Salvation Army to break ground soon

Construction should begin soon on the Salvation Army's North Boroughs Corps Worship and Service Center, with the center possibly open by the end of the year.

The Salvation Army is an international organization, “an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church,” according to its literature. It operates 40 service centers in the 28-county region surrounding Pittsburgh, with a strong emphasis on community outreach and service. The Salvation Army offers numerous programs for youth, senior citizens, and anyone in need of assistance with food, housing, heating and more. One of its best known efforts is “Project Bundle Up,” which provides winter coats for children each year, along with the bell-ringers that can be found with red collection buckets near Christmas.

The Northside Center opened on West North Avenue in Pittsburgh in 1896. In recent years, as the building required millions of dollars worth of renovations, Salvation Army leaders realized that even with renovation, the building could not provide the additional program space and parking that was needed. They began looking for a new home, and found it in Avalon, where the American Legion Post property on South Home Avenue was available for sale and purchased last June.

The Legion building was demolished last fall, and the Salvation Army is now finalizing the paperwork that must be submitted to Avalon Borough and Allegheny County before construction on a new building can commence this spring. According to Avalon borough manager Lorraine Makatura, everything is in place for grading and construction permits to be issued soon.

The borough also has taken steps to preserve the memorials erected on the former Legion property by an Eagle Scout just a few years ago. An area in front of the old Legion building featured a memorial containing bricks engraved with the names of local veterans, as well as a tribute to former Northgate High School band director Jason Dilliott, who died suddenly several years ago. Makatura said that the Dilliott memorial has been turned over to Northgate School District, while the bricks, benches, flag poles and lighting from the veterans memorial are being moved to an area near the swimming pool in Avalon Park on New Brighton Road. Officials hope to have the memorial complete in its new location by Memorial Day.

Meanwhile, the Salvation Army has been operating from a temporary location behind 658 Lincoln Ave. in Bellevue, and has already partnered with Avalon Borough on programs such as the Salvation Army's Christmas toy drive for the past two years.

The move to Avalon is being welcomed by the local community and officials. “We're extremely happy,” said Avalon Council president Josh Klicker, who noted that in land-locked communities like Avalon, “You don't get a lot of new construction, let alone construction that will benefit all the people.”

According to the Salvation Army, “The plan is to build an all-encompassing worship and service center to enhance our community outreach to underprivileged children, individuals and senior citizens. One of our goals is to collaborate with other local non�profit organizations such as the North Boroughs YMCA and the North Hills Community Outreach, to provide the most efficient and highest quality social services to the area and avoid duplication of services.”

The new 13,100 square foot building will house a chapel, gymnasium, kitchen and multi-purpose rooms. It will provide programming for people living in zip codes 15116, 15202, 15209, 15212 and 15214, 15229, 15233 and 15237.

While waiting for the new building, Salvation Army personnel are continuing to assist community members from their temporary Bellevue center, managed by Lieutenants James and Nikita Poloso. The center can be reached by calling (412)415-1726. Volunteers interested in helping with community outreach programs are always welcome.