Four years to the date of his death, $2 million dollars raised and rivers of waters made up of family’s tears later, on a slightly blustery but blue sky and sun shining day in the Hill District the dream became a reality. The highly anticipated ceremony commemorating the Ribbon Cutting of the brand new Jeron X. Grayson Community Center and new home of the Center that C.A.R.E.S was held; the location s the former Ozanam Center on Enoch Street.
A crowd of close to 200, which was made up of a veritable “who’s who” of the city and the Hill District, gathered for this auspicious occasion.
In her opening remarks, Board Chair Jeralyn Smith said, “This day is where the vision from the past meets the vision of the present—able to continue the mission that the Center that C.A.R.E.S has maintained for the past 17 years; meet the goal of moving forward by keeping the dream alive of Jeron, his dad, and also that of Frederick Ozanam.” Program Mistress of Ceremonies, Marimba Milliones, president and CEO of the Hill District CDC, declared in front of the onlookers that it was a “great day in the Hill District.”
Both Bill Palmer, principal of REPAL Construction Company, the contractors who conducted the work of totally refurbishing the former Ozanam Center; which has its own special tie to the Hill District’s past, and Milton Ogot the Architect who captured the vision for what this space should look like, thanked Rev. Glenn Grayson for entrusting them to this special project. Ogot also noted the significance of REPAL construction joining this effort. “They showed up in a big way after three companies walked away,” he said. “Rev. Grayson constantly challenged us to dig deeper, and in the end he showed me what true faith is.”
State Rep. Jake Wheatley shared that he was especially proud and happy for this day; but regretful that the “impetus” driving this endeavor, is one that we still grapple with today. “Only by the continued effort of Rev. Grayson, his family and people like him will we be able to bring an end to this struggle we are having in our communities,” Wheatley said. “This beautiful Center symbolizes a shared vision that our children need a safe and nurturing place.”
County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, and Mayor Bill Peduto both gave congratulatory remarks to Rev. Grayson on this achievement. Fitzgerald spoke to the strength of character it took to turn this personal tragedy into an effort that would benefit so many. Mayor Peduto described the building as one that was not built with brick and mortar so much as it was built with “hope and dreams of this family who never gave up in the midst of their personal trauma.”
He shared that while traveling a few years ago with Rev. Grayson and Congressman Mike Doyle to a City in Turkey that had been under attack.
A local clergyman invited Rev. Grayson to pray for the city; afterwards a photo of him kneeling in prayer went all around the Internet—the photo was a powerful reflection of the universal power of prayer. He then charged the crowd to pray in unity for the forward movement of the Center that C.A.R.E.S and for the youth of this City.
Of significant note was the presence of Dwight Tennyson, a representative from Hampton University. He presented a letter from Hampton President, William R. Harvey to Rev. Grayson, which contained glowing accolades about Jeron as well as congratulations on the opening of the new space.
Reverend Grayson took the podium and gave emotional testimony to this day, expressed gratitude for the energy, effort and support of all involved. He presented tokens of his appreciation to both Palmer and Ogot. To the funders he gave high praise and stated, “This project could not have been possible without, not only the commitment from Pittsburgh’s foundation community, but also of all those who rolled up their sleeves and poured into this project.
“I’m so grateful for Milton Ogot, he took my vision, my thoughts, and my budget and made this happen.”
Bishop Louis Hunter Sr. the Presiding Prelate of Mid Atlantic 1, closed out the ceremony with prayer. He talked of the raising of the facility being similar to that of the mythological Phoenix rising out of ashes. He then committed to the future of the Center by offering a personal check for $1000. He encouraged the crowd to make their own commitment to the work of this organization by saying, “I’ve always heard if you see a good fight—get in it; this is a good fight.”
The afternoon ended in a grand tour that included light refreshments.
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