A big event is coming up on June 10 featuring Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle and former Steeler Tunch Ilkin, but it has little to do with sports. It’s called ManUp Pittsburgh — a day to inspire men to be their best, particularly when it comes to fatherhood. It’s part of the work of Urban Impact which is an organization that works with children on the North Side.
It’s overwhelming to see the many ways that Urban Impact is making a difference in the lives of families. Their work inside and outside the schools is serving more than 1,700 kids, and it’s changing lives, one child, one family and one block at a time.
When you step inside the Allegheny Center Alliance Church, you can hear the energy from the kids and the music. In one room, they’re dancing with scarves. In another, they’re making formations with sticks, choreographed to music. In another, there’s a chorus of 120 children and other rooms show kids playing in a jazz band, learning ballet and playing on a basketball team.
Pastor Ed Glover and his wife, Tammy, founded Urban Impact 31 years ago after moving to the North Side as ministers. “About 6 years into ministering, I walked out of my house and my car was stolen for the third time,” Glover said. “I remember just saying to the Lord, ‘Lord, am I wasting my time? Can we make any kind of a difference here on the North Side?'”
That’s when they started Urban Impact, offering free or inexpensive programs in the arts, sports, education and career counseling, all with the goal of giving kids a safe place where they know they are loved.
15-year old Cami Brown comes to the programs 5 days a week and says it’s changed her and her family. “When I was little, I know I wasn’t a nice person, to be honest,” Brown says. “But when I came to Urban Impact, it was a loving atmosphere so it just made me learn how to love more and how to care for more people.”
19-year-old Ransom Townsend now volunteers at Urban Impact while studying technical theater in college. He first learned about set design working on Urban Impact’s annual Shakespeare production. Counselors in the Options program help hundreds of high school students like Ransom make the transition from high school. 97%of the kids in that program graduate from high school and 95% go on to college, trade school, the military, ministry or another job. “Through Urban Impact, they helped me kind of figure out what I want to do with my life and help me with the steps I need to take and help me thru the whole process,” Townsend said.
Asa Bray also helps the younger kids when he’s not competing for Urban Impact’s basketball team. He loves the people and atmosphere here. “It helped me find out who I was and what I wanted to do,” Bray said.
In addition to basketball, Urban Impact offers baseball, football, soccer and swimming, with more than 1,000 kids in the sports program alone. They also serve dinner to all these kids — about 33-thousand meals a year.
Pastor Ed thinks he knows why more and more kids keep coming. “They’re looking for a safe place — a place where they know they are loved and people believe in them.”
In addition to the arts, sports and “Options” programs, the fourth area “urban impact” works on is education. Every week, 70 of their volunteers work inside the schools alongside teachers and they have tutors who help kids after school and in the summer.
All of this relates to the ManUp Pittsburgh event because one challenge in a lot of these kids’ lives is not having a father who’s involved in their lives. The event is to get the dads involved and show them how they have a big impact on their kids’ lives. Man Up Pittsburgh is happening June 10 and registration includes lunch and breakfast.