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United Way of Lancaster County


Bench Mark celebrates 10th anniversary with receipt of funding for predisposition program

Bench Mark Program team members and the Lancaster County commissioners show off a county’s check presented to the nonprofit at its 10th anniversary open house on Thursday, May 30, 2024. (Photo: Anna Smucker)

The Lancaster County commissioners helped Bench Mark Program kick off its 10th anniversary open house on Thursday, presenting the nonprofit a check for the $317,933 in American Rescue Plan Act funding that they approved in February.

The money will support Bench Mark’s Predisposition Mentoring Program, which serves high-risk youths involved in gun crime.

County Commissioner Josh Parsons speaks about Bench Mark Program as the nonprofit’s founder Will Kiefer looks on. (Photo: Anna Smucker)

“We take pride in having a really safe county,” Commissioner Josh Parsons said. “And one of the reasons for that is people doing this kind of work.”

Commissioners Ray D’Agostino and Alice Yoder both mentioned their own positive experiences with youth programming growing up: a Police Athletic League in D’Agostino’s case, an arts program in Queens in Yoder’s. They agreed that Bench Mark’s mentoring model can change the trajectory of young people’s lives for the better, creating long-term impact.

Commissioners Ray D’Agostino and Alice Yoder. (Photo: Anna Smucker)

Bench Mark founder and Executive Director Will Kiefer thanked the commissioners for believing in and investing in the organization’s mentoring and workforce development initiatives.

Bench Mark launched the Predisposition Mentoring Program in November 2022 with grant funding from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime & Delinquency and the Pennsylvania Career & Technical Training Alliance.

It pairs individuals exiting juvenile detention who were adjudicated on gun charges with mentors who guide them through a predefined workforce readiness curriculum. The population in question is “uniquely underserved,” Bench Mark says, and the period immediately after release is when they are most likely to reoffend.

The relationships built up through intensive mentoring and the gainful employment secured through the program are factors shown to reduce recidivism, enhancing community safety, the nonprofit says.

The ARPA funding is essentially bridge funding, sustaining the Predisposition Mentoring Program following the exhaustion of the PCCD and PCTTA grants. After this year, it is expected to have regular ongoing funding through the Pennsylvania Department of Juvenile Probation.