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Urban Mission Ministries receives grant worth nearly $1 million

Funding from a grant program through the Appalachian Regional Commission

GRANT AWARDED — Steubenville-based Urban Mission Ministries Thursday learned it would receive a grant of $980,374 from the Appalachian Regional Commission. The money will help cover the start of the Fresh Start workforce development program and renovations to the Seventh Street Plaza. -- Michael D. McElwain

STEUBENVILLE — A grant worth nearly $1 million will help Urban Mission Ministries help area residents.

The award of $980,374 announced Thursday was part of $46.4 million in Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization grants from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

“It’s really exciting,” the Rev. Ashley Steele, executive director of the Urban Mission, said after learning that the organization had secured the three-year grant that will include renovations to the Seventh Street Plaza.

That money will go toward the establishment of Fresh Start, a workforce development program for individuals who are under-employed or in recovery. It will target six counties in Ohio and two counties in West Virginia and will offer, according to Urban Mission officials, a comprehensive approach to workforce development, including life skills and empowerment classes, educational opportunities and on-site vocational training programs.

Urban Mission’s purchase of the plaza, located on Seventh Street between Washington and North streets, was completed nearly two years ago.

The complex, which at one time served as the home of the Treasure Island Department Store and Kroger and Save-A-Lot grocery stores, holds several businesses as well as the mission’s Urban Thrift and Opportunity Center. The purchase included 2 1/2 acres of land that officials plan to use for a community backyard food garden project.

A portion of the money awarded Thursday will be used to start renovations on the former grocery store area. Steele said work on the project could begin immediately.

“The Fresh Start program brings together a unique mix of stakeholders to address local and regional needs associated with workforce development. Through this project, the Urban Mission serves as a bridge between participants, community colleges, businesses, agencies and the public, addressing specific employment needs, utilizing a holistic, integrated approach,” Steele added.

Initial renovations will include the creation of two community classrooms, an industrial-sized training kitchen, a pay-what-you-can restaurant, a day care, a fresh food market and space for business incubation. Additional renovations will occur as future funding is available.

The project is expected to assist in the renovation of 28,500-square-feet of vacant space, create three new businesses and 10 new jobs, retain 23 jobs and assist 20 businesses and 350 trainees.

Additional support for the program is being provided by the Governor’s Office of Appalachia and the Esther Simmons Charitable Trust.

POWER grants are part of a congressionally funded initiative that directs federal resources to help communities and regions that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of energy production.

“The downturn of the coal industry has impacted economies across Appalachia. That’s why ARC’s POWER initiative helps to leverage regional partnerships and collaborations to support efforts to create a more vibrant economic future for coal-impacted communities,” said Gayle Manchin, ARC federal co-chair. “Many of the projects we announced today will invest in educating and training the Appalachian workforce, nurturing entrepreneurship, and supporting infrastructure — including broadband access. These investments in our Appalachian coal-impacted communities are critical in leveling the economic playing field so our communities can thrive.”

A total of 57 projects across 184 coal-impacted counties received funding. ARC’s footprint covers 420 counties in 13 states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

“These ARC POWER grants are great news because they will help ensure that these entities have the resources needed to address emerging infrastructure needs, to support entrepreneurship, and to help the economic development of towns and local communities throughout Ohio,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

The grant for the Urban Mission was one of 10 presented in Ohio. Other awards included $1.5 for the Washington Electric Cooperative for broadband development; $1,493,716 for the Outdoor Recreation Council of Appalachia for investments in trail and gateway community assets; $1,314,800 to the Switzerland of Ohio School District for workforce development; $445,158 to Belmont College for HVAC training; $404,856 to the Noble Local School District for workforce development focused on agribusiness; $50,000 to the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments for a regional utility strategy; $50,000 to the Morgan County commissioners for broadband asset mapping; $50,000 to Struthers for a strategic plan for green manufacturing; and $50,000 to the University of Cincinnati-Clermont for the development of plans for regional training in supply chain and logistics.

“I am very pleased to support these economic investments across Eastern and Southeastern Ohio,” said U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta. “This funding will support projects designed to create jobs and spur economic activity by investing in broadband deployment, recreational opportunities and workforce training. This is further proof that the work of the Appalachian Regional Commission to bring much needed investment funding to our region is vital to economic opportunity here. I’m proud to continue supporting the ARC.”

Training and employment partners for Fresh Start include Eastern Gateway Community College, West Virginia Northern Community College, Parkhurst Dining, Wal-Mart Distribution Center, the Fraspada Co. and Crawford Construction.

Community partners include Jefferson County Jobs and Family Services, Department of Family Services (West Virginia), Jefferson County Adult Probation Department and Adult Drug Court, Coleman Health Services, CRN Healthcare Inc., Family Recovery, Jefferson County Community Action Council, Brooke Hancock Resource Network, the A.L.I.V.E. Shelter, Southeastern Legal Services of Ohio, Jan Yabs and the Jefferson County Community Prevention and Recovery Board.

Public support also came from OMEGA; Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; the Jefferson County commissioners; the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce; Steubenville City Manager Jim Mavromatis; Steubenville Mayor Jerry Barilla and Weirton Mayor Harold Miller.

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