Two Area Residents Named to Homeless Charity Board of Directors


July 6, 2016
Contact:  Michael Macchioni (717) 686-7503                    

Two Area Residents Named to Homeless Charity Board of Directors

(HERSHEY, PA) – Gemma’s Angels, a non-profit which buys and then distributes fresh produce free to soup kitchens, shelters and food banks in Dauphin and Lebanon Counties has named Alisha Gassert of Lebanon and Scott Schuyler of Hershey to its board of directors.

Gassert, a freelance tax consultant/preparer and entrepreneur, received her Bachelor of Science degree at Alvernia College in Reading, Magna Cum Laude, her M.B.A. at the University of Phoenix, also Magna Cum Laude and is currently a candidate for Doctor of Business Administration in Management at Grand Canyon University. She is active as a volunteer in a number of other area non-profit organizations including Relay for Life team, “Hope and Faith for Healing, among others. She is a graduate of Lebanon High School. Gassert will serve as Treasurer of the Board. Gassert and her husband Justin have two children.

Schuyler, a full-time houseparent at the Milton Hershey School for the past 16 years, has been a volunteer with Gemma’s Angels for the three years. Schuyler has a Bachelors Degree from James Madison University and M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction, also from James Madison University. He has involved his students in various community service projects including fundraising, apple gleaning and other service to benefit Gemma’s Angels. His Milton Hershey student home is slated to be awarded the “Heroes for the Homeless” honor for 2016. Schuyler and his wife Kimberly have two children who attend Hershey High School.

“Gassert and Schuyler are joining the Board at an exciting time for Gemma’s Angels," Board President and Founder Michael Macchioni said. Gemma’s Angels was recently awarded a $20,000 grant from the Dauphin County Gaming Advisory Board to be used to develop a combined mobile farmer’s market and an All-Kids Mobile Farmer’s Market. The mobile farmer’s market will be used to distribute fresh produce to Gemma’s clients. 

The All-Kids Farmer’s Market will visit school backpack programs and food banks and allow children to choose their own produce with some guidance and an educational component. “Sacramento, California is successfully operating such a program,” added Macchioni. “They’ve found that when children are being invested in acquiring the food, and then wanting to cook it, there is a greater interest in consuming fresh fruit and vegetables. This matches our mission of educating children about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet.”
For more information about Gemma’s Angels, visit their web site at

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Note: Gemma is pronounced Gem-ahhs

Dauphin County Agency on Aging Vouchers for Seniors for Farmer's Markets

PA Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) will distribute $20.00 in vouchers to eligible seniors to buy fresh fruit and vegetables from participating local farm markets. To be eligible persons must be 60 years of age or older, have a gross annual 2016 household income at or below $21,978 for a single person or $29,637 for a couple. Vouchers available till supplies last. 

The vouchers can be redeemed from June 1 through November 30. You can contact the Dauphin County Area Agency on Aging for details on dates, times and locations of distributions.

The Devastating Consequences of Unequal Food Access

Access and diabetes rates. We found statistically significant correlations between food access and diabetes rates: greater access to healthy food is associated with lower diabetes rates, while greater access to unhealthy food is associated with higher diabetes rates.
— - Union of Concerned Scientist's Report

According to a recent study released by the Union of Concerned Scientists, "Diabetes rates in the United States have nearly quadrupled over the past three decades. About 30 million Americans currently suffer from diabetes, and nearly 95 percent of these cases are type 2 diabetes, the diet-related form of the disease." The study warns that if these trends continue, nearly one-third of Americans could be diabetic by the year 2050. The impact on the cost of healthcare let alone on individuals and families, will be devastating.

The study points out that diets low in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—decrease the risk for type 2 diabetes.  But the problem a families access to healthy food. This includes how close they are to supermarkets and farmer's markets, transportation to those places, their affordability and, last but not least, the cultural taste preferences of a particular community.

The study further points to rising diabetes rates having hit particularly hard in African American, Latino, and Native American communities. Their rates of diabetes are twice as likely as whites AND they suffer higher mortality rates and much higher complications than the overall population.

  (Photo: Paul Sableman/Creative Commons (Flickr) from UCS article--see link below)

(Photo: Paul Sableman/Creative Commons (Flickr) from UCS article--see link below)

Study looked at physical location and diabetes

UCS looked at the most recent publicly available county-level data on retail food stores, food access, health outcomes, food insecurity, and socioeconomic composition. Counties were categorized according to racial or economic composition:  higher- vs. lower-than-average percentages of residents of color, and higher vs. lower income.

The study defined "healthy food retailers" as grocery stores, supercenters, farmers markets, and specialized food stores such as bakeries, meat and seafood markets, dairy stores, and produce markets, all of which reliably offer fresh and less-processed foods. "Unhealthy food retailers" were defined to include fast food restaurants and convenience stores, which offer a more limited selection of food centered on highly processed convenience items.

The study's findings confirmed what many other studies have in the past suggested:

Access, race, and income. "Counties with higher-than-average percentages of residents of color have both fewer healthy food retailers and more unhealthy food retailers. Lower-income counties had more unhealthy food retailers than higher-income counties, but the study found no difference by income in the number of healthy food retailers."

Access and diabetes rates. "We found statistically significant correlations between food access and diabetes rates: greater access to healthy food is associated with lower diabetes rates, while greater access to unhealthy food is associated with higher diabetes rates."

Proximity to healthy food has a bigger impact in communities of color: :The correlation between food access and diabetes rates is stronger in communities of color: both the positive effect of greater access to healthy food and the negative effect of greater access to unhealthy food were significantly larger than the national average in counties with higher-than-average percentages of residents of color."

The study's recommendations are not, as they say, rocket science.

  • Increase access to health food, which will reduce diabetes rates
  • Increase the number of retailers in "food deserts" which provide fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Change nutrition assistance programs to provide a great emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Institute culturally-appropriate education programs to encourage healthier eating (school meal programs being one of them)
  • Create a comprehensive national food policy as a first step in transforming the way we feed the poor.

Of course, Gemma's Angels is doing our part. Our newest mission involves education programs for at-risk children and families to emphasize healthier eating, including fresh fruit and vegetables. On our wish list is an "All-Kids Mobile Farmer's Market" where our soon-to-be in service Veggie Van would make stops at schools, food banks, summer camps and wherever children are.

Kids would get onboard our Veggie Van and with backpacks in hand, load up on the fruit and veggies they prefer and take them home. The upside is that they will be more apt to eat the produce they choose, be excited about eating healthier and share that excitement with their families.

Gemma's Angels is currently looking for pilot sites and funding sponsors for the program.

Associated link to the study:

The Benefit of Gardens

It seems as though in the past few years gardening and backyard farms have become more and more popular throughout the United States. With spring quickly approaching in the northern hemisphere, many homeowners throughout the U.S. will take to the outdoors with the intention of sprucing up winter-wrecked yards. While many homeowners will concentrate on their yard, many others will focus on their backyard gardens. Traditionally, a garden is assumed to be a place to grow fruits and vegetables, but gardens can take on a many different looks and styles. Whether mainly for food, or for the beauty and aroma only flowers can produce, home gardens have a number of benefits for homeowners, and should you consider giving your yard a revamp this spring, consider adding a garden or a small garden area to your outdoor space.

Benefits of Home Gardens

Gardens, whether for the joy of flowers or for fruits and vegetables, come in a number of shapes and sizes. While providing a great sensory experience and a way to reconnect to the natural world around us, gardens also help to keep the body limber and improve overall mood. A study done in the Netherlands suggests that the relaxing nature of gardening can help fight stress, and a study in Norway found that people who suffered from depression and other mood disorders showed measurable improvements in their symptoms after three months of gardening (where six hours per week were spent in the garden). If you're not interested in the potential health benefits of gardening, adding plants and flowers to your yard is a great way of updating a meager outdoor space and makes a backyard more enticing to potential buyers from additional textures, scents and organization. Also, adding touches of color by way of plants and flowers is an excellent way of improving curb appeal should you consider putting your home on the market in the coming months.

Community Gardens

Don't have time for an outdoor garden, or are you lacking a space large enough for a garden? There are a number of alternatives to bring the joy of gardening into your home or life. A very popular option that has popped up around the U.S. is community gardens. Located throughout communities from the east to the west, community gardens have helped provide a place of retreat from urban areas plagued by noise, or for those individuals who want a relaxing place to go to when they have free time. Community gardens provide a number of benefits, from a place for recreation and exercise, to providing health benefits by easing stress and helping to improve overall mood. Studies have also shown that those who participate in a community garden generally eat healthier, more nutrient dense diets, and a community garden helps to create and foster relationships throughout a community.

Container Gardens

Another option for those who don't have a yard or outdoor area large enough for a traditional garden is a container garden. Another trend gaining popularity throughout the U.S., container gardens allow homeowners to have small gardens in tight spaces. Plants (which can be anything from traditional flowers and shrubs to fruits, vegetables and herbs) are placed in containers, usually one plant per container, and allow the gardener the ability to choose specific plants for their needs and wants. Only interested in succulents, or just interested in plants that require little water and maintenance? A container garden is a great option. Container gardens can range from small to robust, and they provide an excellent alternative to a traditional garden. Other popular options for 'alternative' gardens are hanging gardens and indoor gardens. These gardens can be fully indoors and very much take on a container garden feel. Container gardens can also help add pops of color to porches and patios, and they are a great way of adding appeal to drab areas for potential home viewings.

Backyard Farm

Do you feel particularly adventurous when it comes to adding a garden or outdoor feature? If you have the time, resources and space, consider a backyard farm. Chickens have become a popular backyard feature throughout the U.S., in both urban and rural communities. Chickens can provide a number of benefits to a yard or outdoor area: they act as natural pest control; they produce eggs; they will eat table scraps as well as weeds and garden clippings, and chicken manure is also considered one of the best fertilizers for gardens due to its high nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous content. While not for every homeowner, backyard chickens can be fun for every member of a household.

Garden Information Courtesy
Carmen Williams, Realtor

Cell: 717-608-8526
Home Office: 717-761-6300 x3015
Toll-Free: 888-761-6300
Business Fax: 717-591-2236
Licensed Number RS 319095

Email Address




Spirit of Gemma Award Nominations Sought

The Spirit of Gemma Award , offered by Gemma's Angels, of Hershey, recognizes those who significantly contribute to Gemma’s Angel’s mission in caring for the poor, the working poor and the homeless. Gemma's Angels further mission is to encourage at-risk children and families to make positive changes to their eating habits by consuming more fresh fruit vegetables. 

Nominees can be individuals, groups or organizations or a business. Priority is given to those who reside or are located in Dauphin or Lebanon Counties but consideration is given to any nominee. 


Nominations are currently being sought for the 2016 award and are due by April 1, 2016. Those submitting nominations should provide a description of the work provided (in 500 words or less) by the nominee along with their name, phone number and email. Nominations should be sent by electronic mail to


The 3rd Annual Spirit of Gemma Awards Breakfast fundraiser will be held in the lower level Community Room at the Hershey-Derry Township Historical Society's Library & Museum at 40 Northeast Drive, Hershey, PA on Saturday, April 16 at 10:00 a.m. For directions to the venue, which is located adjacent to the Hershey shopping outlets, click the Google map below.


Tickets are $15 per person for adults, $6 for children ages under 12 and free for children under age 6. A breakfast buffet of scrambled eggs, home fries, sausage links, bacon, baked oatmeal, orange juice, coffee/tea and muffins will be served.

Sponsorships are as follows:

Bronze Sponsorship - $75 includes three (3) breakfast tickets, recognition in the program and website 

Silver Sponsorship - $125 includes five (5) breakfast tickets, recognition in the program and website 

Gold Sponsorship - $200 includes ten (10) breakfast tickets, recognition in the program and website and a special certificate of recognition 

Platinum Sponsorship - $500 includes twenty (20) breakfast tickets, recognition in the program and website and a special certificate of recognition

Ticket sales will begin on March 1, 2016.

For additional information about this event, please contact Gemma's Angels President Mike Macchioni at (717) 220-1061.

WellsFargo Presents Gemma's Angels with $1,000 Grant

  Wells Fargo representatives present a check to Gemma's Angels.

Wells Fargo representatives present a check to Gemma's Angels.

November, 2015, Hershey, PA.–Through its Community Connections Giving Program, WellsFargo recently presented a $1,000 grant to Gemma's Angels for its Veggie Truck Fund.

Wells Fargo’s Community Connections Giving Program is an annual program where each of its retail banking stores explores the needs of their local communities and selects a nonprofit organization or school to receive a $1,000 grant. This year, Wells Fargo will award close to $300,000 in grants to nonprofit organizations and schools throughout Pennsylvania.

“At Wells Fargo we know that small acts can yield huge results, and we are committed to supporting programs and organizations that we believe are important to the future of our communities’ vitality and success,” said Meshelle Pinzon, Hershey Store Manager. “So we are proud to support Gemma's Angels Veggie Truck Fund with this grant.”

Gemma's Angels began a fund drive in October, 2015 to purchase a replacement vehicle to deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to our client sites in Dauphin and Lebanon Counties. That fund currently stands at $4,700. 

Gemma's Angels is waiting a decision on a large grant from the Dauphin County Gaming Advisory Board for a larger delivery vehicle. If the organization does not receive that grant, then Gemma's will proceed to purchase a smaller, less expensive vehicle for its immediate use.

More information on Gemma's Angels can be found on their website at


Gemmas Angels Announces Additions to Board, Advisory Board

Gemma's Angels, a non-profit based in Hershey which provides fresh produce to soup kitchens, shelters and food banks in Dauphin and Lebanon Counties, announces the addition one member to their board of directors and three new members of its advisory board.

The new member of the board of directors is Amy McCloskey Tobin of Cortez Vil, Florida. The three new advistory board members are Michael Baer, M.D. of Carlisle, PA, Tina Hornberger, LDN, Harrisburg, PA and Nelva Wright, M.B.A. of Harrisburg, PA.

Ms. Tobin is Founder of Blue Sea Content of Cortez, Florida and Reading, Pennsylvania. Blue Sea creates compelling, well researched and valuable content for a variety of clients. As a content and strategy professional, she has extensive experience in copywriting, editing and blogging. Amy graduated from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland with a Bachelors of Arts and Master of Arts in English and Art History. She is a graduate of Milton Hershey School and sits on its alumni association board.

Dr. Baer is the Network Medical Director at AmeriHealth Caritas Pennsylvania and AmeriHealth Caritas Northeast in Carlisle, a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University, The Milton S. Hershey College of Medicine and Gettysburg College. AmeriHealth Caritas is one of the largest Medicaid managed care organizations in the United States. He is also an alumnus of the Milton Hershey School.

Ms. Hornberger is a Licensed Dietician/Nutritionist who graduated from Messiah College in Grantham, PA. She is employed by Pinnacle Health Systems in Harrisburg. Tina grew up out in the country on a dairy farm.  Tina says that her parents planted a huge garden every summer and, she noted, "I took for granted the fresh vegetables and fruits that were always available.  After graduating from college with a degree in nutrition and dietetics, I understood in a scientific way the importance of fruits and vegetables for overall health." 

Since 2004, Tina has worked with the PinnacleHealth System as a Registered Dietitian and sees first hand the effects of poor nutrition.  Ms. Hornberger also stated that she "is thrilled to be a part of the work that Gemma's Angels is doing to provide access to healthy foods for people who need them."

Ms. Wright is Executive Director of The Fair Housing Council of the Capital Region, Inc. of Harrisburg.  She received her M.B.A. in Marketing from St. Joseph's University and her Bachelor of Arts, Temple University.

Nelva also serves as the Vice President of the Yeadon, Pennsylvania Borough Council and the PA Association of Boroughs in Harrisburg, PA. In addition to being an elected official in the borough, she is currently Chair, of the Finance Committee, member of Public Safety, Code and Public Works Committees. She also serves on the contract negotiation team. 

Prior to her election to Borough Council, she served on the Zoning Hearing Board. Her oversight of special legislative projects focused on community and business leader education related to Health.

Prior to her current position, she was employed with Astra Zeneca where she was appointed AstraZeneca Ambassador as part of a nation-wide health care advocacy initiative involving regional healthcare providers, hospital administrators, community leaders and patients. She developed educational programs addressing health care disparity and lack of access 

Michael Macchioni, President and Founder of Gemma's Angels, said, in announcing the appointments, "All three of these new members will bring their individual expertise to the table in furthering our mission to developing long-term solutions to food insecurity to the areas we serve."

Gemma's Angels, Ltd. is a non-profit, 501(c)3 charity recognized by the IRS and received Guidestar's Bronze transparency level. More information on Gemma's Angels can be found on their website at 

2015 Spirit of Gemma Award Recipients Announced

  Dauphin County Commissioner and GA Advisory Board Member Mike Pries presents GA Founder & President Mike Macchioni with proclamation declaring April 25 Gemma's Angels Day in Dauphin County.

Dauphin County Commissioner and GA Advisory Board Member Mike Pries presents GA Founder & President Mike Macchioni with proclamation declaring April 25 Gemma's Angels Day in Dauphin County.

The 2015 Spirit of Gemma Award recipients were recently announced by Gemma's Angels at an awards ceremony in Hershey. The award recognizes those who significantly contribute to Gemma’s Angel’s mission in caring for the poor, the working poor and the homeless. Recipients can also have provided services or assisted these populations independently of Gemma's Angels.

Nominees can be individuals, groups or organizations or a business. Priority is given to those who reside or are located in Dauphin or Lebanon Counties but consideration is given to any nominee.

Dauphin County Commissioner and Gemma’s Angels Advisory Board Member H. Michael Pries was the featured presenter and speaker

The 2015 awards were presented to:

  • Pronio’s Market, Hershey, PA: for their years of community effort in helping the needy and soldiers overseas;
  • Cargill Animal Nutrition, Lebanon, PA:  recognized for assisting with helping Lebanon’s poor and homeless;
  • Shalom House, Harrisburg, PA: recognized for their advocacy and emergency sheltering for homeless women and children, transitional housing for homeless women veterans and their children, and permanent housing for disabled, chronically homeless low-income women;
  • Deborah McNeal and Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania Junior Troop 10965, Hershey, PA, recognized for their ongoing contributions toward the mission of the organization;
  • Strite’s Orchard, Harrisburg, PA:  recognized for their continued and generous contributions of fresh produce toward feeding the homeless of the Harrisburg area;
  • Dauphin County Office of Adult Probation Services, Harrisburg, PA:  recognized for many years of providing community service workers;
  • Marcellene Currens, Sewin’ Sisters Sowing, Harrisburg, PA:  recognized for providing years of sewing, mending services and other materials to the poor of Harrisburg;
  • Master Suk Kim of Kim's Institute of Martial Arts, Hershey, PA: for providing volunteer teams for Gemma's fundraising events.

GIANT supermarkets sponsored the event.

For more information on Gemma's Angels Spirit Awards, please visit our web site or find us on Facebook at

Cargill, Gemma's Angels team up for fight hunger in Lebanon Valley

Employees at Cargill pack fresh food into boxes on Wednesday that will be distributed to area shelters and food banks in Lebanon County. Partnering with Gemma's Angels, Cargill has started a fresh food garden that will produce fresh food to be given to those in need.

Gemma's Angels of Hershey and Cargill Animal Nutrition of Lebanon have joined forces to increase the availability of fresh produce for the poor and homeless in Lebanon County.

Gemma's Angels, a nonprofit group based in Hershey, purchases produce from local farmers and collects fresh produce from local donor gardeners. The produce is distributed free of charge to soup kitchens, shelters and food banks in Dauphin and Lebanon Counties. Cargill Animal Nutrition operates a large animal nutrition facility on North 16th Street in Lebanon.

Cargill, Gemma's Angels newest corporate partner, has planted a "Cargill Caring Garden" at its Lebanon plant. Employees will tend the garden and harvest the produce, which will go directly into Gemma's Angels' distribution system, focusing on agencies in Lebanon County. 

"Building this garden is part of our corporate commitment to being responsible global and local citizens," said Gene Coy, plant general manager. "Our goal is to serve as a model for other business and community groups to build their own Caring Gardens," he added.

Gemma's Angels Announces New Website


Gemma's Angels Ltd. is pleased to announce the launch of their new website, and invites all to make a difference & visit their site, show their support and register their email for opportunities to volunteer and/or learn about their new website in order to get involved.

Gemma’s Angels is an IRS 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to meeting the immediate needs of persons experiencing hunger while working with their communities on long-term solutions to the conditions that perpetuate poverty.

We purchase produce from local sources, and collect fresh produce from local donor gardeners. We distribute the produce free of charge, to soup kitchens, shelters and food banks. We also partner with small business, corporate and community groups to create Community Caring Gardens to supplement our distribution network.

For more information, and how you can help make a difference, visit their new website at or contact Michael Macchioni, President and Founder, at (717) 298-0150 or

Help Available to Buy Local Produce

In a state where nearly 1 in 7 people age 60-plus do not consistently have enough to eat, AARP is promoting a state program that helps some older Pennsylvanians buy fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program provides up to $20 in vouchers to help eligible people buy locally grown produce at about 190 farmers markets and 800 roadside stands across the state. Individuals who will be 60 or older by Dec. 31 are eligible if their annual income does not exceed $21,775. For couples, the income limit is $29,471.

“Hunger among older people is particularly worrisome because many of them have medical conditions that can be better managed through nutrition,” said Bill Johnston-Walsh, AARP state director.

For more information or to apply for the vouchers, contact your local Area Agency on Aging.

From Pennsylvania AARP.