Club brings joy to nearby shelter residents

Written By Jodryn Hronec, Co-News Editor

In a small room in the basement of a building, three students perform a karaoke version of Dolly Parton’s “Nine to Five.” Sitting in front of the students are the building’s residents, mostly older people who all watch and smile. Sometimes they talk quietly amongst themselves. One of the residents performs with the students.

They sing off-key, and they don’t know all of the lyrics, but no one seems to mind.

One room over, six students stand behind a lunch counter. As residents approach the counter, one of the students hands them a pre-made lunch bag with a smile and a pleasant greeting.

The residents don’t know the students’ names, where they’re from or what they’re studying. But they enjoy their company all the same. However, they do know one student, Lauren Reuther. She is a frequent visitor.

Reuther, a freshman psychology major, has been visiting the residents of the Wood Street Commons since her first semester at Point Park.

“I went to the Wood Street Commons with a class that I had,” Reuther said. “While I was there, I saw that the residents didn’t have much to do and they all just kind of seemed bored.”

Reuther decided to do something about it. So she started a club on campus, which has taken root during the Spring 2019 semester under the name Point Park Cares.

Point Park Cares aims to provide entertainment and activities for the residents of Wood Street Commons at least once a month. In the club’s constitution, approved by Point Park’s United Student Government (USG), Point Park Cares’ mission statement is outlined.

“The goal is to connect with our neighbors on Wood Street to contribute and support their needs,” the constitution reads. “Most of the residents, whom are older in age, do not have the opportunity to interact with people in the community, especially young people. This is where Point Park students step in and make connections, human to human.”

The Wood Street Commons is a building located just across the street from Point Park. According to Caitlin Crawford, the habilitation specialist for Community Human Services (CHS), the building houses just about 260 residents.

CHS is the private charity organization that provides housing and services in the building. The organization provides housing for those in need of short-term and long-term shelter and respite during recovery from medical procedures as well as those affected by homelessness caused by mental illness, according to Crawford.

The relationship between Point Park and Wood Street Commons began with a class taught by Dr. Sera Mathew, Assistant Professor of Community Engagement in the Department of Community Engagement. Crawford said that the class, Introduction to Community Engagement, which included Reuther, helped in painting the cafe in the building, as well as donating things like coats, games and books.

Following her experience in class, Reuther went through the process of creating her club, which involved establishing officers, gathering at least ten members, and submitting the club’s constitution to USG. Mathew serves as the club’s advisor.

Since the club’s establishment, it has organized several events at the Wood Street Commons. Events include parties, a game night and a yoga night.

On Saturday, April 6, Point Park Cares participated in the USG sponsored Pioneer Community Day. Pioneer Community Day is designed to provide students with the opportunity to volunteer with several different organizations in order to give back to the Pittsburgh community. 

A number of students who signed up for Pioneer Community Day were sent with Point Park Cares to the Wood Street Commons. There, students prepared and served bag lunches for residents. They also sang karaoke.

“I think a lot of the residents really enjoy, not just having something fun to do, but just talking to people who aren’t in their situation and talking about their lives and everyday things,” Reuther said. “A lot of them, when we go over there, just can’t stop talking. And that’s because they don’t get that, and they seem lonely. And it’s just nice to feel like I’m actually helping people, and that all of the people in my club are getting something out of it…not material things, but the satisfaction of helping someone. I really enjoy it.”

There are about 20 members of Point Park Cares, according to Reuther.

Club members Zofina Fink and Megan Reiff are frequent volunteers. They believe that the work Point Park Cares does is extremely important.

“As a human being, we need to be understanding of people’s situations and get to know people for who they are rather than their situation,” Fink, a freshman undecided major, said.

“We get to see a different side of the community that is usually just pushed to the back,” Reiff, a freshman public relations and advertising major, said. “Because people just don’t care about the people here that much.”

Grace Tyler Frank-Rempel, a freshman intelligence and national security and global cultural studies double major, volunteered with the club during Pioneer Community Day. She also serves on USG, specifically the Rules Committee that helped initiate the club.

“I thought volunteering was a pretty cool experience,” Frank-Rempel said. “I do wish we had the ability to help more. But it was fun being able to interact with the residents.”

Crawford said that often, residents are overjoyed to be able to talk to the students and enjoy their company.

“I’ve heard a lot of positive stuff coming from residents,” Crawford said. “They get excited to have people coming here. They ask what the students are doing here and why they’re spending their time here. I think more than anything, its disbelief.”