The Almanac – Among the more prominent features of older education buildings is the presence of large windows, as is the case for Baldwin-Whitehall School District’s former Wallace School.
“That’s one of the big differences,” Courtney Macurak said. “The natural light has been really nice.”
A healthy dose of sunshine helped light the rooms as she guided visitors during an Aug. 23 open house at the new site of the South Hills Interfaith Movement Family Center, which moved in March from its nearby location at the Prospect Park apartment complex in Whitehall.
SHIM now occupies a wing of the Wallace building, across the municipal line at 41 Macek Drive in Baldwin Borough, with 6,700 square feet, double the space the nonprofit service organization occupied in the previous quarters.
Macurak, SHIM director of programs, is among the 15 full- and part-time staff members who are enjoying the change of scenery. A sizable kitchen serves as one example.
“We came from very tiny apartments, one and two bedrooms, with very tiny galley kitchens,” Macurak explained. “So this will be nice for our community to be able to have a larger space to cook and share meals.”
Next door is a spacious counseling room, providing services for individuals and in group settings.
“Some of our participation in those groups actually increased with the move, because it’s a nice, private meeting space,” Macurak said. “It’s calm. It’s welcoming and inviting.”
A reception room, something lacking at Prospect Park, is staffed as a welcoming area for visitors, with a sign on the wall announcing “welcome” in a variety of languages.
Other family center features include a community room, adult classroom, staff break room and early childhood classroom, where teacher Erin Murray is ready to welcome her young students. Another room houses SHIM’s youth mentoring program, under the direction of Susie Backshieder.
Amenities for youngsters include a gymnasium and outdoor playground, both of which SHIM shares with other agencies located in the building.
SHIM, which has its headquarters in Bethel Park, operated the family center at Prospect Park for 11 years. One of the 50-year-old organization’s three food pantries remains at the apartment complex, which is home to a large number of refugee families.
“When you talk about families who are food-insecure, it’s really important that they have the closest access,” Macurak explained. “So for right now, that will stay in the neighborhood.”
Reported by Harry Funk