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Pitcairn Circles Initiative pitches partnership with McKeesport

Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, 3:46 a.m.

Pitcairn Circles Initiative is expanding to McKeesport.

It helps low-income people learn skills and form relationships to achieve economic stability and enhance their prospects for long-term achievement.

Executive director Cyndi Bloise and representatives of the initiative met with city officials on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the expansion.

“We'd really like to have partnerships with people in the community to provide meals, to provide allies. Some might be in a position to provide monetary support,” Bloise said. “In Pitcairn, what we're seeing are people getting jobs, and they're starting to have more positive relationships in their lives.”

Bloise said she chose McKeesport because of the initiative's relationship with Bethany House Academy executive director Keith Murphy, whose organization works with children and their families.

Circles USA National Office executive director Karin Van Zant said the goal is to develop a McKeesport Circles Initiative with the assistance of the Pitcairn group.

She said it could be established in three to six months and operate independently in two years.

Van Zant briefly touched on the “pain” she saw when touring McKeesport on Wednesday afternoon, then focused on positive issues.

“The things that I saw in driving through your community was progress,” she said. “You can see there are leaders and members who care a lot about (the city) based on the progress that I was able to see in a short 20-minute drive through your community. That's one of the things we look for when we're looking for new community partners.”

Bloise stressed the organization's focus on helping people move out of poverty.

“There are people who really want to get out of poverty and they're doing everything that (the state Department of Public Welfare) tells them to do,” Bloise said. “They're working hard, and at the end of the year they're not any better than they were when they started the year.

“Circles really takes a walk-alongside approach. We use middle- and upper-income people as allies to walk with people who have made goals for their life to get out of poverty and become self-sufficient. It's not about becoming middle class but becoming stable,” she said.

Van Zant said poverty is more than a financial circumstance. She said people need to have internal motivators and develop a strong sense of self-worth.

“You are the author of your future, period,” she said.

Mayor Michael Cherepko said the Circles Initiative and the city's message committee share similar goals.

“You talk about dignity, self-worth. You talk about changing the mindset of these individuals. I truly believe that this is a perfect fit,” the mayor said.

Murphy provided the space for Wednesday's meeting and said he wants the program to be successful.

“When you start bridging some of those gaps, I think that's the key to it all,” Murphy said. “A lot of times folks are falling through those gaps. This will help those adults who also feel overwhelmed by daily pressures of life and issues of poverty and all the symptoms that come with it.”

The Consortium for Public Education program director Patti Hoke said her group is doing similar work on the middle school level.

“I think that the city is fertile for this kind of relationship-building activity,” Hoke said. “People really do have a basic belief that they want their city to improve and grow.”

“McKeesport is so huge you could end up with Circles in many places that serve many people,” Bloise said.

To help the initiative, contact Bloise by calling 412-389-2460 or emailing

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



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