Friday, February 27, 2015

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Support from the Grable Foundation

Many generous organizations and individuals make it possible for Aliquippa Impact to reach out to children and their families. One such benefactor is the Grable Foundation.

The Grable Foundation was founded in 1976 by Minnie Grable. She and her family were committed to promoting the education of youth. Now the foundation is run by seven trustees, mostly members of the Grable family, who fund programs and organizations that improve the lives of children in the Pittsburgh region. The foundation has supported Aliquippa Impact’s summer program since 2010.

Tracey Reed-Armant, a program associate at the Grable Foundation who works with grantees, visited AI’s summer program this year. She says, “I was really impressed with the level of dedication of the staff of AI and the fact that people had moved to the Aliquippa area to be part of the organization. Families actually relocated from different places throughout the country, not just our local area, to be part of Aliquippa Impact.”

Together the Aliquippa Impact staff and those who support AI’s programs bring hope to the community.

 

Covenant Word Fellowship and John Avallone

Twenty six years ago a group of people committed to studying the Bible and praying together on Sunday mornings created a non-denominational church called Covenant Word Fellowship in Medina, Ohio. Here members follow precept bible studies, developed by Kay and Jack Arthur, which emphasize a personal study of the Bible and coming to understand God’s word through observation, interpretation, and application of the text. The church’s mission is to help people grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ by understanding God’s word and applying what they learn in the text to their lives.

Growing up in Medina, Ohio, Joel Repic attended Covenant Word Fellowship with his family. When the Repics’ moved to Pennsylvania they kept in touch with the congregation. Hearing about Joel’s new ministry, Aliquippa Impact, the church decided to offer support financially and through prayer.

According to John Avallone, a member of Covenant Word for 26 years, “We support Aliquippa Impact because it ministers to children. They provide a safe haven for kids and try to turn kids’ lives around through education, mentoring, and ministering with God’s word. Aliquippa has been an oppressed area for a number of years-lots of issues, lots of ills there that capture children at an early age. The emphasis is to try to show them that there are other alternatives and with God in their lives they are not destined to a very difficult and tough life.”

John played an important role in organizing Aliquippa Impact’s board. About seven years ago Joel invited John to serve as a board member. At the time that John accepted Joel’s invitation, the board was going through a period of transition. Some members were leaving as others were joining. Six months into his role, John noticed the board was not functioning smoothly. He spoke with Joel about this concern. Knowing that John had experience with corporate organization, he asked him if he would consider being chairman of the board. John agreed and set out to make some changes. First, he turned his attention to the board’s organization. John says, “The focus I had then was really getting the board with a full sway of members because we didn’t have enough. So we recruited some people and basically had more of an organizational structure. I was chairman, we had a vice-chairman, a secretary, a treasurer, and so we started to function much more directly with the ministry in terms of providing guidance and direction.”

John also believed that Aliquippa Impact needed a business manager-someone to run the day-to-day operations of the ministry. At the time Joel was the executive director, but his heart was really into the ministry aspects of AI rather than the organization’s management. To give Joel a greater opportunity to work directly with ministry, the board hired Steve Rossi as a full- time business manager. About a year later Joel became more involved with pastoral duties at his church, and although he was still very much involved with Aliquippa Impact, he felt that he should give up his position as executive director. So, Joel moved out of the position and Steve filled his place.

John also suggested that AI needed a more automated and timely method of producing newsletters as well as a webpage so people could easily make donations. Both of these suggestions led to more change for the organization. John has since retired from the board, but the changes he made have strengthened AI’s ministry.

The support of Joel’s childhood parish, Covenant Word Fellowship, and parishioner John Avallone’s efforts on the board have furthered Aliquippa Impact’s mission to foster hope in Aliquippa.

   

Walking Side by Side

A young 18-year old Joel Repic and Charles Chapman spent a summer working with the Pittsburgh Project. Here, they shared their dreams with one another.Charles says, “Both of us had these crazy ideas to start these ministries-me to start a ministry for the homeless in Pittsburgh, him to start a ministry to youth and families in Aliquippa.”

Years later Joel and Charles’ crazy ideas became a reality. Joel founded Aliquippa Impact and Charles founded Living Ministries. While Aliquippa Impact builds relationships with children and families in Aliquippa, Living Ministries builds relationships with the homeless in Pittsburgh, discipling men and women, and helping them find hope in Jesus Christ.

Today, Joel and Charles are still connected. They visit one another and their families go on vacation together. Charles has visited Aliquippa Impact many times and students from AI have volunteered with Charles’ Living Ministries. Charles says, “Over the past 12 years we’ve kind of walked along side each other as we’ve done this together.”

One way that Charles supports Joel is by praying for Aliquippa Impact and supporting the ministry financially. He says, “We (his family) like to support local missionaries when we have the opportunity. Giving is something very near and dear to our hearts so we get to express that by supporting Aliquippa Impact. We ourselves have support to raise so I know all that goes into that. It causes you to rely on the Lord and trust and utilize the body of Christ to do the work of Christ so that’s good for us to be a part of: on the one end the receiving and then also the giving end. This helps keep us humble as we ask others.”

Charles has been to Aliquippa multiple times over the years visiting Joel at AI and at his home. He has seen a difference in the community over time. He explains, “I remember visiting Joel and Chelsea (Joel’s wife) many years ago and as we were leaving we got approached at our car by people asking us for money. You can just feel the darkness in the community. And now, they’ve been there a while, other people have joined them-the ministry has taken off. I know one of the important things for Aliquippa Impact is that there would be no hopeless communities and I would say I can feel that and have seen that change absolutely.” His encounter with Aliquippa residents has confirmed this sense of change. He recalls, “I brought our staff out to visit and spend the week with Joel and Steve and others at Aliquippa Impact last year and as we are in Aliquippa a woman comes up to us and we tell her we’re from Pittsburgh and I know Joel. She proceeds to tell us for like 5 minutes all the wonderful things Aliquippa Impact has meant to her and how it’s changed her family’s life.I think that just speaks for itself of the change that’s happening: that there is hope in Aliquippa once again because of the work that’s being done at Aliquippa Impact.

   

Oneness of Spirit

Cynthia Burns joined the staff of Aliquippa Impact in the summer of 2014 as a summer staff member helping with the summer City Camp program. Cyndi is now an Afterschool Program Classroom Assistant with AI during the school year. In this role, Cyndi gets to hang out with kids, help with snacks, pick up a child who needs transportation, and work on homework with kids, challenging them, which she loves! The one on one time with homework and driving the child to and from the program is a special time for her. Cyndi also works at the Uncommon Grounds Café through the Church Army, where she is currently a candidate to be an officer. She especially loves helping with children’s events at the café.

Cyndi had heard of Aliquippa while living in Ambridge in the 1990’s while attending Trinity Seminary through the Church Army, but she avoided it based on its reputation. Now twenty or so years later, God has brought her back to the area and living in Aliquippa. “God opened up an opportunity for me to live in Sheffield Towers, right in the midst of what He is doing. God is bringing people to Aliquippa from around the country. It excites me! I love how the people serving Aliquippa transcend denominations and race to pray for the city.”

Cyndi’s heart and vision is for children – “The key to the transition of Aliquippa is through the children. The young generation. When they get a hold of the hope of Jesus Christ, that is when transformation with happen. I love that AI and the Café have the same heart.” Cyndi says one of the reasons she supports AI is, “Aliquippa Impact is following the Great Commission. AI’s heart is to see people come to Christ, to love and respect people where they are and for God to do the work as we are faithful to follow and listen to the Holy Spirit.” She sees growth through AI’s consistency with children through year-round programs. “Kids know we are there even if they are not part of the program. A constant presence, a constant reminder that we care about the children.”

Cyndi values Aliquippa Impact’s oneness most. “Jesus’ prayer was that we would all be one as He and the Father are one. When we have staff meetings and times of worship, I sense that oneness of Spirit. Whatever human differences we have, I don’t see it during those times. I sense we are there for the same reason and I value that. I value that it is all about Jesus.”

   

What Impact Haven’t They Made?

It’s funny how food can bring people together.Tiffany Ruff, a 12 year resident of Aliquippa, first encountered Aliquippa Impact when the organization brought around food baskets to residents. Through a conversation with the AI members, she heard about AI’s various programs, which her children now belong to.

Tiffany’s daughter, Tiarra, is in 10th grade at Aliquippa Jr./Sr. High School. She is part of the school’s volleyball team and her favorite class is Spanish. While Spanish is her favorite subject, her interest in history has also grown since joining Christyn Gilliam’s (Cohort Leader) cohort group. Christyn raised her interest in learning about the civil rights movement and helped her bring her grade up in her history class. Also, Tiarra was able to experience history beyond her textbooks through trips her cohort made to the Carnegie Museum of National History and the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. She loves learning about the history of the city.

Tiffany’s son, Tyshaun, an 8th grader at Aliquippa Jr./Sr. High School, is a member of Steve Rossi’s (Executive Director) cohort group. He enjoys drawing cartoons and taking trips with the cohort group, too. According to Tiffany, “Guys like Pastor Joel, Mr. John, Mr. Steve, and Mr. Ryan have definitely been positive male role models in Tyshaun’s life.” She believes they have taught him valuable leadership skills.

Tiffany says that Aliquippa Impact has brought life to the city. She explains, “What impact haven’t they made? They’ve offered a lot for the kids to do, trying to keep them off the streets. They are always reaching out to anyone in need. Their doors have always been open to any and everyone who may need any kind of help. I think it makes a big difference to know that somebody actually cares and is willing to help you. I know that people have a lot of respect for Aliquippa Impact.”

Tiffany thinks of Aliquippa Impact as family. She says, “Aliquippa Impact has been a huge support system for us throughout various things that we have gone through in the time we have known them. They’ve also provided mentors for my children, who have made a huge impact on them. “

   

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