South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Jason Greiner
Contributing Writer 

Support center helps Hilltop families


November 1, 2005

Hilltop Family Support Center operating in Beltzhoover
When the Beltzhoover Citizens Community Corporation and the Beltzhoover Citizens Council came together for the purpose of establishing a family support center, they decided to follow the example of an established and successful community organization. And that organization, Focus on Renewal in the Sto-Rox area, was more than happy to help out.
With the help of FOR, the community was able to identify a number of grants from Allegheny County. And from there, the process of getting the project off the ground could be put in motion.
The result of this partnership is the Hilltop Family Support Center located within the Beltzhoover Citizens Community Center. In part, FOR, and its executive director Father Regis Ryan, had been overseeing the operations of the support center.
As of this time, the support center is now run through a partnership between several organizations. These groups include the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, Children's Hospital, Hilltop Community Health Services and the aforementioned FOR.
In addition to this period of transition, the former head of the center, Keith Murphy, moved on to another position. “We were in the process of searching for a new director,” said Ryan.
But this issue has seemingly been resolved for the time being. Recently, Sandy Duceour of Children's Hospital has taken on the role of site coordinator.
According to Ryan, the basic goal of the organization focuses on the needs of children ranging in age from infants through five years. “The emphasis is on developmental services, from the physical to the mental to the emotional,” said Ryan.
Specific services provided cover several areas. One area deals primarily with parents. The Support Center offers parent training with guest speakers, positive parenting classes and child development training for parents.
Another focus is on the family unit as a whole. In these cases, the organization offers social activities, a family drop-in center and literacy programs.
A third category of assistance deals with the typical essentials of running a household. The support center features informational sessions and resources on health care, budgeting, pregnancy support and more.
With the main focus on children, several child-specific programs are available as well. Some examples include playgroups, story time, summer camps and educational resources to assist students in pursuing a GED or acceptance into a vocation or higher education.
According to Leslie Reicher, an official with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, funding for the organization comes predominantly in the form of grants from the county. “There are 33 centers in Allegheny County and we fund 26 of them,” said Reicher.
This monetary support, in combination with the work of the staff and volunteers, ensures that the services provided are available to all members of the Beltzhoover community. For example, there is no income guideline a family must meet to be eligible for services.
With the demand, and having only a small paid staff, the support center is always in search of volunteers. And the hope often focuses on parents raising children in the community. “We always look to have a large parent group,” said Ryan. “Whenever, the center is doing something big, it is nice to have parents to help govern the project.”
The effort to achieve this can be very difficult at times. Duceour believes one of the hardest things about successfully running a center like this deals with making the presence known. “One challenge is letting people know about us, just finding a way to get the word out,” she said.
One of the other complications the support center may face is the possibility of space constraints. “We're looking to possibly find a larger site,” said Brenda Gregg, Director of Community Outreach and Community Health Services for Children's Hospital. The need is becoming more and more likely. This however, is a goal that may have to be sought with more of a long-term approach.
Working in such an environment can also be quite rewarding. According to Duceour, one of the best parts lies in simply providing an ability and outlet. “We're reaching a community that hasn't had this provided for them,” she said. Gregg and Reicher also emphasized the importance of providing services from a strong base and through the multi-organization collaborative effort.
Ultimately, the goal for the support center seems rather simple. “We want to get as many families involved as we can to make this work,” said Gregg. “People don't have to have any dire need. They can just come in for a little support or socialization and meeting with their peers.”
“We're really looking to have a fresh start with the focus on the Beltzhoover and Knoxville communities,” said Reicher.
If there are any problems the support center may not be equipped to accommodate, Gregg urges community members to call the center anyway in order to be referred to the appropriate resource.
For anyone interested in volunteering or simply learning more about the center and the services they provide, call 412-325-3248 for more information. They can also stop by the current location at 407 Gearing Ave.


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