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Civic Impact

Heinz picks Hazelwood: Endowments give Center of Life $1.35 million for 1st 'place-based' effort

A new place-based initiative has the Heinz Endowments focusing millions of dollars and years of effort on single neighborhoods -- and Hazelwood is their first choice.
 
"Every time you walk down a new block in Hazelwood you find a new group doing something for somebody else," says Heinz Endowments President Robert Vagt. "It's just a remarkable neighborhood. When we decided to do place-based grant making, we knew we wanted to work in a neighborhood that had clear needs and active and helpful resources. Hazelwood believes that positive change is going to take place -- that it's possible."
 
Although the Endowments have given recent gifts to fund the Almono Bike Trail along the neighborhood's former LTV steel mill site, as well as smaller gifts in the past to Hazelwood's Center of Life, this $1.35 million, three-year grant to the Center is part of $2.3 million aimed at revitalizing the neighborhood as a more concerted effort.
 
"This is intended as a grant to help them continue the good work they are already doing, but to have the financial capacity to do it on a much larger scale," says Vagt.
 
That's exactly what the Center's leader, Pastor Tim Smith, hopes.
 
"For the Center of Life, it will allow us to do more of what we're doing," Smith says. "We had a demand to do more but we weren't able to bring on the kind of staff we need. The programs were bigger than the organization and we needed to catch up."
 
Center of Life currently runs the music and arts KRUNK Movement (Kreating Realistic Urban New-school Knowledge) program that uses jazz and hip hop to teach music writing, performing and business skills; the Center of Life Jazz Band, which earned first place in the 2012 Monterey Jazz Festival emerging artist competition; Fusion, with Duquesne University, providing tutoring and homework assistance to students and parents; and a basketball program.
 
Smith hopes to add back several programs the Center once ran, such as a financial literacy class with Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh and NeighborWorks, and Hazelwood Handyman classes. The Center is now looking to expand its space as well. "We'll open the doors to a lot more," Smith says.
 
Indeed, the grant's purpose is also to help the Center team with new partners and gain other funding. "We expect there will be new programs as the result of this increased capacity," says Vagt.
 
The Endowments are still looking at which neighborhood to focus on next. "The most important thing is that there are times when the foundation has an idea that we carry to a place," Vagt concludes. "The biggest difference about this is, we are working with the community to determine what the community wants as its future. That is something that is very different for us."
 
Do Good:
Want to get involved in Hazelwood in other ways? Help feed hazelwood residents through Fishes and Loaves at St. Stephen Catholic Church.

Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Tim Smith, Center of Life; Robert Vagt, Heinz Endowments
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