Mike's Letter

Dear friends of Tabor,

I am Mike McKenna, Tabor’s new President since October. I wanted an opportunity to share a bit about who I am, and why our work resonates deeply within me.

My journey to a career in service to others began a long time ago. My parents brought my sisters and me to serve dinner at St. Columba shelter in Philadelphia when I was in elementary school. I had a chance to connect with a gentleman named Carlos who taught us how to spin a quarter. That connection has stuck with me, and I felt the need to understand the why and how behind things like hunger, homelessness, and poverty. When I was 16 my classmates and I spent a retreat at the Romero Center in Camden, New Jersey, one of the state’s poorest cities. We spent time volunteering at different organizations and reflecting about key challenges facing the community, like blighted housing and high school drop-out rates. On our first night we were asked to form a “family” of 4 and shop on a budget consistent with the average benefit for food stamps. We were young and not the best planners – for the next day we ate fluff and peanut butter on white bread and powdered donuts.

But the shopping trip demonstrated to me how hard it can be to eat healthy on a very limited budget. When we returned to the campus of my suburban prep school, I had a swim meet. The mothers’ club put on a spread for the team afterwards, and I was struck by the sheer abundance.

That juxtaposition has stuck with me. I knew then and I know now we have to do better as a society to ensure the access to real opportunity to get ahead is not decided purely by zip codes.

So what does that experience way back in high school have to do with my work at Tabor? A few things.

  • First, I think reflection is a critical component of leadership, especially in this era of rapid news cycles and instant outrage. Many years later, I’m still learning from that experience in Camden and others like it, and it’s making me a more thoughtful, empathetic leader today.

  • Second, I understand that issues like homelessness and economic mobility are incredibly complex. So our actions at Tabor should be informed by the best available data but also be tailored to the unique needs and circumstances of each person who seeks our support. We are offering that chance for people to change the trajectory of their lives by acquiring new skills and confidence in their abilities to direct their housing and financial futures.

In my brief time at the helm of the organization, I have seen the extraordinary dedication of our team of staff and super-volunteers to strengthen our Lancaster County community. The compassion and empowerment we offer each program participant has translated into some very impressive results:

  • 81% of families and 92% of veterans at TLC moving into permanent housing;

  • 100% of mothers reunited with their children at Beth Shalom;

  • 116 people keeping their homes thanks to foreclosure prevention assistance; and

  • More than 300 people securing permanent rental housing.

I pledge to build on that success over our storied fifty year history. I know we will have continued success in moving people from homeless to home, from struggling financially to investing in others. I am honored to be part of the work of Tabor. I pray that I may be worthy of the task of leadership before me. I welcome the opportunity to get to know you, our steadfast supporters. Thank you for making our service to others possible. Feel free to reach out to me at mmckenna@tabornet.org or by phone at 717-358-9260.

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