The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

April 28, 2013

Making a difference: Community benefits from nonprofits

Kelly Urban

JOHNSTOWN — Local nonprofits are working to make the area a better and more productive place by offering programs and services designed to meet the needs of individuals and the community.

New Day Inc.

New Day Inc., a Christian ministry for at-risk children, youth and families, was founded in 1978 by the Rev. Noah Martin when he was a pastor at Grove Avenue United Methodist Church. He saw a need for a ministry for at-risk youth and established a mentorship program in the basement of his home.

As the program grew to include counseling services, New Day moved into space at the Methodist church and then into rented space in downtown Johnstown.

By 1980, it moved into its current location on South Street in the Kernville section of Johnstown. The original property was torn down and in 2000, a $1.2 million facility was constructed.

“The main thrust of our ministry is individual, marriage and family counseling from a Christian perspective, and the rest of the ministry was built up from that,” said Jack Rupert, executive director, who started working with the organization in 1979 and has served in the top position for 11 years.

Along with counseling, New Day offers summer camps, parenting classes, after-school programs and activities for children in first grade through high school, homework helpers and Thanksgiving and Christmas help to families.

“We are hands-on with the youth ministry,” Rupert said. “With the gym we have we are able to hold sports programs like basketball and form teams and leagues, so the idea is to have competition but also teamwork.”

New Day also has a branch in Windber located in the Community Building on Graham Avenue.

“It’s a great area to have activities for the kids who come after school to hang out and it keeps them off the streets,” Rupert said.

In addition, it started a ministry in which volunteers go into Somerset County Jail and the Twin Lakes Center, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility, to conduct Bible studies.

“We’ve been doing this for 25 years and have received good support with it,” Rupert said.

Last year, New Day saw 436 people seeking some type of counseling service.

“When we started there were hardly any nonprofits offering these services, and now you see a good number and that’s great for the area because it is much needed,” Rupert said.

There are nine employees on staff, three full time and nine part time, and a slew of volunteers who assist with programs.

“We add to staff in the summer because of the camps, but we love to have volunteers because it does take the pressure off staff,” Rupert said.

New Day does not receive any state or federal money and relies on individuals, churches and church groups, civic and social organizations and business and industry for funding.

“Funds come from people who believe in the ministry and from families we have helped who want to support us,” Rupert said. “It’s gratifying to see people still support this organization.”

Rupert said as long as there is a need for the New Day services, they will be there to provide assistance.

“God has always provided. It’s like a family here and we take care of each other,” he said.

SOS Secret Santa

The newly formed SOS Secret Santa of Somerset and Surrounding Areas became a registered nonprofit in December and its mission is to deliver smiles and holiday cheer to neighbors in need.

But it is different from organizations that only give toys to children at Christmas in that it includes hospice patients, elderly, disabled, homeless and those who are homebound. It is not income based and considers itself a hardship based organization.

“We want to provide smiles to the elderly man down the street who has money for Christmas but has no family or friends to share it with,” said Ruth Baer, co-founder of the organization. “We want to deliver smiles to those who work day and night but just can’t seem to get ahead or to a young family who are just starting out and live paycheck to paycheck.”

Throughout the year, a group of 35 active volunteers collect used coats, blankets, clothing and toys that are in good condition to be distributed to people over the holidays.

Baer was inspired to start SOS because as a child her family would help people during the holiday season and she wanted to keep the tradition going.

She, along with co-founder Tammy Bailey, created a Facebook page for the group and were overwhelmed at the response from people suggesting individuals and families to help.

“I thought there is no reason why we can’t help more people, and we can do this if everyone is willing to work together,” Baer said. “We’re busy fundraising to help attain the funds to reach our personal goal of touching the lives of 2,013 members of our community this year.”

To help manage incoming donations, SOS established a fund in January through the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies.

There are no paid employees and it relies completely on donations from the community.

Members were out promoting the group at the Meyersdale Maple Festival that was held at the end of March and will be holding a basket party at 1:30 p.m. May 5 at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Somerset.

“All the money we’ve raised so far is through solicitation,” Baer said.

The group meets the first Tuesday of every month at different locations to accommodate more people.

“The community has really stepped up and supported us, and we have more projects in the works for summer,” Baer said.

Up next is to find a “Santa’s Workshop,” a building the organization can call home. Currently, Baer runs the operation from her Somerset home.

“It would be a place to keep donations safe and organized, somewhere where we can collect, sort, wrap and distribute the items,” Baer said.

The goal is to continue to grow the organization and see it go on indefinitely.

“To see it come to where it is now in such a short amount of time tells me we can expand to help more people in Somerset and Cambria counties and even expand farther,” Baer said.

Donations may be made through the Community Foundation at, but online users are asked to note it’s for SOS Secret Santa.

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