By Samantha Carricato
SHARPSBURG, Pa – Youths come together four days a week for after school activities in a safe, supervised environment to do homework, research and gaming.
Volunteers of America of Pennsylvania’s mission is to envision caring communities where Pennsylvanians support each other’s mental, physical, spiritual and social well-being. The community serves the Fox Chapel Area School District, Shaler Area School District and the surrounding communities of the Lower Allegheny Valley Area.
In 1993, Fox Chapel Area High School District leaders met with concerned citizens and parents about the record levels of youth violence and substance abuse. A project called S.T.O.P. was then formed to suggest ways to deal with these issues as one district rather than struggling to tackle this problem within each community.
A community group was then formed to provide efforts in the school district. This group later became “All of Us Care.” The goal of All of Us Care is to prevent youth crime and substance abuse by providing positive activities for at-risk children and teens. In January of 2008, All of Us Care became a program of Volunteers of America of Pennsylvania through a merger.
The current director of All of Us Care is Janice Barbus. Barbus started with All of Us Care as an Administrative Assistant in 1999; in 2004, she made her way to Program Director and then Director in 2005.
“During the merger, I took full responsibility for the program once it became a service under Volunteers of America of Pennsylvania Inc. until May of 2008 when a supervisor was assigned to the Southwestern Pennsylvania area,” Barbus said.
One thing that required Barbus’s attention was securing funding through grant writing; another thing was introducing Volunteers of America of Pennsylvania, Inc. to the surrounding areas of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Barbus has introduced and collaborated on many different grants to get the facilities needed to pursue the goals of obtaining and operating the activities that serve 1,000 plus children and youths in the Lower Allegheny Valley Area.
In 2005, All of Us Care hired Charles Ondrizek. At the time, All of Us Care just needed a contractor for computer and network services. A year later, Ondrizek was hired for a full time position as a Technology Coordinator for All of Us Care, which later became Volunteers of America, All of Us Care.
The computer lab that was installed at All of Us Care facility in Sharpsburg was administrated by Ondrizek. He was the sole installer of all the PC systems, infrastructure, and multimedia systems including projection screens, sound systems, and configurations of multiplayer games over LAN and internet.
“All my friends come here after school,” said Kennedy Morris, a 12 year old that frequently goes to the after school program at All of Us Care, “and I don’t have a computer at home so I come to hang out with my friends and go on the computers.”
Most of the kids that do come to the after school program are around Morris’s age group.
All of Us Care offers computer access for low-income families that cannot afford to buy computers of their own. Donated computers no older than five years old are refurbished and given to families.
Since 2001, 150 families have received computers.
All of Us Care offers many other programs such as youth drug and alcohol services, mentoring and safety education as well as the after school activities and computer access.