Tarentum's Faith Community Partners building project needs funding
It's been 17 months since the new nonprofit Faith Community Partners bought a rundown building in Tarentum with plans to turn it into a laundromat and community center.
The building originally was slated to open in late 2016 or early this year, but it remains dormant.
The work has yet to begin, and there's almost no money to begin it with.
Before it starts the renovations, Faith Community Partners wants to raise $170,000 to handle startup costs and pay three full-time staff members.
Then it plans to start raising the $1 million it needs to renovate a building that at present is not habitable and turn it into a community center called The Depot.
The nonprofit, created by members of Central Presbyterian Church, had hoped to have the startup money by the end of November, but has changed the deadline to the end of March.
“We were hoping to have a lot more success, to be a little further along in this fundraising process than we are,” said David Rankin, executive director of Faith Community Partners.
The group has received three grants so far, totaling $52,000.
It has spent about $25,000 on consultants, web designers and legal fees to get established and kick off its fundraising campaign.
The laundromat and multi-purpose space at 305 E. Fifth Ave. in the heart of Tarentum now is supposed to open sometime next year.
Rankin said he quit his job as a printer to run Faith Community Partners, a task he's been doing free of charge so far.
He created Faith Community Partnership LLC in 2015, buying the building at 305 E. Fifth Ave. and the adjoining parking lot with $63,000 of his own money. He purchased the building from Tarentum Mayor Carl Magnetta and his wife, Barbara Magnetta. The vacant lot next to the building he purchased from the Magnetta's son, Carl E. Magnetta.
The two properties have a combined assessed value of $77,300, according to county records.
The building used to house the ceramics business Joan's Kiln Corner.
Volunteers from the church spent last year clearing thousands of ceramics, shelving and craft supplies from the site, but there is still much work to do.
The roof leaks, and a section of the main floor is uninhabitable, Rankin said.
Faith Community Partners wants to equip the building, which is more than a century old, with elevators, office space, a kitchen and a Wi-Fi café, in addition to the laundromat.
The organization could have bought a building that would cost less to renovate, but the former ceramics shop's size and central location made it ideal for the group's mission, Rankin said.
It is meant as a gathering place and community hub in the heart of Tarentum, according to Thomas Pierce, the architect who designed the plans.
“When you drive across the (railroad) tracks, you're right in front of these things,” he said.
Although Faith Community Partners has struggled with fundraising, its mission is much wider-ranging than opening a laundromat, Rankin said.
The charity's leaders say they hope their efforts can reignite prosperity in Tarentum and, by extension, Central Presbyterian Church.
“Our survival is based on a new mission and a new direction, and the revitalization of this community will lead to the revitalization of this congregation,” said Gerald Driggs, a consultant with Pittsburgh-based Ground Floor Solutions, which has been working with Faith Community Partners.
At the most basic level, Faith Community Partners' leaders expect the organization will act as a referral services of sorts, putting people in need in touch with the organizations and agencies best suited to help them.
“This project will potentially be the go-to in town, and even in the region, for connecting people to resources,” Rankin said.
Representatives from about 20 churches and local organizations attended a meeting on Jan. 18 to discuss Faith Community Partners' plans.
There is a need for an organization to link people with services, according to Kerry Mulhern, who represents North Hills Community Outreach of Pittsburgh.
North Hills Community Outreach provides shuttle rides to seniors, along with a host of other services, but it can be tough to find the residents who need them most, she said.
A ground-level organization like Faith Community Partners could help with that, she said.
“We have the services to reach your residents, but we don't know how to reach you,” Mulhern said.
Stephen Christian-Michaels, president of Family Services of Western Pennsylvania, agreed.
“I think it's a good way of doing things, if they can get the money to get the building renovated,” he said. “That's the critical step.”
People might be more willing to approach a facility associated with the church, instead of going to Family Services, he said.
“They might be uncomfortable coming to our place, but comfortable coming to a place that's a bit more neutral in the community,” he said.
Faith Community Partner's plans stretch far beyond a referral service.
It wants to fill almost any gap it can find, providing space and support to help other organizations provide services they can't do on their own, Rankin said.
Some of these efforts already are in progress, according to Rankin. Family Services of Western Pennsylvania is holding parenting classes at the church and, this year, the Allegheny Intermediate Unit will hold Head Start classes there.
Faith Community Partners' priorities for 2017 include continuing programs already hosted by the church, running the gamut from donating clothing and providing meals to holding music and history events, according to a fact sheet distributed by the organization.
The organization also plans to start a business incubator. It already has one business, Cracked Egg Catering, operating out of the church and may someday house more at the Fifth Avenue location, according to Rankin.
Faith Community Partner's property-related ambitions do not stop with that one location, Rankin said.
“If this goes well, and we expect it will, then it may not be long before FCP gets another building,” he said.
Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Freelance writer Joyce Hanz contributed to this report.