Initially, Chuck Sanders said he wanted to contribute to the Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime without any fanfare, but after two gang members contacted him directly to say they were joining the program, he agreed to do it publicly because it might inspire more to come forward.
|MONEY TALKS—Saying he’s putting his money where his mouth is, Chuck Sanders donates $100,000 to PIRC for a job subsidy fund, as Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, left, and police Chief Nate Harper look on.
“My niece Angela was a victim of violence in McKeesport. This is dedicated to her memory,” he said during the July 29 announcement outside Macedonia Baptist Church in the Hill District. “I’m hoping other businesses will step up. I’ve put my money where my mouth is, and I hope others do the same.”
Angela Sanders, 23, was killed along with two others when two teens opened fire during an alleged robbery at a birthday party in the Crawford Village housing development June 15. She had just graduated from college and was going back for her masters.
Sanders’ contribution to PIRC, designed to subsidize salaries paid to program participants, was praised by city officials for filling the “last gap” in the program.
“This $100,000 will help get gang members off the street and back into productive society,” said Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. “We’ve already had 10 calls to my office from people who are sick of it and want to get out. It took a long time to get here but we’re all focused together to stop the violence.”
Sanders’ funds will be administered through Pittsburgh Community Services Inc., which will provide the educational and training services those coming out of the gangs need while seeking employers open to hiring them. The salary subsidies will help defray employment costs.
“We want to work with them and put them on the road to wellness and success, to learn respect for life and get on the righteous path” said Executive Director Cecelia Jenkins. “This augments our ability to find employment for them because we can say to a business—if you hire this many guys, we’ll pay this percent of their wages.”
City Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess, who first brought the PIRC idea and its architect Prof. David Kennedy here, said he is “extremely grateful” to Sanders for his donation.
“At the end of the day this is about our children, and telling them the truth that violence is unacceptable,” Rev. Burgess said. “I’ve done the funerals, sat with the families and the survivors. This is about a brighter future for our children and community.”
Sanders, who owns Urbansettlements Services, a supplier with $50 million in annual sales, said all his businesses will contribute to PIRC.
“This is an initial contribution of $100,000. There will be more,” he said. “I challenge other businesses to join me. I am committed to saving as many lives as I can.”
Sanders did not have to wait long for another business to sign on. Gloria Potter, owner of Lotus Realty, has already told Jenkins she will hire people in the program to help with carpentry, landscaping, painting, cleaning, repairs and other work needed to ready properties for sale.
“Well, full disclosure—I’m his sister,” said Potter. “I heard what he was planning and I just called up and asked to help.”
PIRC Executive Director Jay Gilmer called Sanders’ contribution—and his sister’s participation very significant.
Hopefully, this is the beginning of many more,” he said. “Money targeted to this population will pay great dividends.”
Businesses interested in hiring program participants can contact Gilmer at 412-255-6774 or Jenkins at 412- 392-4430.
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