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North Hills Monthly

The Lighthouse Foundation: Providing a Beacon of Hope to the Community

May 28, 2020 05:32PM ● By North Hills Monthly magazine

The Lighthouse Foundation's staff displaying their mission statement.

By Terri Marshall

Offering life-changing programs and services in northern Allegheny County and Butler County, The Lighthouse Foundation helps impoverished families and individuals by meeting their basic needs for food, housing, and transportation. This faith-based, nonprofit organization also offers educational initiatives which transform individuals from helpless to hopeful leading them toward self-sustainability. We spoke with three members of The Lighthouse Foundation team: Executive Director Victoria Spreng; Lee Ann Hune, Ministry & Volunteer coordinator; and Marketing Manager Theresa Rodriguez about the organization’s programs and goals.

North Hills Monthly (NHM): What is the mission of The Lighthouse Foundation?

Lee Ann Hune (Hune): Our mission is encouraging others to find hope in Christ by meeting their immediate needs while empowering them toward self-sufficiency.

NHM: Can you share a little about your history?

Theresa Rodriguez (Rodriguez): The Lighthouse Foundation started in 1985 in response to the collapse of the steel industry. With local families suffering from lost jobs and loss of income, the Foundation was created to meet basic needs of food, shelter, and education. This core service has continued for 35 years with a focus on generational poverty—breaking the cycle of poverty in families. The current COVID-19 crisis has taken our organization back to its roots of combating situational poverty.

NHM: Tell me a little bit about the programs you offer.

Rodriguez: We operate a food pantry, housing program and a program designed to help clients purchase a car. These are combined with classes to promote self-sustainability that include a parenting class, financial class, and Whole Life Ministry classes. 

The Food Pantry operates four days a week, providing a one-month supply of food for each family or individual in the program. During COVID, we’re operating on a drive-through basis with volunteers safely loading the food into vehicle trunks. In April, we had 813 new sign-ups for this program. During this time, anyone in need can complete a self-declaration of income form and present a photo ID to receive assistance in lieu of the usual application process.

NHM: How does your housing program work?

Hune: Our housing program was designed to take people from a homeless situation and transition them into permanent housing based on individual needs. We have six houses in Butler County available as temporary residences. Upon entering the program, goals are set for the residents. Required classes include parenting, financial literacy and job training. Working alongside the residents, case managers also assist with obtaining driver’s licenses for those in need as well as help with child custody matters. Completing their goals and educational requirements, these individuals graduate to more permanent housing. We strive to give them everything they need to be successful individuals in the community.

NHM: What are the parameters for your car program?

Victoria Spreng (Spreng): Working with a local credit union, we assist individuals in completing the financial requirements necessary to manage car ownership. Our programs teach budgeting and car mechanics with a focus on achieving a long-term sustainable goal. Partnering with local garages and dealerships, we are able to find used cars for these individuals which furthers their ability to become financially independent.

NHM: In a typical year, what are some events you hold on a regular basis?

Rodriguez: Normally we host three major fundraisers each year: a golf outing in July, a benefit fundraiser in September and, our largest, a gala in September. Our golf outing has been canceled for 2020. We’re hoping to go forward with the September events, but are looking at alternatives—possibly a virtual gala or other online event. Our donors are passionate about supporting the foundation, and we want to give them that opportunity.

NHM: What changes have you implemented during the pandemic to continue to meet the needs of impoverished families and individuals in the community?

Spreng: Our offices have remained open, and we’ve kept all staff on board. We’re working in overdrive. Every aspect of our ministry has been affected but remains operational. For housing, meetings with case managers are held virtually or via telephone. For the Food Pantry, we’re open Monday through Thursday. We’ve become a drive-through facility. All food items must be pre-packaged. Volunteers wear gloves and masks and follow social distancing requirements.

NHM:  How can the community help your organization during this difficult time?

Rodriguez: We truly feel honored to be part of an organization that has served our community for 35 years with the help of our donors. Many of our regular food pantry volunteers are over 70 and are required to self-isolate for now. We are in need of new volunteers to keep up with increased demand. Also at this time, we cannot accept food donations from individuals, which requires us to rely on donations from local businesses. Additionally, we purchase food from the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank. Financial donations provide the best support during the COVID-19 crisis which has gone on much longer than anticipated.

NHM: Is there anything else you would like the community to know?

Spreng: If you are in need or know someone who is, please contact us. Don’t wait until your cupboard is empty to reach out; we’re here to help. God blesses us so we can bless you. We’re in this together.

To learn more about The Lighthouse Foundation, visit www.thelighthousepa.org, where you will also find information regarding donation needs and volunteer opportunities. You can also call 724-586-5554 for assistance.