Community group prepares youth for the future


WHAT A CREW—YouthBuild instructors, staff and crew stand on the steps with the resident of the property they are renovating on Black Street. Standing: Kendall Griffith, Robert Poston, David Dee and Joann Monroe. Sitting: Willie Todd, Burness Freeman and Donald Brown. Standing at the railing is Pamela Benson. ­(Photos by Diane Daniels)


An anchor in the Garfield community for almost 30 years, the Garfield Jubilee Association Inc. has played a significant role in people’s lives within the Garfield neighborhood. They provide affordable housing, credit counseling and workforce development programming. 

As a Christian-based, non-profit, community development organization, its mission is to develop programs and activities, which benefit and stabilize the welfare of low-to-moderate income families and the community in general. According to its seven member board of directors, GJA is committed to providing good affordable housing, economic development, local leadership development, and supportive services in a way that sustains the dignity of the individual and manifests the love of God.

With a goal to coordinate and support the services necessary for a healthier Garfield community, for the past 12 years, GJA has been working with young people in the community by way of workforce development programing. Its Construction Training Program provided direct exposure through hands-on training, among construction and demolition projects involving residential and commercial developments. The success of the program enticed GJA to apply for a YouthBuild USA grant seven years ago and the organization has been assisting 18 to 24 years olds ever since.

Affiliated with GJA since its inception starting as a board member and eventually becoming executive director, Joann Monroe is pleased with the results and success of the YouthBuild program. Throughout the years she calculates that approximately 200 men and females have participated in the program. “Converting our Construction Training Program into the national YouthBuild Program was a good fit,” she acknowledges. “It gears participants toward a good career path.”

Recently relocating their offices from 5138 Penn Ave. to 5323 Penn Ave., the former St. Lawrence O’Toole Rectory, Monroe says the YouthBuild crew has been conducting some of the renovation work on the building.  

The building is three floors with a basement.

Monroe says out of 273 YouthBuild programs nationwide,  GJA is the only organization in western Pennsylvania operating. She recalls that in the national chapter’s 35 year history that several operated in Pittsburgh at one time. YouthBuild currently operates in 46 states, Washington, D.C., and the Virgin Islands.

Recommending the program to anyone trying to get their life together, David Dee Jr., a participant since January, says the GJA YouthBuild program is one of the best things that could have happen to him. “I am working on getting my GED, learning a trade and gaining work experience.” He explained that after making a few bad choices in his life, the program is offering him a new start. “I can’t see why anyone would want to be out in the streets when they can be here learning.”


THANKFUL—Garfield Jubilee Association YouthBuild participant David Dee Jr. encourages youth to take part in the program as a way to change their life.


Now recruiting 18 to 24 year olds from the Allegheny County area, Monroe outlined that the program offers paid GED preparation, construction training and theory, work experience, career development and job placement. Youth also participate in community service building projects that help revitalize neighborhoods. Aiming to assure participants are preparing for their future, Monroe said the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) construction certification that participants receive can be used anywhere in the United States.  

YouthBuild participants also have the opportunity to pursue post-secondary education.

“Our participants have worked on the Garfield Commons site with KBK Construction, the Bedford Hope VI development with McCormack and Baron and projects for Building United of Southwestern Pennsylvania,” said Monroe. Currently, the group is working on a four bedroom rental unit owned by GJA at 5552 Black St. and participants through the Section 3 mandate have received jobs on such sites as the Hill grocery store.  

Known in the community for its housing and development projects, comprehensive housing counseling and homebuyer education and foreclosure prevention programs, Monroe says since their existence their organizational goals have remained the same. To reverse negative housing trends in Garfield, to increase the supply of decent housing for low-to-moderate income families, to promote home ownership and self-determination, to coordinate and support the services necessary for a healthier Garfield community, and to explore the feasibility of participating in economic development activities that support housing development and strengthen the community.

The future for the organization, Monroe says, looks bright. “Focusing on the needs of the residents in the community she says their plans are to concentrate on workforce development issues and to become more involved with Section 3. A federal mandate, Section 3 is designed to help foster local economic development, neighborhood economic improvement, and individual self-sufficiency. Monroe also feels that continuing ties with their partners, KBK Enterprises, Mistick Construction and Home Depot, fostering partnerships and working better with the unions are also important to the future of GJA.”

In a changing economy, Monroe and Dee highly suggest that young people ages 18 to 24 consider the Garfield Jubliee YouthBuild Program.  “Where else can you receive paid construction training, work experience and job placement,” says Dee.

GJA is currently recruiting and accepting applications for its 2013-2014 fall enrollment period.

(For more information, call 412-665-5214.)


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