Nonprofits in the news: community investments, leadership changes, and more | Pittsburgh City Paper

Nonprofits in the news: community investments, leadership changes, and more

click to enlarge Nonprofits in the news: community investments, leadership changes, and more
CP Illustration: Lucy Chen

This week, we catch you up on a $3.5 million government injection into local causes, organizations gaining national attention, and leadership changes in the nonprofit world.

Boys & Girls Club

The Boys & Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania named Chris Watts as new president and CEO on Nov. 14.

Watts has previously served as Vice President of District Development at the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. Before that, Watts was the executive director of the congressionally chartered National Fitness Foundation where he led the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, as well as established the social enterprise 4POINT4, a sportswear company that donates proceeds to charity.

Watts also served as a fellow in the Obama Administration from 2010 to 2014. During that time, he directed corporate and community partnerships for the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition in support of Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move!’ initiative. As a Pittsburgh native, Watts is an active contributor to local community development initiatives and lives in Glenshaw with his family.

The Boys & Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania was established in 1888 and offers programs for youth of all ages including preschool, afterschool programming, and summer day camp, as well as sports leagues and STEM programs. The organization offers opportunities for teens to socialize safely, as well as explore education and career options. The Boys & Girls Club operates 14 clubhouse locations, with more than a dozen partner sites in Allegheny and Somerset counties.

Vision to Learn

Vision to Learn partners with Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services to provide students with no-cost vision screenings and eyeglasses.

The new partnership between Vision to Learn and DHS taps into unused federal funds from the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and private philanthropic donations, to provide essential vision screenings for students at schools in lower income communities covered by Vision to Learn.

The partnership aims to reduce barriers to healthcare and promote educational success, since 80% of all learning during the first 12 years of life is visual. The partnership will use funds to provide students with initial vision screenings, eye exams, and eyeglasses, if needed, at no cost. Vision to Learn launched a Pittsburgh program in 2018 and it currently serves more than two dozen school districts throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Vision to Learn was founded in 2012 and is a nonprofit that provides children with free vision screenings, eye exams, and glasses at schools in low-income communities across the country. The program brings licensed optometrists to school sites to administer care and has provided about two million students with vision screenings, more than 400,000 eye exams, and 325,000 glasses across the country.

Homeless Children’s Education Fund

The Homeless Children’s Education Fund made an appearance on The Kelly Clarkson Show in early November.

Executive Director AJ Jefferson appeared on the national talk show to spread the message of the organization. The Kelly Clarkson Show partnered with Scholastic to make a donation of $15,000 to HCEF. $10,000 was given in cash and $5,000 was given in books. The broadcast also included a guest appearance from former HCEF student, Najee Harris of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The spotlight on HCEF coincides with the organization's YOU CAN campaign to raise additional dollars and increase its donor base to expand necessary programming and services. October was Homeless Children’s Awareness Month in Allegheny County and the City of Pittsburgh. Last month’s events included a Stand Up Demonstration and press conference. The campaign will end with a community celebration event on Nov. 17.

HCEF was founded in 1999 to support the education needs of homeless children in Allegheny County. During the 2019-20 school year, over 3,000 students were identified as experiencing homelessness in Allegheny County’s school districts. HCEF is dedicated to educating the community with conversation about the advancement of federal bills on housing instability and educational funding in schools, as well as stigma around youth homelessness.

Youth Enrichment Services

Youth participants from the community attended Youth Enrichment Services’ fall 2022 Restore, Reconnect, and BREATHE Retreat from Nov. 11-13.

The fall retreat was an all-expense-paid healing justice retreat for youth impacted by violence. The retreat was a follow-up event after the organization’s summer summit, where participants could continue conversations that began earlier in the year. World-renowned artist Chad Lawson accompanied the trip.

Youth participants were encouraged to relax and enjoy the nature. By the end of the retreat, youth participants became certified as teen mentors. These participants will help the organization plan ways to address violence in the community for the next two years. Adults attending the retreat also worked on strategic and long-range planning to support students and families dealing with trauma and the long-term impact of gun violence.

Youth Enrichment Services (YES) was formed in 1994 to give young people from urban communities a way to see themselves as successful, empowered, and confident leaders. YES provides mentorship, education, and enrichment programs. The organization has invested over $900,000 into youth wages and stipends and has served over 5,000 youth participants.

Hero for a Day

Hero for a Day is a nonprofit event hosted by Ohio Township. The event will include a blood drive, food drive, and clothing drive at Ohio Township’s Fire Station on Nov. 26.

The drive will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and provide Pittsburgh residents with an opportunity to get rid of their unused clothes, give away food, or make blood donations. There will also be a chance for residents to support the American Cancer Society with a monetary donation.

The Hero for a Day event is a partnership between Ohio Township,, North Hills Food Bank, Salvation Army, and Vitalant. Volunteers will be on hand to receive donations. Additionally, participants will be urged to register as organ donors.

Ohio Township hosted a similar event in 2019.

American Immigration Council & Welcoming America

American Immigration Council and Welcoming America selected Pittsburgh to be awarded a Gateways for Growth Research Award.

Launched in 2016, the Gateways for Growth (G4G) Challenge is a competitive opportunity for localities to receive research support, technical assistance, or matching grant funds to improve immigrant inclusion. Pittsburgh was one of nine localities across the country to be selected for the award. The grant will allow Pittsburgh’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs to implement a data-driven approach to their work.

Awardees are provided support from the two organizations, including customized qualitative research reports on the demographic and socioeconomic contributions immigrants make in their communities, tailored technical assistance to support communities that make a multi-sector immigrant inclusion strategy, and match grant funds to aid the execution of the community’s strategic plan.

The American Immigration Council works to shape the way America thinks about and acts toward immigrants by working to promote a more fair and just immigration system. Welcoming America is a nonpartisan organization with a mission to build a more welcoming society by providing a network of leaders with tested methods and policies to create better communities. &

Neighborhood Assistance Program

The Neighborhood Assistance Program is funding multiple nonprofits and community projects in Allegheny County.

The funding, more than $ 3.5 million, is provided by private sector investment and can go directly toward affordable housing, community services, crime prevention, education, job training, food access, blight, special population issues, veteran’s initiatives, and long-term community revitalization. This year, a special emphasis was put on projects that addressed pandemic recovery, social justice, and improved opportunities for underrepresented communities.

Some of the largest donations were given to organizations like:

  • Hill Community Development Corporation Pittsburgh for $540,000 from Dollar Bank, Duquesne Light, FNB Corporation, KeyBank, PNC Bank, and UPMC Diversified Services

  • McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation for $460,000 from Dollar Bank, Hammel Companies Inc, Key Bank, TriState Capital Bank

  • Northside Leadership Conference, Inc. for $400,000 from HM Life Insurance Company, Huntington Bank, Key Bank, North Shore Entertainment Works LLC

  • Hilltop Economic Development Corporation for $320,000 from Fragasso Financial Advisors, Giant Eagle, Northwest Bank, and United Concordia Insurance Company

  • Lawrenceville Corporation for $400,000 from Duquesne Light Company, First National Bank, Standard Bank of PA, UPMC Diversified Services, UPMC Health Benefits, and WesBanco Bank

  • Light of Life Ministries, Inc. for $187,500 from UPMC Health Benefits

  • Sharpsburg Neighborhood Organization for $160,000 from Giant Eagle and TriState Capital Bank

  • Coraopolis Community Development Corporation, Inc. for $180,000 from Dollar Bank, HM Life Insurance Co., Huntington Bank, and Northwest Bank

  • Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh for $160,000 from UPMC Diversified Services

  • Hilltop Alliance for $200,000 from Dollar Bank, PNC Bank, and UPMC Diversified Services

The full list of grant recipients includes more than 200 nonprofit organizations and projects. Pennsylvania’s Neighborhood Assistance Program helps nonprofits complete community projects and provides tax credits to businesses that make contributions to those efforts. The program works to strengthen partnerships between the private, nonprofit, and public sector. 

Hands off Rafah protest in East Liberty
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Hands off Rafah protest in East Liberty

By Mars Johnson