What the Rev. William A. Passavant began in 1853 as the Zelienople Orphans' Home and Farm School has evolved into a multifaceted $24 million program that serves children with mental health issues, autism or neglect.
Now known as Glade Run Lutheran Services, the agency operates a residential treatment facility, a school for special-education students and a therapeutic farm and horticultural program at its 350-acre site in Zelienople. It also has community services for children with mental health issues at its main site as well as in Friendship, Butler and Beaver Falls.
Sheila Talarico, executive director of the Glade Run Foundation, said the agency specializes in "kids everyone else has given up on."
That includes 150 to 200 children who attend classes at St. Stephen School, which specializes in teaching those whose autism or mental health issues make it difficult for them to learn in a regular classroom. The school typically has classes of 12 students or fewer and those with the most serious needs have three staff members for each student.
The school has contracts to accept students from 53 school districts, mostly in Allegheny and Butler counties.
In addition to regular classroom work, the school offers special sensory rooms that help children with autism calm down and regain their focus.
Glade Run also runs a residential treatment program on campus, where about 100 live in group homes. Some are voluntary placements for help with mental health issues, others court placements after neglect or abuse at home.
The cottages feature individual rooms for residents, a common dining and meeting area and rooms set up to help teach residents life skills such as laundry, cleaning, writing a resume and keeping a checkbook.
Ms. Talarico said the agency is proud that more than 90 percent of those in residential treatment leave for less-restrictive programs.
Glade Run also uses a portion of its 350 acres for an active farm and horticultural program where kids can care for and interact with farm animals or grow flowers and vegetables. The program, which is also available as a summer camp, helps to teach responsibility.
"Animals make special connections with kids," Ms. Talarico said.
Allegheny County regularly places abused or neglected children at Glade Run, partially because of the unique setting and full range of services it offers.
"It gives kids an opportunity they might not otherwise have," said Marcia Sturdivant, deputy director of the county's Department of Human Services, Office of Children, Youth and Families.
"Sometimes a child needs a loving place. They offer homelike cottages that are good for kids."
Ms. Talarico said Glade Run soon will begin a major capital campaign to upgrade some of its facilities, including building a "sensory house" with a series of rooms for children with autism.
Holidays present a special challenge for programs like Glade Run. In some cases, children come from financially stable, loving families that willingly participate in their care and holiday activities. But others come from dysfunctional families or families without the financial means to give gifts at Christmas.
That's where the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Goodfellows Fund and the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program come in, providing toys for children who otherwise might not have anything under the Christmas tree. Your donation will help an agency like Glade Run provide a gift for a needy child.
"A lot of kids, even if they come from a good home environment, their family may not be able to buy anything for Christmas," Ms. Talarico said. "Our staff identifies kids who may be in poverty and makes sure they get something."
Glade Run also will collect gifts or gift cards as admission for two special showings of the animated movie "Polar Express," at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday. Santa Claus will visit and refreshments will be available.
Reservations are required and can be made by calling 724-452-4453 ext. 1227 or sending an email to email@example.com.
Glade Run also has a Christmas Angel program through Dec. 20 in which the public can ask for a tag with a child's specific Christmas gift wish and deliver it unwrapped to the facility.
Tens of thousands of needy children are counting on the generosity of Pittsburghers to brighten their Christmases through donations to the Goodfellows Fund. The goal of the fund is to make sure that every child has a toy under the tree on Christmas morning.
Please help. Make a tax-deductible donation to Goodfellows by using the coupon on this page, or online by visiting www.post-gazette.com/goodfellows. Every donation will be acknowledged in the newspaper.
The Toys for Tots program will hold open houses next month to distribute toys to parents and guardians of needy children.
They will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 14 and 15 at Guardian Storage Solutions, 2839 Liberty Ave., Strip District. Parents and guardians should bring a photo ID for themselves, a birth certificate for each child (children up to age 12 are eligible) and proof of need -- welfare check stub, food stamp card or other proof of government assistance.
Ed Blazina: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1470.