Women2Women - Winter 2018 - 9

"Let's reach out to each other and work
together. At the end of the day, we all
need each other, and we all benefit
when everyone is doing well."

population who face a great deal of uncertainty
and pressure.

position because she thinks she can - again
- make a difference.

"It can be difficult work, but at this point, I
can't imagine doing anything else. There are
many issues that need to be addressed and
problems that need to be solved."

She dreams of a residential facility for
teens and young adults who do not have
housing, or perhaps pairing them with
the families who are being housed by area
congregations to provide them with support
and structure. She dreams of funding that
would enable a conversion of blighted
properties through renovation projects to
address housing needs and create thriving

Chesson, who grew up in Montreal and
moved to Virginia after being married in
2001, does not back off from addressing issues
or championing the underdog. In fact, she
thrives on those challenges.
While working for the Lutheran Immigrant
and Refugee Services in Lancaster, Chesson
was bothered by the fact that refugees were
having trouble enrolling in the public
high school within the School District of
Instead, they often were directed toward
a privately run school that was populated
with students who presented severe disciplinary problems.
"These refugees would never ever get access
to a good education," Chesson said. "Someone
needed to speak up for them, so I did."
Her advocacy for immigrant students
resulted in legal action taken against the
School District of Lancaster. The matter
was eventually settled, and an agreement
approved by the school board in March
said that immigrant students would be
placed in a "Newcomer" program at the
district's main high school instead of the
alternative school.
"So, all of these kids now have a right to
free public education, as they should have all
along," Chesson said.
A resident of Exeter Township since 2007,
Chesson was drawn to the Family Promise

She dreams of a community in which
everyone has enough.
"We have a lot of really valuable programs in
Berks County, and people need to recognize
that they should get behind them and support
them," Elise said. "If we get big stakeholders
who really invest in their community, then
everyone benefits."
One of Chesson's major goals is to spread
the word about Family Promise of Berks
County and the work that it does.
So far in 2017, the program has provided
safe housing with congregations for 18 adults
and 42 children. Family Promise additionally
assists four or five families each month by
connecting them with jobs, donations of
furniture, food or other items; or financial

Staff members also work tirelessly behind
the scenes to connect families with other
organizations that may be able to provide
some type of assistance or direction.
"It's all about getting people connected and
talking," Chesson said. "We need to educate
people about where to go for various types of
help so they can get back on track."
Once someone has been educated and
directed toward the proper resources, he or
she has a chance of tackling whatever barriers
are standing in his or her path.
"And when people can do that, then they
can get back on their feet and start being
productive," Chesson said. "Our goal is to
enable change in someone, and then expect
that they'll enable change in someone else."
In coming years, Chesson would love to
see Berks Countians from all walks of life
come together to address issues that affect
the community.
It's her hunch that there are underused
community resources, and that more could
be done to support people who need help.
"If we come together, embrace our differences,
and recognize all the wealth and resources
that we have, right here, that's the point that
this area will start to turn around," Chesson
said. "And, that's something everyone would
benefit from."
Meanwhile, she remains hard at work with
the day-to-day operations of Family Promise,
all the while keeping her eye to the future
and her hopes high.
"My hope is that January will bring a
whole lot of new beginnings for Family
Promise," she said.

"It's all about getting people connected
and talking. We need to educate people
about where to go for various types of
help so they can get back on track."
berkswomen2women.com 9


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Women2Women - Winter 2018

Women2Women - Winter 2018 - 1
Women2Women - Winter 2018 - 2
Women2Women - Winter 2018 - 3
Women2Women - Winter 2018 - 4
Women2Women - Winter 2018 - 5
Women2Women - Winter 2018 - 6
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Women2Women - Winter 2018 - 9
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