‘Lunch and Learn’ highlights changes at local rescue mission


Light of Life Rescue Mission seeks to help the homeless and poverty-stricken by teaching them important life skills. (Photo courtesy Light of Life)

Between new community outreach programs, building renovations and a new executive director, Light of Life Rescue Mission has kept busy.

Light of Life is a faith-based ministry that has operated in the Central Northside since 1952 that “provides food, shelter and life-saving programs for the poor, homeless and addicted.” It serves 900 and 1,000 people per year.

Mission staff recently highlighted new programs, renovations and the new executive director at a “Lunch and Learn” on June 9 in the main mission building on East North Avenue.

Light of Life Public Relations Manager Beth Healey said that the program managers explained the five programs the mission provides, and that the Lunch and Learn seminar was simply to inform the Northside community about what Light of Life can do for them or others in the Northside.

“Our mission is to help save and transform lives,” Healey said. “What we do is help empower the poor and the homeless, men, women, and children to be able to achieve healthy living along with education and career goals.”

Healey said that in addition to Light of Life staff, about 10 people attended the meeting, including legislative assistants from the offices of state senators Jay Costa and Bob Casey, from the offices of state representatives Jake Wheatley, Chelsea Wagner and Mike Turzai, from the office of City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak and County Councilwoman Barbara Danko.

“People were interested in poverty and homeless issues. The demographics in the Northside were also of high interest because the unemployment rate is high.”

Craig Schweiger, who will take office as the new executive director the week of July 11, attended the meeting as well. Schweiger will replace current Executive Director David Bugher.

After more than eight years with the mission, Bugher stepped down to attend a mission trip in Jacksonville, Fl.

“During this time he accomplished many remarkable goals,” Healey said, “such as paying off the mission’s debts, increasing revenues, adding four new programs, renovating space and expanding the women and children’s program to accommodate 30 families. When he started, it only served 15 families.”

As a donor to the program for many years, Schweiger developed a good relationship with Bugher, setting him up for an opportunity with Light of Life.

“I shared with him a desire to help them with two things,” Schweiger said. “The facility, and the challenge of addressing the facilities that they had, and secondly, I’ve always had a heart for housing in Pittsburgh’s Northside.”

Schweiger’s main prerogative right now is getting to know the staff and the program. He addressed the entire staff on June 14. He was not prepared to discuss his goals for the mission at this point.

“My take was that the folks were interested in knowing more about us,” Schweiger said about the Lunch and Learn. “I also felt that for the most part, the guests were surprised in all of the areas besides feeding and housing others in the emergency situation.”

Over the past four years, Light of Life has instituted four new programs to the original homelessness outreach program.

One of these programs includes an outreach program that provides meals for the Northside. Events include barbecues and Steelers tailgating parties that are open to “everyone and anyone,” according to Healey.

The other four programs were instituted to help people with long-term education and recovery.

These programs highlight the areas of general curriculum training, developing a career path, addiction recovery counseling, parenting skills, family stabilization and devastation counseling for the youth.

“People come to us in a state of brokenness and hopelessness,” Healey said. “Our recovery programs empower them to overcome dire circumstances and achieve their highest potential spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically — in other words, experience true life transformation.”

The mission also recently renovated its three buildings that are used for their staff and programs to make them more available to members of the programs.

Light of life owns three properties on the Northside: the mission building located on East North Avenue, a building on Western Avenue that houses the men’s and women’s programming and office workers, and an apartment building on East Street that serves as the men’s extended care facility.

“The future is really bright,” Schweiger said. “There are a lot of things that have set the stage. The organization is really shining. As far as in the community, I’m seeing great results and a lot of people in Pittsburgh support Light of Life, it’s exciting to know that I am in the middle of something that means a lot to a lot of people.”

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