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Community prayer event brings hope for new year

| Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012, 12:12 a.m.
McKeesport public works employee watches as foreman Jeff DiPerna dumps newly delivered salt into a city truck Friday in advance of a weekend storm. Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News

Clairton officials and organization leaders believe the power of prayer will help the city begin a blessed new year.

Prayers Over Clairton, a non-denominational interfaith prayer service, is slated for Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the municipal building along Ravensburg Boulevard.

“We've been doing it for years, and I think it's important that we have prayer in Clairton,” Councilman Richard Ford said. “Clairton's considered the City of Prayer, and we sure don't want to have any new year without prayer for our city.”

The annual event was started by Living Waters Ministries Bishop George Mitchell more than 15 years ago. Mitchell died in 1995, and his wife, Bishop Thelma Mitchell, continues the tradition in his honor.

“The event is a very good event. It's a positive thing for the city,” Mayor Rich Lattanzi said. “We seem to get the same crowd, deacons and pastors and officials ... We're still looking to get our younger presence there. If we just had a few to represent a (teenage) group, it would show they want some improvement as well.”

Lattanzi also said there might be less violence in the city if more youths came to Prayers Over Clairton, referencing a murder last year.

Tauvea Hurt, 20, of Clairton was shot along the 2300 block of Lincoln Avenue in the city on New Year's Day 2011 around 12:55 a.m.

Hurt was pronounced dead at 1:57 a.m. at Jefferson Regional Medical Center, and became the first homicide in Allegheny County that year.

Hurt was one of four suspects in an Oct. 26, 2010, shooting in the 2700 block of Lincoln Avenue in which a 27-year-old Clairton man was shot in the face.

The fatal shooting was disheartening to those involved in the prayer service the night before the shooting.

“It was something there that just showed it wasn't foolproof,” Lattanzi said. “Those people that were involved in the shooting weren't here for the service. They didn't get the word.”

Approximately 22-25 churches within Clairton and surrounding communities are expected to participate in the prayer event.

Signs have been posted, and an event page was created on Facebook to help draw more attention to the evening.

“I think we're going to get a larger crowd this year,” Lattanzi said.

Pastor Ben Robinson of Wilson Presbyterian Church said he plans to announce the event in church and encourage people to attend.

“It can help Christians in Clairton to be sure to join together in a spirit of unity and to connect with one another in joint prayers,” Robinson said. “The Bible says that when two or three are gathered together, (Christ is) in their midst, and it would be great to see our city safer and turn toward righteousness.”

Robinson, a member of the Clairton Unity Group, has attended Prayers Over Clairton in the past.

“I sure hope there is a solid turnout,” Robinson said. “It's always kind of dicey sometimes. The weather has something to do with it.”

Prayers Over Clairton used to be conducted outdoors, near the intersection of St. Clair and Miller avenues. It also took place around 5 p.m.

It was moved to the municipal building in 2003 after city officials allowed participants to use the facility to escape the weather and get in out of the cold.

It was pushed back to 5:30 p.m. because most businesses are closing at 5 p.m. and some churches have service at 4:30 p.m. Organizers want to give everyone a chance to participate.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or