Family Guidance on the Frontlines

The City of Pittsburgh is well on its way
to being one of the nation’s best comeback stories, but there are many neighborhoods
and many families still struggling. Since 1964, Family Guidance has been serving the
Pittsburgh region. Through a variety of programs and services, they strive each day to provide
a hope and a future to children and families. Set on over a hundred acres in Beaver County,
Promise Camp strives to provide a quality camping experience to hundreds of Pittsburgh’s
at-risk children so they can experience God’s Creation. Well, Promise Camp is a camp for at-risk kids
coming mostly from city neighborhoods and so it’s really fun to see the kids waiting
to get on the bus, all the parents and all the chaos. Then when they get on the bus,
that’s when the fun really begins, right Toya? It does. I usually ride the bus to camp with
them and it’s just always amazing to see how, how excited some of them are. They sort of
break down their walls that they build up and start getting more relaxed with the camp
like getting ready for their week. It’s just really rewarding for me just to see them changing
over the week. The things that I appreciate about you, Toya,
is that you understand our kids and you come from the neighborhood that they’re coming
from so you’ve, you know their story and you’re able to help them live the story that you’re
living, which is a story of success. It’s a story of overcoming, which is an awesome
thing to see. It’s like I can also see like, I mean, I was
in their shoes at one point. I know, like you said, I do know where they’re coming from.
I lived the experience and I’ve made decisions about my life to be able to do something else
and to follow a different path and I believe that they can do the same thing. We try and provide a really safe and healthy
environment, something that’s different from the city and where every day we don’t have
to rebuild the trust. That we can build on where we went to sleep last night. As a counselor, I realize that I could really
make a change and be like that positive role model in the campers’ lives. There’s a different
path and they don’t have to go down on one that most people say they’re going to end
up. There’s more than just this little small town I live in. There’s like a whole universe
on the other side and that I can go there, I can cross, and can be like this if I actually
try. I think kids struggle with this concept of
‘who am I’. It’s an issue that I think we all face, but especially kids, and so it’s
neat to be able to see kids who are trying to develop an image in the city that might
not be a very positive thing, be able to bring them out to Promise Camp for a week and show
them that their image can be from God and from who He’s created them to be, not who
their environment is dictating that they should be. Through TWOgether Pittsburgh, Family Guidance
strives to provide relationship mentoring and education to singles, couples and families. I think the best way to describe it was kind
of a roller coaster ride for the last 12 years and then, of course, the last year’s been
a lot better just because of our involvement with the mentoring course. Early on, in all
the throughout the marriage, it’s been kind of up and own. I just didn’t want to live like that anymore.
It was always, every day it was always fighting. It was fighting all the time and we’d have
some good days, you know, and would kind of just go back to, “here we are again”. I left
and I plugged the GPS in for Texas not knowing you know, what I was going to do and just
drove and drove all night. I was alone with the kids and it was hard. TWOgether Pittsburgh was formed to help marriages,
and that was something that we really felt strong about, is we really wanted to help
marriages because we struggled early in our marriage. When we met Jim and Donna, they showed us
different skills to take away, different techniques and things like that that we could apply and
we could use and we never did that before. I think every one of us knows somebody that
is hurting deeply and we start seeing the skills really work in our life, we couldn’t
help but want to share it with other people. Through these classes, TWOgether Pittsburgh,
these really, really give you the tools and they really put a focus on changing yourself
and learning how to appreciate the other ones’ differences. You can’t change each other. You have to change
yourself and TWOgether Pittsburgh does help you do that, to make a difference in your
relationship. Having a healthier relationship means a lot
less stress in the house. Our kids, I think, are more stable and healthy. It gives us the
ability to make better decisions about the direction of our family as a whole. And we’ve
made a 180 degree turn and it’s just been amazing since then. With highly screened and trained volunteer
mentors, Family Guidance works with hundreds of youth across Pittsburgh in schools, churches
and communities. Well, I got involved because my brother, he
had a mentor, but like I wanted a mentor too, just because I seen how fun it was. As I look at him now, I’m just amazed at how
he’s grown. I started when he was nine and … Well, this program like it helped me a lot
because he teaches me what’s wrong and what’s right and just keeps me out of trouble. Whenever
I need someone to listen, he’s there. As we got to know Jamar and his family, we
became convinced that this is what God wanted us to do. He has a great mom, really loves
him, and I always thought to myself, “If I can just keep doing what she’s doing and give
the male aspect of growing up to him.” As a single mom, I can only do so much. I
can’t teach a man how to be a man, so Shawn has been a very good role model, positive
role model in his life, and I really appreciate it. I imagined when I first started, that I was
going to helping out somebody, but I don’t, I can’t tell you how much times Jamar’s helped
me out, and our family. He’s like a son to us and brother to my kids. No matter what happens, I know that they’ll
always be there and the way I look at him and his kids, I just know that we’re all connected. We’re like a big happy family, extended family
and I just thank ya’ll so much for everything. Thank you. He’s just grown so much in a positive way
and I know it’s because of ya’ll too. It’s always fun. I’m just glad. Well thanks, Jamar. That means a lot. I know
we do consider you part of our family and so we’re excited to see what God continues
to do in our relationship. Thank you. Thank you. Just like when ya’ll came over the first time,
like came over to meet us, I just couldn’t stop smiling and I was happy. Like just to even see ya’ll and I just knew
that things were going to be great and look where we are now.

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