East End cooperative ministry steps up during pandemic

The poor are often invisible.

“They don’t have purchasing power, they don’t have a political voice, because they can’t donate to campaigns and are therefore forgotten… invisible,” said Carole Bailey, CEO of Ministry of the Eastern Cooperative at East Liberty. “People in poverty don’t consume information in the same way as most, so they didn’t understand why we asked them to stand 6 feet apart, and when they were able to enter. the day before, they were not today. During the pandemic, they keep asking why they have to wear face masks and since they have to wear them, where do they get a face mask. “

Being able to adapt to a challenge like a pandemic shows how East End Cooperative Ministry has been able to help those in need for 50 years. As covid-19 raged, East End Cooperative Ministry saw a 300% increase in food services, daily visits to the pantry and hot breakfasts served to the community five days a week, said Bailey, who is became full-time CEO in September 2018.

Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review

A hot meal is served at the East End Cooperative Ministry in East Liberty on December 9th.

Adapting to a pandemic

The past year and a half has been unlike anything the band has seen. Through it all, East End Cooperative Ministry has remained a steadfast aid to the homeless, food insecure, and children and youth of the Pittsburgh area for five decades.

To celebrate its longevity, End Cooperative Ministry will welcome “the Golden Gala»May 21 at the Rodef Shalom Congregation in Shadyside. Several congregations that support the community will be honored, as well as honorary event presidents: Myrna Zelenitz, Phil Hallen and Mark Bibro, three individuals who have contributed to the ministry’s legacy.

“I am proud of East End Cooperative Ministry’s continued success in meeting the challenges,” said Zelenitz, of Shadyside, who served as Executive Director for 18 years. “I met great, talented and empathetic people there. I was just in the grocery store and the cost of food is astronomical. I will continue to donate.

Hallen, former chairman of the East End Cooperative Ministry board and member who lives in Shadyside, said he wanted to create a place of respect and dignity for all in a warm atmosphere. The president emeritus of the Falk Foundation has said he wants several sites to become one.

A new house

In November 2013, East End Cooperative Ministry moved into its own home with funds raised through a campaign. Hallen said he wanted the building to make an architectural statement.

“East End Cooperative Ministry is not just an isolated social service agency in East Liberty,” Hallen said. “It is an important part of a larger fabric of East Liberty renewal and rebuilding.”

Bibro, of Beechview, is Managing Director of Birmingham Foundation and former chairman of the board of directors of the East End Cooperative Ministry. He is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the North Side Commons Ministry.

“There are a significant number of people who need a helping hand to get back on their feet,” he said. “We take it for granted that we have food, clothing and shelter. People are fighting for their survival there. East End Cooperative Ministry is helping them.


Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review

A man eats a hot meal at the East End Cooperative Ministry in East Liberty as others line up on December 9.

Food was the first thing people looked for, Bailey said. The amount of donations from churches, synagogues and businesses, including restaurants, means a lot, she said. He also helped receive funding from the CARES Act, federal funds to support covid-19 efforts.

When she realized the pandemic would persist, Bailey spoke with Light of Rescue mission, Family ties and Common ministries on the north side to come up with a plan. Its staff put food in bags and boxes for people to come and collect.

They arranged the 28 beds so that residents did not sleep too close. In the dining room, there was social distancing. It was difficult to get vaccinated against covid-19. Some people left to live on the streets because they did not want to comply with the covid-19 regulations.

From the beginning

What started out as meals on wheels for the elderly, East End Cooperative Ministry has expanded to feed everyone. It started with people sleeping in a church. They must have left during the day.

Bailey recalled an employee who lost a family member to covid-19 but didn’t want to take time off because he wanted to be there for the young people. She said her staff are “superstars”.

“The trauma for some of these kids has been incredible,” Bailey said.

Volunteer Coordinator Reverend Tracy Hudson said as long as they are here people will not be short of food. The East End Cooperative Ministry serves people from 44 zip codes in its pantry. A fall coat drive collected more than 1,200 items. As the holidays approached, families wrote wish lists.

“I am so happy with the gifts they gave me,” said Angel Frank, of Penn Hills, a single mother of two daughters aged 4 years and 9 months. “I am blessed to receive these gifts. We know that Jesus is the most important reason for Christmas, but being able to have gifts for my children under the tree is the second most important reason.

The East End Co-operative Department gives to its “human companions,” said community pantry coordinator Krista Brolley.

Elder volunteer Karson McMillin of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said there is no better feeling than service to others. Elder volunteer Jace Ward recalled giving someone extra cans and said there were no plastic bags left, so that person came back with plastic bags.

More than food

The ministry serves 200 to 250 people a day and 100 nutritious take-out meals, Chef Anthony Arca said.

“Seeing the volunteers and the people who come here for meals is what motivates me,” said Arca, who grew up in East Liberty. “We all share the same compassion. “

Maurice Wilson, 49, of Pittsburgh’s East End, was recently jailed. As he had lunch he said he wished there were more places like this, and “if there were, we would have a better society.”

“I have to restart my brain,” he said. “I made some bad choices in my life.”

Laila Carlo and John McCartin are Co-Directors of Housing and Employment who manage the emergency shelter, recovery house, permanent supportive housing, and education and support services. Permanent Supportive Housing works with families with at least one child and one person with a mental or physical disability. Their rent is paid by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. The emergency shelter meets basic food and assistance needs with benefits, health care and finding permanent accommodation.

The recovery house is a 90-day program for men and women who are referred by a treatment center, probation services or justice-related services.

“For 50 years we have focused on the neighborhood and stepped up our efforts to help people here,” Bailey said. “And we are committed to being here for another 50 years and beyond for as long as people need us.”

Dwayne, 44, of Garfield, who is a resident, said he was able to have a nice meal on Thanksgiving and having a place to spend Christmas comforted him.

“If I wasn’t there I would probably be on the streets and nothing good is happening there,” he said. “Once I get back on my feet, I will come back to help someone else,” he said.

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is the editor of Tribune-Review. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Virginia S. Braud