REV. EUGENE BLACKWELL
by Christian Morrow
Courier Staff Writer
In 2008, work was completed on what was to be a new Family Dollar store on Frankstown Avenue in Homewood. But the company refused delivery of the structure, and it has remained vacant for five years.
Now, not without a touch of poetic irony, that “white elephant” might serve as a catalyst for rebuilding the community. During a June 18 press conference, the Homewood Renaissance Association announced that despite purchase offers, Dollar Bank has donated the $2 million structure to serve as a new community center and the anchor of a multi-initiative effort to rebuild North Homewood.
“The initiative unveiled today takes concrete steps to transform a vicious cycle of poverty into a circle of hope and reconciliation,” said House of Manna Faith Community pastor Rev. Eugene Blackwell. ”It is truly Homewood rebuilding itself. We are grateful to Dollar Bank for their support in our community and to our many partners, who have united with us to bring this to life.”
The newly refurbished center is scheduled to open in early 2014.
In addition to Dollar Bank, the center and its programmatic work is being supported by the RK Mellon Foundation, the Buhl Foundation, the Heinz Endowments and several private and corporate funders.
“HRA has created a strong community revitalization model that is fueled by Homewood residents, yet includes organizations beyond Homewood to create exciting long-term change,” said Heinz Endowments President Robert Vagt. “This initiative will offer housing, employment, education and recreation. We are privileged to support a project that reflects the passion of the community, offering opportunity and building hope for the future.”
Beyond repurposing the 7258 Frankstown building, the association—itself a coalition of faith- and community-based agencies such as City Mission, Hosanna Industries, Inc., Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh and several churches—plans to expand its programming and to purchase a nearby building for use as a youth home and renovate a third building into transitional housing for homeless.
(More in Wednesday’s Courier.)