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East End Cooperative Ministry celebrates new home in East Liberty

Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - Myrna Zelenitz (left), executive director of the East End Co-op Ministry, and Carla E. Frost, its vice-president, tour the group's new 56,000-square-foot facility in East Liberty on Wednesday, October 23, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Myrna Zelenitz (left), executive director of the East End Co-op Ministry, and Carla E. Frost, its vice-president, tour the group's new 56,000-square-foot facility in East Liberty on Wednesday, October 23, 2013.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - The new 56,000 square foot East End Co-op Ministry facility in East Liberty on Wednesday, October 23, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>The new 56,000 square foot  East End Co-op Ministry facility in East Liberty on Wednesday, October 23, 2013.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - The new 56,000 square foot East End Co-op Ministry facility in East Liberty on Wednesday, October 23, 2013.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>The new 56,000 square foot  East End Co-op Ministry facility in East Liberty on Wednesday, October 23, 2013.

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About the ministry

Founded: In 1970 by 18 Christian and Jewish congregations; now supported by more than 40 congregations

Services: Homeless shelter, food pantry, soup kitchen, tutoring, mentoring, in-school and after-school programs

Annual budget: $3.8 million

Employees: 65 full-time and part-time; 800 volunteers

Clients served: 3,000 a year

Source: East End Cooperative Ministry

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 11:49 p.m.
 

East End Cooperative Ministry hopes its new home in East Liberty will help make its clients part of the neighborhood's resurgence.

“In the '60s, East Liberty was decimated as a vibrant commercial and residential area by the urban renewal thinking of the time,” said Phil Hallen, chairman of the fundraising campaign for East End Community House. “The project now brings a group of people who have been forgotten and neglected in the ensuing years ... back to the center of the now-vibrant housing and commercial boom of East Liberty.”

The ministry is celebrating the near completion of its 56,000-square-foot building on Penn Circle North with a pair of invitation-only events on Thursday.

“To have a state-of-the-art Community House is almost the crown jewel of all our development work,” said Skip Schwab, investment officer for East Liberty Development Inc.

Myrna Zelenitz, executive director of the ministry, said the building will increase the ministry's clients from 3,000 to 3,500 a year. More importantly, she added, is that staff will be able to serve them better.

The nonprofit offers a homeless shelter, food pantry, soup kitchen, Meals on Wheels, counseling, tutoring and recreation for children. Staff members say the move will bring together programs across 14 sites, mostly at East Liberty Presbyterian and Eastminster churches. The Community House will allow the agency to accept homeless women for the first time.

The Community House features a chapel and a Great Hall with a 48- by 24-foot mural designed by local artist Doug Cooper depicting Pittsburgh's past, present and future.

East End residents can use the facilities for weddings, receptions and other events and get help for finding and keeping a job. The Community House makes it more convenient for homeless clients to get therapy or take advantage of other programs, Pamela Jenkins said. She's a case manager at the ministry's PennFree program for clients trying to overcome addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Twenty years ago, Jenkins was addicted to crack cocaine and alcohol. She entered the ministry's program and was hired to help others in recovery.

“Just having folks believe in you when you don't believe in yourself is truly a godsend,” she said.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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