Goodfellows Fund: Showing kids the positive aspects of life
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The old aphorism is true -- it really does take a village to raise a child. But it often takes a special neighbor to get the village to do the right thing.
Since 1998, when Gloria James moved into her North Charles Street neighborhood on the North Side, she has helped the community steer its children off the streets and toward the high road.
"My motto is: Show these kids the positive aspects of life," she said. "You have to have hands-on involvement with them, keep them busy, always be giving them positive things to do and make it too fun for them to have time for the bad things."
A single mom -- now a grandmother -- with multiple disabilities, Ms. James has largely kept her family on the right track and set an example that has been followed by many of her neighbors.
This Christmas, the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program, supported in large part by the Post-Gazette Goodfellows Fund, will help make sure there are gifts under the tree for Ms. James' family: son Terry, 12; daughter Trayonia, 16, and the children of her adult daughter Dorresa James, who lives nearby with Jennea, 11; Jemmea, 9; Jaymon, 5; and Jelesha, 2.
After being injured in an accidental work-related fall, Ms. James found residence through the Northside Coalition for Fair Housing, a nonprofit organization that coordinates housing for about 1,400 people in 324 units, 95 percent headed by women. The coalition describes its mission as using federal, state and local resources to help build community environments that are "safe, livable, beautiful and sustainable with indifference to a resident's income, race or physical abilities."
Coalition worker Patricia Parker said Ms. James has been instrumental in keeping North Charles Street on the good side of the North Side.
"She's a good mother, a good grandmother and a really good person to have in the community," said Ms. Parker, who went to school with Ms. James and has known her for decades. "She's active and helps with her neighbors' child care. These young women really need encouragement, and Gloria has been a good neighbor and a good role model for them."
Since the late 1990s the Central Northside neighborhood has changed, "mostly for the better," said Ms. James. A nearby recreation center, improved reading programs and youth activities organized through the Pittsburgh Project, a nonprofit, keep the kids busy.
"The neighborhood has gotten younger, but everyone gets along really well," Ms. James said. "On Charles Street, we look out for each other -- getting kids on the bus, day care, things like that. Everyone works together."
Half the challenge in encouraging neighborhood cooperation, she said, is proving to other parents that the best way to keep kids out of trouble is to keep them busy.
"Kids will see what my kids are doing and are curious," said Ms. James. "I say, 'Ask your mom if you can come with us.' They have so much fun they go home and tell their parents about it, and then the parents want to come, too. Kids today are very smart -- you have to challenge them, keep them busy and make it fun."
Next year Ms. James said she hopes to revive the community drill and dance teams that once competed with teams from other neighborhoods. And she'd like to encourage neighbors to take "her kids" on more field trips -- she calls all the neighborhood children "her kids."
"Some of these children have never been out of the North Side. A teenage girl who's never been Downtown, a little boy who's never been to Kennywood," she said. "Personally, I'll just be here baby-sitting the neighborhood, even though my children are older. I get a joy out of making sure they're safe."
Goodfellows has been a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette holiday tradition since 1947. Generous readers pitched in to help Toys for Tots provide gifts to nearly 30,000 needy children last year.
Please help by making a tax-deductible contribution to Goodfellows using the coupon that accompanies this story or online at www.post-gazette.com/goodfellows. Every donation is acknowledged in the newspaper.
Toy distribution today
The Toys for Tots program will hold open houses today and Saturday to distribute toys to parents and guardians of needy children. They will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. 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.
Today's total: $8,449
Grand total: $69,097.47
The Wilding family $1,000
Tony Plastino $500
Hayes & Patricia Stover $250
Alison & David Palmer $250
Dr. & Mrs. Ron Landay $200
The Bonnets $200
Joe & Eileen Sisca $150
Mahadev Satyanarayanan & Deborah Kelly $100
In memory of Dush & Ann Zarnic $100
James & Eleanor Rushworth $100
Helen Andrews $100
Ron & Pat Bolster $100
Jane Bisacca $100
Rose Fabiani $100
Brad & Shilo Rea $100
Luka & Georgia Tomasic $100
Audrey Bensy $100
In honor of Daniel McConnell $100
In memory of Killian Scott Vogel $100
Amy L. Thomson $100
Susen Friday $100
Bill & Helen Uhl $100
Mark R. Biedrzycki, MD $100
Kathleen Burns $100
Mary Jo & Greg Rodgers $100
Dennis Sundo $100
Dave & Lorrain Pudup $100
The Otte family $100
Gerry & Louise Cipriani $75
Dan Kohut $75
Andrew, Benjamin & Christopher $69
Joe Brusco's Upholstery $60
In memory of Richard & Barbara Ross $50
Chuck & Pam Kaetzel $50
Dante Accamando $50
Tom & Mary Ann Kaylor $50
Richard & Janet Oliver $50
Mr. & Mrs. Tomothy K. Bosse $50
Joe & Carole Yarosz $50
Schnatterly family $50
Steve & Cathy Douds $50
Tilly Falnnery $50
Chris Moran $50
In honor of Lettie & Alvin Kizina $50
B. Ruskin $50
Tom Mattarochia $50
The Hatfield family $50
Don DeAngelis $50
Jennifer Bender $50
Mike & Doreen Laughlin $40
Harry Story $40
Thomas Dunn $40
Lorraine Eglberger $40
In memory of Denny Olup $35
In memory of John & Pauline Halley $30
In memory of Brandon Chiarelli $30
Eugene W. Klaber $30
In memory of William Haburchak $25
Mr. Edward N. Roolf Jr. $25
V.L. Smith $25
Charlena Cunningham & Pam York $25
Joni McMillen $25
In memory of Mom & Dad Mitchell $25
Tom & Kathy O'Connor -- In memory of Dugan & Frick Families $25
Fred Mazzotti $25
Georgia Krelis $25
In memory of Genevieve Fiedor $25
Audrey Bonawitz $25
Joe Bartunek $25
Joan Fereday $25
James & Lynn Boone $25
Peter G. Faines $25
Mary Hovis $25
In memory of Grace Bussler $25
Jennifer Vasek $25
Joe & Kathy $25
Mark & Lisa Saftner $25
Charlotte E. Donley $25
Elisea, Jean & Dante Montini $25
Mr. & Mrs. Ron Granatire $25
Alice Fiedler $25
In memory of Edward P. Kelly & Michael P. Kelly $25
Pat Hoburg $25
Lucy & OJ $25
Betty Willey $25
The Morgans $25
Philip & Janice McNelis $20
In memory of John P. Rowan $20
In honor of Jacob & Josh Valego $20
Kathy Hills $20
In memory of Fred & Greg McKenzie $20
Pat Frender $15
Irma Mazza $15
John Sawhill $10
In memory of G. Samuel Staude $10
First Published December 14, 2012 12:00 am