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Pittsburgh Dream Center interested in acquiring Centennial Elementary

| Friday, June 28, 2013, 7:09 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Pittsburgh Dream Center has expressed interest in acquiring Centennial Elementary, one of three buildings McKeesport Area School District will close next year.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Amanda and Gary Brougher of the Pittsburgh Dream Center sort through fresh fruit, juice boxes and snack items for a weekend distribution of Backpacks of Hope, a program that sent food home with Centennial Elementary students in need of food assurance in the 2012-13 school year.

With McKeesport Area School District set to close three of its elementary buildings in 2014, the Pittsburgh Dream Center believes its outreach would be at home within the school community it already has adopted.

Gary Brougher, Pittsburgh Dream Center co-facilitator, approached McKeesport Area board members and administrators during Wednesday's meeting to express interest in acquiring Centennial Elementary. While the building will house Twin Rivers Primary students for the first half of the 2013-14 academic year, the school will be vacant in January.

“I'm not sure how many people know about the Dream Center,” Brougher said. “We've been reaching out to McKeesport residents for almost two years now. We're all about reaching out, revitalizing the community and helping individuals fulfill their God-given dream and purpose in life.”

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. Its four major initiatives focus on community, hunger relief, discipleship and children.

In McKeesport, that outreach has included the Backpacks of Hope food assurance program for 25 Centennial students in the 2012-13 school year.

“We've partnered with the Centennial school,” Brougher said. “Through that connection we were able to give 300 flip-flops away this summer to make sure that Centennial students have summer shoes. We had a Christmas toy drive and gave away more than 200 toys. That's just part of the program and our adoption of Centennial school.”

More important than material assistance, Brougher said the Pittsburgh Dream Center is focused on relationship building.

“Through practical acts of love and kindness, we've been able to see people change in the community,” he said. “We know residents personally, and we've seen dramatic things happen in their lives.”

In the center's adoption of Union Avenue, volunteers have done work including cleanup efforts, lawn care, holiday giveaways and community cookouts.

On a Friday afternoon in June, the group hosted a family fun day at Centennial. Of the organizing 80 volunteers, 60 went door to door asking families to come out and enjoy the day. The event was full of entertainment, activities and human service resources to provide immediate assistance with food and clothing.

“Over 500 people came with just an hour and 15 minutes of advertising,” Brougher said.

The Pittsburgh Dream Center is intended very simply to serve, he explained.

“It's not about a program or what we can offer,” Brougher said. “It's about being available and showing people God's love in simple ways.”

Having a prominent neighborhood location, he said, could provide a 24-hour safe haven. It would serve as a community center to meet a variety of needs, such as after-school programming, GED courses, hunger relief and athletics.

McKeesport Area officials said they would provide Pittsburgh Dream Center facilitators with pertinent information if they are interested in pursuing the property. Business manager David Seropian said property reports are available on all district buildings.

“Speaking for the board, there is nothing but positive things about what you've said there,” president Patricia Maksin said, noting the administration will be willing to meet with Pittsburgh Dream Center representatives at any time. “We are excited to have an interest in our building. We don't want them to be vacant.”

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

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