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CEO: Larger club would serve growing demand for services
Students participating in the Career Works program at the Tube City Center for Business and Innovation pose with Lisa Abel-Palmieri, Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania president and chief executive officer (fourth from right) and Emily Donato, career development coordinator (sixth from right). (Tube City Almanac photo)
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Pennsylvania is scouting locations for a new, larger facility in McKeesport that would serve a much broader footprint in Allegheny County.
Lisa Abel-Palmieri, president and chief executive officer, told Tube City Almanac the Pittsburgh-based non-profit wants to serve a growing demand for services for young people in the Mon Valley and eastern boroughs of Pittsburgh.
"We're excited to continue to grow our footprint in the Mon Valley," she said.
The new facility would include a "maker space" for STEM education, community center, gymnasium space and classrooms, Abel-Palmieri said. Although the facility is still in the planning stage, the organization hopes to possibly break ground in "two to three years" and will need to raise funds to it possible, she said.
Some athletic facilities would probably remain at the existing LaRosa Boys & Girls Club on Ravine Street near Versailles Avenue in the city. That club first opened April 29, 1957, with a donation from the late Walter C. Shaw Sr., one of the founders of the G.C. Murphy Co., and has been expanded several times since then.
It is named for the late Sam LaRosa, the founder and one of the first executive directors of what was then called the McKeesport Boys' Club.
"It's continued to grow and been remodeled, it's gotten a new roof, and we've tried to keep the facility up to date," Abel-Palmieri said. "It's a great resource with the (dek) hockey and the athletic fields. But we're growing out of it and we're ready for more."
The LaRosa Boys & Girls Club is open five days a week and offers afterschool and summer programming, including sports, dance classes, fitness instruction, tutoring and mentoring, with different activities for different skill sets, interests and ages from 5 to 18.
This year, the Boys & Girls Club added a program for high school students called Career Works, which meets afterschool at the Tube City Center for Business and Innovation --- the former Daily News Building at Lysle and Walnut streets, Downtown.
Career Works meets from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. weekdays and offers career coaching and internship programs, and encourages students in grades 9 through 12 to begin developing their talents and skills. Students earn stipends based on their attendance at the program.
Initially located in a portion of the former Daily News' newsroom, the program has now expanded to an adjoining area of the building and has a waiting list of 25 students waiting to attend.
One student commutes in from Belle Vernon, Abel-Palmieri said.
"We never expected it to grow so quickly," she said. "We are fully enrolled and have a waiting list of 25 youth ... The word is catching and we feel like the program could double in the blink of an eye --- let alone quadruple."
The Boys & Girls Club would use the new facility to help the Career Works program connect young adults with employers and trade unions that offer apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships, Abel-Palmieri said.
"That training center will complement what we're doing in the Tube City Center," she said.
The only other Boys & Girls Club in the Mon Valley is located on North Third Street in Duquesne. That club also serves West Mifflin.
There is a possibility that some services would be consolidated into a new McKeesport facility from Duquesne-West Mifflin, Abel-Palmieri said.
"It's really too soon to tell what will actually continue or not continue at the facilities we have," she said. "I think we're exploring what works best in Duquesne. We've had requests not only from citizens in Duquesne, but Clairton and Braddock and other surrounding areas to really consolidate into a very large center.
"But we really anticipate designing this new center with the communities, and community voices are going to be important," she said.
Jason Togyer is the editor of The Tube City Almanac and volunteer executive director of Tube City Community Media Inc. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published December 12, 2019.