Allegheny Valley Association of Churches

The Allegheny Valley Association of Churches is a Christian agency composed of churches working together to meet the spiritual, social and physical needs of the community.

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The Allegheny Valley Association of Churches (AVAC) is made up of both clergy and lay people from 50 member churches in the Allegheny Valley area. Since 1958, AVAC has provided an ecumenical agency for cooperation in evangelism, mission, Christian education, worship, and social concerns. AVAC reaches out to people in communities throughout the Allegheny Valley region, with all programming respectful of all faith traditions. Services are provided without regard to religious beliefs or any other factors of discrimination.
AVAC is committed to providing a wide range of services to all needy members of the communities we serve, including the homeless, those living in poverty, the elderly, and sick or disabled individuals. Unlike many social services programs, AVAC's programming is designed to help poor individuals and families achieve self-sufficiency and reach a point where they are no longer dependent on agencies. As an ecumenical association of churches, we also recognize the need to go beyond just meeting the physical needs of our communities and to satisfy their spiritual needs as well.
For example, one program in which we carry out our mission is through the Interfaith Hospitality Network for homeless families. This program responds to the growing need of a place to call home for many families in our community, the Network has been in existence since February 22, 1993. It enables the religious and other organizations of the community to unite their efforts to provide temporary shelter, meals and assistance for homeless families through a partnership with 20 churches, therefore offering a respite where the families can save their resources and receive assistance in finding affordable housing. Another important component to this program is case management and support services. These services focus on assisting families to achieve their greatest level of self-sufficiency and insure their capacity for future success. More than 1,000 children and adults have been housed and hundreds more assisted with support services through this program since its beginning over 20 years ago.
A little over a year ago, I found myself in a situation where my rent far exceeded my income. Before long, I was being evicted. I was very scared for myself and my children. I began making phone calls around the Pittsburgh Area to the homeless shelters. The situation began feeling very bleak. The shelters were large rooms with cots lined up in rows. Most places would not let me bring my 17 year old son with me and if he could come he would need to be completely separate from me and his two sisters, ages 11 and 14. My children could not imagine anything more terrifying. But none of the shelters had any space for us. Out of desperation, I called an organization 45 minutes away from where we lived, Allegheny Valley Association of Churches (AVAC).
The AVAC program was set up completely different from the others. They only take families and only 3 families at a time (no more than 14 total people at one time). Amazingly, they had room for us. They have a day center located on Freeport Rd in Natrona Heights. In the evening, they transport the families to a hosting church where the families receive a hot dinner and fellowship. At bed time, each family has their own room with air mattress beds for each person. In the mornings, families are transported back to the day center for showers, meals, goal setting, resumes, school, etc. My children never felt singled out at school because of their homelessness since they were always clean and fed. In fact due to community funding AVAC was able to help provide field trips to things such as laser tag and movies, giving my children some similar after school activities as their peers. My son needed to change vo-tech schooling due to this change and AVAC helped provide the uniform change necessary for the new vo-tech. Each Sunday, it's another church's turn to begin their week of hosting. It's a lot of moving around but what a blessing to have these churches participate and provide shelter to keep families united together.
After a month in the AVAC shelter program, Mary Beth Hoover helped us secure transitional housing, thru another AVAC program. As we moved into our new home, we began going back to church. And yes, we became regular attenders and are now members of one of the hosting churches. In fact, this coming Easter Sunday both of my girls are planning to be baptized. We are all very active in our new church home, Trinity United Christian Church.
Prior to being in the shelter, I had not been able to work for 3 years due to chronic pain (which I no longer feel…Praise the Lord!). When I realized I wasn't in pain any longer, I enrolled in another program thru AVAC, Supportive Services, with Tracey Burton. She helped me address my barriers to work. One was that my driver's license had been suspended. Tracey helped me figure out the steps I needed to take and my license was restored. I also did not have any recent job experience. Tracey helped me secure temporary employment at Logan's Ferry Presbyterian Church doing custodial work for a month while their custodian was on sabbatical. During my time there, I began providing childcare for the "Bridges Out of Poverty" program and meetings. This past January, Arnold United Methodist Church was in need of a secretary. Since I am knowledgeable of Microsoft products, AUMC was able to extend a permanent employment opportunity to me.
I have begun to look forward to the future as AVAC has helped me move upward out of my past. I now have goals set. I am working towards obtaining a vehicle of my own, another source of independence. I also need to secure permanent, affordable housing for my family so we can graduate out of the AVAC transitional housing. I have no doubt that with the support of the AVAC services I will meet these goals.
AVAC and the local churches in the surrounding area have been an incredible source of support to help me and my children turn our lives around and become contributing members of society once again. Thank you to each and every one of you who support AVAC and their multitude of services.