Heroes Fighting Hunger

Dan Smith and Denny Kennedy in City Mission kitchen

In December, when Governor Wolf announced a second round of restrictions on indoor dining for restaurants, DanSmith, the President and CEO at Equipment & Controls Inc. in Lawrence, PA, had an idea.

“It started with a conversation at the kitchen table,” Smith explained.  “I saw two big problems.  You have local restaurant owners who have been in the community for years and have battled through COVID since March.  They probably just ordered all this inventory for the holidays and now they’re forced to shutdown.  And then you also have people in the community who can’t afford to eat. And I just thought, if we could get the right people involved and put the funding in the right place, maybe we could put a dent in both of these problems.”

Smith called his long-time friend, City Mission’s Chief Financial Officer, Denny Kennedy.  They had worked together years ago when Kennedy was the CFO at Smith’s company.  

When Smith and Kennedy brought the idea to City Mission’s President/CEO Dean Gartland, his first thought was, “what a tremendous idea. This can be a win-win for everyone involved.  We started working right away to make this idea a reality.”  

“Really, all I had was an idea,” said Smith.  “All the credit goes to the folks who went out and made it happen.  I couldn’t believe how fast it all came together and how passionate everyone at the Mission was to get this going.”

Smith made an initial donation to City Mission, and the Heroes Fighting Hunger program was born.  City Mission used the funds to purchase meals from local restaurants for the homeless residents living on their campus.  So far, the program has supported 15 local restaurants and provided over 7500 total meals for City Mission residents throughout the months of January, February, and now into March.          

 

City Mission Kitchen Supervisor, Anthony Cheverine, prepares lunch provided by Mission BBQ in Robinson.

“This is just a massive win-win for restaurants struggling with lowered revenue due to COVID-19, and for our residents here at the Mission as well,” said City Mission’s Chief Development Officer, Dr. Sally Mounts, who joined the program early on and quickly jumped into action.    

Mounts reached out to generous donors in the community, and using Smith’s initial donation as a matching gift, was able to raise even more money for the cause. Major donors to the new program include: Brian and Karen Shanahan, Mike and Kathy Makripodis, Jon Halpern of Pineapple Payments, and others.  

“We’re all struggling to get to the other side of this terrible pandemic,” added Mounts.  “Anything that unites us in this effort is a bonus for the whole community. And since so much of our ministry centers around food and shelter, it helped us provide a real bright spot for our residents.”

City Mission typically relies on food donations to keep costs low and financial donations to provide meals for the residents who depend on them for food and shelter every day.  But the generous donations received as part of this project, enabled the Mission to spend more per meal this month, which helped not only to support local restaurants but also to offer their residents more upscale meals and a greater variety of options.  

City Mission’s Food Services Manager, Judy Sandy, came on board to organize the project, contact the restaurants, and put together a meal schedule. “It’s exciting,” she said.  “It’s good for the restaurants and for our residents.”  

“The variety of the meals is incredible," she added. "It’s like they’re getting to eat out every day. These are places they can’t typically go, and these restaurants are actually coming to us.  And the residents are so grateful.  When they come in and see the food it’s like they’re thinking, ‘is this really for me?  Do people really care this much about me?’  It makes me cry to even think about it.”

Lisa Aprea and Nancy Ogburn of Chicco Baccello drop off 100 lunches at City Mission

 Chicco Baccello, a small coffeehouse, bakery, and deli in Washington, was one of the first restaurants the Mission approached with this idea.  Every Tuesday in the month of March, Chicco Baccello is providing lunch for the residents at City Mission by making deli sandwiches made with the highest-quality meats and cheeses along with side dishes like macaroni salad made in-house.

“We’re in close proximity to City Mission,” said Lisa Aprea, one of the owners at Chicco Baccello.  “We have regulars who stop in that work at the Mission.  We’ve participated in their Sweet Sunday event in the past, and we participated again this year.  So they know our coffee, our food.”

In the beginning, the pandemic hit their business pretty hard.  Aprea explained, “We knew we had to adapt.  We had to be willing to change the way we did things or we weren’t going to make it.  We made online orders available and offered curbside pickup.  And our community has been extremely supportive.”

When City Mission approached Aprea with the idea, she was excited and grateful. “What a wonderful thing to do to bless small businesses and the residents of City Mission.  And it isn’t just about the added revenue we’ll get this month -- what a blessing it is for us to make 100 sandwiches for the residents at the Mission.  Our staff is excited to do it.”  

Other restaurants participating in the program include: Pig& Fire, Union Grill, How Lee, Mission BBQ (Robinson Twp), the Pub at 333 (in Oakmont, PA), and others.

City Mission is planning to complete this program at the end of the month as in-dining restrictions ease and funding for the project winds down.  But you can always help provide meals to those in need at the Mission.  Call 724-222-8530 or visit www.citymission.org for more information.

March 18, 2021
Gary Porter - Communications Manager
Gary Porter
Communications Manager
Gary has been with the mission since 2017. He writes many of our resident stories, getting to know many of them and seeing their transformations at the mission from the start.
gporter@citymission.org

Recent Articles

We Are Family

We Are Family. Sam Care staff and volunteers
June 25, 2021

City Mission’s Samaritan Care Center is our community outreach program, which serves low-income individuals and families in our community. In an effort to prevent those who live in poverty from falling into homelessness, we provide food, support, and resources to those in need. And with a 21% poverty rate in the city of Washington, 9% higher than the national average, there are plenty of people who just need a little help. “We’re here to serve the community,” said Anne Wightman, City Mission’s Samaritan Care and Community Center Coordinator. “We want to be here as a resource for community members who just need some help to get through their day or their week.” Samaritan Care’s food pantry, which gave away 9,492 bags of food to local families in need during 2020, is open to the public twice a week every Tuesday and Thursday from 10am-3pm. You can come in, grab a basket, and browse through the pantry, choosing your favorite items – just like you’re shopping at the grocery store. If you need prayer, someone will pray with you. If you need help with housing, they can offer guidance and applications for public housing. If you need public assistance, a SNAP Outreach Coordinator for Washington and Greene Counties will be on-site twice a month to answer questions and show you how to apply for food stamps and other benefits. If you need legal help, they have an expungement session twice a month with the Director of Family Legal Services. If you need diapers, a toy, or even clothes for your child, they can often help you there too. “We want to let people know the services in the community that are available to them,” Wightman explained. “And we have a good working relationship with other nonprofits in the area.” Wightman and her family of volunteers can help you find your way to the best local services for you. The Samaritan Care Center is ramping back up now after COVID changed the way they did things for the past year. Pre-COVID, Samaritan Care served close to 100 families per week. When the pandemic lockdown started in March of last year, Samaritan Care launched City Mission’s Pop-up Pantries, using four of our Thrift Stores, which had been shut down for retail by statewide regulations, to distribute food bags to people who had lost jobs due to the pandemic or who needed assistance for any reason. The Pop-up Pantries initiative was kickstarted by a grant from the Washington County Community Foundation and supplemented by generous monetary and food donations. Our Pop-up Pantries gave away 4,144 bags of food, each valued at around $20, during the first two months of the pandemic lockdown. Each year, Samaritan Care also hosts several events for the community. Our Bags of Love event last Thanksgiving distributed 275 bags full of ingredients for a Thanksgiving meal at home. Santa’s Workshop allowed community members to select toys and other Christmas gifts for their children or grandchildren, and 50 families received backpacks full of back-to-school items at our Back to School event in 2020. Right now, the Samaritan Care Center is ramping up once again and hoping to serve the community like they have in the past. “It’s important to us that we’re able to help community members in their moment of need,” said Wightman. “And we want people to look forward to coming here. Nobody needs to feel embarrassed to ask for help. It’s really a family atmosphere. We all love each other.” “We truly appreciate that God entrusts us to be His hands and feet in this community. To me, this isn’t work. What I do here every day is exactly what I want to be doing.” Samaritan Care needs your help to keep our shelves stocked. Please help us to support those in need in our community. Visit www.citymission.org or contact Anne Wightman at awightman@citymission.org or 724-222-8530 x266.

For the Kids

Leah and Lisa
June 9, 2021

On Thursday, May 27, volunteer, Lisa Anne Harmon, spent several hours at City Mission helping Leah Dietrich, our Director of Residential Programs, set up a new Children’s Corner in the City Mission dining room. The Children’s Corner offers a fun, comfortable, and safe environment for the children of City Mission residents to play and socialize while their parent(s) eat meals or attend meetings. City Mission’s Women with Children Shelter already has an outdoor playground and a staffed Childcare Center where children can play while their moms look for work, attend classes, and work on their recovery. The Childcare Center, though, is only open and staffed at certain hours during the week. The new Children’s Corner in the dining room will be accessible any time for children to play in social groups or with their parents. It will also be available, not only to children who are Mission residents, but also to any of our residents’ children who come for visitations. “This is a dream come true,” said Dietrich. “The Mission has been able to meet the challenge of providing shelter for Women with Children, but we were looking for ways Mission parents could continue to bond with their children. This area does that! Not only for our Women with Children living here, but also our men, who are dads, now have a space for visitations. Not just a space but a fun space kills will want to go!” Lisa Anne Harmon is an active supporter of City Mission. She is passionate about the work being done here, and she is in regular contact with the staff to find new ways she can help. She especially has a heart for the children in our shelter. “I want to give these children more positive views on life, so they can break the cycle of poverty and move beyond it to a better life,” she said. How can you help the Mission? Find your own unique way to support our work in the community. Visit www.citymission.org or contact Director of Volunteers, Sheila Namy, at snamy@citymission.org or 724-705-7137.

Thank You

The Bible Chapel
April 1, 2021

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27 We are incredibly grateful for all of our church partners. Together, we are the body of Christ. We are His hands and feet in a world that cries out for help, and the Spirit of the Lord moves through us as one body with one purpose. Over the years, The Bible Chapel has been a great friend and supporter of our ministry. “Our relationship with City Mission goes way back. It pre-dates my time here,” said Pastor Wayne Johnson, who has been with The Bible Chapel for eight years and has acted as their Pastor of Outreach for the past year and a half. Members of The Bible Chapel have long served alongside the Mission in many ways: volunteering on our campus, donating money or food or other items, preaching at our chapel services, teaching classes and Bible Studies, serving on our staff, leading donation drives, and so much more. 2020 was a difficult time for everyone, and in the beginning of the COVID lockdown, there were many people in our community who found themselves hurting, out of work, and uncertain about the future. The Bible Chapel was one of the first churches to reach out to us and ask how they could help. Their South Hills campus opened their doors as a collection site for food and clothing donations and even held donation drives for us. “Their generosity did not end there,” said Shelley Kubincanek, our Manager of Church and Community Relations. In the beginning of the pandemic, when our City Mission Thrift Stores shut down in compliance with statewide COVID regulations, we used many of them as sites to give away bags of food as part of our Samaritan Care food pantry, which is our community outreach program. Thanks to partners like The Bible Chapel, who generously donated to the cause, we were able to give out 4,000 bags in the first two months of the COVID lockdown. “In the beginning of the pandemic,” said Johnson, “it was my assignment to see what we could do to help the community. City Mission was one of the first places I reached out to. We appreciate City Mission and the tremendous ministry they’ve had over the years.” When The Bible Chapel’s annual Vacation Bible School rolled around in August, the needs of City Mission were still on the hearts and minds of their congregation and staff. “VBS is always a major event for us,” Johnson said. “We typically have about 800 kids come to church for that week.” With the pandemic this past summer, they were forced to do things differently to ensure social distancing. Instead of having hundreds of kids at the church, they set up small groups in neighborhoods throughout the area. And instead of focusing their VBS outreach efforts on international missions like they do every year, they focused on helping local communities. “Wayne contacted us to see if their VBS program could hold donation drives to assist with our Samaritan Care food pantries,” Shelley added. “They delivered three truckloads full of nonperishable food, which was enough to supply our pantries for an entire week. We were able to help the community during this most difficult time thanks to the generous members of The Bible Chapel.” “We just really think it’s important to give back to the community,” Johnson explained. “What God blesses us with, He wants us to share with others. That’s an important part of the Christian walk.” With church and community partners like The Bible Chapel, City Mission can put Christ’s teachings into action by helping those in need. Visit www.citymission.org to learn more about City Mission or www.biblechapel.org to learn more about The Bible Chapel.

Restoring Cars, Restoring Lives

Sam and John Kuzmishin
March 22, 2021

Sam Kuzmishin, a 16-year-old Sophomore at Winchester Thurston High School, found a unique way to give back to his community and help those in need. One day, a few months ago, he was thinking about all the ways that the COVID pandemic has negatively-impacted our world, our country, and our local communities, and he wanted to find a way to help. “People are losing their jobs,” he said, “and some aren’t able to pay rent. I just wanted to find a way to help as many people as possible get back on their feet.” Sam and his dad, John Kuzmishin, love working on cars together and fixing them up in their garage. “It’s really, really rewarding when you figure out what’s wrong and how you can fix it,” Sam explained. Sam thought maybe he and his dad could take in dilapidated cars, restore them, and offer them at a deep discount to those in need. “The more I thought about it,” he said, “I realized that reliable transportation is such an important step to independence and getting your life back on track. It helps people commute to work, get groceries, take kids to school. And if you don’t have a car you can depend on, it really limits the jobs available to you.” Sam started contacting local nonprofits to find an organization he could work with, and City Mission called him back. “We get calls intermittently from people wanting to donate cars to us,” said City Mission’s Director of Hope Enterprises, Mark Vinoverski. Some of those donated vehicles are not operational. With limited space and no one dedicated to restoring the vehicles, the Mission could only store a limited number of them at any given time. Additionally, as homeless residents transition out of City Mission and into independent living, reliable transportation is often a very important step in their progress, so the Mission was really the perfect fit for Sam’s plan.“John and Sam have a real heart for the Mission,” said Vinoverski. “They really want the cars to go to our residents and help people in need.”A couple of months ago, Sam and his dad picked up their first car from the City Mission warehouse, a 2006 Buick Rainier with 155,000 miles. They hauled the vehicle on a trailer back to their home in Pittsburgh where they have a lift in their garage and a safe space to work. The car had a short circuit on the driver’s side door and a non-functioning air suspension system, among other issues. They purchased a control panel for the door, new suspension air bags, and a new air compressor with their own money and installed them. They also replaced the windshield, fixed non-functioning windshield wipers and performed preventative maintenance.Once the father and son team had restored the vehicle, they brought it back to the staff at the Mission, who already had a resident lined up to buy it. The resident purchased the vehicle, which will help him get to and from work, at a deep discount.“We want the residents to purchase the vehicles, so it’s like a real-life situation for them,” explained Vinoverski. “They learn to save money. They feel like they have ownership. It’s not just handed to them. They earn it.” Sam and his dad already picked up their second car and have begun working on it. Sam is working hard to acquire funding from companies, sponsors, and foundations to help purchase parts and fund the project. He is making contacts, writing grants, and building a website to document the impact their work is having in the community. “We just want to help people in need help themselves…one at a time,” said Sam, “especially during COVID.” Visit www.driveon412.com to learn more about this project. Want to find your own, unique way of making a difference for those in need? Contact City Mission at citymission.org or 724-222-8530 to find ways you can help.‍

A Quiet Space for Saige

City Mission Library in Memory of Saige Knapp
December 30, 2020

The City Mission Library in Memory of Saige Knapp opened on December 2. It has been a dream two years in the making for Shelby Lonce, City Mission’s Donor Relations Manager, who is working to honor the memory of her brother, Saige, who passed away in 2017. “When you lose a loved one,” she explained, “your whole life comes to a screeching halt. The rest of the world keeps moving, but you’re stuck.” Shelby and her family have been looking for ways to heal after their tragic loss. “The idea of donating books kept gnawing at me,” Shelby said. “It came to me in dreams.” When her brother died, Shelby and her family cleaned out his home. They packed away four boxes full of stuff. Three of those boxes were books. “Books are what helped him in his life,” she said. “he managed to keep all of those books even through time in jail and periods of homelessness. They were helpful to him. I wanted to get books in the hands of our residents too.” She started a book drive and got 80 books by the end of the first day and 200 brand new books at the end of the initial drive. When she donated the books to City Mission, Dean Gartland, the Mission’s President/CEO told her it had always been his dream to start a library for the residents. “And that became my mission,” Shelby recalls. Shelby developed a very specific vision for the library. It was very important that the books be brand new or in excellent condition. She did not wish to fill the library with books that look like somebody’s throwaways. “I don’t want our residents to think that they are anybody’s throwaways,” she explained. “I want them to feel and know that they are worthy. This is just a moment in their life on the way to better things.” Roughly a thousand books were collected for the library. Shelby made a list of all the books Saige had read throughout the last five years of his life, and she was able to get almost every single one of them for the City Mission Library. One of the classrooms in the Mission’s Career Training and Education Center was converted into a library space, and beautiful, new shelves were built and installed along the walls. Shelby procured an online cataloguing system and started coming in on the weekends to label, categorize, and sort each and every book. Quickly, she realized that this was a much bigger task than she was able to accomplish on her own. That was when Brianna Kadlecik, City Mission’s Manager of Career Services, jumped onboard the project. “It was just this amazingly perfect thing,” said Brianna. “I love books, and I get to sit in a room full of books and talk to residents about books. This is my dream.” Brianna took over the day-to-day management of the library, and she was immediately impressed with the quality and variety of the books. “When I do intake with new residents, I can think of books in our library that directly meet their needs and can help them with the exact things that they want to learn.” When Brianna told Matt, a City Mission resident and avid reader, about the project, he jumped at the chance to help. “Personally, I consider it a privilege to be able to work on this project,” he said. “I’m grateful that in this season of my life, God was able to use me to be a piece of the puzzle to help Shelby and her family. I’m glad I was part of that.” When he started working on the library, the books were all in piles on the floor. He worked to categorize, stamp, label, and organize every single book in the library. He volunteered his time on evenings and weekends, working for about six weeks to get the library ready to open. “Books have absolutely been transformational for me in my life. I’m a big believer in the power of books. Absolutely,” he explained. “Shelby saw fit to keep everything neat and organized and to make sure all the books were in good condition. That speaks volumes to me.” Matt is also excited about what the library space could eventually mean for himself and his fellow residents. “The library will provide a place for you to enter into the world of the book and allow the book to enter into your world. To enter that place of imagination. It could also be a place to do homework and study. Right now, there just isn’t that place. It’s tough. You have to scramble to get time and a place to study and focus.” “My hope,” added Shelby, “is that eventually the library can be a quiet space for residents to go. There aren’t too many of those places around campus right now.” Currently, during the COVID pandemic, the library is open primarily online, and only one resident at a time is permitted in the library space. Residents can view the card catalog online and check out up to two books at a time, and Brianna will have the books delivered directly to them. Eventually, once COVID restrictions are lifted, the library will be open for browsing. For one resident in particular, the library has already been a revelation. Lu is a refugee from Taiwan who is still learning to read and speak English. His face lit up when he walked into the library for the first time. He went straight for the kids’ section and starting reading and re-reading Dr. Seuss books out loud, practicing words he doesn’t normally see or say. “The delight on his face was just so genuine,” said Brianna, who was in the library at the time. “It was just a really beautiful moment. We’re giving him a resource he wouldn’t otherwise have.” The library is already proving to be a valuable resource for City Mission residents. And for Shelby and her family, it has already been a healing experience. Saige’s daughter, his aunts and uncles, and his cousins from all across the country needed some avenue to direct all the love they still have for Saige, and this library has been a unifier for them all. “It has been really amazing to connect with people who have donated books to the library and to share Saige’s story with City Mission donors,” she explained. “Saige is the reason I’m connected to the Mission. He is in the fabric of the Mission.” “Saige was so smart and kind and adventurous,” Shelby added. “He would read everything. He had a really good heart. He was so much more than his addiction. I just wish he could have known that.” “Saige struggled with self-worth. He struggled to separate his identity from his addiction,” Shelby said. But when he came to City Mission, everyone treated him like family. “I’m really thankful for what the Mission has been for my family,” she added. “I’m thankful that City Mission is here for our residents, because all of our residents are somebody’s brother or dad or sister.”