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American Rescue Workers, Inc.
In 1934, the Rev. William Morehart started the Calvary Mission on E. Edwin Street in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The small mission grew and prospered, ministering to the needy in the Williamsport area. They opened a small Thrift Store which assisted with operating expenses. Sometime in the 1950's, due to ill health, Rev. Morehart turned the work over to Rev. Russell Pidcoe. In early 1959, Rev. Pidcoe met with the leaders of the American Rescue Workers, a national church/non-profit organization, headquartered in Philadelphia to discuss a possible merger of the Calvary Mission into the American Rescue Workers. Upon agreement of both parties, the Calvary Mission became an official "corps" of the American Rescue Workers, and Rev. Pidcoe was commissioned a Captain, and appointed officer-in-charge of the Williamsport Corps. One year later Captain Pidcoe was transferred to the American Rescue Workers, Baltimore, Maryland Corps. From 1960 to 1968 the following officers served the Williamsport Corps by appointment: Adjutant Albert Cooper Staff Captain Arthur Walker Captain Donald Haylett Captain Carl Campbell Colonel Alvah Deree As a result of so many staff changes, the work suffered and began to deteriorate. In 1968, Captain Catherine Purdy was named officer-in-charge, but was to work under the direction and supervision of Lt. Colonel Mary Fowler, who was the officer-in-charge of a successful work in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. The ministry began to grow and National Headquarters sent Adjutant and Mrs. Charles Dederick to assist Captain Purdy. A large double-sided red brick home at 421 Lycoming Street was purchased and consisted of a 2nd floor homeless shelter for approximately 7 men, kitchen, dining room, chapel and small officer apartment on the third floor. In 1969 Captain Purdy resigned and Adjutant and Mrs. Dederick were named officers-in-charge of the work, with Colonel Fowler still serving in an advisory capacity. She later stepped down as the ministry flourished, a local executive advisory board was formed, additional thrift stores on Walnut Street, Fourth Street and in Newberry were opened for financial support, an industrial warehouse was obtained for processing and distributing donations within the community. A parsonage was purchased at 931 E. Third Street, and later sold and bought property at 950 Sheridan Street where it is currently located. The corps facility (raised to make way for the new Williamsport Fire Department) relocated to a large church building at the corner of Ross and Packer Streets, formerly St. John's Reformed Church. The congregation of this church (St. John's Reformed) merged with another and built a brand-new church on the corner of Basin and Third Street, now know as the United Covenant Church of Christ. The Dederick's moved ahead in rank in the organization for many years of service and success. The Williamsport American Rescue Workers' annual operating budget had grown in excess of $350,000. Charles and Barbara Dederick had moved into the rank of Colonel and Charles had been appointed as Editor-in-Chief of the organization's publication "The Rescue Herald" and also served as National Youth Director for several years. In 1980 Colonel and Mrs. Dederick were transferred to spear-head the revitalization of the corps in Buffalo, New York. Captain and Mrs. Claude Astin, Jr. were named officers-in-charge of the Williamsport Corps in August 1980, transferring here from Washington, D.C. Corps, where they were industrial directors. The 80's and 90's were years of growth for the ministry. Thrift Stores were opened, a new administration/industrial building was purchased on 643 Elmira Street (formerly the Lowry Electric Company) and thereby doubled the capacity for residency in the Men's Rehabilitation Center. A 24 bed Women & Children's Center was opened at the church location. Over $600,000 was invested into a capital campaign preparing the way for these new programs that would afford hundreds of men and women an opportunity for change in their life. A full-time Social Service Director was hired to address the emergency needs of struggling individuals and families in low to moderate income levels. The Love Center (soup kitchen and social service office) was opened in the neighboring town of Jersey Shore. A full-time Pastor was hired and the church ministries operated much like any other evangelical Christian church - offering Christian Education, Worship Services, Bible Studies and Youth Outreach. Major Claude Astin, Jr. was appointed Chief-of-Staff, a national position that assists the Commander-in-Chief with administrative duties within the organization. He was appointed the rank of Colonel and served in this capacity until 1996 when he, himself was voted as General of the National organization at a Grand Field Council held in Newark, New Jersey. General Astin then appointed Williamsport Corps to his son and daughter-in-law who had worked with him from the beginning of his move to the city. Colonels Sam & Dawn Astin became Commanding Officers in November 1996 and began some challenging updates and modernizations in the industrial department, church ministry, social services and shelter programs. American Rescue Workers Willimasport CorpsToday the Williamsport American Rescue Workers is a vibrant and thriving presence in this city, offering help to those who find themselves in destitute situations, unable to provide or maintain the basics of life; food, clothing and shelter. The Williamsport Corps employs 72 individuals, has an active executive advisory board of 10 professionals and a ladies auxiliary of approximately 23 members. Its annual operating budget now exceeds $2.2 million dollars. The ministry and business of the corps is not only governed by its commanding officers and local advisory board, but also that of its National Headquarters and a National Board of Managers.
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