For 43 years the East End Cooperative Ministry has been providing services to less fortunate members of the community. Currently, clients are shuttled among as many as 14 locations to get all the services they need, but as of November 4th everything will be under one roof.
That roof is over what was once a gas station and a pair of parking lots on Penn Circle in East Liberty, and it will be covering a platinum level LEED certified building.
“When we started this process we talked about respect for clients and how do we build something that has respect for clients, respect for staff and then we looked at it and thought we should also have respect for the environment and that’s what this building does,” said Myrna Zelenitz, EECM Executive Director.
The 56,000 square foot “community house” will include an emergency shelter, a transitional shelter that will host clients for up to six months and include a job training program, a food pantry, a noon-time meal, and a 14-bed nonmedical respite center for those who are too healthy to be in a hospital but not yet ready to live on their own.
Zelenitz said it will also include plenty of meeting rooms and classrooms that when not in use by the EECM, will be open to community groups. Among the offerings in the classrooms will be an adult literacy program.
“In our food pantry we went from just handing out bags to giving people a list of choices of what they could pick on a piece of paper and it became very clear after about a week that many of our clients couldn’t read,” Zelenitz said.
The EECM hopes the new building will serve as a “social anchor” in the community that is undergoing rapid change.
Funding for day-to-day operations at the ministry comes from a variety of sources including local churches, individual gifts and federal grants. Similarly, funding for the $15.6 million building was cobbled together from a range of sources including $7 million in foundation grants, $2.4 million from individuals, and $2.7 million in New Market Tax Credits from PNC Bank.
Zelenitz said deciding to "go green" with the building did not balloon its price tag. It could also help keep operational costs lower in long run with features like a geothermal heating and cooling system.
“Under the parking lot there are 40 wells 500 feet deep,” said Zelenitz who was also proud to point out that the facility will help to control rain water runoff with a green roof and a system that collects runoff from nonporous surfaces on the property and then slowly release it into the ground.