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Lissette Dishmey of Jericho Community Center – Why NEPA image
June 04, 2024
Lissette Dishmey of Jericho Community Center – Why NEPA
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“I needed so much help when I first came here and now, I just want to be that for someone else.”

Life was perfect for young Lissette Dishmey in the Dominican Republic. She was surrounded by family all the time. Her grandma, or Mama Monica, a devout woman of faith and service, instilled in impressionable Lissette (her “chosen one”) a strong sense of grit and an unwavering compassion for others. Then, right around 14, life had to start over.

She moved with her mother to Passaic, New Jersey. The new start was a rough one. Neither spoke English, or knew where to go to learn. They relied on the kindness of neighbors. While mom worked three jobs, Lissette took care of her little brother – all while navigating the trials and triumphs of high school. She learned quickly that education was what moved you forward.

She began college in New Jersey, but when her mom found an opportunity to seize the “American Dream” via good work and affordable housing in NEPA, it was off to Wilkes-Barre for young adult Lissette. Life starts over again. This time, she was prepared. She obtained degrees from LCCC and Wilkes and embarked on a career in social work. Eventually, she met and married a nice guy from church, and with their two children right beside them, they set out to make the world a better place.

We met with Lissette at Gather Community Space in Wilkes-Barre where her nonprofit, Jericho Community Center holds classes and hosts programs to assist immigrant families. And while she humbled us with tales of her journey, we threw in a few random questions, like Why NEPA?


How long have you lived in NEPA?

So, I have been here since 2009.

What do you love about your town?

What I really loved about Wilkes-Barre was actually everything it didn’t have. You know? Coming from a larger city, everything’s there for you. When I came here, It felt like I was a part of something that was growing. And I feel like part of why God has been bringing so many great people to this area from all over, is to help it grow. And you can see that in Wilkes-Barre and how it’s thriving right now. It’s having a great moment, and I love that. I love that it’s blooming in a way.

What’s your favorite NEPA restaurant?

So, my husband and I love Fire & Ice. That’s like our special date night and anniversary place. Everything is always great there. We love it. And there is a list, but my husband and I have been going back and forth over this for like a week and I’m like, “I need to have an answer. They’re coming like tomorrow. I need to have one!” (laughs). But there are a lot of favorites. We play this little game where we go to local restaurants and mom-n-pop places and rate them with our little personal system for all different kinds of things. Like Sweet Treet in Kingston is so good for breakfast. And then we’ll rate them for like their potatoes, or their juice, or the milkshakes. And we compare them to all the others. Believe me, it’s such a long list. That’s why it’s so hard. I just thought we’d go with Fire & Ice because it’s our place for special occasions.

What’s your favorite thing to in NEPA?

So, coming from New Jersey, when I discovered that parks are free, which many of them are not over there, that was immediately one of my favorite things. We love Kirby Park. That’s our number one choice. It’s like part of our family now. You know, the whole 4th of July event with the fireworks. We have to go every year. It kind of really ties us to Wilkes-Barre. Our kids have grown up going to that event. We wouldn’t go anywhere else for the 4th. It’s like it has become a big part of our lives here. Obviously, we go to a lot of the state parks as well. And you don’t have to pay to get in. And they have so many opportunities and activities for kids to learn and grow. I use the parks a lot with the kids from church, because I work with the youth there. The parks are just great. It’s free. It’s nature. It’s beautiful. And there is a lot of educational experiences for kids.

What’s next for you?

Alright, so next for me is that we definitely want to grow Jericho. We have so many ideas and plans and things that we want to do. Jericho seeks to assist the immigrant community in this area. And not just specific groups, but everyone that’s coming to the area from somewhere else. We’ve noticed that there’s obviously a need to help people settle in. And there’s so many great people that are coming and looking just to settle in and become a part of the community and help it grow. We have so many people trying to start small businesses, grow their families and send their kids to school here. So, we want to be there for them. We want to make sure they have access to all the help they need – whoever they are. We have a lot of great ideas to achieve that, and that’s what we’re focusing on right now.

I am always open to any opportunities that come my way. I’m also looking to further my education. I’m trying to fit it on my plate (laughs). It’s been a struggle. Mainly because my life is so crazy, and I’m a mom and my kids are growing up and I am committed to being a present mom. I bring them here with me. They serve alongside me. So, basically, I want to continue to grow where God has planted me.

Where do you see NEPA heading in the future?

I see NEPA becoming this really cool, multicultural community, which is going to be truly enriching for our children because that will eventually diminish the whole “minority factor.” Because when there are so many different colors in the pot and you melt them together, guess what? No one shines and no one is in the dark. And I love that, because, honestly, I hate the idea of people being considered minorities. It’s very detrimental to our society in general. I want to see everyone thrive. Everyone deserves a chance to make something of this life. Nobody chooses to leave their home, their families, their whole heritage with nothing on their backs to go to a new country and start from zero. No one chooses that. It’s very difficult. There are a lot of factors involved. Politics. Violence. War. We have people here at the center who are literally running from war. If we could just focus on helping these members of our community to thrive on their own, then we won’t have to assist them forever.


God sent me. God chose me. He told me to get up and go to NEPA. I initially came to support my mom, and I felt like that was the right thing, like that was the right path. But I thought I would eventually go back. But now, since we’ve become a part of our community here, I’m like, “This is it!” And there was a moment where it hit me. When we started our recruitment for these classes last summer, we thought maybe we’d get ten students. We ended up with 88. You know that feeling when you get like a cold spot in your belly and you just don’t know if you should cry or smile or be afraid. And it’s like, “Oh my, what am I going to do? I was not ready for all of this.” But we worked really hard and we did it. And after, we realized that we had something here. Like there’s a need, and we’re here to fill it. And every day since, something has happened that was like confirmation that we belonged here.