Currently I have the pleasure to be participating in Leadership Lehigh Valley.

This is a program designed to inspire and educate participants to become active and effective leaders in Lehigh Valley while providing exposure to issues, resources and opportunities for community service.

These two powerful verses open Everlast’s song “What It’s Like.”

We've all seen the man at the liquor store beggin' for your change. The hair on his face is dirty, dread locked and full of mange. He asked the man for what he could spare with shame in his eyes. Get a job you f*#@in' slob is all he replied.

God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in his shoes. 'Cause then you really might know what it's like to sing the blues. Then you really might know what it's like.

This past Wednesday, I personally had an eye opening experience that these two verses paint that I don’t believe I would have encountered if I had not been involved in this program. Our day was spent investigating and discussing human service issues facing Lehigh Valley, and the region as a whole. In the aftermath of Sandy, the topic was very apropos. We had panelists from the Greater Lehigh Valley United Way, Human Services Department of Northampton County, Family Answers, American Red Cross Greater Lehigh Valley Chapter and the Allentown Rescue Mission.

My classmates and I had the opportunity to visit a variety of different human service organization such as Keenan House, Sixth Street Shelter, the soup kitchen at St. Paul’s Church, the Allentown Rescue Mission and others. I consider myself fortunate to have been in the group that visited the Allentown Rescue Mission and Executive Director, Gary Millspaugh. Yes I said fortunate. Obviously no one ever wishes to be homeless, but it happens to people of all shapes, sizes, color, race, religion and yes educational backgrounds.

One thing in common is that there is always a life altering experience that can be found that got the proverbial ball to bounce out of control. And this can happen at any time in one’s life. As Gary said, “The rescue mission is the last place that anyone wants to come. When you get here you are really in need.”

These are words the resonated loudly with me. I, as most people, have a preconceived notion of how a mission or a shelter is going to look and feel. I’m here to tell you first hand that the Allentown Rescue Mission will shatter this image. Gary runs a tight, but very dignified shelter serving men that are in need. The goal is to not just get these men off the streets, but to restore their lives. Gary offers these men a chance, telling them in the beginning that if you buy into his programs, he will get them housing and a job in the end. Offering educational, emotional and work related programs the mission really has all their bases covered.

So the next time you see a person down on their luck, don’t be so quick to turn your head or avoid them like they have some illness. Perhaps they just need some words of encouragement and someone to believe in them. Gary Millspaugh along with his dedicated staff certainly does. Remember you never know when it could happen to you. I hope you never have to sing the blues.


P.S. If you ever feel like volunteering check out the rescue mission or a variety of human service organizations that would be ever so grateful for the help. It also might be one of the most rewarding experiences you might ever have.

Also, the Allentown Rescue Mission doesn’t operate a thrift store any longer, but they are in need of men’s business attire, so if you have suites, ties, shoes, oxford shirts or any men’s casual business attire that you are looking to donate I know that is will go to great use.