Hope Through Love In Homewood

Donna Smallwood has been investing in the lives of children in her community for decades. Though her children are now grown and have children of their own, she is still just as passionate about helping and supporting children so they can thrive. “God just put it in me to have a love and concern for the kids,” she said. “It’s a gift He put in me to really love being around kids.”

After retiring from a 30 year career at Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare (DOW), Donna began serving at Diakonia Ministries, an organization she’s now been involved with for 15 years.

Diakonia Ministries was launched in Pittsburgh in 1999, and Donna has been there since the beginning. With a mission to “strengthen, equip and encourage the Homewood Community with hope through providing tangible expressions of God's love,” Diakonia Ministries provides services like a summer youth program, a food pantry, a support network for women in the community, and more.

As Diakonia’s program coordinator, Donna has worked most frequently with the six week summer youth program the ministry runs each year. The camp offers children ages 4 to 18 in the community tutoring classes to support math and reading, and it also coordinates games and fieldtrips. “It’s hard work and it feels like your brain is fried at the end of the day, but the rewards are just wonderful,” she said.

Charity Haubrich, director of Christians Investing in Education, said that it is the faithful work of people like Donna that is making a lasting difference in the city.

"Donna has discovered the importance of different institutions working together, recognizing that government, non-profits and citizens all need to both work together and each take on their own specific responsibilities so that our neighborhoods can flourish,” Charity said. “Whether or not we have children, we are all members of the political community and so all have a responsibility to see that every child has the opportunity for a high quality education."

Though Donna retired from the DOW, she has not retired from being a citizen engaged in her political community. Donna believes it falls on the shoulders of adults in the community to be positive influences in the lives of kids in the neighborhood- regardless of whether they have school age children themselves or not. “That should be everyone’s role- to see that the children have a strong future,” she said.

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