Community Connections is a series devoted to the many organizations that Highmark supports and partners with in building stronger, healthier communities. In each post, we’ll get an informative, inside look at a nonprofit’s mission, programs and resources from one of the Highmark professionals who works with these organizations every day.

Home. This word brings up so many other words, like comfort, safety, belonging, love. I felt all of these things, and more, on a recent visit to Paxton Ministries.

Paxton Ministries participated in the Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community for the first time in 2015, and their development staff invited me to tour their Paxton Street Home to learn more about their mission.

As soon as I entered it was evident just how much the staff and residents mean to each other. Every few feet along our tour, a resident stopped to talk to or hug one of the staff members.

I felt right at home.

Paxton Ministries Provides Support

Paxton Ministries in Harrisburg

Eighty-three residents are thriving at Paxton Street Home in Harrisburg, PA.

Paxton Ministries provides affordable housing and support services — including medical care, assistance for residents to manage mental health challenges, and financial management — to adults in need in Harrisburg, PA. The organization offers a home to people who might otherwise fall through the cracks of society.

Eighty-three people live at 2001 Paxton Street. Approximately 80% of the residents have a mental-health diagnosis, developmental disability or both. And although all residents must be able to get around to a certain extent, they certainly rely on the dedicated staff and volunteers who create a warm and accepting atmosphere.

Living at Paxton Street Home

We meandered through the halls and byways of their historic, well-maintained building. Every nook and cranny has been used to provide common living space, a computer lab, and recreation and craft areas for their residents to enjoy. Their social calendar includes shopping trips, life skills training, sightseeing, birthday parties and more.

Each resident has a fully furnished, private room to call their own. They also can attend regular events with a spiritual focus. The home serves three meals a day, provides laundry service, and assists with room care, personal hygiene and financial management.

I had the pleasure of sharing lunch with the staff and residents. The cafeteria, like any kitchen in a single family residence, is really the heart of the home. It was buzzing with activity, laughter and storytelling.

The residents truly enjoyed each other’s company and made sure to stop by our table to give their latest life updates to the staff.

Health and Wellness

Paxton Ministries Residents

Residents Wendy, Helen and Meryl (left to right)

Paxton Ministries even has a wellness club and hosts a walking competition that will surely come in handy as residents and staff prepare for the Highmark Walk in Harrisburg. (In fact, the residents logged 453 total miles just from September 15 through November 30 one year!)

Both body and soul are the focus at Paxton Home, where a partnership with Pinnacle Health system has provided an on-site medical clinic. The staff assist residents in monitoring medication, making and even attending doctor appointments. They  often serve as advocates for residents at not only the doctor’s office but also their place of employment or in other community settings.

Social workers and a part-time licensed practical nurse (LPN) help Paxton Home residents, and all home employees have extensive human-services experience. In addition, the home is certified in personal care and all employees receive annual training.

The residents aren’t the only ones who appreciate what’s being provided to them. Corryn, a care coordinator, took a resident to a medical appointment, where the office receptionist told her she thinks Paxton Homes are doing an amazing job.

The receptionist remarked, “You all must be really good people,” and expressed how impressed she was by how happy and well cared for the residents always seem to be when they come for a visit.

Volunteers Are the Anchor

In addition to their dedicated staff, Paxton Ministries has more than 1,839 volunteers who gave 7,430 hours in 2014. Amazing!

Volunteer coordinator Kasandra Grab commented,, “Volunteers really matter here at Paxton Ministries. We wouldn’t be who we are without them.”

One of their volunteers, Ernie Kohlstruck, has served the Home for 15 years in various capacities. “Watching the love that people give to each other — I think that gives me as much pleasure as anything else,” he said. “It revives your faith in humanity. It’s just a wonderful place; it’s one of the things in my life that feeds my soul.”

I can’t wait to meet more of their residents, staff and volunteers at the Highmark Walk in Harrisburg.

If you live in central Pennsylvania, I hope you will consider joining their Walk team, or supporting other organizations, or even contributing to the organization on your own.