Impactful organization Three Rivers Youth celebrates 144 years during Nellie Awards Gala


by Renee P. Aldrich

For New Pittsburgh Courier

The room in the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh on April 19, 2024, where Three Rivers Youth (TRY) held its 2024 Nellie Leadership Awards Gala, was an extraordinary vision in floral design, so much so that upon entry into the room you were surrounded by the aroma of flowers, giving the space an effect of being in a greenhouse.

Each centerpiece on the tables was striking with approximately three-feet-high bouquets—a combination Phipps Conservatory and Hollywood, a “lights, camera, action” affair all the way. The attendees appeared to be a part of the décor as they sprinkled around the room in classic “Derby” attire that included fascinator hats and men in various styles of bowler hats, all befitting this year’s theme, “A Triple Crown Affair at the Kentucky Derby.”

While the night was an ornate evening of elegance, all the display of beauty and regalia did not overshadow the purpose and the goal of the night. TRY hosts this signature fundraiser each year in order to continue carrying out its vision and mission to accelerate the recovery of children, adults and families from abuse, substance use and mental health disorders…and to be a leader in innovative and model programs providing excellent, comprehensive services for at-risk youth and their families.

Its history is rooted in caring for those in need and struggling, most specifically giving hope to the homeless and orphaned. The Reverend J.M. Fulton, who at the time was the pastor of Fourth United Presbyterian Church when he came upon a young Nellie Grant wandering at night around the streets of the North Side (then called Allegheny City), was torn as to what to do with this orphan child who happened to be a negro. Regrettably, the orphanages of the day did not take “negro” children. The clergyman collaborated with a compassionate civic leader, Julia Blair, and the results of that effort were the establishment of Pittsburgh’s Home for Colored Children, which would evolve into what is now known as Three Rivers Youth.

Part of the evening recognized individuals who have made significant contributions to the community that allow agencies like TRY to conduct the work designed to change lives of individuals and families struggling with substance abuse and mental health issues.

This year’s Nellie Leadership Awards honorees were: Erin Dalton, Director, Allegheny County Department of Human Services; Dr. Kathi Elliott, Executive Director, Gwen’s Girls; Mamar Gelaye, Vice President, Operational Technology Solutions, Amazon; and Derrick Wilson, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, The Wilson Group.

Along with acknowledging the awardees, there was a historical presentation about the history of Black jockeys who rode in the Kentucky Derby. This was fortified by the presence of two young men, Mason Chambers and Royce Parham, both of whom excel in scholarship and athletics.


In a testimony from a Three Rivers Youth client, Tina Green, the audience had a clear visual of what it’s like to need their services, and what it’s like to receive their services.

“When I entered the offices of Three Rivers Youth, I was a broken woman, I had reached what I felt was the end of my rope,” Green said. “They pulled me in, wrapped their arms around me, and today I stand before you living 10 years in my sobriety.”

She went on to say that it had been a long time since she “felt valued and supported and that I believed in myself. This organization is very important, not only because of what they provide to individuals like me, but what they bring to the whole community.”

It was a financially winning night for Three Rivers Youth thanks in large part to a state award of $926,557 presented to them by state Rep. La’Tasha D. Mayes. That helped the night generate more than $1 million for Three Rivers Youth.

In its 2022-23 Annual Report, Three Rivers Youth said that in that time period, 82 percent of its foster care clients were positively discharged, 93 percent of the families remained intact after receiving its family preservation services, and 75 percent of its clients who received drug and alcohol abuse treatment abstained from substance use.


Peggy B. Harris, the longtime, award-winning president and chief executive officer of Three Rivers Youth, said at the gala that “we remain proud of our humble beginnings, advocating for children of color who were invisible to formal and established systems of care. We have remained committed to serving the whole child. The whole child is embodied in the child’s present, and the child’s past, who is left with adult scars, wounds, and unresolved trauma, manifested in a variety of dysfunctions and perpetual crises including homelessness, incarceration, and chronic unemployment. This is the child who shows up on our doorstep, and who exits one of our doors, leading to healing, recovery, community and self-discovery—feeling the hope and strength to start again.”




About Post Author


From the Web

Skip to content