2018 Youth Partner Award: Maureen Maher-Gray

At this year’s annual meeting and community luncheon, MFHS will present Maureen Maher-Gray with the Youth Partner Award. This award is given to an individual who serves as a champion for teens and young adults, taking great measures to satisfy a need for the disenfranchised in our community. Her groundbreaking work in developing the NEPA Youth Shelter exemplifies her dedication to providing a safe, welcoming resource for teens.

Nearly a decade ago Ms. Maher-Gray relocated to Northeast Pennsylvania from Washington, almost immediately becoming an active member of the community, working as a realtor for a local company. She engaged in in political advocacy as part of the 2012 election cycle, encouraging impressive voter turnout in her district.

Maureen Maher-Gray later worked in a role that enabled her to understand the lack of resources for local at-risk teenagers. At the time of her discovery, the nearest youth shelter was in Allentown, and teens traveling long distances to reach the shelter were susceptible to becoming victims of crimes like human trafficking. This disturbing news lead her to establish the nonprofit organization NEPA Youth Shelter in 2016.

Since the organization’s creation, Maher-Gray has opened a drop-in center for teens in downtown Scranton. The NEPA Youth Shelter Teen Drop-In Center serves a safe place for at-risk teens to go after school. At the center, teens can do homework, socialize, and rest; the center also provides clothing, school supplies, food, and job resources for those who need them. An MFHS Reproductive Health Educator frequents the drop-in center weekly to provide reliable, accurate health information to the teens.

Reactions to the drop-in shelter have been extremely positive. An average of 35 teens visit the center each day, knowing that it a safe and enjoyable place to go after school. Ms. Maher-Gray, Executive Director of the NEPA Youth Shelter, plans to open an overnight youth shelter to continue making strides for teens in our community. Thank you Maureen for your continued commitment to the youth of Northeast Pennsylvania and congratulations!