Loss of son leads Scottdale mother to form arts foundation
Tajz Dues was 28 when he collapsed and died at his workplace on June 9, 2018, from an apparent severe asthma attack.
His mother, Antonette Dues of Scottdale, says her only child was a man of great Christian faith. He enjoyed, she says, his work as an assistant program director for Penn Residential. The New Stanton-based company provides services and support for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in residential homes, according to its website.
Working with individuals with special needs seemed to strike a chord in her son. “He said, ‘Mom, they don’t have a voice,’” she recalls.
Offering arts for all
Dues, an art teacher with the Connellsville Area School District, has established the nonprofit Tajz’s Hope Foundation in his memory to keep his voice alive.
The foundation’s first goal is a lofty one. “Eventually we are hoping to open a large learning center. … I’m looking at all ages,” she says.
“I feel that, for me, the arts is a good foundation. It’s going to cause growth in your life. It opens a lot of doors to all different types of learning,” Dues says.
She is hoping to quickly find a facility in which to begin offering a summer program and, in the fall, an after-school program.
Dues says the foundation may pursue grants and perhaps add paid staff. “I do have people who are interested in volunteering,” she says.
The hope is to be able to offer area residents some things schools do not, she says. She envisions a broad arts program, including music, home economics, writing, life skills. “Anything that is going to build the community,” Dues says.
She hopes for a site with, possibly, a coffee shop where those with special needs can transition into jobs and better their own self-worth.
Carrying his message forward
“He was a special young man,” she says of her son. “As he grew up, he wanted to study more about God.”
He earned an associate of Biblical studies degree from Greensburg’s Calvary Theological Training Center.
“I was proud of him. He did well,” Dues says.
Even as a child, she says, her son defended the weak.
“He always had compassion. He had an unusual laugh. He did light up a room. He was just a good, good person,” she says.
“His job, he felt that was his ministry. … I am finishing what he started,” Dues says.
Don Smith, Dues’ pastor at World Christian Outreach Ministries in Connellsville, is a foundation board member.
He knew Tajz Dues as a child and young man.
“He was very perceptive of life. He was very giving. He always had someone else in mind. He was called into the ministry. He was a very caring person,” Smith says.
Smith says he supports Dues’ offering her artistic talents to the community. “She’s a part of our church. We are willing to help promote this any way we can,” he says.
A musical beginning
Dues acknowledges some items on her wish list — a kiln, sewing machines — can be expensive.
She is accepting monetary donations and art supplies, and the foundation is planning its first fundraiser.
Tajz’s Hope Foundation will sponsor a “Concert of Love, Peace and Music” from 3-8 p.m. June 29 at Connellsville Area High School.
Artists include Fret Buzz, Dave Quariere, Tempest Rogue, Duncan Hartz and the Bluesbreakers and City Reach Worship Team.
Admission is $10 at the door, and will benefit both Tajz’s Hope Foundation and arts programs at Connellsville Area High School, Dues says.
Donations to Tajz’s Hope Foundation may be sent in care of Antonette Dues to Connellsville Area High School, 201 Falcon Drive, Connellsville, Pa. 15425.
Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-836-5401, [email protected] or via Twitter .