The Thelma Lovette YMCA on Centre Avenue in the Hill District is complete.
And it’s not a half-way, makeshift project, it is one of the most beautiful and complete Ys in the city, or the country for that matter. It’s something to be proud of, and the key person to be commended is a Black executive.
Eric Mann served as president and CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh YMCAs of which the Centre Avenue Y was one of his responsibilities. When the idea came up to renovate or expand the Centre Avenue Y he could have just went along with the program and renovated the old building which is land locked and really can’t be expanded. But instead he worked closely with the community which led to the idea of building a separate building and naming it after a prominent Pittsburgher… Thelma Lovette.
Again he could have went along with the program and kept falling short of the needed funding like the grocery store battle going on now, or he could have settled for another small YMCA building which would have cost a whole lot less. But he led the fight for a state of the art building with all the facilities that the suburban Ys would indeed be envious. A project that ended up costing $13 million and not one time was the project halted for lack of money.
Why? Because knowing how important a Y is to the young men and women of the Hill, he made it a priority to make sure they got the best. Not second best like we are so often given or have to accept.
Eric Mann is now the CEO of the YMCA in Jacksonville, Fla., but he came back to Pittsburgh for the dedication of the Y to Thelma Lovette, and while Lovette was receiving all the applause and accolades and others were doing the speaking, he quietly sat in the background knowing deep down, probably with great satisfaction, that if it had not been for his total commitment to the project there would have been no Y, no celebration and no example to Black communities throughout this country, that yes, we can do for ourselves, and yes, we can have a beautiful work of art right in the middle of our communities.
All of the Hill District should join me in a gigantic thanks to Eric Mann, for all his hard work, dedication and effort in making the Thelma Lovette YMCA on Centre a beautiful reality.
(Ulish Carter is the managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier)