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McKeesport council embraces 'respect'

| Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, 3:47 a.m.

With campaign buttons and a resolution of support, McKeesport council formally embraced a New Year's message of respect.

The Rev. Darrell Knopp, who chairs McKeesport's Message Committee as a group within the Mayor's Select Committee on Crime and Violence, approached council on Wednesday night with buttons that simply read, “Respect.”

Joined by committee members the Rev. Earlene Coleman, JoEllen Kenney and Annette James, Knopp spoke about the importance of respect as McKeesport strives to reinvent itself by eliminating negativity and dissolving the culture of violence.

“We're asking for your support,” he told council. “We would like to request a resolution of support that gives us some credibility and respectability and gives us awareness within the community that the highest authority within the city supports what we are trying to do.”

Council unanimously presented and approved a resolution calling the “uplifting promotional campaign ... necessary to establish self-respect and dignity in our city.”

The city will host an official kickoff of the message campaign on Jan. 16 at 4 p.m. in the parking lot of city hall, 500 Fifth Ave. The Salvation Army will serve hot chocolate.

“We're going to kick off this campaign to instill pride back into the residents of McKeesport,” Cherepko said. “I believe it's a critical component to the long-term solution of curbing crime and violence, which is reaching out to youth now and trying to impact them in as many positive ways as possible.”

With the youth being involved in many “unfortunate” city events, including homicides and other shootings in 2012, Cherepko said children and teens should be hearing consistent messages in school, at home and in the community.

“I think a lot of us were fortunate enough to grow up in homes where you really got it and the parenting was there,” he said. “When you live in a city that is economically distressed and there are single-parent families and some of those single parents are working to help them survive ... a lot of times there are some things that are lacking at home.

“It's all too easy for elected officials and community leaders to say it's not our problem, but I think as elected officials we need to do what we can to help make McKeesport a better place to live.”

Councilwoman V. Fawn Walker-Montgomery said she, like other officials, does not have all of the answers to change an entire community or world.

“God has the answers, and all we can do is pray about it,” she said. “That's why it's so important to volunteer and give back to the community. It's not about one event. It's about what you can do every day.”

Soon, McKeesporters will see signage to remind them of the message campaign. They will be posted at key intersections, and smaller versions will be available for any home or business where they are welcome.

With respect carrying the city through the year's first quarter, 2013 also will bring messages of dignity, hope and love.

The public is invited to share ideas about how the quarterly messages can be conveyed by contacting the mayor's office at 412-675-5020.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or