West End community to benefit, thanks to a ‘vision’…Buildings will house Jasmine Nyree Campus, computer lab, library and more
by Diane I. Daniels
For New Pittsburgh Courier
A popular Bible scripture in the book of Proverbs reads: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
“Vision” is defined in the dictionary as the act of power anticipating that which will or may come to be.
Nineteen years ago, Christy Houston Porter had a need that turned into a vision.
While preparing to obtain her master’s degree, Porter had a difficult time finding a school for her autistic nonverbal daughter, Jasmine Nyree. “There were very little options and those I found were not equipped to accommodate my daughter’s needs,” she said.
Her vision was to provide a quality daycare center for children with special needs in her hometown of Bakersfield, Calif. In 2003, the Jasmine Nyree Day Center came into fruition. Today, the center continues to provide services for youth between ages 3 and 12 who are clinically diagnosed as having a developmental disability, as well as families of children and young adults with disabilities.
How does this translate into the Pittsburgh area? Well, the “Porter” name is pretty famous around these parts.
Joey Porter is the good-hearted-but-tough-playing former linebacker of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Christy Houston Porter is his wife of over 20 years. Today, they live in the Wexford area, and their daughter, Jasmine Nyree, had been attending a facility in the Sewickley area.
As Jasmine Nyree had turned adult age a few years ago, the Porters were unable to find the type of programming for their adult daughter that met their standards in this area. Jasmine Nyree turned 21 on June 14, but equally as important is that the Porters decided to have history repeat itself—they’re creating a new facility, here in Pittsburgh, just like they did in their hometown of Bakersfield.
The four-year search for a complex that would suffice ended when the Porters purchased the Holy Innocents Church Campus in Sheraden, on Landis Street. It consists of four buildings, which, at one time, was the pillar of the Sheraden community. The ribbon-cutting ceremony, complete with dignitaries like Mayor Bill Peduto, was held on June 1.
“Realizing that, we recognized we did not need all the buildings for special needs programming, so I thought it was best to revitalize the entire campus and bring it back to life to include services the people of the community needed that were obsolete or non-existing,” Christy Houston Porter said.
The campus includes the church, which is not part of the project, but owned by the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum.
The Jasmine Nyree Campus is going to be inside what is now known as the Patricia Jean Administration Building, named after Christy Houston Porter’s mother, who died in 2015. The 180,000-square foot campus will consist of a multi-service facility and community center. “I am humbly honored that God has entrusted me to continue the legacy work here of the Holy Innocents Church. These grounds are holy, and we will continue the mission and vision God gave to Father Daniel O’Shea 112 years ago,” Christy Houston Porter said during the ceremony.
Christy Houston Porter acknowledged that nothing would have been possible without the support of Joey Porter, their other three children and nephew, and other family members and friends. Christy Houston Porter credited Pittsburgh Public School Board Member Veronica Edwards, neighborhood residents such as Andrew and Desiree Lee, Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith and Mayor Peduto as significant supporters.
“It’s a beautiful thing that is happening here today in Sheraden,” Mayor Peduto said. “Let it be an example for the other 89 neighborhoods to follow. There are so many things that are right about this.”
Referencing the civil unrest occurring in the nation and the city, Mayor Peduto said that with Sheraden being a mixed-race community, the vision of the center is enhancing the community and causing both races to come together. It’s helping the young adults’ transition process and providing them opportunities to live a full life in a way that makes them part of the neighborhood and allows the neighborhood to use one of its most beautiful, historic assets.
In addition to the Jasmine Nyree Campus, the vision for the entire center is to consist of a hair salon, a Pre-K school, a bakery, coffee shop, a cafeteria for people in the community to have affordable, homestyle-cooked meals, a basketball court, computer lab and library. “We are also going to provide an alcohol and drug treatment program, GED programming, and are working with the city to put in an employment center and we will have a movie theatre for senior citizens,” Christy Houston Porter said.
Porter also said there would be a learning center for young people projected to provide after-school and summer programming to more than 600 students in kindergarten through twelfth grade.
“The test scores in this area are low. With our expertise of working with families and children, we are looking to partner with Langley School and the Pittsburgh Public School System in hopes to be of assistance,” Christy Houston Porter said. “We are also looking to be a feeding facility to provide free meals to the students.”
Already on Saturdays, they are providing lunches to children and families, which, she said, equates to over 300 free meals.
With lessons learned from the setbacks occurring due to the coronavirus pandemic, the final phase of the project, a 40-unit apartment building for low-income seniors, disabled veterans and special needs adults is expected to open in 2022. The project is a partnership with the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh.
Christy Houston Porter also announced that she was appointed to the Sheraden Housing Advisory Committee. “It is an honor,” she said, pointing out that within the four months since they purchased the property and have been developing the center, home property values in the community have increased by 5,000 percent.
Councilwoman Kail-Smith considered the development as amazing. “It means so much to our community,” she said.
The councilwoman presented the Porters with a proclamation welcoming the Jasmine Nyree Campus into Sheraden and for planning to provide such beneficial services.
“I thank you for your vision,” Councilwoman Kail-Smith said, “and welcome to the community.”
ABOUT THE PHOTOS….
TEAMWORK—Husband-and-wife team Joey and Christy Porter share their vision with Mayor Bill Peduto and City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith for Sheraden, one of the city’s 90 neighborhoods. (Photo by Diane I. Daniels)
THE RIBBON-CUTTING— Members of the Porter family, along with Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith and Mayor Bill Peduto, unveil what will be the new Jasmine Nyree Campus, on Landis Street in Sheraden. (Photo by Diane I. Daniels)