Program ensures weekend food
The Pittsburgh Dream Center is giving food assurance to McKeesport Area students whose families may not be able to fill their plates on the weekend. A faith-based outreach, the Pittsburgh Dream Center has been working across the Mon Valley and in Pittsburgh's eastern suburbs to meet the needs of the communities it serves. Outreaches include the Adopt-A-Block community service program, which aides in property upkeep for businesses and homes; the Mobile Kids portable church, which brings a customized delivery truck to conduct vacation Bible school programs in low-income housing projects; and youth and senior outreaches that are intended to foster positive relationships.
Backpacks of Hope was initiated at the start of the 2012-13 school year, with the Pittsburgh Dream Center adopting Centennial Elementary as its first outreach building.
“This is our only food program right now,” co-facilitator Gary Brougher said. “We hope to expand it to serve more children in McKeesport and in more communities throughout the Mon Valley. This is really the focus area that the Lord has given us.”
Former White Oak residents who now live in McKeesport, Gary and Amanda Brougher returned to the Pittsburgh area after seven years in Oklahoma.
“We always had McKeesport on our hearts,” Gary Brougher said. “We knew the need. When we came back to start the Dream Center, we knew that in the Mon Valley there are a lot of issues we want to get involved with.”
Addressing the nutritional needs of students who are well fed with district breakfast and lunch programs, the Broughers said they wanted to send home enough food to get students through a weekend where the guarantee of food is less secure. Right now, approximately 20 students benefit from Backpacks of Hope.
“Our heart is to let children know they have value and that the community cares about them,” Amanda Brougher said. “The amount of need is far more than what we're doing right now. When you learn of these things right here in our own backyard, it compelled us to make a difference and do something for kids who need it.”
Through purchasing programs with Bottom Dollar and Whole Foods, the Pittsburgh Dream Center buys a variety of shelf-stable meals and fresh produce that serve as breakfast, lunch and dinner on Saturdays and Sundays.
“We do the same things each and every week,” Gary Brougher said. “That way there's consistency and kids get the food they like.”
With choices including canned pasta meals, beans, oatmeal, applesauce and oranges, the food is filling and fibrous to sustain children for the whole weekend.
As the program evolves, Amanda Brougher said, Backpacks of Hope can incorporate a variety of healthier options. But most of the food must remain shelf-stable and easy to prepare.
“We can't require elementary school children to have to turn on an oven,” she said. “Everything in the backpack can be eaten as is or heated in a microwave.”
The Broughers said they hope to expand the program as McKeesport Area students are aligned differently for the 2013-14 year.
“I would like to say ‘thank you' to the organization for choosing Centennial Elementary for the program this year,” principal Stacie Fitzpatrick said. “Especially in today's economy, it's nice to have organizations that are willing to give to students and families who might be less fortunate.”
As Backpacks of Hope grows, the Broughers said they would welcome local participation. Community service organizations and student groups are welcome to take part in the packaging process, which now relies on volunteers from Monroeville Assembly of God, where the Broughers are members.
“The McKeesport Area School District appreciates the hard work and dedication of the Backpacks of Hope food program and hopes the partnership will continue to grow in future years,” Superintendent Timothy Gabauer said. “Enhancing this outreach would create additional opportunities for the betterment of our students and families.”
Monetary donations to the Pittsburgh Dream Center can be mailed to P.O. Box 13, McKeesport, 15135. Secure online donations are accepted through PayPal at www.pghdreamcenter.org. A Ride for the Dream fundraiser is a cycling event planned for September at the Waterfront. It will include a trail ride into Pittsburgh.
In time for the 2013-14 school year, the Backpacks for Hope program will be promoted on the website with preferred items for nonperishable food donation.
Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, 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.
- Duquesne police arrest Wilkinsburg man on drug, weapon charges
- ‘Nutcracker’ offers even more treats for Grand Theatre audience
- McKeesport wrestling promoters hope for smashing success with anniversary show
- McKeesport Area, South Allegheny, Elizabeth Forward musicians head to holiday parades
- Shoppers vexed by choice between getting best bargains, spending time with family
- Casey supports food donation tax break extension
- Former Clairton resident killed
- No one hurt in Homestead rowhouse fire
- Lost election inspires South Allegheny student’s clothing project
- Membership fees predicted for continued Heritage van use in the Mon Valley
- West Mifflin not getting Verizon FiOS anytime soon