A newsmaker you should know: Girls Hope director expects many amazing success stories
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Tom Wiese, the executive director of Girls Hope, a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph based in Baden, brings with him a myriad of experience with nonprofit organizations and a heart for helping people in need, particularly at-risk youth.
Mr. Wiese stepped into his new role on June 18.
"I'm thrilled to death to come back to a youth-serving agency and organization," he said. "That's really where my passion lies. I've really come to enjoy it."
Founded in 1990, Girls Hope of Pittsburgh nurtures, houses and educates girls between the ages of 10 to 18 who are at-risk due to poverty, neglect or harmful neighborhood conditions. The organization provides two stable, family-like homes in Baden and Coraopolis that each accommodate eight full-time residents and serve as a home base for Girls Hope college students.
Prior to coming to Girls Hope, Mr. Wiese of Cheswick gleaned experience in organizational leadership, finance, strategic planning and development through his roles as financial development officer for the American Red Cross Southwestern Pennsylvania Chapter and vice president of development for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh.
Mr. Wiese realized his calling to work with nonprofits over 15 years ago while living in Phoenix, where he said he helped a friend organize a few events geared toward assisting needy and at-risk families and youth.
"I thought, 'Wow, this is phenomenal,' and I loved it," he said.
His passion for helping children was ignited while working for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh where in 2001 he became a volunteer Big Brother to 10-year-old Kalif from Wilkinsburg. Mr. Wiese treated the youth as one of his own and said he became part of their family.
Kalif now lives in New York where he attends college and works and is one of many success stories that Mr. Wiese hopes will be written at Girls Hope.
"These kids have so much potential and all they need is just that little extra something, an opportunity," he said. "If we just give them the proper environment, the proper setting, and the proper love, they have shown that they can flourish."
In addition to providing a stable home environment, Girls Hope offers tutoring and counseling to its residents and brings in volunteers who offer classes on topics such as etiquette, money management, banking, nutrition and life skills.
"All of those things are key in the child's development," said Mr. Wiese. "Every case isn't a success story, but maybe they leave better off than they had come in."
As director, Mr. Wiese said his goals are to raise money for the organization and to fill both houses to capacity so they can make an impact on more youth. They currently house 10 girls with room for 16.
In the meantime, he will continue to get the word out about the good things the organization is doing and watch the next chapter unfold of what he hopes will be many success stories in the lives of the current Girls Hope residents.
"That's why I'm so passionate about the youth because you get to see them literally grow up in front of you," he said.
"It could be this timid, shy kid, and then to see them go out on their own and really making a difference is just phenomenal."
First Published August 9, 2012 5:13 am