Pressley Ridge is calling for a systemic shift in how Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County cares for kids. Knowing that 90% of brain development happens before the age of five, and that one in six children in Allegheny County goes hungry, Pressley Ridge joined ten organizations in forming the steering committee, Our Kids. Our Commitment. This committee, united by the goal of improving the well-being of children in Allegheny County, works with community partners, neighbors, government, and community-based organizations to promote health and well-being for children. The committee’s foundation is a shared belief that each child deserves access to proven, successful programming in early learning, after school, and nutrition.
Pressley Ridge’s first effort with Our Kids. Our Commitment. was a ballot initiative. Using the voter referendum process, grassroots efforts, and door knocking, the committee obtained more than 64,000 signatures to get a question on the ballot that would establish the Allegheny County Children’s Fund. If enough people voted “yes,” the proposed fund would support early learning, after school programs, and nutritious meals through a $0.25 per mile increase in the local real estate tax. This tax increase, which broke down to be $30 per year for each county homeowner, would generate more than $18 million per year for children’s programs. The committee spearheaded thousands of community conversations about the needs of children and ways to invest and promote their prosperity. Ultimately, the ballot lost on election day Nov. 6, 2019 by a small margin of approximately 10,000 votes. The Children’s Fund was not established, yet Pressley Ridge and Our Kids. Our Commitment. continue to develop potential sustainable funding for children. The ballot initiative fortified the partnerships within the committee and raised an urgent conversation on early childhood well-being that has not since gone away in Allegheny.
Pressley Ridge highlighted the key value of community education and engagement when putting forth a ballot measure initiative. They, along with other committee members, still host community coffee conversations, where they set up in coffee shops with Our Kids. Our Commitment. materials to chat with neighbors about the committee’s initiatives to protect and promote children’s well-being. These community conversations educated people about the needs and possibilities for children in the community. The committee also heard from neighbors about what they identify to be the needs of their own children. Furthermore, community members did a significant amount of the legwork to get the proposal on the ballot and inform voters of the measure. This was grassroots community organizing that took the shape of door knocking and phone banking, with all the requisite schwag, like t-shirts, doorhangers, and lawn signs.
Pressley Ridge’s involvement with other organizations in the steering committee and their ongoing conversations with the public exemplifies the Alliance’s report, A National Imperative: Joining Forces to Strengthen Human Services in America, particularly where it calls for organizations to adopt strategic partnership approaches. Pressley Ridge would not have applied for monies made available from the ballot initiative because their organizational programming does not directly fit the criteria. However, the Pressley Ridge mission lies in the well-being of children and families in the community, and in order to achieve that, it means partnering together and innovating.
Pressley Ridge’s innovative programming helps to rebuild communities and families who are facing difficult challenges and complex situations. From mental health and foster care services to residential treatment facilities and education for children with special needs, including autism and deafness, Pressley Ridge empowers 7,300 kids and families each year with the ability and confidence to succeed.