Washington City Mission gets $200,000 from Southpointe company

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Brian Shanahan has one overreaching goal in life.

"I want to end homelessness," the Upper St. Clair resident said. "I just want to give back."

To that end, the company Mr. Shanahan founded in 2006, CardConnect, this week donated $200,000 to the Washington City Mission.

And that won't be the end of his efforts.

"I'd like to do this for the next five years," he said. "My goal is to donate $1 million."

The donation was made possible by the Neighborhood Assistance Program, administered by the state Department of Community and Economic Development. The program returns 55 cents in tax credits for every dollar donated by businesses to make communities better places to live.

Mr. Shanahan would like to see that return increased to 90 cents on the dollar, which he thinks would encourage more donations.

The Southpointe-based company provides electronic payment technology and processing services for merchants, independent sales organizations and financial institutions.

Company officials hosted a check presentation Tuesday for the mission, which has provided more than 107,700 meals and 30,000 nights of shelter to more than 900 people during the past year.

"We have a vision for expanding the mission," said its CEO Dean Gartland. "We're bursting at the seams."

Mr. Gartland said the funds will be used to help buy and renovate a neighboring property on West Wheeling Street in Washington into a new recycling center and veterans shelter.

"We want to expand our footprint and services," he said. "We believe we need to do a better job providing services to veterans. They're falling through the cracks."

Established in 1941, the mission currently provides beds for 60 men and 30 women and children. About 20 percent of those are veterans, said Doug Bush, recycling director for the organization.

"When the state cut funding for mental health, drug and alcohol services, it really impacted them," he said of veterans.

Mr. Bush said the population at the shelter was in the single digits 30 years ago, but now the men's section is routinely over capacity. The increased population also means the shelter needs more donations of goods, clothing, recyclables and automobiles.

"We're doing a huge business," he said, including four recycling trucks, six thrift stores and a Samaritan Care program, which provides free food, clothing and furniture to families in need.

Mr. Bush said he was a patron of the shelter 14 years ago on Christmas Eve, having just been released from the Washington County Jail after his third stint serving time for a drug conviction.

A year later, the Washington man had turned his life around through the mission's programs, which include work assignments for residents, who, he said, are helped with "whatever hurt or hang-up that they walked in with."

"This is an opportunity for me to strengthen my own recovery by helping the people who come here," said Mr. Bush, who said he has been clean and sober for more than 13 years.

Mr. Shanahan's wife, Karen Shanahan, said the couple has been donating for years to various causes, but homelessness has always been a priority for her husband.

"The homeless problem in general is something that's close to his heart," said Ms. Shanahan, who has a nephew and niece who have served five tours between them in Iraq. "We're really falling short in this country taking care of our veterans."

Mr. Gartland sees change ahead: "In the next three to four years, the mission is going to be transformed, just like the people we serve."

neigh_south - neigh_washington

Janice Crompton: jcrompton@post-gazette.com or 412-851-1867.


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