The Allegheny West Foundation has a huge influence on the community today. From housing and commercial development plans to orchestrating youth programs, the organization has a hand in everything.
The foundation has teamed up with many organizations throughout the community to work toward a common goal – revamping the neighborhood. It worked closely with the North 22nd Street Merchants Association to help rebuild the business corridor.
“They’re aiding us with giving our storefronts a facelift,” said Paul King, president of the association.
Not only did the foundation strive to attract revenue, but it also worked to expand housing. Since the 1980s, its real estate development program has rebuilt and renovated affordable homes and rental properties to bring more people into the community.
The foundation also has a presence in many schools in the neighborhood. It partnered with elementary schools to launch their “One Giant Step” program, which promotes academic enrichment, specifically in reading.
Recently, the foundation worked with City Year to enact the program at T.M. Pierce Elementary School. Not only did volunteers tutor after school, but they also mentored students, teaching them life skills and self-development.
The foundation worked with other organizations and various middle and high schools, such as Dobbins, to orchestrate teen programs, sexual education classes and summer jobs.
New Kids on the Block
One of AWF’s more recent projects is the creation of the Allegheny West newspaper. Foundation president Ronald Hinton tapped Thera Martin Milling, who is a major part of the organization’s business development, to take the reins as the managing editor. She made what was a nine-page paper almost a year ago into a 16-page paper, with 35,000 copies circulated bimonthly.
“I’m ready to go to 20 pages as soon as [Hinton] says so,” Milling said.
Hinton wanted the paper to be able to compete with other local newspapers such as the West Side Weekly and the Germantown Courier. His main goals were to create jobs and generate buzz for local business owners. He worked closely with a Philadelphia-based printing company to get the paper up and running. He also sold his ad space to merchants for very low prices, allowing the first ad to be free of charge.
Hinton told Milling to seek out serious and dedicated writers for the paper. More than anything, he wanted something to connect with the residents of Allegheny West, keeping them informed.
His hard work paid off. The paper has already received a lot of feedback from residents. Even Mayor Michael Nutter wrote a thank you letter to him for the new publication.
“He’s such a visionary,” Milling said. “Working with him is such a valuable experience.”
A Valuable Resource
One of the main reasons AWF serves as such a strong backbone in the community is because of its resources, especially for those who may not have easy access on their own.
Its community center, located on 23rd Street and West Allegheny Avenue, is there for residents to use computers to apply for jobs or obtain information for different services.
Keisha Garner, director of community affairs, expressed the importance of the community center and how useful it is to residents.
“We try to empower our community through resources and education,” she said.
The center offers computer classes and a place where students can go for homework help and after-school activities. It also assists people with filling out paperwork and important documents.
The center extends its services beyond its doors. Many of the workers went out to schools and different organizations to help with AWF’s programs.
Sometimes people come in with difficult questions or requests that the center may not be able to fulfill, but aides assist them to the best of their ability. Employees like Garner always try to make sure the residents don’t leave empty handed.
“When they come in, if we can’t help them, we refer them to someone who can,” Garner said.
A Force to Be Reckoned With
The Allegheny West Foundation has made great strides to help build up the neighborhood. Hinton’s talents and dedication has help to steer the vision of the organization, with the goal being to give Allegheny West residents a sense of hope and a community to be proud of.
Milling expressed excitement to be a part of it all.
“I can’t wait to see what other innovative ideas Ron comes up with,” she said. “I’m on board with it.
– Text, video and images by Latifah Laws