South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

Brashear Association has come a long way, baby

Series: Brashear Memories | Story 3

Last updated 4/17/2017 at 6:04pm

Joe Senko, then president of the Brashear Association, with Dana MacKay who was the executive director of the Association for a year in the early 1080s. Mr. Senko contributed the latest Brashear Memory.

Back in 1968, Virginia Slims cigarettes had a slogan with its commercial, "You've come a long way, baby." This slogan reminds me of Brashear Association's 100-year history.

My tenure on Brashear Association's Board of Directors was from 1976 through 1982 including the presidency during my last two years. During the same period, I also served on the Board of Directors of United Neighborhood Centers of America (UNCA) headquartered in New York. I saw firsthand how neighborhood centers throughout the United States were permanently closing their doors because of a decline in interest and from competition with other children's activities. Brashear Association was only one of two neighborhood centers left in Pittsburgh.

Back then, Brashear Association was also experiencing changes. In 1981, Jim O'Brien, the association's executive director for 13 years, decided to retire. After a few poor attempts by the board to find a replacement our current executive director, Hugh Brannon, was hired in 1983.

Over the years, Brashear's residential summer camp outside of Zelienople was full every year. Gradually, some of the children began to develop other interests. This was affecting most summer camps, not just at the Brashear Association.

Today, children are spending more time with computer games, both handheld and at home. Back then, the competition came from organized sports, television and family vacations. The camp eventually closed in 1984.

To keep up with the interests of the Hilltop children during that time, the Henry Kaufmann Center underwent major renovations. This greatly improved the interests and activities in the area.

My wife, Albina, recalls when she came to the United States with her mother 70 years ago from Slovakia. As a 10-year-old, she and her family settled in South Side. Not knowing any other children and not knowing the language, family and neighbors suggested she visit the Brashear Settlement House at its previous location.

Other children participating in activities and programs introduced her to the many games and books available to the them. She will never forget the wonderful times she had at Brashear meeting new friends and learning new customs and a new language.

Budgeting is always a challenge for nonprofit organizations including the Brashear Association. With active Boards of Directors and dedicated staff, Brashear has always come with innovative ideas to overcome this problem.

Over the past 100 years, Brashear Association "has come a long way, baby."

Contributed by Joe Senko


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