SHIM aims to serve more individuals afflicted by ‘suburban poverty’ - SHIM

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SHIM aims to serve more individuals afflicted by ‘suburban poverty’

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – More than 1,700 people and 600 families in Pittsburgh’s south suburbs obtained food or clothing last year at two pantries operated by South Hills Interfaith Movement.

Of those families, about half included a member who was employed — though their earnings were so low that they qualified for assistance.

Such struggling individuals are part of a silent, barely recognized poverty that SHIM believes is growing in the suburbs at a much faster rate than the urban poor.

“There’s a kaleidoscope of need in the South Hills,” said James Guffey, executive director of SHIM which Wednesday announced it had changed its name from South Hills Interfaith Ministries to better reflect its push to serve more at-risk individuals.

With shelves of soup and noodles in the background, Mr. Guffey and other board members and supporters gathered at SHIM’s facility in Bethel Park to roll out the nonprofit’s new name, logo and website, and to detail ambitious plans which include adding a third food pantry.

SHIM served about 4,000 people in 2015 through its pantries and programs, including utility bill assistance, a summer lunch program for low-income children, and youth mentoring. Over the next five to 10 years, it wants to expand its services to 9,000.

“Many who are in need are the working poor … and unfortunately their need has been increasing,” said the Rev. Kris McInnes, board chairman of SHIM and priest-in-charge at St. David’s Episcopal Church, Peters.

The nonprofit plans to open a satellite pantry and offer other services at Baldwin United Presbyterian Church. It also plans a new garden at Whitehall Presbyterian Church and an expansion of clothing offerings.

SHIM was founded in 1968 by leaders of Protestant, Jewish and Catholic congregations who wanted to provide outreach for teens. It added pantries and other support as the region’s economy shifted away from heavy manufacturing in the 1970s and 1980s.

Its food and clothing pantries are open to low-income people who reside in the following school districts: Baldwin-Whitehall, Bethel Park, Keystone Oaks, Mt. Lebanon, South Park and Upper St. Clair. It also offers some services to people from other communities and provides referrals.

SHIM’s annual fundraising campaign to benefit its food pantries, Sack Hunger, aims to raise $100,000 through the end of March. It got a boost Wednesday with the announcement that former Major League Baseball All-Star first baseman Sean Casey and his wife, Mandi, are providing a $25,000 matching grant.

In recent years, the couple’s Casey Family Foundation has donated $15,000 annually toward Sack Hunger “but we upped it this year because the need is more,” said Mandi Casey.

She and her husband — now a broadcaster and analyst for MLB Network — reside with their four children in Upper St. Clair, and the whole family volunteers by working in SHIM gardens.

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