committee, Friend’s auction, picking up groceries donated in boxes at a local grocery store as well as having reached out to families who needed help.
“I feel lucky to work part-time and the other part of my time is for volunteering. There are a lot of people in need and I enjoy helping them,” said Esser.
Esser’s three sons follow their mom’s lead and help out at the various events as well.
“A lot of food pantry’s will pack boxes and when someone comes in, they hand them the box; we have a client choice here,” said Esser as she showed their system of going through the pantry and selecting the number of items that are allowed in categories ranging from snacks to frozen foods.
“Besides Food Pantry,” began Wise, “we’ve been working on providing collaborative efforts with other agencies to bring services here for our clients.”
Wise said that by bringing other agencies in, it reduces the number of cancellations of appointments because of travel. Some of the other services preformed that Wise listed included flu shots, income tax preparation, Medicare with Berks Encore and helped with the open enrollment, and held information sessions on affordable health care.
Laura Reichert, case manager, does 80 to 100 referrals a month to other health and human service agencies. According to Wise, there was a big difference in the number of people needing help from 2003 to 2013. She said Friend, Inc. is busy.
“The need continues to grow for us for families that are struggling and need our help,” said Wise.
There was a reminder for the upcoming kettle needing volunteer ringers, singers, or even trumpet players. Friend, Inc. is an extension of the Salvation Arm, Hamburg, and is able to provide vouchers for heat, electricity, water, and gas. Ninety percent of the kettle earnings stay local.
For more information on how you can help, go to