Buffalo Township woman spreads warmth through charity
Denise Lavenets believes her mission to help the less fortunate ultimately helped reverse her own fortunes.
The Buffalo Township woman said she was brought low by a life-threatening illness two years ago.
“I thought I was going to die,” she said. She was depressed, couldn't work and didn't have a car.
But amid the darkness, Lavenets believes she was led to reach out to others by collecting items for the homeless, poor and others who have fallen on hard times.
“Through prayer, I believe the Lord guided me to start a blanket and coat drive,” said Lavenets, 48. “It's brought so much light, so much hope into my life.”
Lavenets said she started the ministry that would become “Treasures in Darkness” with the help of Serena Buday of Tarentum, then a student at Highlands High School.
The two met by chance and soon were collaborating to set up collection sites at area stores.
Both were surprised by the response.
“The first year we did it, her whole house was filled (with boxes of donations),” said Buday, 20, a student at Penn State New Kensington. “We were so shocked.”
“In that year, we were able to donate and distribute to five organizations,” Lavenets said. “It was huge. We were shown that, when you set out to do something, the giving is great.”
The following year, Lavenets joined Expressway Baptist Church in Buffalo Township and the collection grew into a churchwide ministry.
“We're a small church, but we can do large things to help people,” Lavenets said.
The Rev. Daniel McCrosky said he was the church's new pastor in 2012 when Lavenets arrived, and her goals meshed with the church's.
“Expressway Baptist Church exists to glorify God and make disciples of all nations,” McCrosky said. “One way to make disciples is to show people how much we love them. One of the ways we show we love them is to take care of their basic needs.”
McCrosky said he was impressed by the response last winter: “Last year was our first year, and our lobby was just filled with coats, hats, gloves, boxes of stuff.”
The donated items are distributed to about seven organizations, including Harrison-based Allegheny Valley Association of Churches and several shelters for abused women and homeless people in Butler County and Pittsburgh.
Lavenets said they assist individuals as the ministry becomes aware of their needs.
This winter, Lavenets said they've expanded their collection sites to include Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazer, which she hopes will mean they reach more people able to donate.
Lavenets said they plan to make Treasures in Darkness a year-round ministry, not just a winter project. She hopes to add a food pantry and coordinate with other regional churches in hopes of expanding the outreach.
“There is so much need out there,” she said. “I think the good Lord is branching us out.”
Lavenets hopes more people will participate in the ministry so they can experience the same feeling of grace that she's realized.
“I'm very involved in other people's lives, which keeps me from worrying about my own,” Lavenets said. “We are like a light in a lighthouse now.”
“When we deliver these coats and blankets, we felt really good,” said Buday. “It was awesome to do something for someone else.”
“Everybody's a minister,” McCrosky said. “I'm the pastor, but everyone is a minister in their own spirit.”
Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- Multiple delays to slow travel between Alle-Kiski Valley, Greensburg
- HBO to end ‘Banshee’ series, disappointing Vandergrift
- Police: Avonmore mayor found stranger’s lost wallet, took cash from it
- USW workers to march on ATI headquarters
- Judge lets New Kensington Ten Commandments monument stand
- Memorial court dedicated at AVH where volunteer felt ‘safe, comfortable’
- High-rise medical visits aimed at curbing 911 calls in New Kensington
- ATI workers retire early to ensure pension
- Zelienople development to be inclusive of those with autism
- Animal Protectors of Allegheny Valley offers free services at clinic
- Upper Allegheny Joint Sanitary Authority continues cleanup