Community agency extends its reach

From providing focus, motivation and valuable information to receiving support and a boost in confidence, is how participants described their experience at the Micro Business Institute.

“These classes have kept me focused and on track,” said Rhonda Sears. Aiming to operate an event planning business, she admits, “What I have learned during these 11 weeks is very valuable.”

BUSINESS BEGINNINGS—PCSI Executive Director Cecelia A. Jenkins, MBI participants Myneesha King and Phyllis Evelyn stand with Micro Business Institute Specialist Jasmine Ward during an MBI event.

A project of Pittsburgh Community Services, Inc., the MBI is dedicated to providing the tools for its participants to succeed as entrepreneurs and to become empowered to take charge of their financial future. In operation since early 2010, the MBI has been fostering the development of sustainable micro-businesses geared to stimulate economic development, self-sufficiency and job creation in poverty-stricken neighborhoods in the city of Pittsburgh.


Throughout the spring more than 50 people have participated in numerous MBI activities inclusive of the 11 week FasTrac New Venture Business Plan Development classes. Other cutting edge-entrepreneur­ial development workshops have included Business Boot Camp 101, and an Investment Real Estate seminar series. Interactive events have consisted of The Power of Your Personality and an Entrepreneurial Assessment Workshop. Participants also recently took part in Talk Magazine’s African American Jazz and Art Gallery.

“We have selected and scheduled programming with the goal to meet people at their entrepreneurial level,” said Jasmine Ward, Micro Business Institute specialist. “We are dedicated to providing the tools for our participants to succeed as entrepreneurs and to become empowered to take charge of their financial future.”

Future programs will include “How Aspiring Entrepreneurs Can Grind to Greatness conducted” by James “Bird Guess, planned for Aug. 28; and the 2010 PCSI Micro Business Showcase on Sept. 18.

Ward said MBI programming addresses the current and prevalent issues of unemployment, underemployment and poverty in the city of Pittsburgh by capitalizing on the inherent talents, skills and entrepre­neurship ability of low-wealth Pittsburgh residents. By utilizing funding provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, resident income is required to nest at 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level based on the number of individuals living in a household.

A unique feature of the MBI is the skill level of the facilitators and people affiliated with the program. Ward, an undergraduate economics major at the University of Pittsburgh is co-owner of Ward Computer Services Inc., a Pittsburgh-based, computer consulting firm. The Callidus Group, administers of the FasTrac classes, strive to help participants realize their entrepreneur dreams. Their three-member crew consists of accomplished entrepreneurs toting an accumulation of business development and coaching experience.

The programs’ business coaches are Karyn Taylor, owner of Career Dynamics, a coaching, consulting, out-placement firm ;and networking king Vernard Alexander, president and CEO of the Minority Networking Exchange, an organization that strives to increase the amount of successful minority-owned businesses in the greater Pittsburgh area.

The MBI is administered through Pittsburgh Community Services, Inc., which has the mission to address the causes of poverty and to diminish its effects through the development, implementation, sponsorship, and support of programs and activities designed to enable and empower low-income residents of the city to make measurable progress on the continuum from impoverishment to self-sufficiency.

PCSI provides a wide range of services that makes a positive impact within the community. For more than 25 years the organization has met the needs of its clients in the areas of employment, job training, education, housing, nutrition and health and income management.

PCSI initiatives include the Neighborhood Safety Program, Project Life Line—Youth Education Initiative, Department of Counseling and Workforce Development, and the Work Ready Program. The MBI and its involvement in the Green Movement by way of Energy and Environment Community Outreach are its two newest ventures.

“We acknowledge 27 years of working with our partners and subcontractors to make a difference in the lives of citizens who remain most vulnerable to the changing conditions of our political and economic systems. Beyond the cycle of impasses and scarcity, PCSI is committed to “helping people and changing lives,” said Cecelia A. Jenkins, PCSI executive director during its recent awards luncheon program.

As a token of gratitude, the board of directors and staff of PCSI recognized five people for the support and contributions made to the organization. Recognitions went to Hugh J. Brannan, lll of the Brashear Association, Partner Award; Rev. James E. Brown of Highmark, the Corporate Award; Joni Rabinowitz, formerly with Just Harvest, the Community Service Award; and Karen Clark, a past PCSI client, received the Self-Sufficiency Award. In recognition of the many benefits he has afforded the eastern portion of the city of Pittsburgh and for his long standing political career, Sen. Jim Ferlo was awarded the Gwen Elliott President’s Award.

In her “Directors Message,” Jenkins pointed out that through Sen. Ferlo’s vision, PCSI has a unique opportunity to join the “Green Movement.” Using stimulus funding directly emanating from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Energy and Environment Community Outreach Center will be created. The EECO Center will serve as an energy resource site dedicated to the education and connectivity of residents to green technology, energy conservation and utility assistance and resource support. The center will be located in the Lincoln-Larimer community.

A nonprofit organization established as the anti-poverty agency for the city of Pittsburgh, PCSI is one of 43 Community Action Agencies operating within the state and is a member agency of the Community Action Association of Pennsylvania.

(For more information on programs sponsored by PCSI visit or call 412-392-4430.)


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