By CORTNEY O’BRIEN ([email protected])
Thanks to Allegheny Christian Outreach (ACO), a few more of Pittsburgh’s elderly residents can live more comfortably. Students joined the philanthropic organization Pittsburgh Project this weekend in helping to repair aging homes around the city.
In its twenty-third year of service, The Pittsburgh Project continues to rebuild the city’s community, assisting seniors in the difficult task of maintaining their homes.
This past weekend, members of ACO joined about 160 volunteers in the effort to help rennovate the city’s low-income housing.
The project began with a moving speech by Saleem Ghubril, the organization’s founder. Ghubril now works with the Pittsburgh Promise, a group which focuses on enriching the city’s youth, while offering opportunities for funding college education.
To inspire the weekend’s volunteers, Ghubril shared an experience he and a former Pittsburgh Project team had serving an 87-year old man in a dilapidated house. When a team member had asked to use the man’s restroom, he discovered the elderly owner did not have running water or working toilet. He had to walk to the nearest gas station everyday to fill a bucket with water just to return home and flush it.
Ghubril explained how he and his team worked to install a sewer line for the old man.
Rev. Dr. Tim Solomon, who has been a speaker for ACO, was in attendance at Ghubril’s speech and was moved by the latter’s story.
“In his quiet yet insistent way, Saleem drew us in to his vision for how we as Christians can truly live as Christ’s disciples — doing work that makes a difference in lives here and now as well as touching their souls for eternity,” Solomon said.
ACO members TJ Bean, ’11, and Brooke Templin, ’13, along with Lebanon Presbyterian Church helped make a difference of their own. They were one of 23 groups who worked to repair homes in the city.
Bean commented on the mutual camaraderie among the helpers and he was encouraged to see former students among them.
“It was especially uplifting to find a couple of recent Allegheny grads among the volunteers and Pittsburgh Project staff, and everyone there did their best to make us feel at home,” Bean said.
Bean and Templin’s group was assigned to assist an 86-year old woman named Jean.
Templin explained the hard work they performed in repairing Jean’s kitchen, repainting and replacing old ceiling tiles.
“It may not sound like that much, but trust me, it took all day Saturday and almost all of the afternoon on Sunday to finish.” Templin said. “Jean was incredibly grateful, saying that she didn’t know what she ever would have done if it weren’t for the Pittsburgh Project.”
Templin encourages others to attend one of these service trips, because the hard work does not go unrewarded.
“Because really it’s not about you, it’s about the people who you’re serving,” Templin said. “And you do have to wake up at 7 in the morning on a Saturday, but I say it’s worth it for the experience and the valuable work you provide.”
Mollie Little, advisor of ACO, likewise encourages students to take advantage of this worthwhile trip.
“I’d love to see more students take this opportunity,” Little said. “It is such a privilege to serve and uphold the dignity of the most vulnerable.”
Service weekends occur in both fall and spring, but there are other Pittsburgh Project opportunities. Weeklong project camps run during the summer and extra staff is hired to assist. Those interested in providing service or simply searching for a summer job are encouraged to consider these opportunities. More information is available at pittsburghproject.org.