Pirates star goes to bat for McKeesport family in need

| Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 4:36 a.m.

Shawnda Yvette Little-Dreher and her family will be moving into a beautiful McKeesport home with the help of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh and a star baseball player.

Little-Dreher, her husband Timothy Joel Dreher, and their daughter Tamia Little-Dreher rent a small home in central McKeesport. Their landlord is searching for a buyer for the property, putting the family in danger of not having a place to live.

Shawnda Little-Dreher said the family submitted an application to Habitat for Humanity. It was approved by the board of directors, who secured a home for the family along Jefferson Street near McKeesport Area High School.

“We've been so excited,” she said on Tuesday. “I'm so ready to get us out of there and to finally have something to call our own, and don't have to pick up and move again.”

About 20 volunteers helped renovate the property on Tuesday. Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen was among them.

“Any way that I can help, I'm willing to help,” McCutchen said. “Working with Habitat for Humanity's definitely something that I want to be a part of because I grew up in a town where my family worked hard, but sometimes they needed help financially. I can relate to families that work very hard.”

Tamia, a sophomore, plays softball at McKeesport Area High School. Dreher works for Auberle, and Little-Dreher studies business at Community College of Allegheny County South Campus in hope of pursuing a catering career.

McCutchen met the family at PirateFest. He spoke with the parents outside their new home on Tuesday. They talked about the ball club, how the season is going, and how much working on the project meant to them.

“It's exciting,” Shawnda Little-Dreher said. “I love McCutchen as a baseball player; him and (Pedro) Alvarez and (Neil) Walker. The only team I watch is the Pirates. I love baseball, but I only watch the Pirates.”

“I'm passionate enough to come out and help and do anything I can to help,” McCutchen said. “I'm not doing this because I feel like I have to. I'm doing it because I really want to. It's amazing just to be able to see them, to be able to talk to them for a little bit. They're a great, hardworking family and just grateful for us to be able to come out and help. It's good just to be able to see their smiling faces.”

Shawnda Little-Dreher said her family is moving to a new part of the city in either June or July.

“I love this community,” she said. “Where we're at now is terrible. Since we've been up there, there have been so many shootings. Someone got shot in front of our house. It's just crazy.”

They qualified for the Habitat for Humanity program because they make 53 percent of the median income for a family of three,

Habitat executive director Maggie Withrow said.The home was donated by Chase Bank through one of its programs. Habitat provided it to the family at an estimated $80,000 sale price through an interest-free mortgage.

“We're hopeful that more local banks would participate in the same type of programs,” Withrow said. “It's a way for them to get foreclosed houses off of their books and into the hands of people who can do something recyclable.”

Volunteers framed the basement family room, hung drywall in the kitchen, removed old carpet and did general cleanup work on Tuesday.

“With the work that it needed to have done to it, it could have sat here for years before anybody would be willing to invest in it and do the rehab,” Withrow said.

“We couldn't do what we do without our volunteers,” Habitat construction supervisor Lee Baumann said.

The family is volunteering for Habitat as part of their minimum 350 hours of “sweat equity” in lieu of a down payment,

Withrow said.

Habitat plans to build or renovate homes for 170 families over the next three years. It receives no direct funding from Habitat International, so all funding for Greater Pittsburgh projects must be raised through local sources, Withrow said.

More information is available online at www.pittsburghhabitat.org/projects.

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

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