Honoring Homewood Children’s Village – 2021 Emerald Evening Beacon Award Winner

With a mission to improve the lives of Homewood’s children and simultaneously reweave the fabric of the community in which they live, Homewood Children’s Village has become a true beacon of hope!  A beacon for its children and all community members to grow in, thrive in, stay in, and to return to.

Homewood Children’s Village was founded in 2008 by Dr. John Wallace and Aliya Durham.  It was inspired by the work of Geoffrey Canada and modeled after New York City’s Harlem Children’s Zone.

Troubled by the lack of vitality in the hometown they knew and loved, Wallace and Durham set out to transform Homewood into a place where children – and everyone in the community – could thrive. Considering how to support young people from the time they are born until they go off to college and into adult life, as well as ensuring families can be nurtured along the way, a collaborative effort of transformational initiatives was born.

With the help of many dedicated partner organizations, Homewood Children’s Village is building a strong village of support for every child from cradle to career.  Together they are building a pathway paved with a solid education, a focus on physical, social, and emotional health, strong families, and good post-secondary opportunities so all youth graduate from high school ready to thrive in college, career, and life.

Connection of Climate, Equity and Health

“At Homewood Children’s Village,” states Walter Lewis, President & CEO, “we believe in supporting families in a holistic manner.”

“If young people are going to be successful,” Lewis continues, “they must be in family environments that are strong, school environments that are strong, and community environments that are strong – so we care about all the aspects that impact a young person’s development.  This brings us into the conversation around climate and health and sustainability.  These issues are impacting our children’s lives and ability to be successful in school, but unfortunately we are not often talking about these environmental and external factors.”

A lot of Homewood Children’s Village’s work has been focused on raising more awareness about these issues.

The Climate Change, Health and Equity Program, supported by the Kresge Foundation and in partnership with Green Building Alliance, significantly highlighted this as Homewood Children’s Village equipped, educated, and shared resources with residents so they were more informed about these issues and could do a better job advocating for them in their community.

“Once you empower people with education and knowledge,” states Lewis, “they are able to take control of their own destinies and make the best decisions for themselves and their communities.”

With the Kresge Foundation funding, Homewood Children’s Village and Green Building Alliance launched Change Champions – a powerful, multi-generational program focused on bringing about change in society, as well as a Youth Change Champions Edition, where youth get to be involved in shaping the community with an emphasis on climate.

This past year, Lewis is most proud of the way the staff at Homewood Children’s Village were able to pivot to address the needs of the community.  They rolled up their sleeps and served where they were able to by helping with food distribution and deliveries before Federal programs rolled out.  They jumped in with other organizations to distribute laptops and school supplies.  They created community learning hubs.

Lewis’ dream is that “Success becomes the norm for Homewood’s children and not something that is unexpected from a zip code of 15208.”

“We live in a community where residents have felt left out of community processes and left out from an economic standpoint for far too long,” continued Lewis, “so it’s important that equity is at the center.  We want to make sure residents who have lived through some of the hard times in Homewood can be a part of the good that is coming.  We need policies and practices that take the onus off the residents and put it on developers to build with the right materials and resources and energy efficient practices in the first place.”

Lewis and the Homewood Children’s Village staff and their community partners are working to make the Homewood of the future attractive so residents who are achieving financial gains and success want to stay.  Engaging young people today in development will allow them to make the decision to stay in their community when the time comes instead of taking their talents and resources elsewhere.

“Success is more than just the numbers in a grant report,” says Lewis.  “It is real change in the lives of children and families and at the community level.  It is when children have hope for their future.  Ultimately, success is when the mantle shifts and ownership fully returns to the community – to the everyday people – not just activists and leaders.  Then, the people of the community can chart the course they want for their children and their future.”

Emerald Evening Beacon Award 2021

Because of Homewood Children’s Village’s dedication to just and inclusive development, their commitment to work at the intersections of climate, equity, and health, and for supporting families and inspiring the youth in their community – especially during the past tumultuous year, it is our honor to recognize Homewood Children’s Village with this year’s Beacon Award.  This award will be given at our annual Emerald Evening Gala being held September 9, 2021, at the Roundhouse at Hazelwood Green.

To learn more about Homewood Children’s Village, please visit:  https://hcvpgh.org/.

To purchase tickets to attend Emerald Evening, join us in honoring Homewood Children’s Village, and continue to support our work, please visit here.


*All Photo Credits Homewood Children’s Village – thank you for sharing!

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