‘Never known help to be this amazing’ - Steel Valley Family Center partners with organizations during difficult holiday season


Despite a difficult 2020, many Allegheny County families found comfort and relief with the help of our Family Support Centers over the holidays, including Alecia Hughes.

Like many, she described her year as “a whirlwind” due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hughes gave birth to her second child, Josyah, last August but lost her job as a manager at a Pittsburgh restaurant which permanently closed due to the ongoing pandemic. Her boyfriend (now fiance) lost his job in November as the holiday season approached.Hughes Family

“We had no income, we had no anything,” she said. She began to temper her children’s expectations on presents as they fell behind on rent and utility bills.

In November, specialists at the Steel Valley Family Center reached out to Hughes to learn how they could help.

About a month later — a week before Christmas — Hughes received a phone call from Sharlene Sikorski, family development specialist at the Steel Valley center, who asked if Hughes was home.

“I’m always home,” Hughes responded, with a baby in tow.

A few minutes later, Sikorski was at Hughes’ doorstep with a bag full of gifts provided by the Salvation Army through its “Adopt A Family” program.

There was much more.

Sikorski filled up her late-father’s truck with gifts for the entire Hughes family, including clothing, toys, footwear, a bicycle, baby supplies and even Alecia’s top wish list item — a deep fryer — all for the Hughes family.

“Watching their faces light up was priceless,” Hughes said of her children. “I’ve never known help to be this amazing,” she added, fighting back tears. “This has been such a huge help for me and my family. I thought, ‘Now we’re actually going to have a Christmas.’”

In addition to the presents, Hughes received assistance from several other organizations, including Real Help Real Time (RHRT), which helped pay many of her outstanding bills. In addition, Eat-N-Park continues to provide meal boxes twice a week to Hughes and many other families around the region.

“It’s not just (Hughes) who received help like this, it’s a lot of our families,” Sikorski said.

While the Steel Valley Family Center, like all others, is not open for in-person family visits, virtual visits are still happening regularly to continue its mission of healthy child development.

“The center is always busy,” said Steel Valley Family Center Director Holly Cherpak. “It’s a good, crazy chaos.”

For more information on our Family Support Centers, click here.