A financial literacy class discusses savings. Photo courtesy of Human Services Center Mon Valley.

In 1982, an organization was formed in response to the fall of the steel industry in the Mon Valley as a human services “mall.” Now it is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a new name: Human Services Center Mon Valley

The organization houses 12 tenant agencies and functions as an outreach base for more than 80 external programs. It serves 750 residents daily from 38 communities in the Mon Valley

Leah O’Reilly is the director of programs for Human Services Center Mon Valley. 

“With our 40th anniversary, we decided that we needed to take a look at our organization,” O’Reilly says. “Of all the things we do within our building and within our program, we felt like there was some disconnect and confusion about what we do and who we serve.”

The Mon Valley organization received funding from the Richard K. Mellon Foundation to conduct a yearlong study to rebrand the organization and make it more accessible. 

“We started to organize our services better and to shine a light more on what is the Mon Valley,” O’Reilly says. “It’s not just the city of Pittsburgh and the communities within the city that need help.”

Photo courtesy of Human Services Center Mon Valley.

O’Reilly points to the 2014 Suburban Poverty Report from the Allegheny County Department of Human Services which lists Braddock, Clairton, East Pittsburgh, McKeesport and Wilkinsburg as distressed communities. The report states that people who live in distressed communities are most likely to need access to publicly-funded services. 

HSC Mon Valley is based on four main pillars: programs, partnership, policy and progress, O’Reilly says. The organization offers a variety of programs for youth, young adults and adults. 

The Emerging Leaders Program is a teen workforce and college readiness program that serves 155 high school seniors across five Mon Valley districts. The program has a 98% high school graduation rate for participants.

“We do a lot of work making sure that people have a trajectory of success to get out of that cycle of poverty,” O’Reilly says. 

College acceptance letters line the wall at the Emerging Leaders Program. Photo courtesy of Human Services Center Mon Valley.

HSC Mon Valley also operates a case management program for adults to work toward self-sufficiency, focused on employment and training goals. The financial literacy webinars serve more than 400 people annually and a free tax preparation program serves 600 low-income taxpayers annually, and last year, refunded more than a million dollars to those taxpayers.

The Mon Valley Providers Council is made up of 70 agencies in the Mon Valley that pay dues and work to fill gaps in services across the region.

“There are people who have lived their whole lives and have a lot of pride in the pockets of communities,” O’Reilly says. “A lot of our families in the Mon Valley are very resilient.”

A Pittsburgh native, Ethan is a freelance journalist interested in telling the stories of people doing great things to build community and sustainability. Ethan served as Editor-in-Chief of Allegheny College's newspaper, The Campus.