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Future of Angora Gardens Remains Unclear

County to assume operations from UPMC, but details not available

By Elizabeth Laughlin
The Tube City Almanac
June 17, 2023
Posted in: White Oak News

More than a month after an announcement that Angora Gardens in White Oak will close on July 31, the future of the facility and its programs remains unclear.

In an email to supporters of the facility, UPMC announced in May that Angora Gardens — which provides community health and wellness programming, including for people with disabilities and mental health challenges — will be closing due to “steadily declining” funding and will be turned over to the Allegheny County Parks Department.

White Oak Mayor Ina Jean Marton expressed her disappointment in the closure.

“Angora Gardens is an asset to White Oak,” she said. “They do everything they can.”

Marton commented on the value of Angora Gardens’ services and projects for those with intellectual disabilities.

“I was really shocked they were closing,” Marton said.

Angora Gardens was created in 1989 by McKeesport-based Mon Yough Community Services, which merged into UPMC Health System in 2017 and now operates as UPMC Western Behaviorial Health at Mon Yough.

The facility is located at the historic Muse House inside Allegheny County’s White Oak Park.

Neither UPMC nor county officials agreed to an interview, and messages left for Angora Gardens seeking comment were not returned.

Amie Downs, county communications director, said in an email that future programming for the facility is still being developed.

“We were advised at the end of April that Mon Yough was ending its lease effective July 31, 2023,” Downs said in an email. “Beginning Aug. 1, the Parks Department will be conducting programs at the facility through our Programs Division.”

She said Allegheny County is still working on plans for the facility.

Via email, UPMC spokesperson Ashley Trentrock provided a written statement identical to the one released in May: “As the center operates solely on grants and donations that have been steadily declining, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain the center. The last day of business will be on July 31. After that date, the (county) Parks Department will assume operations of the facility and decide how to utilize the space.”

Marton ticked off a long list of services and activities that have been offered by the facility, including yoga classes, exercise classes, Easter egg hunts, Christmas displays and painting classes. It also offered therapeutic gardening sessions for the community.

Marton called Angora Gardens event coordinator Dawn Mallas and program manager Julie Pecora “amazing” and expressed her respect for the two women and their contributions through the facility.

She said she hoped the two can still continue working at Angora Gardens despite the change in operations.

Elizabeth Laughlin is a freelance writer and a doctoral student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She is a graduate assistant who runs the department newsletter and writes for a digital project. She writes for Modern Language Studies, and her short story, "Twenty-Seven," is being published in their journal.

Originally published June 17, 2023.

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