Newsmaker Q&A: Denise Esser, Director of Waynesboro Community and Human Services

By Nancy Mace

November 05. 2012 1:30PM

Denise Esser believes she is called to help others.
Denise Esser
Denise Esser

Denise Claire Esser believes she is called to help others and this year she assumed the leadership of Waynesboro Community and Human Services. She says the best part of her job in being able to assist an individual or family in need whether it be by paying a bill, giving them a food box or finding clothing, coat or shoes that they need.



Husband — The Honorable John Esser

Daughter — Megan Knepper and husband, Rodger Knepper and their four children, Rylee, Hannah, Eric and Jack live in Waynesboro.

Son, the Rev. Nathan Esser and wife Jenne and their three children, Bradley, Bryson and Brenton, live in Mars, Pa.

Chocolate Lab, Annie, I found her abandoned when she was 12 weeks old in a park where I used to walk in Tennessee.

Graduated from North Hunterdon Regional High School, Annandale, N.J. Attended one and a half years of college at Waynesburg College. I married my husband in December of my second year at college. He was in the military stationed at Homestead AFB. I planned to finish college in Homestead, Fla., but the Army sent John off to school at Fort Bliss, Texas, as I was beginning to register for classes. I was fortunate to be able to travel with him so school plans for me were set aside. The rest of my education has been life experiences, training at the different jobs I've held and moving with my husband during his military and civil service. 

Fairmount, N.J.

Current town: 
Mont Alto 

Reading, gardening, sewing, baking, walking — all of these activities are even more enjoyable to me when I get to do them with my grandchildren.

Work experience:

I served as coordinator of Waynesboro Area Human Services Council from April 30, 2001, through February of 2005, when my husband took a job at Fort Campbell, Ky. After my husband retired, we returned to Waynesboro. I worked several years at Paul's Country Market in the greenhouse and then at Franklin County Library System as Book Buggy manager.

In April of this year, Greg Duffey, vice president of the board of Waynesboro Community and Human Services, contacted me to see if I would be interested in applying for the director position of WCHS because Jane Birt was ready to retire. I met with members of the personnel committee several times before being offered and accepting the position. I ultimately decided to return to human services because my "call" has always been to be of service to people. I truly loved my position as Book Buggy manager but felt that God was leading me back to WCHS.
Waynesboro Community and Human Services is the result of Waynesboro Community Services and Waynesboro Area Human Services Council merging Oct. 27, 2011. Waynesboro Community Services (Welfare Association) began in 1931. WAHSC was formed in 1979 by the Waynesboro Fellowship of Churches. 

Waynesboro has a rich history of serving their neighbors in need.

How we are governed

I report to a board of directors, which currently consists of 13 members. The members of our board represent different elements of our community such as the Fellowship of Churches, health care services, industry, public services, financial institutions and human services agencies. The officers are Todd Wolff, president; Greg Duffey, vice president; Jack Scott, treasurer; and Russ Brezler, secretary. Meetings are held once a month. We are currently looking for individuals to fill several openings next year.

Best part of my job

Being able to assist an individual or family in need whether it be by paying a bill, giving them a food box or finding clothing, coat or shoes that they need. Knowing WCHS was able to lift a burden from their shoulders because of the resources that we receive from the community.

Worst part of my job

Hearing all the struggles families in our community are going through because of an illness, loss of a job, car repairs, no car, finding a new job takes several months … It's a vicious cycle!

Typical day

I arrive at 8 a.m. to do desk work until our doors open at 9 a.m. Throughout the day, I meet with clients who are requesting cash assistance to pay a late rent, have a shut off for a utility or need help getting a prescription. Sometimes a client is asking for help with something that we can't assist with so then, depending on the situation, I will seek help through a church or give the client information about another organization who can help. Other activities that I try to fit in my day are meetings, training, volunteer concerns, phone calls, answering e-mail, paying bills, working on reports, grants ... Sometimes Julie Mohn, our secretary, and I don't have a chance to talk to each other unless we meet in the copy room. At 3:30 p.m. we close for the day — then I try to find my desk!

Most valuable asset

I believe the most valuable asset of WCHS is included in our mission statement … WHSC is a community effort responding to the basic human and health services needs of our neighbors in the Waynesboro Area and Greencastle-Antrim school districts. Without community involvement we would not be able to do all we do. We are an organization of eight employees consisting of five in the community health nurse program and three in the WCHS center with four Pathstone employees.

Volunteers are vital to our services. We have 17 regular volunteers and many others who volunteer to pick up donated food at our local grocery stores or that help with a special event.

I am excited that we have two new programs started by volunteers. Linda McFarland is taking blood pressures once a month. Linda is a retired family nurse practitioner. The next time she will be at WCHS is Nov. 20 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. A coupon class led by Megan Knepper and Trish Stevens will be held Tuesday, Nov. 27, at 10 a.m. Learn ways to stretch your dollars and food stamps by using coupons in the Waynesboro area.

Five students from Penn State Mont Alto are designing computer software to be used by our Washington Township community health nurse to keep the data needed for the Summit Endowment grant which expands our community health nurse program to Washington Township.

Community donations of food, clothing, diapers, household items and cash are the resources we use to do our jobs.

Importance of WCHS to community

WCHS provides a local place for residents of the Waynesboro and Greencastle communities to go for help. A grant from the Summit Endowment has made it possible to expand the coverage of the community health nurse program to include coverage in Washington Township as well as the borough. The program offers a variety of home health care services, short term or long term.

Through the community health nurse program, information and referral, food bank, clothing bank, diaper bank, emergency cash assistance and special events we are helping to fill the gaps for low income families.

In September we distributed 5,194 pounds of food to 97 families, disbursed $3,961.19 in emergency cash assistance, distributed 41 packs of diapers and 24 packs of wipes and had 259 families visit our clothing bank. Twenty-six clients received 93 nursing visits in the borough and nine clients received 57 nursing visits in Washington Township by our community health nurses.

Special events

Back-to-School Supplies Distribution held Aug. 21 to 24. We distributed school supplies and clothing to 250 children in the Waynesboro Area School District and the Greencastle-Antrim School District.

Community Thanksgiving Dinner will be held Nov. 22 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Evangelical Lutheran Church located at 43 S. Church St. in Waynesboro. Please call 762-6941 or stop by the center to make a reservation. Meals can be delivered to those who are homebound.

Christmas Food Boxes, Adopt a Family for Christmas distribution date: Dec. 14 at the WCHS Center.

Sign up for the Thanksgiving Dinner and Christmas Food Box, Adopt a Family for Christmas, Angel Tree for teens as well as the Rotary Club Christmas Toys for Children have begun. Please stop by our center to sign up. 


WCHS is fortunate to receive donations from individuals, local organizations and businesses and churches. This year we have received donations of new clothing, toiletries and diapers through NGA. Wal-Mart, Food Lion, Martin's and Panera Bread give us donations of baked goods, fresh produce, meats, canned goods and beverages weekly. Food drives held by schools, churches, Sen. Alloway's Fill the Food Bank Concert, the Boy Scouts and local organizations help us to stock the food bank.

Through Kathryn's Closet we receive laundry soap and dish detergent. Individuals stop in to bring us used coats, clothing, shoes, school supplies, bedding, packs of diapers their children have outgrown, food, fresh vegetables from their garden and medical supplies. Our mailman brings us envelopes with cash donations (and bills).

We have some individuals and churches that give to us on a regular basis. We are grateful for each and every donation! Thank you! We could not do all this without you donations.

Center information

Waynesboro Community and Human Services is located at 123 Walnut St. in Waynesboro. Our office hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3:30 p.m.; Wednesday 9 a.m. to noon. Phone number: 762-6941.

For more information about the community health nurse your may call the Center number, 762-6941, or Margie Rouzer at 860-3081.

Waynesboro Community and Human Services | 123 Walnut Street Waynesboro, PA 17268

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