Diakonia 50th Celebration Planned

OCEAN CITY – A local nonprofit dedicated to helping homeless individuals and families is celebrating 50 years of service to the community with a 70s-themed party.

On Nov. 4, Diakonia will hold its 50th anniversary celebration at Seacrets’ Morley Hall. Community members are invited to join for a night of live music, food, drinks and fun.

“The evening will serve as a milestone that recognizes the vision and mission of those who’ve blazed a trail through five decades while still igniting passion and investment in new and ‘out-of-the-box’ solutions to homelessness for the future …,” said Ken Argot, Diakonia’s executive director. “All the proceeds of this event go back into providing help for today and hope for tomorrow for our community’s most vulnerable populations.”

In 1972, the Allegheny Mennonite Conference established a Boardwalk ministry in Ocean City, connecting with homeless youth by patrolling the Boardwalk at night. And by 1973, the group purchased a shelter home in West Ocean City to care for the area’s homeless residents. Referrals came from police, social service departments and various members of the local faith community.

Homelessness continued to grow, however, and by 1981 the group began offering year-round assistance as it transitioned from a church-based ministry to a community-based mission. Diakonia was incorporated in 1986 as a 501c3 nonprofit organization, and the following year it purchased the shelter from the Allegheny Mennonite Conference.

Argot said Diakonia has seen tremendous growth in recent decades. In 2001, for example, the nonprofit completed housing units for those transitioning from emergency shelter to permanent housing. And in 2013, the organization entered into an agreement with the Veterans Administration to provide wraparound services to homeless veterans. Today, Diakonia offers men, women, families and veterans emergency shelter, eviction prevention assistance, food pantry provisions, intensive case management and much more.

“Everyone who walks through that iconic blue door we recognize – not as someone who is deficient, but rather as a person holding extremely intrinsic value – something to contribute to our community that has seemingly been lost due to a myriad of difficulties,” Argot said. “We are deeply humbled and privileged to be part of helping people rewrite their stories for 50 years – whether a veteran or a non-veteran, we see all our people as heroes.”

But Diakonia’s efforts don’t stop there, Argot said. Earlier this year, in the midst of a severe housing crisis, Diakonia announced a five-year plan to build 42 affordable living units on a new campus along Route 611. While the current Diakonia property will remain as an emergency shelter, the organization’s thrift store, food pantry, and administrative offices will all relocated to the new property to create a one-stop shop for those in need and for those who wish to help.

“Affordable housing remains the largest barrier to housing, and it is our hope to provide more solutions in the future,” Argot said.

Diakonia’s 50th anniversary celebration will be held Friday, Nov. 4 from 5:30-9 p.m. at Seacrets’ Morley Hall. The celebration begins with local classic rock band Tranzfusion taking the stage at 6 p.m. The evening will also feature a 70s fashion competition, money boards and auction items.

“The climax of the event, however, will be an unveiling of the concept for the new 611 campus as we envision the future together,” Argot said.

Tickets are $125 per person and can be purchased on Diakonia’s website, diakoniaoc.org. Tickets include heavy appetizers, two drink tickets and a night of entertainment. The event is made possible thanks to the generous donations of title sponsor, Belfast Valley Contractors, along with the Gudelsky Group and the Bank of Ocean City. Event sponsors are Richard Osborne Family and Lew Bush in Memory of Betty Bush.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.