Success Stories

Management Assistance Grantee: East End Cooperative Ministries

With three core areas of work that serve thousands each month, The Forbes Funds' grantee East End Cooperative Ministry (EECM) is making life better for many Pittsburghers.

"EECM saved my life,” said a participant in the Work Therapy/Education and Employment program. “I was homeless, without a job and I heard about the Work Therapy program. I started the program and went through all the levels to become a peer mentor. Then, I was hired by EECM as a full time staff member! I learned that I can do it, and I have the skills to be a boss who is liked and gets the job done. I love it here. It’s like family.”

EECM serves the community in a wide range of ways, from homeless and housing services; to children and youth programming; and community and nutrition offerings. Evident throughout all their work is a commitment to holistic service of their clients.

"It's about what impact longitudinally and transformationaly the organization can have," said Michael Mingrone, executive director of EECM. " [We] develop programs and work with the community to make sure the programs are effective."

One core piece of the community and nutrition support EECM provides is the food pantry. The small pantry serves 500 unduplicated families each month, said Mingrone.  But the pantry offers more than just food. "We're in the process of offering free cooking and nutrition classes to our pantry clients," said Mingrone. "For instance, if we get 20 cases of kale, for those folks who don't know how to cook kale, we can teach them; for [others], teach them a different recipe or a different way to prepare it, so to give them some variety."

EECM also offers cooking classes to the community. These benefit attendees and EECM clients. For example, participants in a Thanksgiving pie baking class cooked two pies; attendees took one home and the other went to EECM's Thanksgiving dinner.

A similar thoughtfulness goes into much of EECM's program design. For example, instead of a meal on Christmas Day when there are a variety of shelters providing food, EECM offered dinner the night before. "The reason we did it on Christmas eve was... if they can get two meals in two days they're better off, so instead of us going on Christmas day when they might not be able to double up... we did it on Christmas Eve," said Mingrone.

This holistic approach is also evident in the opportunities available at EECM for children and youth. With a wide range of services for a wide range of ages, EECM serves over 1200 kids a year, said Mingrone. And it's important that those programs all work together for the greatest benefit of the clients. "All of our programs are tied together," he said. "Because it's all about making sure those services are encompassing to that child and that the child can be successful throughout."

This program design is in part a product of a financial analysis supported by The Forbes Funds.

"The Forbes Funds came in at a perfect, crucial time for us," said Mingrone. During a critical transition, "The Forbes Funds allowed us to bring in a high-level financial consultant that I could work with to help us take a look at everything," he said.

EECM received two Management Assistance Grants (MAGs) from The Forbes Funds for a two-part financial analysis project conducted by Pete Mendes of Mendes Consulting. The Forbes Funds provides MAGs to support in-depth technical assistance to assess strategic environments, identify unmet needs and opportunities and develop efficient structures and processes. Each MAG and the project it supports is unique to the agency recipient.

The second grant from The Forbes Funds "really allowed us to get some of the hard work done," said Mingrone, "so that we could do cost/benefit analysis on every program." This "allowed us the data and the breathing room so we could make solid decisions instead of saying we think that one [program] makes money or that one doesn't."

Following the work with Mendes and The Forbes Funds, "we now understand our budget to the best we ever have and we continue to get better at that," said Mingrone.

"That funding... has leveraged and allowed us to get other funding because I can now speak [with] not just my gut feeling, but we've got the numbers to back it up," he said. "So we've been able to leverage other funding based upon the numbers."

Building upon its success, EECM is looking to expand its services. "The need is still present, and increasing," says Mingrone. "Programmatically, we're looking to see how we make our existing programs better and for expansion points."

Even as EECM continues to grow, the focus remains the same: the people. "I want to be able to respond to a community need," said Mingrone. "We're pushing our organization now to become nimble, and nimble in regards to how we change what the organization needs financially, programmatically... but [above all] we need to be nimble to meet the community need."