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Giving back part of mission at Oxford Athletic Club

| Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Deborah Deasy | Pine Creek Journal

Helping others is a monthly mission at the Oxford Athletic Club in Pine.

Each month, Beth Yankel, business manager, organizes a new charitable project for the club's 2,000-plus members.

“I'm always looking for something we can do,” said Yankel, a Hampton High School graduate and single mother of two teenagers.

“I just think there are a lot of people out in this world who need help, and if we're able to help, that's great,” she said. “I guess I have a big heart.”

Yankel currently invites members and nonmembers of Oxford Athletic Club to donate gently used prom dresses, board games, books and Easter baskets — empty or filled — for three, separate nonprofit groups.

People can drop off the dresses, games, books and baskets at the club's front desk.

“I want outside participation,” Yankel said. “It's an avenue for people to recycle things to benefit others.”

Eligible high school students will receive the dresses through Project Prom, a program sponsored by Allegheny County Department of Human Services.

Focus on Renewal in McKees Rocks, a community-service center, will offer the board games and books to visitors and clients.

“Any time we've asked them for help, they've always put us on their calendar,” said Chris Crytzer, development director at Focus on Renewal.

“They really believe in helping the community,” Crytzer said about the Oxford Athletic Center.

North Hills Community Outreach, or NHCO, a Hampton-based service group, will use the donated Easter baskets for its Spring Share program. Each spring, the agency distributes baskets of candy and small gifts to approximately 600 needy families during the Easter season.

“We call them ‘Spring Share' baskets because some of our clients practice other religions,” NHCO spokeswoman Jennifer Kissel said.

Yankel informs folks of Oxford Athletic Club's ongoing charitable collections through “The Zone,” the club's bimonthly news magazine.

“We do at least 12 in a year,” said Dan Griffin, the club's general manager. “We consider ourselves part of the community and try to act as such.”

Griffin praised Yankel's efforts and dedication to organizing such charity drives, collectively known as the Oxford Cares Program.

“She does all the work. … She's a softie,” Griffin said. “She doesn't get paid extra to do it. ... She wants to help people.”

In the club's lobby, a Salvation Army award plaque recognizes the Oxford Athletic Club for “doing the most good.”

“We're the single biggest pickup point in Allegheny County for the Toys for Tots program, with 400-plus toys donated every year,” Griffin said. Last year, for Valentine's Day, children of club members decorated 200 brown lunch bags — with stickers and paint — to carry snacks, sweets and Valentine Day cards to U.S. troops overseas. The club distributed the bags of goodies through Operation Troop Appreciation.

Yankel then got an email from Cpl. John Buchanan in Afghanistan: “We wanted to send a sincere ‘Thank You' to each and every one of the kids who helped in decorating and assembling the bags. It's the small things over here that make a difference.”

The Oxford Athletic Club is at 100 Village Club Drive, Pine. For information on the club's current drives for charitable donations of prom wear, board games, books and Easter baskets, call 724-933-1911, ext. 4109.

Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or

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