During the more than 10 years now retired NFL Coach Tony Dungy worked for the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of his fondest memory was time spent at Bethany Baptist Church. Now, the Homewood church is engaged in a stewardship campaign to raise money for a new sanctuary.

In 2001, Bethany Baptist completed construction of Bethany Center, a multi-purpose building dedicated to the church’s community ministry. However, in 2008, when the church was demolished, due to structural deficiencies, the Bethany Baptist congregation was forced to move its worship services to the center.

GIVING BACK—Tony Dungy speaks to the Bethel Baptist Church members and friends in his effort to help them in their time of need. (Photo by Debbie Norrell)

“Those were 12 very special years for me, but I believe what was a big part of what made it special for me was Bethany,” Dungy said. “The problem is the ministry and the outreach can’t exist at the same time in the center. The recreation, for the kids, so they will have something to do, can’t exist.”

In his address to the audience at “An Evening with The Dungys” on March 8 at Heinz Field, Dungy asked for help raising $1.2 million for the new sanctuary. He also talked about his early years with the Steelers and the impact Coach Chuck Noll, former Steelers owner Art Rooney Sr., and other Christian players had on him.

“(Noll) said, ‘You’re in the NFL now, and this is your profession, but this is not your life. I’m here to help you find your purpose in life,’” said Dungy, recalling an early meeting new players had with Coach Noll. “Anywhere I go, I’m still referred to as a former Pittsburgh Steeler.”

Dungy’s wife, Lauren Dungy, shared the story of the first time her and her husband attended Sunday service at Bethany Baptist. The church was recommended to them by one of the team chaplains with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“After that awesome worship experience, our search was over. What stood out to us more than anything else was the sense of community,” said Lauren Dungy. “We were quickly drawn to the warm loving sense at Bethany. The seeds were planted early that the church was not just a place to attend on Sunday.”

To date, Bethany Baptist has been able to raise approximately $600,000, with $530,000 of the total coming from the church’s members. They have also received a $100,000 challenge grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation.

“As a pastor, we see the devastation that has hit our community,” said Pastor William Glaze. “One of the focuses we have is we have a strong focus on the youth. There are many needs in our community and this will go a long way toward addressing the needs of Homewood.”

Serving as honorary chair for the event was former Steelers defensive end L.C. Greenwood. As a member of Bethany Baptist, Greenwood said he is concerned with the prevalence of single-parent homes and high school dropouts in Homewood and the Pittsburgh area as a whole.

“(Our pastor) spends a whole lot of time working in our community and our church. And that’s why we’re here tonight; because of the things he’s done in Homewood and because of the things that need done in Homewood,” Greenwood said. “There are so many things that need done in Homewood. I’m happy to be a member at Bethany because of the things we’re trying to do in that community.”

Bethany Baptist’s youth ministries include a summer program, after-school computer lab, and the Learning Assistance and Mentoring Partnerships Program that provides mentors for children attending Faison Elementary School. They also operate a food pantry, The Pittsburgh Laymen’s Bible Institute and Girlfriends Together, a new ministry designed to meet the needs of women in Homewood.

“Our pastor dreams of a time when we won’t hear those gun shots, when we won’t see those drug addicts or those women walking the street,” said Nancy Lee Cochran, a Bethany member and president of Cochran and Associates. “Pray for our pastor.”

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