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Fundraising underway as charity plans after-school activities
The McKeesport Agape Center may relocate to the former White Oak Elementary School on California Avenue, which closed in 2014. (Tube City Almanac photo)
In 2019, Kelly and Mike Doyle began providing food delivery services to neighbors they knew needed aid. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March of 2020, demand from food insecure community members skyrocketed. Thus, the McKeesport Agape Center was born.
As the center’s services continue to grow, so does their need for a large enough space to operate out of. One building that the Doyles are looking to purchase is the former White Oak Elementary School, which the McKeesport Area School District has confirmed is a possibility.
“The important thing to get across is that people that need food the most often don’t have vehicles to get to food banks. It’s important to have people to drive food to them,” said Kelly Doyle, who along with her husband, Mike, owns “Doyle Mails It,” the White Oak contract post office. “We really want to help our neighbors in need, and eradicate the food desert in the McKeesport area.”
Located inside the Doyles’ store at 1540 Lincoln Way, the Agape Center is currently focused on serving the communities within the McKeesport Area School District. The center is open six days a week, serving hundreds of families. It received tax-exempt charitable status in spring 2020.
Mike Doyle (not the congressman) named the center using the Greek word “agape,” which means to love unselfishly. “Like God loves us, if we do or don’t deserve it,” said Kelly.
Plans for the McKeesport Agape Center go well beyond food delivery.
The McKeesport Agape Farm, which is currently in the works, will provide fresh produce for community members, as well as provide hands-on educational opportunities for kids and adults, Kelly Doyle said.
Additionally, the Agape Works program will help people out-of-work or with a difficult history develop skills to find and maintain employment, including a free resume writing program. There is also the Level-Up program, which consists of seminars conducted over Zoom, and is run by certified life coaches and board certified therapists.
“We don't want to just feed people and leave them, we want to help them get unstuck,” Kelly Doyle said. “I think that is why so many people in the community are responding and saying they want to want to help. We don’t want more people to be dependent, we want to help them be independent.”
The former White Oak school, located at California Avenue, would provide the space the Agape Center needs to grow. It was built in 1949-50 and expanded a few years later.
“We have some after-school programs we’d like to start, and a lot more feeding programs,” Kelly Doyle said. “Currently, we are working out of 1549 Lincoln Way, and we just opened a café there to benefit the center, but we need a bigger space.”
The after-school program would consist of a music and theater program called Joyful Noise, as well as homework help.
McKeesport Area School District has been marketing the property since 2014. Two previous sale attempts, in 2016 and 2018, fell through.
If their bid to acquire the school is unsuccessful, the couple is open to other properties as well, such as an old church. The main requirement is space, they said.
Formal fundraising initiatives to support the development of the McKeesport Agape Center are in the works. In the meantime, individual donations can be sent to the Doyles via PayPal, Venmo or check.
Siana Emery is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh’s South Hilltop. She has also written for The Mennonite World Review, Goshen College Communications and Marketing and The Goshen College Record. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published February 14, 2021.