The $16.7 million Clairton Inn development taking shape at the corner of Miller and St. Clair avenues may be the most highly visible evidence of Mon Valley Initiative’s investment in the city. Behind the scenes, MVI and its public and private partners are strengthening their commitment to the community of 6,700. Read more.
Thanks to support from people just like you, we did something extraordinary during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of reducing our outreach, we expanded it.
In January, we incorporated Clairton Cares into Mon Valley Initiative. Clairton Cares is a determined effort among elected officials, providers and grass-roots community members to connect residents to healthy food, medical care and social services. We also assumed operation of Clairton’s Produce Marketplace, the first fresh food store in the city in more than a decade.
MVI’s existing programs expanded their reach as well. At the end of October, our workforce development & financial coaching team was already at 87 percent of its expected enrollment goals for the calendar year. Last month, the team placed 20 people in new jobs. Alongside their usual responsibilities, our employment & financial coaches also helped nearly 50 people to access emergency rent relief programs in 2021.
Housing counseling grew in a new way. In 2021, we increased our use of streaming video and broadcast our “Homebuyer’s Clubs” to a wider audience—up to 10 times larger than in-person attendance. Hundreds of first-time homebuyers watched our programs covering topics such as obtaining a mortgage, understanding closing costs and budgeting for expenses.
Our real-estate program made great strides, too. Despite construction material shortages and pandemic-related disruptions, we completed construction on the Swissvale schoolhouse condominiums. Only one of these 18 lovely homes remains available. We also completed six beautiful new single-family homes on Holland Avenue in Braddock—each of those is now sold, at prices ranging from $140,000 to $150,000.
During two challenging years, MVI stayed focused on what we do best—changing people’s lives for the better by focusing on their fundamental needs. But we couldn’t do it without the support of donors both large and small. In 2022, we expect to grow again, with increased programming in several communities, as well as completion of the Clairton Inn, a mixed-use residential and commercial building that will bring 49 units of high-quality, affordable housing to the city.
And with your help, we’ll have more good news to report this time next year!
Mary Carol Kennedy
Chair, Board of Directors
Laura R. Zinski
Chief Executive Officer
MVI completed six new single-family homes on Holland Avenue in Braddock during 2021—each of those is now sold, at prices ranging from $140,000 to $150,000.
If you are able to contribute, we would be grateful for your support:
Read some of MVI’s highlights for 2021 (PDF reader required)
Traditional approaches to improving community health often focus on individualized care or medical treatments, says Maddie Nagel, MVI community outreach specialist.
Clairton Cares is a more collaborative approach that is working to address the root causes of health inequalities by providing critical connections between organizations working on preventative care, access to healthier foods, mental health and wellness and youth programs.
“With Clairton Cares, we’re taking a system-based approach to health improvement which encompasses the whole community ecosystem,” she says.
The Clairton Cares initiative, launched in 2016 and now part of MVI, works with residents, social-services providers, health care practitioners, educators and other community leaders to create a more holistic model of care focused on community wellbeing, not individual interventions.
“What we’re learning is that building these kinds of relationships is incredibly important,” Nagel says. “We’re trying to create a complementary, or mutually reinforcing, vision of health and well-being between residents, community groups and providers. Those three stakeholders are important, and having a community-embedded component is critical.”
Workforce Development & Financial Coaching
Mon Valley Initiative’s Workforce Development & Financial Coaching program celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2021.
Since 2001, MVI coaches have been helping people re-enter the workforce by providing them with referrals to training and educational opportunities, resume creation help, job-interview practice sessions, on-site job fairs, advice for individuals with criminal backgrounds and personalized career planning advice.
MVI also works with hundreds of employers and recruiters in the Greater Pittsburgh area to match program participants with job openings in Allegheny, Washington and Westmoreland counties.
COVID-19 shutdowns and business closures caused a drop in program participation and job placements in 2020, says T. Charles Howell IV, director of workforce development & financial coaching, but as the job market recovered, the program came roaring back in 2021.
“I’m glad that my employment specialist at family division referred me to MVI. They are a one-of-a-kind agency!”
—David, program participant
“My dream was to become a productive member of society by getting a job. Thank you, MVI staff! I am in a position to help others and I am overjoyed.”
—Dawn, program participant
”I would absolutely recommend that companies partner with MVI. They have a great team of people. They have relationships with multiple recruitment and staffing agencies. One of the companies I supported was in Turtle Creek, and with MVI’s help, I was able to get (people) really solid jobs with really solid pay. You all are doing great work.”
—Kevin, corporate recruiter
Workforce Development & Financial Coaching
Madeline Sample was renting throughout the Mon Valley and was tired of paying landlords who kept raising her rent but were unwilling to make repairs.
A few years ago, she decided it was time to buy her first home. Unfortunately, a bank turned her down for a mortgage with little explanation. A friend suggested she ask Mon Valley Initiative for help.
Sample met with Jonathan Weaver, MVI housing counselor, who pulled her credit report, recommended areas that could be improved and worked with her on ways to improve her financial score.
For more than six months, Sample saved and regularly worked with Weaver. When she finally felt financially secure—and found a home she really loved in Versailles Borough—Weaver helped her get pre-approved for a mortgage and guided her negotiations with a loan officer.
“(Weaver’s) closing statement was always ‘let me know if you need anything,’” Sample says. “He was so encouraging throughout the whole process and he never pushed too hard. The process was overwhelming at times, but you can’t let the overwhelming moments take over.”
When the COVID-19 lockdown hit back in 2020, we were as worried as anyone else. We wondered how we were going to continue to implement our programs and services, trying to make sure we could be there for our friends and neighbors through such a difficult time.
I’m so proud to say that over the past 18 months, we’ve been able to help and support Mon Valley communities using new methods and adding new service components, including enfolding the programs and staff of another non-profit to ensure continued service.
In addition to providing employment assistance services and financial coaching, our workforce team helped local residents access COVID-19 programs that provided rent and utility relief and to apply for health care, employment benefits and other resources for themselves and their children.
Our housing counseling program provided advice to homeowners who were having difficulty making their mortgage payments. Our outreach team provided resources to the community, including residents of our more than 120 affordable rental units.
Finally, although many of us are still working from home, our real estate team has been out in the field, working to deliver on important projects.
Things looked dark in 2020—but every sunset comes with the promise of new dawn, a new day and new opportunities. We hope this update will let you know about some of the successes that were achieved in 2021—thanks in large part to your support and the amazing efforts of so many of our Mon Valley neighbors, friends and partners.
—Laura R. Zinski, Chief Executive Officer