Grace Baptist Church

Grace Baptist Church on 473 W. Skippack Pike in Blue Bell

BLUE BELL — Grace Baptist Church volunteers acted with grace as they worked to shelter three families experiencing homelessness this month through the Inter-Faith Housing Alliance’s Interfaith Hospitality Network, while cases of COVID-19 continue to rise locally.

“We’ve done this for 30 years,” said Lansdale resident and Grace Baptist Church parishioner Betty Helpa. “It’s a part of who we are as a church, and we’ve had blizzards in the past, we’ve had power outages and I always thought we’ve seen it all until we had this pandemic.”

The Interfaith Hospitality Network provides food, transportation and lodging at area religious institutions to Montgomery County families experiencing homelessness, according to the Inter-Faith Housing Alliance’s website. The organization joins forces with Your Way Home Montgomery County to offer services to families for up to 90 days.

Houses of worship typically use classrooms as makeshift apartments for families. At Grace Baptist, Helpa and her husband, Don, serve as the coordinators for the church's role in the Interfaith Hospitality Network. Around 100 volunteers help carry out various tasks for the families housed at the church during a monthly rotation.  

Each congregation picks a month to help shelter families in need. For members of the Grace Baptist Church, March was their turn.

Helpa said there were three families residing at the church on 473 W. Skippack Pike in Blue Bell for the first few weeks in March: a mother and her four-year-old twins, a mother with her 15-month-old toddler and another mother with a 4-month-old baby. They had all found alternative housing as of Tuesday, March 24.

During the time of Grace Baptist's shelter, state and county officials instituted closings and restrictions on interactions, creating rapid changes to protocol for the program. “We did have some changes,” Helpa said. “Of course … the church was shut down from a worship service, but we did not stop providing services and volunteering for the families.”

Helpa said the church instituted health and safety policies by posting signage to promote hand washing and switching up meal time.

“We would put the food on the table almost like home style,” she said. This year we did it buffet style. One thing we did that was very helpful was that we had wrapped silverware.”

Volunteers also increased efforts to clean the rooms in the facility, including the children’s play areas. One of the challenging things for the volunteers was avoiding close contact with the sheltered families, especially the children who clamor for attention. 

“Everyone stepped up. It’s something you're really proud of [in] your church,” Helpa said.

Those in need of a place to shelter should contact Your Way Home Montgomery County by calling 211 or 866-964-7925.

In addition to Grace Baptist Church, the following congregations also participate in the Inter-Faith Housing Alliance’s Interfaith Hospitality Network:

  • Ambler Church of the Brethren on 351 E. Butler Ave. in Ambler
  • Ambler Mennonite Church on 90 E. Mount Pleasant Ave in Ambler.
  • Bethlehem Baptist Church on 712 Penllyn Pike in Spring House,
  • Citylight Church has several area locations including 1400 Garret Road in Upper Darby, as well as 1336 Spring Garden St. in Philadelphia and 4101 Freeland Ave. in Manayunk.
  • Congregation Beth Or on 239 Welsh Road in Ambler
  • Congregation Kol Ami on 8201 High School Road in Elkins Park
  • First Baptist Church of Lansdale on 700 N. Broad St. in Lansdale
  • First Presbyterian Church of Ambler on 4 S. Ridge Ave. in Ambler
  • Gwynedd Friends Meeting on 1101 Dekalb Pike in Gwynedd
  • Jarrettown United Methodist Church on 1460 Limekiln Pike in Dresher
  • New Beginnings Community Church on 701 Pen-Ambler Road in Ambler
  • Or Hadash on 190 Camp Hill Road in Fort Washington
  • Sanctuary United Methodist Church on 1346 E. Prospect Ave. in North Wales
  • St. Anthony of Padua Parish on 259 Forest Ave. in Ambler
  • St. Paul’s United Church of Christ on 440 S. Bethlehem Pike in Fort Washington
  • St. Rose of Lima on 424 S. Main St. in North Wales
  • St. Thomas’ Church, Whitemarsh on 7020 Camp Hill Road in Fort Washington
  • Supplee Presbyterian Church on 855 Welsh Road in Maple Glen
  • Trinity Episcopal Church on 708 S. Bethlehem Pike in Ambler
  • Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church on 235 Summit Ave. in Fort Washington
  • Upper Dublin Lutheran Church on 411 Susquehanna Road in Ambler
  • Zion Baptist Church on 14 North St. in Ambler

For more information about this program, visit Anyone interested in volunteering with their congregation should contact the Inter-Faith Housing Alliance by calling 215-628-2334 or via email at

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