Pittsburgh nonprofit that helps others could use some help
By Bill Zlatos
Published: Monday, May 7, 2012, 8:20 p.m.
The Pittsburgh Project, a nonprofit group that sends youths to fix the homes of needy senior citizens, needs repair itself.
The North Side-based group approached collapse this year after its revenue plunged, forcing the agency to slash its budget from $3 million to almost $1.9 million. Its board will meet on Wednesday to consider a new direction.
"Things will look different. We're examining how we can do things more efficiently and how we can do things with less resources," said Karen Dreyer, interim director.
Saleem Ghubril founded the agency in 1985 to address social ills. The group offers an after-school program, day camps, service camps, leadership training and preparation for college and jobs.
Four years ago, Ghubril left to head The Pittsburgh Promise, a $250 million scholarship program for graduates of the city's public schools.
"(The Pittsburgh Project was) hit with a significant leadership transition and the Great Recession at the same time, which is a huge challenge for any organization," said Diana Bucco, president of The Forbes Funds.
Forbes, which specializes in helping struggling nonprofits, gave the organization a $20,000 grant to hire a consultant to help it dig out of its financial hole.
To ease the void created by Ghubril's departure, foundations gave extra money for information technology and the hiring of a money-raising specialist.
"The director of development turned out not to be a good addition to the staff and that person is no longer with us," said Jay Roy, board president.
In addition, the executive director left to spend more time with her children, one of whom has special needs.
As the agency's revenue waned, the group laid off 14 of 52 employees by January. More than 1,700 youths from around the country will attend service camps where they will fix the homes of the elderly. But agency officials are waiting to find out this summer whether they will get grants to keep the after-school program going in the fall.
"More will be laid off in August without ongoing financial support," Dreyer said.
Children in the after-school program hope that does not happen. Many planted daisies on Monday, received help with homework or enjoyed a card game to sharpen memory.
"They help you reach your goal," said Rayne Williams, 10, of the North Side.
If the project cut or closed its after-school program, she might not achieve her goal of getting better in math.
"I wouldn't get any help and I would probably fail the grade," she said.
Njai Avery, 7, of the North Side works on vocabulary with his volunteer tutor, Josh Hjernvick, 32, of Gibsonia.
"They give us snacks for free. We get to play. They give us help with our homework and we get to have activities," Ngai said.
He said he would feel sad if he could not return. "I couldn't see my friends and my teacher, Miss Renee."
Bucco said children such as Rayne and Njai are the reason that foundations and The Forbes Funds are trying to help the project.
"All those kids need a safe place to go," she said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Agent confirms Mendenhall retiring from NFL
- Kovacevic: Big Ben’s contract clock ticking
- With no money for upkeep, Prospect Cemetery Association board to disband
- Brackenridge may be required by law to maintain cemetery
- National expert tells Pittsburgh providers to expect a cost crisis in cancer care
- Ukrainian leader will meet Obama in U.S.
- Talented center Sutter is proving to be ‘pretty important’ for Penguins
- New Kensington-Arnold board debates dress code
- Western Pennsylvania engineer aboard missing Malaysia Airlines flight
- Analysis: Kesler still on Pens’ radar as Shero aims to bring back ‘Big 3’
- Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg to be featured in TV series