South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By James Kail
Point Park News Service 

Area agencies are preparing to help during the Holiday Season

 


Carrick’s Stewart Avenue Lutheran Church is prepping for a huge turnout for its annual food bank holiday drive, among other fun activities for local youth.

On the city’s South Side, family services coordinator, Tracy Frank of The Brashear Association is working on getting presents this Christmas, so children wake up with smiles on their faces.

Jessica Gettig of LifeSpan, a resource program that helps locate churches and organizations where people can seek holiday assistance, is taking calls for those in need of food.

They are among the groups throughout the South Pittsburgh area, bent on making this year’s Christmas the best possible for lower income residents.

“The Brashear Association is a small organization, but we reach out to over 700 kids every year, with toys purchased by our own team and private donors,” said Ms. Frank.

Whether you are a family with young children who have nothing to do this year, or an older couple needing some assistance, rest assured there are many places that are ready and welcoming to new people all over the area. Churches and organizations include Carrick’s Stewart Avenue Lutheran Church, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Brashear Association, South Side Market House, Knoxville’s LifeSpan as well as the Overbrook Senior Center and Cloverleaf Food Pantry.

Stewart Avenue’s church is having a lot of neat events in December, including a trip for kids to go Christmas caroling on Dec. 6. Bill Thomas, who volunteers with the youth, relayed the upcoming events.

“The kids will be putting on a Christmas play this year and will be making ornaments for our ‘Trim the Tree’ event,” he said. “In addition, the church will be holding a Santa’s workshop.”

Mary Ann Dougherty, another organizer for the church’s youth programs, spoke about the success of the activities in previous years.

“Kids from all over the community come in, not just our members,” she said. “Everyone buys crafts and we set up big tables for them, order pizza and bake goods.”

The food bank at Stewart is huge and people are welcome to call in and register. In fact, it is so successful every year they needed to move into a bigger room, with more tables set up for new items to be packaged and laid out. Volunteers Kathy Gallagher and Vicki Murrio are very excited about the growth from past years.

“Our food bank is almost a grocery store,” Ms. Gallagher said. “This year we have a brand new selection that will feature produce.”

Vicki Murrio said the food bank started with around 40 families in need and jumped over the years to about 100.

“The phones have been ringing and we’re taking notes of how much to prepare, but we also take walk-ins,” she said.

If you have any questions or want to register with Stewart Avenue, the food bank can be reached at salcfoodpantry@gmail.com or by phone at 412-881-4448.

Carrick’s Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh may interest you if your children want to enjoy great food and a Christmas movie. The library is holding a teen holiday party for kids in grades 6-12 on Dec. 19 from 2-4 p.m.

Teen Librarian Jon Antoszewski spoke about the event.

“There will be something for everyone, and we will have hot chocolate,” he said. “The kids always have a great time.”

There’s no cost to attend the party, everything is free. More information can be provided by the library, which can be reached by calling 412-882-3897.

In South Side, The Brashear Association provides the biggest outreach to those in need of Christmas presents. Ms. Frank spoke more about their growth as a small organization and how they’ve impacted lives.

“We experienced a 20 percent increase in families who relied on us to provide their children a good Christmas,” she said. “The Brashear Association gets thank you cards a lot by those who love what we do, but we also rely on donations.”

Ms. Frank along with the team of planners buy a wide variety of gifts to meet the wants of different children as well, but cannot guarantee a perfect Christmas list. There are so many children that are tended to that it makes it almost impossible to fulfill lists.

Anyone can feel free to donate toys for kids or become involved with the holiday assistance program in some form by reaching The Brashear Association on their website at http://www.brashearassociation.org or Ms. Frank at 412-431-2236.

If you’re a senior looking for fun and some warm meals this season, look no further than the South Side Market House. Steve Russell oversees the establishment and said it’s a great place for older folks to meet new friends and go on trips. In December, people can sign-up inside for a Christmas concert.

“The event is free and it’s all great music,” Mr. Russell said.

In addition, the place is holding a Christmas Party with lots of food and treats. Details are all inside and the market house can be reached by phone at 412-488-8404.

In Knoxville, LifeSpan is a fantastic program that not only helps during Christmas time, but the entire year. Families are welcome to call in to get information and Jessica Gettig, the regional services manager, will direct them to one of the many churches in the area who are tied to the Greater Pittsburgh Area Food Bank and can deliver meals to homes.

“We generally are working with the elderly, but if someone calls us and says they need some help, we’ll help to find them a resource that they need,” said Ms. Gettig.

This program has been assisting people in finding meals for more than 40 years now and staff assist everyone to the very best of their abilities. Ms. Gettig can be reached at the Knoxville LifeSpan by phone at 412-381-6900. More information is available on their website at http://www.lifespanpa.org.

Lastly, the Overbrook Senior Center and Cloverleaf Food Pantry provide the area with top notch programs for the elderly and their families.

Gayle Clark, who oversees the center’s activities, said seniors there are excited for their Christmas party, and that organizers are getting ready for a huge bake sale.

“This is our first year organizing anything like this and it’s a great opportunity to get people involved,” Ms. Clark said. “We’re going to have all kinds of treats, such as pies and cupcakes for Christmas.”

Cathy Pahel, a volunteer at Cloverleaf spoke over the phone about the support they’ve gotten to reach out to people.

“Around eight or nine churches in our area contribute to our success,” she said. “If anyone wants access to donated food and goods, they have to be registered, and right now, we have around 250 families registered.”

The pantry is located at St. Pius X Hall where registered families can pick up their food during Christmas time.

In addition to the food donations, Cloverleaf runs a toy drive for kids and it’s a huge success. Anyone can access information to these great programs at http://www.stelizparish.org/pantry.asp.

 

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