This year, American Rescue Workers' Williamsport Corps celebrates 80 years of "providing spiritual and material aid to those in need: focusing on homelessness and hunger prevention." Over the past 35 years, Gen. Claude Astin has faithfully served, recognizing that keeping the effort active soon will be in the hands of more youthful leaders.
With that in mind, the American Rescue Workers has reached out to the younger generation to be a part of its ministry, exercising love in action.
"We are fortunate to have passionate young people on staff, and we're eager to watch them grow and inspire more of the younger generation to become familiar with our organization and involved in our outreach," said Col. Dawn Astin.
Capt. Joe Tokay III, the youngest of the national officers, has been employed by the American Rescue Workers for six years. He began as a truck driver, at the age of 17, and now works full time at the church as the worship leader.
"I lead the musical portion of Sunday services, and YMAC (Youth Making A Change) each Tuesday," Tokay said.
He emphasized that, in comparison, the rescue workers' church stands out among so many because "there is a heavy focus on ministering to those who are in need in our community."
Transitioning away from the church structure of four walls and becoming the church - the body of Christ, is the American Rescue Workers' style of ministry.
"Ultimately, the desire of the ARW is that those who we come in contact with will fall in love with the person of Jesus Christ and be radically transformed by His message of grace and the Good News," Tokay said.
That service-focused perspective can be witnessed in the American Rescue Workers Community Church and also at its shelters and warehouse on Elmira Street.
Mike Kane, the men's program director and a Lycoming College graduate, is witness to the needs of the community on a first-hand basis.
"I screen applicants and coordinate admittance into our homeless shelters, primarily our men's shelters."
The majority of his day-to-day consists of providing support and guidance to the men through one-on-one meetings, programs, Bible studies and helping the residents to form good habits and find jobs so that, ultimately, they are able to re-enter society with housing and an income.
Kane is a young man who has a heart for the poor and the homeless, and it is evident in his work. He is creating and implementing classes that provide knowledge for the residents to establish and maintain healthy lifestyles: financially, physically, mentally and spiritually even after they have exited the program.
As a faith-based organization, the American Rescue Workers relies on donated goods, volunteerism, in-kind gifts and financial support contributed by the community. Donations are made to its warehouse on Elmira Street by way of individual drop-off at the building or truck drop-off locations, or by home pickup.
Items then are filtered through the warehouse and sorted to be sold in thrift stores, online or set aside to be sold in their charity auctions.
Aaron Tokay, Joe's brother, has been a truck driver with the rescue workers for more than a year and a YMAC leader for more than four years.
He spends his day driving one of the box trucks, picking up home donations and stocking thrift stores with the help of two residents. This gives him the opportunity to work alongside a few of the men and not only get his job done, but also share experiences and the task of keeping the ministry in active motion.
"It's about so much more than just a job, or even giving back to the community; it's actually being the hands and feet of God, doing His work, for His glory and His ultimate purpose," Aaron said.
Another area where there is a youth presence in the warehouse. Rachel Black, also a YMAC leader, has worked for the American Rescue Workers for nearly two years as a soft-lines sorter. When donations are made, or brought in by the trucks, the items are unloaded at the sorting floor and the sorting team goes to work. Soft-lines (clothing) and household items are separated and prepared for retail sale.
"I enjoy working here because of what the ARW represents," Black said. "I love being in a place that is resolved to show the love of Jesus in everything that happens. Whether it's what goes on at the church during worship on Sunday and YMAC on Tuesday night, in the warehouse, through the social service centers, or in the shelters, everything is centered around Jesus."
Black said her job is an extension of the church's ministry.
"Everyone works together to make sure that, in the long run, funds are made to keep money flowing back to this community through our homeless and hunger prevention programs," she said.
The American Rescue Workers' process is amazing because of the love and care it aims to provide through each of its outreach programs.
"The ARW has been good at what we do but we've recognized we're not always good at telling what we do," Astin said. "That is why we recently decided to hire a young personality to share what we're all about."
Kaylin Kane, the first marketing and public relations director, joined the ARW staff in December.
"Not long after I met Kaylin I realized I eventually wanted to offer her a position on our staff. She is a caring, creative and passionate professional, a recent graduate of Lycoming College and very qualified to fulfill the expectations of this new position and grow with the organization," Dawn Astin said.
Kane has been working on promotional material and articles that "bring the past, present and future of the American Rescue Workers to light."
"I feel so blessed to be a part of this development and to promote all of the positive work that the remarkable staff here have been working so hard at for years. The incredible part about this outreach is that our aim is to show the grace and the love that Christ taught to ALL individuals regardless of where they've been, to be love in the same way that God is love to each of us," Kaylin said.
American Rescue Workers make it a goal to provide unity within the community through its church, hunger and homeless prevention programs, and by providing selfless service to those who are in need. Its outreach is about faith and love in action - lots of action.
For more information, call 570-323-8401.