East End Cooperative Ministry shows off its new facility

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For more than four decades, the East End Cooperative Ministry has operated its programs for homeless adults and at-risk youth out of more than two dozen locations at its member congregations.

Starting in November, those programs, founded in 1970, will be housed under one roof at the ministry's new $15 million Community House along Penn Circle North in East Liberty on what once was a blighted piece of land.

The 56,000-square-foot building has two stories and includes an interior courtyard, a roof garden and a terrace. Numerous windows and large glass plates provide natural light in nearly every area of the building, which was constructed to achieve a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum certification.

East End Cooperative Ministry unveils new facility

East End Cooperative Ministry's new facility hosts its hunger, housing, and children and youth services under one roof. The building features an interior courtyard, chapel, mural, large roof garden and terrace. (Video by Nate Guidry; 10/24/2013)

"There is not a single space in this building where you cannot look out and not see outside. Many people we serve have been in the shadows, been in darkness, so this gives them a great sense of hope," said Phil Hallen, an East End Cooperative Ministry board member and chairman of the capital campaign that financed the building.

The ministry worked with officials of the East Liberty Development Inc. to purchase and develop the property.

The new Community House has a large kitchen with a 10-burner stove and steam table, where a small paid staff will work with more than 100 volunteers to cook the weekday hot meal that is served to the public at noon. Also prepared in the kitchen will be meals for an East End Meals on Wheels program that feeds 60 and the same number of meals that are served at the nearby Vintage Senior Center.

The staff and volunteers also prepare meals for those who live in the temporary housing at the Community House, said Ed Kinley, hunger program director.

A walk-in freezer will allow food to be stored for a longer period of time for the meal programs and the food pantry.

The education area holds classrooms and an art studio that will be used during the day for adult career preparation classes and during after-school hours for enrichment programs for the 600 students ages 5-18 in the ministry's programs, which include academic enrichment and drug, tobacco and alcohol prevention.

"This gives us a chance to crystallize and enhance our programs in math, literacy and reading and helping people from families who don't have access to computers and technology," said the Rev. Darnell O. Leonard, youth programs director and associate director for the ministry.

The building also contains a sound production studio where youth will be taught how to produce music and put on performances.

For the homeless population, there are 60 beds for emergency shelter and transitional housing programs and 14 others for the compassionate care program that provides temporary housing for homeless people who leave the hospital and need somewhere to recover. Housing programs director Kellie Wild said the additional space at the Community House has allowed the ministry to expand into transitional housing, which allows clients to stay for up to six months.

A large gathering room has a mural across one wall that is a collaborative work of muralist Doug Cooper and architect and fabric artist Stefani Danes, who worked on the project with the youth of the ministry's summer day camp.

Of the funding total, $7 million was raised through foundations, $2.4 million from individual pledges, $500,000 from the congregations that support the ministry and the rest from tax credits, banks, corporations and the general public.

Mr. Hallen said the capital campaign was organized in 2009 and made public in 2010. Despite the difficult economy in recent years, the campaign hit its $15 million goal and the property is mortgage free. A second campaign is being started to create an endowment for the Community House.

"The raising of this money is so affirming of the programs that have gone on for 40 years," Mr. Hallen said.

on the web

To watch a video report of the East End Cooperative Ministry's new facility, visit post-gazette.com

Mary Niederberger: mniederberger@post-gazette.com; 412-263-1590.

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