Monday, April 27, 2015

News

Meet Lanasia Toles

lanasia toles picLanasia Toles is approaching the end of her junior year at Aliquippa Junior-Senior High School. Her favorite memory thus far has been serving on her class’ executive board and preparing for a class bake sale.

Besides helping out her school, she also volunteers with Aliquippa Impact. During AI’s Afterschool program she helps kids with their homework, plays games with them, and helps serve dinner. She also helps cohort leaders calm their younger members when they get too rowdy during a meeting.

Lanasia has been a part of Aliquippa Impact’s youth programs for 9 years. Currently she is a member of Christyn Gilliam’s cohort group. Lanasia says, “Being part of this cohort has impacted my life in a positive way. It gives me something to look forward to.”

Lanasia describes her cohort leader as fun and easy to talk to. She has fond memories of celebrating birthdays with Christyn and her fellow cohort members. She says, “Christyn always does something special for our birthdays. For my birthday she took me and the other girls in our cohort out to eat. It was really fun!”

Christyn helps the girls set goals and then works with them to achieve them. Lanasia, now an employee at Dunkin Donuts says, “One of my goals was to get a job. And I actually did! Christyn helped me get my first job.”

The next goal on Lanasia’s list is to attend college. She is unsure what she wants to major in, but Christyn is there to help her. One of the colleges she plans on touring is Slippery Rock University. Lanasia says that Christyn also plans to take her cohort to visit other colleges in the area.

May God bless this soon-to-be senior and guide her as she prepares for graduation!

 

Seeing Things Differently

connie harmotto pic“We must become less so we can be filled with something greater” says Connie Harmotto, referencing John 3:30. Connie is thinking of her experience as a mentor with Aliquippa Impact. She began school-based mentoring in 2012 and then transitioned to one-on-one mentoring in 2013.

Connie spends time with her mentee once a week. She says, “[My husband and I] have an opportunity to be friends with her. My husband looks forward to her visits and they shoot basketball in the driveway while I am finishing dinner. We do simple things together – making dinner, taking the dog for a walk. I don’t expect anything and neither does she. Sometimes we just sit together and don’t say anything. We’re comfortable with each other.”

The relationship has impacted both mentee and mentor. Both have gained a friend and both have grown in their faith. According to Connie, their relationship has introduced her mentee to a Christian lifestyle. But not only is her mentee’s faith becoming stronger, so is Connie’s. She says, “Having a relationship with this little girl has been a blessing to me. It totally takes the focus off myself and allows me to focus on someone else. Learning about a different culture and generation has taught me a lot. It has made me look at things a lot differently in life and in my Christian walk.”

Connie was skeptical of Aliquippa before becoming a mentor. She says, “What I imagined before becoming involved in Aliquippa was that there were broken families and homes because inside the families they didn’t care about each other. I imagined that they were in control of their situation completely and that they should be able to go find work and get themselves out of the situation they are in. What I found and what God opened my eyes to after I started mentoring was that the moms love their children and they want opportunities for their kids, but they are limited. That is where Aliquippa Impact comes in providing those opportunities for their kids with the mentoring and with the cohorts.”

Connie sees the hope that all who work with AI bring to families. She says not every child is born into a situation with plentiful opportunities for growth. When kids are provided with such opportunities, they respond enthusiastically. She recalls,I remember kids stopping by the mentoring room at the elementary school asking if they got a mentor yet. They are excited; they want friendships and people caring for them.”

Serving as a mentor has changed the way Connie sees the city of Aliquippa and given her an opportunity share God’s love. Connie says, “I am thankful that AI gives me an opportunity to serve in a way that has always been on my heart.”

 

   

Aliquippa Impact is Rooted in Who Christ Is - Danny Murphy

danny murphy pic"I think the value lies in that Christ is exalted most. The community of the team I work with comes with the same set of values, so the thoughts, teamwork,and goals all are seamless because Aliquippa Impact is rooted in who Christ is, and what we want to accomplish. I love the fact that I can learn, grow, toil, and make a difference on a team.” These are the words of Asset Coordinator, Danny Murphy, as he shares what he values most working with Aliquippa Impact.

Danny first heard about Aliquippa Impact through his wife, Erin, who worked at the summer day camp program in 2006 and 2007. Since then Danny and Erin have served at a Christian international boarding school in South Korea as dorm parents, soccer coach, and school/dorm nursing. They moved back to this area in 2013 and have become reconnected to the community.

In his role of Asset Coordinator, Danny oversees the school-based mentoring program at Aliquippa Elementary School where he encourages and develops the mentor/mentee relationships and builds relationships in the school. He also has a cohort group of about eight youth that he leads, along with his wife Erin, during the afterschool program. In addition, he is in charge of the Summer Day Camp program, which includes recruiting, training, and developing the summer interns and the program to the children as a whole.

Danny supports AI because he finds it to be very relational and fosters tangible hope. “I believe in the mission statement (Our mission is to foster tangible hope to youth in toxic environments by building relational bridges and developmental assets) because it doesn’t just stop at the gospel. All the things we do, tangible, after school, cohort, kids can touch it, know it, feel it,” he states.

Danny has seen firsthand the growth from Aliquippa Impact’s ministry. He recalls an instance with one of the kids in his cohort at the after school program when he was starting to build a relationship with him. Danny was drawing the child’s name, and then instead of doing it for him, he sat with him. He reflects, “At the next meeting, I saw his notebook. He had drawn my name the same as I was trying to teach him in the meeting before. I thought I wasn’t connecting, but God showed me that He is working and establishing these relationships.” He also says, “As a whole, it takes courage for all of our kids to live in the environment they do and take steps of faith, whether they know it or not. AI gives them the opportunity to do that and gives us an opportunity to see that."

   

Sticking with Them

Aliquippa Impact is not the only youth organization on Franklin Avenue. Deliverance Temple, which has existed approximately 35 years, reaches out to at-risk youth through their ministry, Roots Christian Academy.

Roots Christian Academy is an alternative school for children around the age of 12 to early adulthood. The academy seeks to plant seeds in the lives of kids and enable them to mature into productive citizens.

The partnership between Aliquippa Impact and Roots Academy began nearly 8 years ago when Pastor Paul Dordal, the senior pastor of Crestmont Alliance Church at the time, introduced Pastor Marvin Moreland of Deliverance Temple to Joel Repic and Aliquippa Impact’s ministry.

Pastor Moreland says, “We try to collaborate and network as much as possible because our ministries are both geared toward the youth in the community.”

Both Aliquippa Impact and Roots Academy have brought hope to youth in Aliquippa. Roots provides a way for children who would not have graduated school to complete their education.

Pastor Moreland says, “Our impact in the community is trying to assist the youth and help them make decisions that will further their future. “

One such decision is to continue their education beyond high school. Roots has given multiple children the opportunity to attend college or a training school.

Aliquippa Impact supports youth through their mentoring, afterschool, and summer programs. Pastor Moreland points out, “I’ve encountered a lot of children in the community that were excited about the (programs). You hear all kind of different testimonies and stories about them (AI) coming to the community and assisting kids.”

Pastor Moreland admires Aliquippa Impact’s continual presence with the youth. He says, “They stick with them. That’s one thing I’ve noticed with the mentoring program. They stick with the kids not just one year, two years, but they commit themselves to walking alongside the kids on an as-needed basis.”

He has witnessed the ongoing presence of Aliquippa Impact in the life of a boy who attends college with his son. He explains, “The one young man went to school with my son up in Edinboro. They have been a part of this young man’s life for quite some time and it is very evident that he had someone from Aliquippa Impact’s ministry to help guide him through those years of uncertainty.”

   

Ginny Caldwell

Ginny is no stranger to Aliquippa. Her grandparents were Italian immigrants who lived most of their lives in Plan 11. Her father was a school teacher in an Aliquippa school and later became principal of Jones School in Plan 11. Ginny remembers when Aliquippa was a vibrant, bustling town when the mills were going strong. “But within that vibrancy there wasn’t harmony between races and ethnicities, there was tension between the union and management. It was a vibrant community fraught with tension and strife.” Ginny has a deep connection to Aliquippa and is a great asset to Aliquippa Impact.

Ginny is a member of AI’s Board of Directors, volunteers on AI’s people and fundraising committee, and financially supports AI. Ginny brings twenty years of experience working at Geneva College, mostly in the role of Director of Alumni Relations and Planned Giving Officer in the Institutional Advancement Office. She is also an involved member of First Presbyterian Church, a Stephen Ministry Leader, on the VOAD Board (Volunteer Organizations Active during Disaster), and currently works in customer service for Panoptic Media. Ginny first learned of Aliquippa Impact through Norma Lagios, a Board member and previous co-worker, when she recommended Ginny as a Board member. Ginny has been on the Board of Aliquippa Impact for many years and since then, Ginny has watched Aliquippa Impact grow from one program to five.

“I believe in what we [AI] stand for – servicing disenfranchised youth and giving them hope through our multiple programs that we offer, programs delivered through dedicated staff and volunteers who reach into their lives and help them to address challenges they face and celebrate the accomplishments they reach. We take a holistic approach to the person – spiritual, educational, emotional, and family.” Ginny believes the foundations are in the developmental assets which are 40 building blocks of healthy development as defined by the Search Institute. “I commend the Founder (Joel Repic) and Executive Director (Steve Rossi) for their continued attention to the implementation of AI’s vision and for partnering with other like-minded community organizations. I believe the board keeps the leadership team accountable and strives for financial stability and transparency of the organization.”

Ginny values most “The foundation upon which it has been built, anchored in Christ. We have been given this place at this time in history to affect the lives that God has given to us. God isn’t just using a person, he is using multiple people to reach into the lives of these youth to have an impact on them.”

   

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