THE STORY OF CARES
Community CARES (initially known as Carlisle C.A.R.E.S.) was organized in 2004 as a ministry of the Grace United Methodist Church (presently Carlisle United Methodist Church). After sheltering a small number of men for a night, members of the church and the community realized that the challenges faced by those experiencing homelessness were far bigger than they anticipated.
Motivated by the vision that an emergency shelter in the county seat was a necessity, a group of local congregations and social service providers, led by Community CARES founder, Shari Bellish, began developing a plan to provide the support and services needed in the community. Initially, CARES housed three or four homeless individuals during the harshest winter months through a network of three churches. As support and the need for shelter grew, CARES was able to offer shelter year-round to as many as sixty guests each night. The organization officially became a 501(c)3 not for profit organization in March 2009.
In 2010, CARES expanded their services to meet the growing needs of the homeless or near homelessness community. A Resource Center was developed and constructed at 50 W. Penn Street to meet the growing needs of the residents. The Center provides a place for CARES residents to shower, do laundry, receive mail, cook, and rest when they are ill. It also provides a place to meet with Supportive Service Coordinators to work towards housing independence.
In 2018, the organization which serves the entire the Cumberland County Region, changed its name from Carlisle C.A.R.E.S. to Community CARES to better represent the demographics of its residents. In the same year, it also expanded its resources even further to better serve their residents. The organization became the Coordinated Entry System Walk-In Site to provide onsite vulnerability assessment to ensure fair and equitable access to existing community housing and emergency services. It also initiated Cumberland Street Reach, a program that engages, assesses and assists those living on the streets, in encampments and/or at the risk of experiencing homelessness.
Currently, Community CARES is led by Executive Director Beth Kempf and employs ten staff members. Twelve churches house an average of sixty residents each evening. In order to provide the maximum benefit to the community, CARES avoids duplication of resources that are currently being offered in the community and makes every effort to collaborate with other organizations. Generous businesses, churches, individuals, organizations and foundations partner and support CARES to ensure that, as long as there is a vital need in the community, that it remains in existence.