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Mt. Pleasant home-supplies depot gets $540K grant

| Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013, 1:31 a.m.
Rachel Basinger | For the Daily Courier
The event to present a check to Westmoreland Community Action was attended by (from front, left) Tay Waltenbaugh, chief executive officer of Westmoreland Community Action; Mt. Pleasant Borough Council President Joe Bauer; Lou Lazzaro, deputy chief of staff for Rep. Tim Murphy; Mt. Pleasant Borough Mayor Gerald Lucia; and Shawn Conway, representative for U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey; (back) Ken Czerpak, store manager; Jack Brown, director of community services for Westmoreland Community Action; Kim Giles, store deconstruction manager; and Jeff Diehl, chief financial officer for Westmoreland Community Action.

During the next three years, Westmoreland Community Action will be able to add 27 employees to its eco-friendly Shop Demo Depot in Mt. Pleasant.

Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, recently presented a check for $540,000 to Westmoreland Community Action officials from the Community Economic Development grant program through the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Community Services.

Shop Demo Depot is a non-profit business established by Westmoreland Community Action as a way to reduce landfill waste of construction materials by promoting the resale and reuse of goods — from furniture to light fixtures — while financially supporting Community Action initiatives that help those in need.

Jack Brown, director of community services for Westmoreland Community Action as well as the general manager for Shop Demo Depot, said this was the third year the organization applied for the grant. He found out on Sept. 30 that it had been chosen as a recipient.

“We were relieved when we found it because it's a lot of work to put an application like this together,” he said. “We just kept refining it until we got it right.”

Brown added that only about 20 other entities across the nation received the grant this year.

“Receiving a grant like this is amazing,” he said. “This is our first real social enterprise that allows us to do charity by doing business. It provides jobs and training and generates revenue to fund programs through community action.”

Brown said Murphy was instrumental in helping the organization to receive the grant.

“We work with his office with a lot of things, and they are always nice to work with and very accomodating,” he said. “They're open-minded and always there for us when we need something.”

Lou Lazzaro, deputy chief of staff for Murphy, said this is something that's good for the community because it gives consumers the opportunity to buy discounted, quality products and establishes jobs.

Joe Bauer, president of Mt. Pleasant Borough Council, said the job creation is key.

“It can put some people in town who are out of work into a paying job,” he said. “Those residents who might not be able to travel far can walk to work with this kind of opportunity.”

Mt. Pleasant Borough Mayor Gerald Lucia said it also helps consumers.

“With a business of this nature, people can buy and save money here — especially in these challenging economic times,” he said.

Shawn Conway of Sen. Pat Toomey's office said Toomey was happy to send in a letter of support for the grant application.

“The senator is happy to be involved with such a great organization,” he said.

Rachel Basinger is a contributing writer.

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