Oxford Area Neighborhood Services Center welcomes new executive director
By Steven Hoffman
Rachel Lebus is the new executive director of the Oxford Area Neighborhood Services Center.
Lebus joined the nonprofit organization in Oxford at the end of April, taking over for Krys Sipple, who served as the interim executive director for over a year.
“I was really ready for this challenge,” said Lebus. She explained that she learned that the Neighborhood Services Center was seeking a new leader from the pastor at her church. Redemption Community Church pastor Billy Levengood serves on the board of the Oxford Area Neighborhood Services Center so she was already very familiar with the organization and its core mission of providing assistance to local residents in need.
Since the Oxford Area Neighborhood Services Center was founded on Nov. 1, 1971, tens of thousands of area families in the southern part of the county have been helped by its programs and services. The organization offers help for local residents who are struggling to meet their basic needs, including the need for food, shelter, and clothing.
One major initiative for the Neighborhood Services Center is a food cupboard that collects—and then distributes—canned goods and non-perishable items that are donated by individuals, churches, and community groups. Diapers, personal care items, household cleaning supplies and paper products are also provided to people who need them. Each month, the Neighborhood Services Center provides food and other supplies to more than 1,500 clients, on average.
The Neighborhood Services Center’s staff also runs an information and referral program that assists individuals in accessing the many health and human services that are available. This is important because many people might be unaware of the assistance that is available to them, or might not have a way to get connected to those resources on their own.
Information is power, as the saying goes, and that might be even more true now, when so many residents have been hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic shutdown. The staff is specifically trained to provide the information and resources that will be helpful to local residents in need.
“A lot of people that we serve may not be aware of some of their rights,” Lebus explained, illustrating the point by noting that some people might not know their rights during the stay on evictions that was ordered during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Neighborhood Services Center provides space for community agencies like the Crime Victims Center, Family Services of Chester County, and the Maternal and Child Health Consortium of Chester County so that they can provide direct assistance to residents in the southern part of the county. Dozens of families are connected with these resources each month.
Additionally, the Neighborhood Services Center utilizes funding from the United Way of Southern Chester County, several private foundations, and donations from individuals to offer emergency monetary assistance to pre-screened, income-eligible individuals who are struggling to pay for housing, utilities, and health care.
Another Neighborhood Services Center initiative is providing winter coats for children and collecting clothing for those in need.
Lebus said that she’s very pleased to be working for an organization that not only aims to help those in critical need, but also plays a vital role in strengthening the Oxford community as a whole. She brings varied professional and personal experiences to her new role as the executive director of the Neighborhood Services Center.
She was born in Alaska, and grew up in Michigan. She has lived in the Philadelphia area since 2005. She majored in psychology in college, and went on to complete her work on a master’s degree in urban community development from Eastern University in 2018. Before joining the Neighborhood Services Center, she worked for eight years at Keystone Autism Services, which provides services and support for adults with autism. Lebus worked in the Exton office of Keystone Autism Services and some of that work involved clients from the Oxford community. She also attends church in Oxford, so she is already fairly familiar with the town and its residents. She said that she and her husband are planning to move to the Oxford area soon.
“Oxford is such a great community where people really take care of each other,” she said. During her first few weeks on the job, she has worked hard to meet as many community leaders and local residents as she can.
Lebus said that collaboration is extremely important for an organization like the Oxford Area Neighborhood Services Center, and one of her goals is to strengthen the partnerships with groups like SILO and the Lighthouse Youth Center. She also wants to build broader support by establishing relationships with more community groups and churches in the area.
Right now, there are fortunately a lot of different efforts underway to provide food and other support to individuals and families who have been hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. But at some point, those efforts will end, leaving organizations like the Oxford Area Neighborhood Services Center to provide the important help that southern Chester County residents need during times of struggle.
Part of the mission, and now part of Lebus’s job, is getting the word out about what the Oxford Area Neighborhood Services Center can do to provide assistance.
“We want to make sure that people are aware that we are here to help,” Lebus said.