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April community meeting: How strategic planning helped Hazelwood Initiative win a $2M grant | The Homepage

Also: Youth can apply now for Learn and Earn paid summer job opportunities

By Juliet Martinez, managing editor

The historic Carnegie Library of Hazelwood at 4748 Monongahela St. is close to 125 years old and has been empty since 2004. It requires about $2 million in work to stabilize it. Homepage file photo by JaQuay Carter

The April 9 hybrid community meeting drew a lively crowd both online and in the second-floor classroom of Community Kitchen at 107 Flowers Ave. Participants discussed the historic Carnegie Library of Hazelwood and a petition for more parking on Chatsworth Avenue. They also reviewed Hazelwood Initiative’s strategic plan and how a large grant the organization recently received will factor into it.

Yield Giving Open Call award

As The Homepage announced in April, nonprofit community development corporation Hazelwood Initiative (publisher of The Homepage) received a $2 million grant from the Yield Giving Open Call foundation started by billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, the world’s 45th richest person according to Forbes magazine.

In 2019 Ms. Scott signed a pledge to give away at least half of her wealth in her lifetime. Since then, she has given $16.6 billion to close to 2,000 nonprofits.

Ms. Tilghman explained that Yield Giving identified many recipients through internal research. But in 2023, the organization issued an open call for applications. They planned to give 250 awards of $1 million each. But the donor team decided instead to give $2 million grants to 279 organizations and $1 million to another 82 organizations. They announced this change with the award announcements.

Hazelwood Initiative found out it was getting $2 million when the prize was announced, Ms. Tilghman said.

“That’s a heck of a happy surprise,” she said. “So, you know, March was a good month.”

Hazelwood Initiative started a strategic planning process in early 2023 to shape the organization’s impact over the next five years, Ms. Tilghman said. So when the open call went out, that process helped create an effective — and ultimately winning — narrative about the organization’s work.

The major elements of the strategic plan are equitable development, social justice and capacity building.

Capacity building encompasses everything related to laying a foundation for future work and making sure that the community development corporation is sustainable. It concerns things like ongoing fundraising, having the right staffing levels and managing the organization’s finances so that they last as long and do as much good as possible.

Some people think the organization does all its work through grant funding, Ms. Tilghman said, but the money for affordable real estate development comes from both loans and grants. The grants help cover what the low rental and sale prices do not, but Hazelwood Initiative still carries debt and pays on the principal and interest. Insurance premiums and taxes must also be paid, and much of that money comes from the operating budget.

Ms. Tilghman said the organization has paid off a few small operating debts with some of the Yield Giving money, increasing its financial resilience. Beyond that, the board of directors is deciding how to use the rest of the grant money so that it lasts for at least the next three years.

Other local recipients of Yield Giving grants include Center of Life, which received $1.5 million in 2021, the Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh Fund, which received $2 million that same year, and Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation, which received $2 million this year.

As for the other elements of the strategic plan, the social justice component relates to climate resilience and environmental racism, public health and residents having a voice in matters that affect them. Ms. Tilghman said Hazelwood Initiative does not provide social services but wants to expand its partnerships with local organizations that excel in that area.

Equitable development includes both affordable housing and commercial real estate, as well as stewardship of historic and institutional assets in the Hazelwood community like the historic Hazelwood Carnegie Library at 4748 Monongahela St.

Historic Carnegie Library

Ms. Tilghman said the historic Hazelwood Carnegie Library is in dire need of repairs to stabilize it. The city-owned building is in danger of deteriorating beyond repair without a new roof and extensive mortar work, which is estimated to cost about $2 million.

The building is a cherished landmark for many, but it has no designated purpose or plan for future use, and funders are unlikely to support the repairs without one. Ms. Tilghman has contacted the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Pittsburgh Industrial Economic Development Corporation about possible resources. The redevelopment authority suggested selling it, but buyers are unlikely to be interested in it in its current condition. The economic development corporation applied for a small grant, but determining a purpose for the building will help the process. She said Hazelwood Initiative will be starting the process of getting community input to decide what the building should be.

Residents at the meeting suggested looking into private foundation grants and leaning into the building’s history as a performance venue to build a vision for its future.

Summer employment

The summer Learn and Earn program offers paid work experience for youth between the ages of 14 and 24 in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. Caldwell Derrick, youth coordinator for the mayor’s office, said applications opened on March 1 and will close on June 7. The six-week general program for ages 14-21 pays $9 per hour. The eight-week corporate program for ages 18-24 pays $12 per hour. Learn more at www.partner4work.org/learn-earn.

District 5 Councilor Barb Warwick encouraged anyone interested to apply to work as a lifeguard at the city pools this summer. The lifeguard training is just short of the emergency medical technician, or EMT, training, so it could be a gateway into a career path as a first responder. The pools cannot open without lifeguards, she said.

Redd-Up Week

Ms. Warwick also urged residents to get together to clean up their parks and neighborhoods as part of Redd-Up Week from April 14-20. See photos from all Earth Month activities on Page 8.

Chatsworth Avenue parking

Georgetta Rue, a Hazelwood resident and director of business development for DeLoJe + Pulsus Digital, spoke about parking on Chatsworth Avenue, where City of Bridges Community Land Trust has two three-bedroom duplexes under construction as part of a permanently affordable homeownership development.

Ms. Rue met with the nonprofit developer and Ms. Warwick on April 15. The parking dispute was settled, the petition dropped, and the District 5 councilor committed to helping find a city-owned lot near Chatsworth Avenue to develop as parking infrastructure.

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