Lori Ortenzi has a long history with Good Samaritan. “I first heard about Good Samaritan when our church was giving donations to a local women’s shelter. When I heard that women right in our community were without housing, I immediately wanted to meet them. I wanted to hear their stories,” she explains. “After meeting two of the women, I began a mentoring relationship with them. I mentored several of the women and this later turned into a part-time role as a Case Manager at GSS in 2013.” At that time, Good Samaritan Services was Good Samaritan Shelter, and there were very few staff. Lori had other roles and responsibilities in her life, but faithfully cared for the Shelter’s guests. “During my time as Case Manager, I met with women and children each day that I was in the office. My ‘office’ was their home and I did not take that for granted. I wanted to be a part of their life and not just serve as their Case Manager,” Lori shares. “From our first meeting to gather information about their lives to their last day of finding a new home, I valued time with these women and children. I would often join them in their moving in, setting up their rooms or moving out. Many of them were not in the program simply because they needed a home. They also needed to feel love, value, respect, and independence in their lives.” Lori’s point is a very valid one. The people GSS serves do not simply need more money to gain independence. They also need social capital, which is when trusting relationships are formed that build community.
While serving as Case Manager for Good Samaritan’s Ephrata Shelter, Lori and her husband Brad began feeling led to change their vocations. God was leading them across the world! “Before I worked at Good Samaritan, I had served in Guatemala for several years, specifically with women and children. I was looking for a place, internationally, where Brad and I could serve together,” Lori explains. “Brad heard about ZOE International from our pastor who knew someone who previously visited ZOE. We knew nothing about Thailand, but our hearts resonated with the mission of ZOE, so we scheduled a trip to check it out.”
ZOE is an organization that fights human trafficking, working to prevent trafficking, as well as rescue children who have been trafficked, then walk with them as God restores their hearts and minds. Both Brad and Lori found their place with Zoe. “Brad is former law enforcement and he connected with the investigation and rescue aspects of ZOE. I have a business background with years of work in training and management, as well as mentoring individuals and teams. I connected with the prevention and restoration pieces of ZOE, especially life skills and vocational training for the children. After visiting, we committed to move to Thailand and work at ZOE,” says Lori.
“While living in Thailand, I pursued and recently completed an online degree – Master’s in Pastoral Counseling and Leadership,” shares Lori. “Many ask if I want to ‘counsel’ people in the future. My answer is, ‘Not really.’ I chose this degree for the value in knowing how to relate better with people, mentor others, and lead teams.” As part of Lori’s schooling, an internship was required as her last class before graduation. She had the opportunity to join GSS again, this time for Good Samaritan Services, when she was in the USA in the fall of 2018. “My internship with GSS was a rewarding experience. I had the opportunity to see the growth in this organization and its leaders. I had the privilege of working closely with Nate, Amanda, Hannah and Maria, as well as two special interns visiting from Germany. This team serves at GSS because they love to help people. They have a gift of serving others with their resources of time, care, and leadership. Although they recently experienced the growing pains of two organizations merging together as one – Good Samaritan Shelter and Bridge of Hope – they are now operating at a higher level of care in the community,” Lori articulates.
“I also worked with Good Samaritan’s Permanent Housing Services in Lancaster City. I witnessed the growth in the program and in the leaders of the organization,” remarks Lori. “Moving women and children from homelessness to homes may sound like an easy task. But many of us know that financial donations are not the only answer to this overwhelming need. Sharing the love of God, working in close relationship with people, helping single moms succeed in parenting, teaching life skills, offering career choices and genuinely caring about the positive impact you can offer is what gave me joy in serving and what impacted those who received services. During my time at GSS, I learned that financial giving and permanent housing is a great need for people in poverty or those who experience hardship in their lives. However, I also learned that connecting with people makes the most positive impact in their lives. Specifically, for the mentoring program and the staff working at the home, joining the women and children in daily activities and tasks is the more important lesson. And most times, this is the toughest part.”
Lori blessed everyone with whom she worked during her internship. Her diligence, humility and grace were evident to guests and staff alike. “My heart is to build relationships with the vulnerable among us. Mentoring, developing relationships and training, as well as financial support can prevent poverty, homelessness, and even human trafficking,” Lori notes.
“People need to be reminded of their value and worth. These women could climb out of poverty or move into a home with the help of financial giving. But GSS and those who serve the vulnerable among us want more than that,” concludes Lori. “We want them to live their best life and to thrive in their careers and in their relationships as they move forward. The best way to help people is to love and serve them, to live among them, joining them in their day-to-day routine. For Christians who serve them, they may get a glimpse of our life and begin to know God as their source. They may see hope for their own lives. And they may turn around and impact their community for good. This is the greatest legacy we could leave for them.” The lessons that Lori learned during the seasons of working at GSS as a volunteer, a Case Manager, and an intern, are valuable lessons for all of us.
Thank you, Lori, for all the ways you have served Good Samaritan!