Success Stories

St. Marys Swimming Pool-

My name is Tayler Gnan and I am currently a lifeguard at the Saint Marys Community Pool. This upcoming year will be my fourth year working at the pool and in those years, I have been given many opportunities to make a difference within the community but the one that means the most to me is the little boy I privately worked with at swim lessons.

When he was little he suffered a stroke in his brain which left his left arm to be somewhat paralyzed. Since his stroke, he must go through countless hours of therapy to try to regain motion in his left arm. He loves swimming so much that his parents thought swim lessons would be a good idea to hopefully help him regain motion and get him to eventually swim safely without a life jacket on.

When we first met was in level one during my second year of working at the pool. He was a little nervous about swimming with other kids and often got a bit upset so we would go off on our own sometimes and practice blowing bubbles and floating on our front and back. My first year working with him showed little progress in the swimming part but a lot of practice becoming comfortable with me as his friend and teacher to increase progress in the pool the next summer.

The following summer he was more comfortable with me and we began to see a lot more progress in the pool. Most nights, when it wasn’t too cold, did a lot more within the pool. We started the session blowing bubbles, got to the point where he was holding onto the wall and dunking his head, played a few rounds of “what time is it Mr. fox” with the other kids, and ended with going down the slide. Not only was I seeing progress but so were his parents and therapists. These were all huge accomplishments for him and really helped me realize that we do make a difference in children’s lives. Every child I teach in lessons or help while lifeguarding I treat the same way I did with him because they deserve the best and that’s what we need to give them to be safe and have fun while doing it.

Guardian Angels Center

It was the very busy “Back to School” time at Guardian Angel. One of the families there included two (2) teen-age daughters. They were following the regular routine which includes selection of used clothing – then new sneakers and finally two new outfits. At this point they were getting sneakers. As they were being fitted, they offered the information that they were both members of their high school marching band. They also shared that they were required to have sneakers (new and a specific color) if they expected to march with the band. They went on to say that this was the FIRST time they had ever had NEW sneakers! Once again Guardian Angel has an unexpected positive impact – these girls were able to participate in marching band because Guardian Angel provided them with the appropriate sneakers! They also shared that they both hope to go on to college!

I am a volunteer at the Guardian Angel Center in Kersey, PA. The Center provides infants and children with new and “gently used clothing”. The family must qualify financially with the most common qualifier being an EBT card – known as food stamps. One of my jobs at the Center is to receive clients, verify the number of members of the family, the birthdates of the children and document the income information. In the process of collecting this confidential information I sometimes learn information about the family that is either so bizarre or so sad that it seems unbelievable. During one recent day of collecting this data I learned of the following information about those who were visiting the Center. I share this information as evidence that there are very needy children and families that are served by the Guardian Angel Center. Samples of information:

  1. The last time I was here (at the Guardian Angel Center), I was homeless. I was living (with my two children) in my car.
  2. My son was killed in an auto accident. His widow and their child has recently moved in with her parents. Can I get clothes for my grandchild?
  3. My daughter will be coming home from college next week. She is pregnant and due early next month. She and the baby’s father will be living with us for the summer and then they plan to return to college to finish their education. Can I get clothes for my unborn grandchild? They have nothing for the baby which will be born in less than a month.
  4. We are a family of five. I am a ‘’stay-at-home” mom and my husband works full-time. We live on an income of $21,500 annually. Guardian Angel Center really helps us to take care of our children.
  5. I am going to graduate from high school next month (June). I had a baby in October 2015. Can I get clothing for my baby and for myself? This is undeniable evidence that the Guardian Angel Center “makes a difference.”


 Dickinson Center Inc. ~ Crossroads Partial Hospitalization Program

“Molly” came to Crossroads following psychiatric hospitalization due to suicidal thoughts. She experienced symptoms of depression and anxiety and did not feel good about herself. Molly was able to participate in group therapy, individual therapy and family therapy while at Crossroads. She was also able to participate in an academic setting, where a special education teacher and teacher’s aide supported her in completing assignments sent from her home school district.

Molly participated in treatment at Crossroads for less than six months and during this time was able to learn to recognize triggers to both her anxiety and depression. She worked with her primary therapist to change her negative thoughts of herself and be more comfortable with who she is. Molly also was able to become more assertive about her feelings and less anxious in larger settings (such as her school).

Molly successfully returned to her school and has maintained all of the progress she made. She has joined extracurricular activities and is able to attend social events without experience debilitating anxiety. She successfully completed the school year with above average grades and looks forward to a new school year.


Taken from a letter written by a victim to CAPSEA, Inc. Staff:

“I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you are doing for me. For the first time in my life I feel safe, secure, and cared about, and most of all I feel wanted! I am so grateful for you giving me the confidence in myself to have the courage and strength to break the cycle of negativity, abuse, and neglect. You are changing the world, even if only one battered abused or neglected woman or child at a time, you ARE changing lives, BE PROUD!”

From July 2015 to date, the CAPSEA, Inc. shelter has provided safety and security for 92 adults and children and a total of 880 shelter nights. Families have comfortable living space; receive counseling, support, information/referrals along with other services needed to transition them into independent lives free from violence. The shelter is equipped with a comprehensive security camera system, burglar alarm system and fire alarm system. St. Marys United Way funding helps to pay for ongoing shelter maintenance, telephone/utilities and other day to day needs. CAPSEA, Inc. opened up the, “Donation Center” within the last year that not only provides donated clothing, furniture, household needs, cleaning supplies, etc. to shelter guests, but anyone in need of some extra help throughout Elk and Cameron counties. Funding from St. Marys Area United Way ensures that the CAPSEA, Inc. emergency shelter remains secure and ready when needed.

 Alcohol & Drug Abuse Services

From a drug counselor:
I completed an evaluation on a gentleman who had been drinking for many years and received a DUI.  He was very upset and ashamed that it had happened, but was open to doing whatever necessary to help him quit drinking.  He was recommended to attend outpatient treatment and throughout the course of treatment, he was able to achieve sobriety.  He attended AA meetings, got a sponsor and was doing all the right things.  He completed outpatient treatment with success and went on his way.  Once treatment is completed, many times we don’t know the status of those that we treat.  Months passed by and I ran into this gentleman walking down the street and he stopped me and thanked me over and over again for helping him quit drinking and he couldn’t say enough about ADAS, Inc. and the treatment that he received.

I have a success story to share with you in regards to a St. Mary’s gentleman calling our office for help.  He was drunk when he called and continued drinking as we talked.  Even though he had been drinking, I could tell he needed help fast.  I spoke with him for almost an hour and asked him if I could call the next day to check up on him.  When I called, he was very glad that I did call and that he didn’t know what to do.  So I spoke with him at length about his drinking and how he could get help, but he just wasn’t sure he was ready for that yet.  I encouraged him to call the AA hotline and speak with someone, which he did.  He also called a local hospital about getting in but still wasn’t sure he wanted to do that.  I talked with him a couple days later when he called and he said he just needs someone to talk to.  I spoke with him for another hour and encouraged him to talk with his brother, whom he felt comfortable talking to, and he agreed that he should do that.  When I spoke with him again the next day, he had called his brother and I was able to talk him into at least making an appointment with our case manager to talk and assess his needs.  He was willing to do this and he attended that appointment.  Between the case manager and myself, we were able to get this gentleman to go to detox on his own account and upon his release, he called me and told me that he was glad he went.  A couple days later, he called to update me and he stated that he had not drank since going to detox.

After spending almost 4 hours on the phone with this gentleman, he was able to make the decision on his own to get help and go to detox…to me…that is a success.

 St. Marys Public Library

From a resident of Fox Township:

“Our library is a resource that encourages reading all year, not just an academic school year!  I grew up utilizing my hometown public library, and am very fortunate to live now in a township that reimburses residents who take advantage of its neighboring city’s public library.  From storytime to summer reading programs, my children are growing up with our public library and enjoying all it has to offer.  I was devastated to learn of the decline in services and neglect of my own hometown library.  When visiting my parents, I planned a trip to the library with my children…it was sad.  I believe this was a reflection of the economy, and it showed a lack of interest in the community.  The success of a community can be seen in the investment it makes in their residence…the future!”

Computer Use at the St. Marys Public Library:

The St. Marys Public Library has 15 computers available for the community to use.  Last year, the library had 8,268 uses of our computers.  The library also offers free wi-fi for people wanting to use their own devices.  Our computers are used by people looking and applying for jobs, filing taxes, applying for health insurance or benefits, staying in touch with their friends and families, and working on school projects.  We received the following thank you note for providing these services to the St. Marys community.

“I have been homeless, in every sense of the word for the last month.  I have been living out of my truck. The Humane Society agreed to take my dog for two weeks because it’s been too cold for him to stay in the truck with me.  Thank you for the free use of your computers and internet.  By using them I was able to find a rental and co-ordinate my move. I get the keys to my new place tonight.  The other services that are in the community that should have been available to me were not, because I was told that I have too much income for assistance.  Thank you for your services.”

St. Marys Boys & Girls Club

One story that sticks out in my mind is that recently a parent came up to me and said just how happy they are that we have such a great place in our community for their child to go.  They spoke of how their child has had some difficulties in the past in regards to social interaction but now their child wants to come down here all the time because they love everything that the Club has to offer them.  They stated that they have seen such improvement in their child’s social interactions and they feel this is largely due to them having the opportunity to utilize everything that the Boys and Girls Club of St. Marys has to offer.  This child gets their homework done during our Power Hour Homework Club time, participates in leisure activities by interacting with others in the game rooms, and this child loves to get up into the gymnasium and play.  We are a very proud group of staff when we hear stories like this and we will continue to be a unique and great asset to our community.  The Club changes lives in our community and we are pleased it is changing the life of this child.  –John Benjamin, Executive Director


A  letter sent to a benefactor from the Guardian Angels Center volunteers.

Since the events of yesterday afternoon at the Guardian Angel I have been thinking about your generosity and all of our benefactors.  Yesterday was the last day that the Guardian Angel Center will be open before Christmas.  It was a fairly busy day with a number of families coming to the Center seeking assistance in securing clothing for their children.  Most of the day was routine with a few families who had unique needs related to the cold weather and the upcoming holidays.

It was 4:40 P.M., just twenty minutes before closing.  It had been a long day!  Most of the volunteers had been at the Center since before 10 A.M.  The volunteers were anxious to get home.  It was a cold and dreary day.  It had snowed earlier in the day – without accumulation and now it was raining.  It is nearly dark outside and everyone was looking forward to the end of the day.

Through the door came a mother with several children.  It was obvious by her demeanor that she had not been to Guardian Angel previously.  She approached the check-in desk cautiously, indicating that she was new to the Center and had driven some distance to come here.  The children stood quietly, eyes down as she presented her documentation and demographic information.  The children were elementary school ages and scantily clad in clean but well-worn clothing.  One child came with no jacket.  One wore shoes that were sizes too large.

What happened over the next forty-five minutes was the epitome of the existence of Guardian Angel Center.  Each child was assisted by a volunteer.  They selected shirts and pants and new socks and underwear.  There were new winter jackets for all.  There were hats and gloves – even a spare pair of gloves for each.  Each child got new sneakers and winter boots.  There were books for reading and stuffed animals for each.  When it was time for check-out, each child had a new wardrobe.

This was the perfect way to end the holiday season as Guardian Angel – helping a family to have the basic needs for warmth and personal pride in self.  This family happened to be from your community but it could have been anybody.  It was a family in need with children who were cooperative, polite and so appreciative.  Thanks so much to you and all of our benefactors for making this all possible!