Since 1984, Angels’ Place has been changing lives. Through a holistic program that provides quality childcare along with support for single parents, this incredible nonprofit organization works toward breaking the cycle of poverty which opens up greater opportunities for future generations.
We spoke with Beth Banas, executive director for Angels’ Place, to learn more about this worthwhile organization she refers to as one of the community’s best-kept secrets.
North Hills Monthly (NHM): What was the catalyst for forming Angels’ Place?
Beth Banas (Banas): Our founder, Mary Winter, originally worked in crisis pregnancy counseling. She found that many of the single parents she counseled had to quit school. As a result, they were becoming mired in a life of poverty because once they dropped out of school, their options were reduced. This affected both the parent and the child as it started a cycle of poverty.
To answer this growing need within the community, Mary developed a program to provide free services and family support. Realizing that providing these essential services would strengthen the workforce—which in turns strengthens our society—she opened the first Angels’ Place in Brookline 37 years ago.
NHM: How does Angels’ Place differ from other daycare centers?
Banas: From the beginning, Mary understood the need for a holistic, two-generational approach to childcare. Recognizing that single parents have unique circumstances, she established Angels’ Place as a resource to meet those needs. The children receive free quality care while the parent pursues an education, which ultimately opens up more opportunities for the family.
We offer high-quality care, making sure the children and their parents receive best-practice services. Accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), Angels’ Place also receives the highest rating from Keystone Stars. We are also accredited by the Pennsylvania Association for Nonprofit Organizations (PANO). Each leg of our programing and organization scores the highest marks possible. Our goal is to ensure that the children receive the quality of education and care they deserve and need.
NHM: How are the parents involved in the program?
Banas: Parents become part of the community by giving back. Each parent commits to giving three hours of their time each week to the program.
The first hour involves participation in a parent support group providing additional education. The other two hours involve working alongside other parents and volunteers as a family to create the perfect environment for their children to thrive and grow in this safe setting.
Parents choose from a multitude of projects that suit their schedules and interests. Examples include office work, gardening and cleaning toys and play spaces, which is especially important with COVID concerns. Working together fosters a sense of family and the pride that comes from belonging to a community.
NHM: How are the families chosen?
Banas: Our program targets families that are the least likely to afford or have access to high-quality care. We traditionally require the parent to be a single, fulltime student that meets low-income guidelines. Recently, however, we opened a percentage of slots to single working parents who meet low-income guidelines.
We make sure that no space in our program remains open. If a student parent isn’t available to take the space and a working parent needs it, we make that happen. Recognizing this growing need in our community, we want to be part of the solution.
NHM: We understand that you have a volunteer grandmother. Tell us about that.
Banas: That would be a reference to our founder. Mary retired quite a few times and just couldn’t stay away. When her first official career as executive director ended, she came back to work as a cook. When that tenure ended, she became a volunteer with the program because she just wanted to help with the children. That earned her the title of Volunteer Grandmother. Mary still loves Angels’ Place and remains involved today. We receive frequent phone calls from her where she shares good ideas. She’s also a member of our board of directors.
NHM: What are some of your favorite success stories from the program?
Banas: There are so many success stories, it’s hard to pick favorites! Our families keep in touch, letting us know what’s happening in their lives. They share photos and great stories. Two of our former parents now sit on our board and are still involved with the school. Many are still donors or volunteers finding ways to give back to the program.
Here’s one inspiring success story: A young woman came to us who had just been discharged from the U.S. Army and found out she was expecting. Confused, alone and at her wit’s end, she didn’t know what to do. We talked while she was still pregnant and assured her that she could have a space at Angels’ Place, but it was contingent on her becoming a student.
When she had the baby, she started classes at CCAC (Community College of Allegheny County). She continued her studies at Duquesne University where she received her bachelor of science in accounting. From there, she received her master’s degree and became a successful CPA in the community. Following her mother’s inspiring example, her daughter recently became the first doctor from our program! We had this incredible mother/daughter team speak at one of our dinners.
NHM: How can members of the community support Angels’ Place?
Banas: We have numerous opportunities for the community to support Angels’ Place through donations of time or resources. Typically, we have several events each year, but last year those were virtual. Our Halo Award Dinner is scheduled for October 21st this year, and we’re looking forward to an in-person event.
People can also provide support through monthly donations or through our Adopt an Angel program. Additionally, we are always in need of physical items to help run the program. The children receive two meals a day at no cost. Infants receive formula at no cost to the families. All those required resources are always welcome. Click the donate tab on our website for more details on items we can use. Also, we have an Amazon wish list that is frequently updated.
We can create a unique volunteer or donating opportunity for anyone who is interested. People can set up a drive for us. Some businesses have chosen to adopt us through drives or through company events.
Individuals are welcome to donate and volunteer. When one of our volunteers aged out of the program, her grandchildren carried on the family’s volunteer tradition by setting up a drive for cleaning products and snacks for the children. A former board member’s grandchildren continue to honor his commitment through volunteering. It’s great that people have passed on the legacy of caring for Angels’ Place. It’s ultimately about the families. The generosity of our donors and volunteers allows Angels’ Place to continue its valuable mission
For more information, visit www.angelsplacepgh.org.