Many community centers are built and intended to be run with the community in mind. But for the Mercy Neighborhood Ministries the neighborhood has been involved through its planning, construction and now even with the operation.
The building, located at 1939 W. Venango St., was renovated from an old, empty warehouse back in 2005 with the help of the neighborhood. Through the process of design known as charrette, in which several groups bring together multiple ideas to create one single design plan in a set amount of time, it brought the community into the mix of engineers and architects. “We had three groups involved in the project and each group came up with their own plan,” said Sister Ann Provost, executive director of Mercy Neighborhood Ministries. “The residents really helped to establish what we offer now.”
Planning took place over the course of one week, spending each day to create a uniform idea of how it would be renovated and constructed. The Wednesday of that week involved 100 people talking over the design. “The miracle for us was the fact that we even got it built,” Provost said.
It has become a resource for the very young to the very old. It first began as a place mainly for after-school programming, but it soon developed other uses, all brought in because of the input of residents. There is now a pre-school program, adult learning programs and even an adult day-care program has been implemented for the elderly who require daily attention when they can’t be placed into a nursing home.
Due to organization’s efforts it has been able to bring a community closer together and make a place where it truly belongs to them. “To see the growth, transformation and the pride that local residents have for it is very rewarding,” Provost said. “They determine what happens here.”