Gather the Spirit (GTS) is the brain child of a number of committed UCH members who devoted hours of service to form this community organization for the support of the Allison Hill neighborhood. GTS operated within UCH for a number of years, but is now formally its own independent 501c-3 non-profit organization. Many congregants know of GTS primarily through its community breakfast program, but it provides other forms of support as well, and has gathered a number of partners in an attempt to establish “common ground” among religious, community, and service organizations. Having provided the seeds of GTS—with a vision and mission explicitly in harmony with our Unitarian principle to “respect the worth and dignity of all people”—is one of the great success stories of our Church. GTS currently operates out of the Market Street campus, but with its own budget, and pays rent to UCH. The rental agreement calls for the incremental increase in rent to $500 within two years of its initial contract.
For a detailed history of the relationship between UCH and GTS, click here
For a detailed explanation of the mission, programs, and governance of GTS, click here
Gather The Spirit for Justice is an open-door center of hope and dignity that brings people together on common ground to strengthen community in Allison Hill.
GTS is a spirit-filled, non-religious organization that affirms the inherent worth and dignity of all people, regardless of their race, orientation, or employment status. Born out of long-standing local church programs, GTS became a separate non-profit organization in 2015. Its goal is to “create common ground” on Allison Hill: Common ground among neighbors and common ground across racial, religious, and socio-economic lines. Working in partnership with local businesses, faith-based and social organizations, social service agencies, and residents from Allison Hill and the greater Harrisburg area, GTS provides a warm, safe welcome to all who enter.
Programs include: the Common Ground Café and the Common Ground Community Center. Both programs currently take place at 1508 Market Street, Harrisburg, PA (in the lower level of the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg building).
Common Ground Café
Common Ground Café takes place on the second and last Saturday of each month from 9-11am. Not your traditional soup kitchen, The Café is set up as a restaurant, complete with menus and a greeter who helps guests find a seat. The Café offers a hot breakfast featuring eggs, sausage, grits, pancakes, and other seasonal items. Hot coffee is plentiful! Food is prepared on site, orders are taken and delivered by waiters, tables are bussed and reset, dishes washed, kids are offered craft activities and books to read or take home – all by volunteers from the Allison Hill neighborhood, area churches, as well as nearby businesses and organizations. All volunteers are encouraged to eat and visit with the guests, because our goal is all about building community.
In 2015, the Café served more than 5,000 meals.
Common Ground Community Center
The Common Ground Community Center is open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10:00 AM until 12:00 noon. The center is an all volunteer center. The center provides people with a safe respite from the stresses of the neighborhood, a light brunch (usually soup, bread, coffee, juice prepared by volunteers from the neighborhood), vouchers to obtain food from one of the local food pantries, a telephone, and bathrooms. Envelopes and stamps as well as photocopy and fax assistance are available. Personal hygiene items, including deodorant, oral hygiene products, soap, lotion, feminine hygiene products, razors, shampoo, – all donated by individuals and local churches – are available.
Funds are available once monthly for new State Identification cards, as well as replacement and renewal cards. A state ID is the most critical item needed for getting a job, obtaining government assistance, dealing with financial institutions, to name but a few.
The primary service provided at the center is a listening ear. Volunteers help folks with reading and understanding correspondence, bills, and other forms that confront them in their lives. Basic financial counseling is available – but not cash. Once weekly, a volunteer physical therapist helps “listen” to bodies that are under stress. Volunteers also help our neighbors with problems they are facing such as evictions, utility shut-offs, substance abuse, legal issues, housing, illiteracy, applying for government benefits, etc.
Neighbors and volunteers chat and laugh as they share food and stories, celebrating what makes us unique and discovering all the things we have in common. There is also time for serious conversations about what is happening on the Hill, in Harrisburg, around the country and in the world.
Neighbors and volunteers tell us that they value building relationships, making new friends and reconnecting with old ones, and being treated with respect, dignity and love. Neighbors and volunteers appreciate that they are genuinely needed to help with the work of the center. The Common Ground Community Center is their program. They help decide what happens there and what is needed in the future.
Attendance for 2015 was 660 guests per month.
GTS is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
The board includes across-section of local business people, Allison Hill residents, volunteers, and others with a passion for hope and dignity that brings people together on common ground to strengthen community in Allison Hill.
Board of Directors
Jeff Sigel, President
Clay Lambert, Vice President
Ann Van Dyke, Secretary
Ryan Tobin, Treasurer
Tom Conners, ex officio
- UCH Strategic Goals for 2010-2015, adopted by the congregation in 2010.
- Strategy 3: Establish a 501c(3) entity that is separate structurally from UCH.
- Legally incorporate and become recognized as a non-profit organization by the IRS and the commonwealth of PA
- Recruit a board of directors for the organization that includes members of UCH and the community
- Identify and apply for grants to support the various social justice and outreach programs planned for the MS campus.
- Gather the Spirit For Justice (subsequently referred to as “GTS”) legally incorporated as a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation; articles of incorporation filed September 20, 2010 with the Department of State by Suzanne Marsh.
- Frances Myers – recruited board of directors; GTS began to meet
- Current board of directors:
- Jeff Sigel, Pres
- Clay Lambert, VP
- Ann VanDyke, Secy
- Ryan Tobin, Tres
- Chuck Daley
- Wanda Givens
- Richard Gordon
- Tom Conners, ex officio
- GTS Board developed business plan, sought funding
- UCH provided: volunteers, facilities, some staff support, 1 share-the-plate each year
- GTS took over operation and funding of CCG and CGCC
- Began paying rent; entered into formal facilities agreement with UCH in January 2016, with rent increasing incrementally to $500/month over a two year period
- Separate office and storage space included
- Hired part-time administrator
- Website: Gather The Spirit