For Good Neighbors founder Jay Malthaner, the work has always been about one thing: service.

Since it started back in 1991, the Good Neighbors Home Ministry has helped to make hundreds of area homes warmer, dryer and safer at no cost to the homeowner.

Now, with nearly 20 years under his tool belt, founder Malthaner is looking to get away from the grind of running a successful non-profit.

Malthaner, who turns 66 in September, has been slowly moving away from the day-to-day administrative duties for the past three years, but is now ready to step away from those responsibilities for good.

"Essentially I wear two hats," Malthaner said. "The executive director hat, which to me is the figurehead - the face and the name and all that. But the job that really I have to do ultimately is handling all the operations."

Two years ago, after deciding to move out from under the Koinonia Ministries umbrella that had secured them for the previous 17 years, Malthaner said the leaders began to ask themselves about a strategic plan for the future.

"Certainly on the top of that list, was secession planning, and not just for me," he said, adding that Good Neighbors bookkeeper Danny Weibel has moved to Strasburg and is not part of everyday operations.

And while he's become rather adept at handling duties like fundraising and reporting to the board, that is not where his passion for this company lies.

"Most of my desire for this work has always been getting out there and helping these people organizing the work, finding the volunteers, and doing the work itself - you name it," Malthaner said. "My heart and soul over the years has always been on the field side of things."

The person who replaces him, he said, would be the visionary and play that figurehead role, leaving Malthaner to be in the field as he pleases and run things from there.

Maltjaner was born in northern New Jersey, eventually moving to the Kennett area when he was hired by Dupont and worked in business services.

Malthaner started the Good Neighbors Home Repair Ministry around the time he retired from Dupont, driven by a desire to do something more for people than just miscellaneous tasks at his Kennett Presbyterian church.

"I just had a sense that God wanted me to do something," he said.

A ministry trip to Appalachia opened Malthaner's eyes to the poverty-stricken conditions so many people live under.

"I spent a week in Harlan, Kentucky, which was then and maybe still is listed as the poorest county in the United States," he said.

Staying in ramshackle building that doubled as a community center, Malthaner said the experience was humbling to say the least.

"When you're living with the poor and working for the poor and you have to be just as poor - so to speak - as they are, you really get into the life of seeing how unbelievable it is," he said. "And because the people have been living that way for decades, the whole culture has that same view - no sense of hope or caring."

Having that experience with a youth group, working on the houses as much as they could, Malthaner to the realization that there are people in our region who are suffering under the same circumstances.

"God gave us some hands and skills and minds, and I just sensed, 'I could do this and it's something worth while,'" he said.

Malthaner said that when he started the ministry nearly 20 years ago, there was never any vision as to how big the organization would eventually become - there was just the desire to help those who could not help themselves.

"It's gotten bigger obviously, but there isn't still that vision that says, 'how big are we going to get,'" he said, adding that there are still many people who could use their help.

"We're finding that our area is pretty well spread out, but up in Coatesville, you don't have to search to find houses in need," he said.

It is that work, that desire to show his service to Christ by serving the less fortunate that Malthaner wants to get back to. And the next step in that direction is finding his replacement.

Malthaner said that since the ministry is still limited on funding, the position starts out as a part time one.

"We know it has to be a person that is in the right absolute position in life," he said. "Likely it's not someone who is looking for a big salary or a big future. They understand that the work is more of a calling than a job to do; the work is more a passion for the heart and soul of what people suffer ... someone who is more driven internally."

He added that while there are many people out there who want to help the poor, they want nothing to do with fixing houses,

"You have to combine the two," Malthaner said, adding that he's seen volunteers walk away from jobs because they find something as extravagant as a flat screen television in a home that is virtually falling apart around the homeowners.

"That's their gift to themselves for survival," he said. "We don't need them, but that's our society of conspicuous consumption. And it's hard to get people to see it in that perspective."

According to the Good Neighbors Web site, the organization is looking for someone who "will provide Christian leadership and vision" to Good Neighbors, leaving Malthaner to tend the "operational aspects" - that is, the repair at the sites.

"While what we do is our mission ... because of being connected with so many other organizations, we are often able to help people in many other ways and not detract from our mission," Malthaner said, adding that the organization is becoming more holistic in its approach to helping others.

"That only comes from the network over time, he said." And then there's that epiphany day."

And when it's done and over - when they've found that perfect replacement - is Malthaner still going to be there to swing the hammer?

"Well, let's find them, get that person in place. That's the next step," he said. "Reducing me to a part-time volunteer. Call me on a Saturday if you need help!"

To learn more about Good Neighbors or to learn more about the executive director position, visit www.goodneighborshomerepair.org.

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