The Almanac —If SHIM’s 50th-anniversary Celebrate the South Hills event is any indicator, the support organization’s future appears to be a bright one.
The nonprofit South Hills Interfaith Movement, based in Bethel Park, welcomed a record 400-plus guests for its annual dinner and program on May 10. And among them were two Mt. Lebanon elementary school students who took to the stage and set the tone for the evening.
Young philanthropists Madi Senneway and Eva Schmidt told a thoroughly impressed crowd how they regularly raise money on behalf of SHIM, including Madi asking for donations each year in lieu of birthday gifts. The girls are planning to set up benefit lemonade stands on May 18 at two Mt. Lebanon street corners: Pinoak Road and Ruth Street, near Jefferson middle and elementary schools, and Osage and Cochran roads, the entrance to Virginia Manor.
To conclude their Celebrate the South Hills presentation, Madi and Eva announced another way audience members could support the cause:
And they did, reaching the goal of $50,000 at about the same time that John Schrott III, chairman of the SHIM board, was wrapping up the program by announcing a new fundraising initiative to help carry the organization through the next 50 years.
SHIM executive director Jim Guffey explained its purpose:
“The ‘Do More Good’ campaign is going to be about, certainly, facility enhancements and program enhancements. But at the end of the day, it’s really about the people, the people of the South Hills who understand the value of neighbors helping neighbors.”
That has been the goal since a rabbi from Temple Emanuel, priest from St. Thomas More Church and minister from Westminster Presbyterian Church set up a table in 1968 for a mall ministry at the still-new South Hills Village.
“They saw a need in our South Hills, a need that was not being met,” Schrott explained: “a need to help neighbors who were struggling, for whatever reason; a need to help those who could benefit from a hand up, to assist them in moving toward self-sufficiency.”
Each year, SHIM pays special tribute to South Hills Champions, and the 2018 honorees are John Surma, retired chairman and chief executive officer of United States Steel Corp., and his wife, Becky, an exceptionally active community volunteer. Both spoke glowingly about the local area.
“Everything important that has happened in our lives has happened in the South Hills,” John said. “Even when our mailing address might have been in some other city, some other state or some other country, the South Hills was home.
Becky evoked memories of a certain Pittsburgh TV icon.
“The thing I admire most about my hometown is that we really do embrace Mr. Rogers’ sentiment: ‘Won’t you be my neighbor?’” she said. “This is a great place where people care about each other and show it through their words and deeds.”
Guffey reiterated those sentiments in terms of his organization’s mission, which now serves about 4,000 residents by providing essentials such as food and clothing, along with the means toward self-sufficiency.
“When a hard-working family comes upon unexpected job loss, SHIM is there,” he said. “When a neighbor experiences the financial strain of losing a spouse, or through a divorce, SHIM is there to provide much-needed support and financial assistance whenever available.”
He also addressed the population, primarily of refugees from parts of Asia and Africa, for which the organization provides a family center and food pantry at Prospect Park in Whitehall. Several, mostly middle and high school students, attended the May 10 event dressed in outfits from their native countries and ready to share information about them with guests.
“When a family from a distant land starts that long journey to the United States and is resettled here into the South Hills, SHIM is there to help them with their daily needs,” Guffey said. “Imagine being transported to a different country when we left here tonight? Could you make it? What would you do? How would you communicate?
“These are some of the challenges facing some of our newest neighbors, and SHIM is there to help them along that path to prosperity.”
By Harry Funk