When Christy Porter looks around at the Jasmine Nyree Campus, the first thing she sees is hope.
She sees hope for her daughter, Jasmine, and those like her, adults living with autism and other developmental issues.
She sees hope for those who need guidance.
She sees hope for those who need a helping hand.
She sees hope for a community that needs a boost.
The beautifully renovated, sprawling 180,000 square foot campus, which encompasses five buildings that used to be a part of Holy Innocents Church and School, truly is a beacon of hope for adults with developmental issues, including Jasmine Porter, the daughter of Christy and Joey Porter, the former Steelers linebacker.
It also is a beacon of hope for the Sheraden section of Pittsburgh where it's located, an area that is underserved and was in desperate need of the services now available.
On Saturday, surrounded by family, friends, former teammates and local leaders, the Porters officially opened the Jasmine Nyree Campus, the fourth location of a center named after their daughter, where hope now flourishes.
While aspects of the campus have already been up and operating, including the administration building and a job center which has already helped 70 people find employment, the rest of the campus is now offering services for adults with developmental issues as well as the entire Sheraden community, including the main portion, The Dr. Philip Birdine Learning Center.
"Our original goal was to help the special needs adult population, but that community is so underserved we decided that with our campus being so large we are able to open it up and encompass the entire community," said Christy Porter. "That was our primary reason for selecting Sheraden because it is so underserved. That community needed more of a boost. Not just in services, but employment as well. We are looking to employ 300 people. That entire community has a chance to be changed. And it being so close to the city, it made sense to select it.
"There is something for every age. We are also going to have a medical clinic on hand. There are no grocery stores there, so we partnered with Giant Eagle as a drop off location. People can order their groceries online and they can come to our location to pick up their groceries. That was never an option before. We are partnering with major companies to help the area.
"We also partnered with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to be a distribution center. People can come there to get dry goods. We provide up to 125 dry goods boxes of food a month to people in Sheraden and the surrounding community. Before the pandemic hit, we were just getting started, had just purchased the building. We were giving out 10-15 boxes a month and that has grown to 125 boxes a month. The pandemic has shined a light on the ability to see where people's needs are, what they are, and the inequality for those who were already struggling. For us to be able to assist, it means so much."
Among the services being offered at the Jasmine Nyree Campus is a day program for adults 18-years and older with special needs, a service that isn't offered anywhere else in the City of Pittsburgh. It also offers medical services, a food court, after school programs for area kids and a learning center, working in conjunction with Pittsburgh Public Schools. And all of the services offered are free.
"We have been doing this for a while now," said Joey Porter. "To open up a new campus, in Pittsburgh, and bring awareness to what is needed, is special. This is home for us. My kids graduated from high school here. There is no better place to do it. To be in the position to give back, help people who can't help themselves, and do this for my daughter Jasmine, it comes full circle.
"We wanted to help the ones who are underserved as well, help the kids, have after school programs, keep them engaged. We want to make sure the streets don't grab them. Anything you can do to help is what we are trying to do."
Sports will also play a role in what the Porters are bringing to the community, with the Jerome Bettis Gym and the Dan Rooney Basketball Court both now open for use.
"What they are doing is for the community," said Bettis. "The goal is to support and create opportunities that might not otherwise be possible. I am so impressed with what everything Joey and Christy have done so far and what their commitment is. It means the world they are doing this because of their daughter, and instead of just dealing with what she is going through, they are helping the needs of just more than themselves. That is a totally selfless thing to do.
"It's a tremendous honor to be a part of it, to have the gym in my name. It means the world to me that they would even think to put my name on that. It's special to me. And to have the Dan Rooney Basketball Court is amazing because of what he stood for, who he was as a man, a father."
And it's what the Porters stand for, what the Jasmine Nyree Campus stands for, that has people in Sheraden, and all across the area, hopeful.
"The reaction has been overwhelming. Very supportive. Very happy," said Christy Porter. "Not only us coming into the community and bringing jobs and resources, but we will also be the social hub in that community. We are coming in and revitalizing buildings that have been sitting for decades as an eye sore for an entire block. The residents are very happy to see the buildings are being repurposed for the community to come and use and have services and them not have to pay a dime for it.
"It has been surreal in all honesty. When we first purchased the campus, the pure intent was to only serve the special needs population. Now hearing the background and needs of the community, and to encompass it and bring it to life for those who didn't have the services, it means more than anything. It's my biggest accomplishment to date to come into a community and provide services that didn't exist. It makes me very happy."