New Kensington Points of Light Committee applauds efforts of 4 service groups
A New Kensington committee wants to remind residents that, just as there are countless stars enhancing the night sky, there are numerous individuals and organizations enhancing the community.
Melvyn Smith, chairman of the New Kensington Points of Light Committee, said the name stems from the 1989 inaugural address of then-President George H.W. Bush, who spoke of the country's volunteers reflecting a thousand points of light.
“I've always agreed with him about that part of our country,” Smith said. “We got together and recognized New Kensington has maybe not 1,000 points of light, but quite a few, and they should be recognized for what they do.”
“The premise is trying to honor people who have done a lot for the town with no strings attached,” said Gary Pallone, committee vice chairman. “They just help. That, to me, is worth working for.”
The committee this week honored four organizations, whose names will be added to a plaque at city hall:
• Allegheny Valley Association of Churches, a nearly 60-year-old Harrison-based group that provides more than a dozen services ranging from emergency housing and financial assistance to a food bank and monthly fresh produce giveaways.
• Community Clothes Closet, a 5-year-old ministry of Mount St. Peter Roman Catholic Church to provide low-cost clothing and other items to the needy.
• New Kensington/Arnold Social in the Park, a 5-year-old, grass-roots effort to bring together natives of the cities for fellowship while raising money for New Kensington's Memorial Park and Arnold's Roosevelt Park.
• Penn State New Kensington, whose commitment to regional redevelopment was highlighted by the announcement early this year that the Upper Burrell campus would open a business incubator called the Alle-Kiski Economic Generator in downtown New Kensington.
“When you start to look around at the wealth of organizations that we have in New Kensington, you become somewhat impressed,” Smith said. “They are people that have had a significant impact on the community as a whole, even though some of them impact it through one individual at a time.”
Committee members said they plan to have two recognition ceremonies a year: one to spotlight organizations and one for individuals.
Candidates must be nonprofit entities or individuals involved with them; be in existence for at least three years; and benefit New Kensington, though they don't necessarily need to live or be based in the city.
Individuals recognized earlier
The Points of Light Committee last fall recognized its inaugural group of individuals:
• The Rev. Asa Roberts, the retired longtime pastor of Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church.
• Troy Owen, owner of Liberty Tax Service and sponsor of the “old school block party” at JFK Playground.
• Gene Montemurro, who retired in December after running Gene's Shoe Service for 66 years. He fought to keep the former Citizens General Hospital open.
• Anita Fine and her late husband, Dr. Daniel Fine, who treated thousands at the former Miners Clinic while they advocated for civil rights, peace and other social issues.
• The late Kathie Males, who organized New Kensington's Independence Day fireworks display for more than a decade.
“These are people who are doing things and nobody knows,” said committee member Garry L. Garrison, who hopes the recognition will encourage more people to get involved. “Hopefully, some of this will make people want to do more and more. We're trying to help promote the City of New Kensington.”
“We were humbled to be included in this group,” said Lou Downard, a founding member of the New Kensington/Arnold Social in the Park. “You see what Monsignor (Michael) Begolly and the Community Clothes Closet do, and the Allegheny Valley Association of Churches and Penn State New Kensington — the things they do.”
“I was really touched by it,” said Karen Snair, executive director of the church association. “We've provided services in the New Kensington community for over 20 years, but I don't think a lot of people realize that. I was so honored by that.”
Snair and Christina Discello, director of the Community Clothes Closet, deflected praise to the volunteers that make their organizations function.
“Last year we provided 18,000 services with a staff of less than 10 people,” Snair said. “There's no way we could ever do that without volunteers. Without them, we wouldn't exist.”
“The credit goes to the volunteers and Monsignor Begolly,” Discello said. “It's a project we all work on. It was extremely wonderful to be recognized.”
“So many times, people want to say what the mafia did for this city,” Smith said. “(The) newspaper shows that they raped, robbed, pillaged and plundered. But myth has it that they were the great fairy godmothers.
“But in actuality, it was our citizens ... that made the city what it was and what it will be.”
Liz Hayes is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-226-4680.