York City church's works go beyond preaching


From the outside, it still just looks like the modest church where Pastor Anthony Sease began building a congregation about a decade ago.

But inside, New Covenant Community Church at 701 W. King St. in York City is bustling with the activities of a community center Sease pledged in 2012 to create.

Today, he's calling it the Life Center.

The building houses a free health clinic, a food pantry, a kitchen that cooks meals daily for York City kids and an office for a new magazine focused on positive community news.

Health and jobs: The clinic, which opened inside the Life Center in early 2013, is a project of other York County churches that collaborated to address health care needs in York City's west end.

The general-practice clinic offers affordable — free, if necessary — medical care to the uninsured and underinsured.

The Life Center also manages a halfway house next door for men transitioning from prison. The nine men who live there receive help finding jobs.

The close proximity to the center deters trouble from spilling into the neighborhood, Sease said.

"We don't allow people hanging out there," he said. "We even make them smoke on the back porch."

Serving kids: Last November, the center's 20-person kitchen staff started making about 1,000 meals per day to serve during after-school programs at eight York City schools. The cost of the meals is reimbursed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Sease said.

To accommodate that volume of activity, the center updated its kitchen with stainless-steel countertops and new sinks, refrigerators and ovens.

Sease said plans are also in the works for a dry-cleaning drop-off site and a day care center serving parents who work a second shift.

"There are a lot of day cares (in York)," Sease said. "But there are no second-shift day cares."

The overall goal, Sease said, is to "bring to the community what it needs."

The food truck parked on West King Street is another example of the ongoing experiment. Sease, a former restaurant owner, said he bought it recently with plans to generate a little income for the center.

Still a church: Three years ago, city zoning officials approved the church building's expansion for use beyond worship, which still happens each Sunday.

In fact, it's the New Covenant congregation that is paying the full cost of the food pantry that supports about 75 families per month.

Sease said worshippers collectively donate a few thousand dollars each month to stock the pantry with crucial home supplies.

"We give away everything from paper products to fresh produce to frozen meat," said Cecelia Harris, the center's kitchen manager.

On the fourth Friday of each month between 10 a.m. and noon, people line up around the block for the monthly grocery distribution, Sease said.

The Life Center purchases the food and other products at a discounted price from the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and the Sysco company.

On the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, the center also serves a free breakfast from 8 to 11 a.m.

For more information about the Life Center, call (717) 845-3440.

— Reach Erin James at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.