TPN x Nazareth Prep | Rankin Christian Center central to community life

Written by high school students at Nazareth Prep, this story is part of a series about Rankin and Braddock.


Photo courtesy of Yvonne Spencer

Yvonne Spencer is a long-time resident of Rankin, and has spent many years working at the Rankin Christian Center.

Growing up with a strict mother is always hard for a child, especially when you’re the youngest of four children. But luckily for Yvonne Spencer, now an adult who lives in Rankin, her accessible place of freedom was the Rankin Christian Center.

Located in the heart of Rankin Borough, The Rankin Christian Center is a historic building that was founded in 1904. The center is involved with many programs and activities to help better the lives of people who live in the neighborhood and the City of Pittsburgh broadly.

“As I look back on my years, the center has always been a vital part of my life,” Spencer said.

As she told a crowd of people at the center at a community meeting in January, the Rankin Christian Center brought her love, patience and the desire to give back to others. Since she lived close to the center, it was always available for her accessibility.

Spencer started attending the center while she was in elementary school, and made lots of childhood friends there. As a high school student, Yvonne began to work at the RCC as a volunteer. She volunteered at the nursery school, in the office and in various program activities.

“They took me under their wings and gave me so much love and encouragement when I was a shy girl,” she said about the friends she made there.

When she graduated high school, she got a job at the center as a nursery school teacher. She went on to work different jobs at the center, including being a receptionist, a secretary and a program director for two different programs.

It’s a special blessing to have played a part in so many lives with a job that I absolutely enjoyed,” she said.

Now, Spencer volunteers twice a month in the senior program and leads overnight field trips for the senior program four times a year. She encourages all of the seniors to get out and be active through fun programs like the senior fashion show.

Spencer isn’t the only person with positive memories of the center. Coleen Champ, the current youth program director at the RCC, is proud that the center has impacted so many people in its 115-year history.

The agency has always viewed itself as part of the community and has adapted to the changes and needs of the community,” she said.

The center serves thousands of people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities. It hosts programs for teenagers, adults and seniors, and also has a food bank that serves about 200 families every month. Through all these programs, Champ said, the center is able to be a dynamic presence in the Rankin community.

“Good human service or social work is when you respond to what the community asks for, and that’s what the center does,” she said. “I think the fact that we serve so many people in so many different ways and we work as a team, I think that’s what makes the center a special place.”

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