Monessen Family Center rally attracts large crowd

| Tuesday, May 10, 2011

More than 150 supporters of the Monessen Family Center rallied Saturday to protest proposed state budget cuts that could shut down the facility.

Program Supervisor Kim Egidi said the rally was one of 32 held at family centers across the state to protest cuts included in Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed budget.

The center, located at the former Holy Name Church on Reed Avenue, might close June 30 if the budget is passed as is.

Center volunteers and staff members are circulating petitions to save the facility from the sweeping subsidy cuts.

Opened in 1994, the center was a collaboration between Southwestern Pennsylvania Human Services Inc. and the Monessen School District.

The Monessen center has served 883 families with children. More than 300 now are enrolled.

Egidi said they made the rally a "fun day" for children and their families. The event featured music, reading with Dr. Seuss, face-painting, a DJ and the Monessen mime group, "God's Anointed."

She said state Rep. R. Ted Harhai, D-Monessen, stopped by.

"We definitely think we have the attention of a lot of legislators and our voice is being heard by the governor," said Egidi, adding she has placed many calls to Corbett's office.

The current budget includes $4 million for 66 family centers in the state, designated through a Department of Public Welfare line item for community centers. Money for the program is not included in Corbett's proposed budget.

The Monessen Family Center budget for the fiscal year that will end June 30 is $461,150. The money comes from the state Department of Welfare, office of Children, Youth and Families.

The center employs 16 people.

Egidi said the loss of the family center would affect many children and families as its programs "fill in the gap" of other services.

Among the services it provides: picking up and dropping off students if they miss buses, taking families to medical appointments and even stopping to pick up food for children.

It offers a "Pregnant and Parenting Teen Program."

The two largest programs are Parents as Teachers and the Parent Child Home Program.

Parent as Teachers is an in-home program that serves families with children from birth to age 5.

The Parent Child Home Program serves families with children ages 2 to 3. Coordinator Diane Churby said it promotes parent-child bonding and early literacy skills.

Egidi said the staff is dedicated to helping children and families, many of whom become like extended family members.

The center also offers "Time Limited Family Reunification," which helps reunite families involved with the Westmoreland County Children's Bureau, and a pre-school program for youths ages 3 and 4.

The family center is home to The Mon Valley Academy, an alternative education program providing counseling and academic services for middle school students who have been removed from school in Monessen.

Egidi said that a reduction in state dollars likely would lead to lost programs or jobs.

"We are not going out without a fight," she said.

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