The Almanac – Think of Peters Township, and you’re likely to get the same impression described by the Rev. Kris McInnes:
“It’s a community that is generally, like much of the South Hills, a very well-to-do community,” he said.
St. David’s Episcopal Church, where he is priest-in-charge, hosts the Peters Township Farmers Market on Wednesdays. On one such occasion, McInnes talked with a woman who inquired if the market accepts electronic benefit transfers, issued by state for food assistance, to buy fresh produce.
“It turns out she’s a divorced mom who’s trying to make everything work on the income that she has, and she is in great need of support,” he told those in attendance during Celebrate the South Hills with SHIM, the main fundraiser for the South Hills Interfaith Movement.
“We might not realize it,” McInnes said, “but all around us is need and people who are in very vulnerable situations.”
SHIM pulls no punches about the extent of the need. The nonprofit organization, which has been providing essentials and services since 1968, puts out promotional materials with eye-opening messages such:
“Welcome to the South Hills, where schools are great, homes are beautiful and 2,300 people are hungry.”
“It’s really amazing to find out how many people, our neighbors, are in need,” radio personality and Peters resident Cris Winter said while serving as master of ceremonies for the May 19 event at South Hills Country Club in Whitehall.
She told about a recent visit to the SHIM center in Bethel Park, where 40-plus volunteers were gathered and in action.
“They were helping load clothes,” she said. “They were painting the deck. They were fixing the roof. They were building the garden out front. The volunteers did a fabulous job, and it was really was a great opportunity for me to see exactly what SHIM does.”
What SHIM does is provide food, clothing, programming and other resources to about 4,000 people, a number that has doubled in the past year.
“But that’s about half of the number that we know is out there that needs that help,” Jim Guffey, SHIM executive director, said.
He talked about the impetus for this year’s name change of the organization from the original South Hills Interfaith Ministries to incorporating “Movement.”
“It’s about sharing the information, understanding the need of the community and how you can join the movement to help us make the community a better community,” he explained.
The 230 or so people attending Celebrate the South Hills with SHIM are likely to help spread the word, given their generosity: During a “backwards auction” seeking donations toward the end of the evening, they gave more than $20,000 toward an overall fundraising total of $78,865.
The event also honored Bethel Park native and Mt. Lebanon resident Matt Smith as 2016 South Hills Champion, acknowledging his support of SHIM while he was serving in the state Legislature. Smith continues to work with the organization in his current position of president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce.
Meanwhile, SHIM continues to provide for those in need.
“It’s not just offering someone who is in need something now,” McInnes said, “but building a foundation for them and their families for their lives, for the future, gathering them around them so they know they are not alone, that they’re not outcasts, that they’re part of the community.
“We want them to thrive. And that’s who we are.”