North Hills Cares Inc. Focuses on Needs of Families in Northern CommunitiesJan 29, 2019 01:36PM ● By Kathleen Ganster
Lora Venturella reads to children in North Hills Cares' summer reading program.
Lynne Sciulli, Lora Venturella and Beth McIntyre were friends who worked on school events for their children for many years. When their children were about to graduate from North Hills School District, it posed the question,“What now?”
“We had done so much volunteering, were so connected, had strong professional backgrounds and cared deeply about our community. It would have been a shame to waste all of that,” said Sciulli.
After thinking about options, the three Ross Township residents decided to use their talents, time, connections and dedication to form their own nonprofit. North Hills Cares Inc. was formed in early 2018, and four others joined them on the board.
“We're hyper-focused on the needs of families in our communities, which include Allegheny County's northern suburbs from Bellevue and Avalon to the west, north to the Butler line, and Hampton to the east,” said board member Anne Linaberger. “Because the board is currently made up of people from Ross, we naturally focused our initial efforts on Ross and the North Hills schools. That's where we had connections to discover problems and come up with solutions.”
Almost immediately, North Hills Cares began offering programming. One of their earliest projects was a weekly summer camp at Christ Episcopal Church in Ross for English as a Second Language (ESL) elementary students from the North Hills School District.
Another project was enlisting volunteers to help them purchase tools for students to attend AW Beattie Career Center.
“Talk about removing a barrier; a student who wouldn't have gone to Beattie because they couldn't afford a couple hundred dollars for a mechanics’ or cosmetology tool kit ends up graduating with career skills,” said Linaberger.
North Hills Cares has also sponsored the Allegheny County Library Association Bookmobile’s visits to West View during the summer months.
“This fall, we reached out to moms of younger kids who don’t speak English at home and held a weekly story time for their 2- to 3-year-old children to build their English vocabularies and ready them for preschool,” said Beth McIntyre, adding that the organization expects to build on the program in the spring, and offer the summer program to school-aged students again in July.
In December, the organization held a Community of Music event, in which students from Avonworth, Shaler and North Hills collected more than 3,000 food items for backpack initiatives for North Hills, Shaler and Avonworth school districts.
Moving into 2019, North Hills Cares hopes to provide a washing machine and clothes dryer for Shaler Middle School and to continue to partner with CCAC North to help keep its food pantry stocked. They built a Little Free Food Pantry (based on the Little Free Library concept) in West View and plan to construct more, and also plan on hosting and expanding the Community of Music event again.
The group feels that they have found their own niche.
“One thing that makes us truly unique is our mission to be sustainable. For us that means identifying needs, coming up with possible solutions, testing them out, then turning them over to like-minded people to continue while we move on to the next problem or need,” said Board President Sciulli.
Because they are “nimble” (as Sciulli identifies them) and hands-on, they are able to answer needs quickly. When a mother and her two children had to go to temporary emergency housing with no belongings, including clothing, the group answered her social worker’s call for help. Soon they had a complete wardrobe of brand new clothing for each child, including socks, pajamas, jackets and backpacks.
“An hour later the mother called me in tears. She couldn’t believe how her children had been blessed and that people she didn’t know wanted to help her,” said Sciulli. “She felt more hopeful about her situation, and the kids were able to start their first week at a new school with confidence.”
The work of North Hills Cares Inc., a 501(c)3 organization, is funded through donations from individuals and businesses. For more information, visit their Facebook page and www.northhillscarescom.