Northside Common Ministries will be awarding local shelters, churches and outreach programs for exemplary contributions made towards fighting regional homelessness
By: Janelle Wilson
In part of their annual Celebration of Caring awards ceremony, members of Northside Common Ministries (NSCM) awarded seven Pittsburgh-based individuals and organizations for their contributions towards helping the local homeless population.
Awards for the sixth annual ceremony will be presented at The Priory’s Grand Hall on November 3 at 6 p.m. In addition to the award presentation, dinner will be served and a silent auction will be held to benefit the Pleasant Valley Shelter for Men. Entertainment will also be provided by Funky Fly Project, a teenage funk and jazz band.
NSCM executive director, Jay Poliziani said that nominees are picked by polling the community through email and social media outreach.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase people helping their communities,” he said. “It helps show others the creative connection in community service. It’s not just moving boxes.”
Individual award winners include Dr. Edward Kelly, who has worked as part of Operation Safety Net street outreach program since 2003, where he and other clinicians, as well as formerly homeless people, help provide health and dental care to the homeless.
Carnegie Mellon University art student Daniel See was also awarded for an art project called “Project Homeless” that he created last year. For the project, the Singapore native imprinted homeless men’s hands into clay mugs, which are sold around the city. All proceeds from the mugs are then donated to Pittsburgh homeless shelters.
“It’s a reminder of how [a homeless person] is a fellow human being,” he said. “This is someone who needs help, who’s stretching out their hand to you. This is your choice, now, whether you want to help or not,” he told Essential Pittsburgh last May.
Other individual award winners include Darlene Rushing, an advisor for NCM’s Food Pantry, Gary Whitmore, leader of Riverside Community Church’s Homeless Outreach Team, and Robyn Greer, a salon owner and hairstylist who opened her salon’s doors on Thanksgiving to feed the homeless.
Organizations that were awarded include the congregation of Allegheny Unitarian Universalist Church (AUUC). Members were selected as the Outstanding Congregation of the Year for their efforts toward social justice, which included their work with immigrant communities and food pantry collections. On Sundays, half of the church’s collections go to a justice partner.
AUUC minister Reverend Dave McFarland, said that the church’s congregation is non-denominational and eclectic in their beliefs, but that spirituality plays a larger role in the church’s congregation and their acts of service.
“We come from all walks of life,” he said. “We have different beliefs, some are Buddhist, some are Christian, but we are all true to what we believe.”
McFarland said that some of their service projects include donating things that the food bank doesn’t provide, such as toilet paper and diapers. They also donate kid-friendly food for kids who miss out on school-provided lunches during the summertime. He said his congregation was thrilled to win an award, but emphasized that they don’t solely help their community for the recognition.
“When your spirituality deepens, whatever you believe in, you will organically reach out to help those in need,” he said.
The Allegheny Center Alliance Church’s Young Professional’s Mentoring Program (YPMP) was also awarded for students’ contributions. The summer program offers enrolled students the ability to learn vocational and life skills through culinary and professional development programs. These programs are also actively engaging students in service projects for the homeless.
Program director Loleda Moman said that she was currently in the works to return the program next summer with her next batch of students.
“[Serving the homeless] helps kids to see for themselves the negative consequences of going down the wrong path,” she said. “It also helps them to see that homelessness is more than what they see on TV, it adds an element of realness.”
Tickets for the event will be $100 per person and can be purchased at NSCM’s website, and donations are currently being accepted for the silent auction.