Partnership brings veterans hub to Hazleton (via Standard-Speaker)

March 22, 2021

By Sam Galski | Standard-Speaker (Hazleton, PA)

Mar. 20—A nonprofit that works to provide affordable homes and employment opportunities for veterans and others in need will open an office Monday in Hazleton at the former family home of Los Angeles Angels Manager Joe Maddon.

We Agape You, a group that assists veterans, recently partnered with Maddon’s Respect 90 Foundation to revitalize neighborhoods by employing veterans and rehabilitate distressed properties throughout the Hazleton area.

The Maddons donated their former family home at 163 N. Church St. for a headquarters for We Agape You. The Rev. Randolph Simmons created the organization 10 years ago to serve as a food pantry for veterans before redirecting its focus on employment and housing needs in Luzerne, Berks and Schuylkill counties.

Simmons, who serves as president of the nonprofit We Agape You, said he’s thrilled with the partnership.

“We are so grateful to the Maddons,” he said. “It is a beautiful home and will allow everyone here to feel at ease. It will be family helping family … God’s family.”

The city zoning board Thursday granted a special exception for We Agape You to operate a “community hub,” or office, from the home. Approval is contingent on the nonprofit limiting use of the facility as an office, as well as Simmons getting a consent letter from the Maddons.

Officials don’t anticipate any issues with Simmons getting the letter, city Zoning Officer Charles Pedri said.

Jaye Maddon also shared her enthusiasm for the new partnership in a news release that Respect 90 Foundation issued Thursday.

“We are so fortunate to be able to help We Agape You and Reverend Simmons being such a positive growth opportunity to Hazleton,” Jaye Maddon said. “We believe we could not have found a better partner to utilize and care for this lovely home.”

Simmons said he plans to get to work immediately, as a ribbon cutting and opening is tentatively planned for Monday.

The ultimate goal, Simmons said, is to decrease the suicide rate among veterans.

“We want to really come up there and see what we can do for our heroes,” he said.

Simmons said he was drawn to Hazleton partly because of its diverse makeup and because of the number of blighted properties that his program can put to use.

“It’s a beautiful little area and has so much potential,” he said. “It’s a lot different than Schuylkill and Lebanon counties. It’s like a little New York. The people, they are very receptive to us. A lot of businesses reached out to us (to help). We’re excited. We want to get up there.”

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Contact the writer: sgalski@standardspeaker.com; 570-501-3586