Up the hill from downtown Monessen, between Epiphany of Our Lord Church and Beverly C. Draper Funeral Home, is a long-abandoned social hall.
Though the deed sets “actual consideration” for 529 Sixth St. at $5,000, the nonprofit Monessen Youth Activity Center Inc. bought it in 2015 for $1 from Melvin R. and Carole A. Hall.
Herb Lippincott, a 20-year military veteran involved at home in such activities as coaching Little League, and his partner Devin Whitlock hope they can turn what the deed calls “a one-story frame store room and a two-story cement block building” into a place where services ranging from sports to tutoring can be offered.
“I just need some help,” Lippincott said Tuesday. “I need some people who genuinely care about these kids as I do.”
He said his partner and Whitlock’s fianceé, Chrissy Dugan, care, too.
“When their two boys bring friends to the house, they go out of their way to make sure that not only their kids but sometimes three, four, five kids go to their practices, to their games, taking them to the high school games,” Lippincott said.
“When I get a chance to visit them at the Whitlocks’ home, they feed them,” he went on. “(Devin) and his fiance do a lot for these kids.”
Lippincott has been working for 10 years on his idea — when he wasn’t deployed with his Army Reserve unit as happened on four occasions, twice to Iraq and once each to Afghanistan and Kosovo.
“We are in the process of trying to get the building up and running,” Lippincott told Monessen City Council last week.
He’s seen a similar facility in Coraopolis, near where his military unit is based.
He said it has been helped out by various foundations, such as a gift of 70 sets of golf clubs from the Tiger Woods Foundation.
“We have juniors and seniors in Monessen High School who are homeless,” Lippincott said. “There is nothing, nothing in Monessen for these kids and we found out that other towns that have a center for kids are able to write for grants and get different things for kids in their area.”
Lippincott also appeared before city council two years ago, not long after the transfer of the deed for the building was filed with the Recorder of Deeds at the Westmoreland County courthouse. And he’s gone before the Monessen City school board.
“And I told them, ‘You have this little boy and this little girl who live in certain areas in Monessen,’” such as Park Manor or Highland Manor, Lippincott said.
“These children who come to school may not be the best students,” he went on. “They’re maybe even troubled students. These kids aren’t here to get an education, even if their attendance is outstanding. That child is hungry. He’s going to go get breakfast, he’s going to get lunch, he might not get another meal until he gets back there.”
Lippincott also registered the center as a nonprofit organization with Pennsylvania state officials.
“We have kids from Monessen who go to college,” Lippincott said. “When they come home for the summer, we could supply these college kids with summer jobs. Those jobs could include tutoring youngsters.”
Lippincott said he’s moved to Jefferson Hills but still bleeds the black-and-white colors of Monessen High School.
“I’m still a Greyhound,” the would-be youth center operator said.
At last week’s council meeting Mayor Lou Mavrakis and other city officials gave their support to Lippincott, who wants to renovate what decades ago had been a lodge of the Sons of Italy.
“We will do what we can on this end,” the mayor said.
The property has gone through multiple lives since that ethnic lodge left, as has property next door at 533 Sixth where a laundromat used to operate.
A sign still hangs outside from the days when 529 Sixth St. was home to Club Mix, an establishment once known as well as the New Wave Club. It was closed in 2007 by Westmoreland County District Attorney John W. Peck as a nuisance bar.
It remains on Monessen’s tax rolls — as a delinquent property, owing $15,115.85 including $445.79 for 2016 alone, even though Lippincott was told he was free and clear of tax liens.
“He got shafted,” Mavrakis observed late last week. Still, as the mayor said at the council meeting, “We’re all in agreement that taxes could be waived.”
Such agreement also would have to come from Monessen City School District and Westmoreland County. The mayor expressed hope that those entities also would be willing to forgive the tax liens.
“The school board told us that we need to go to the city about a tax break,” Lippincott said. “That is why we went to the city. We also have a letter from the state, that the state granted us a tax forgiveness. That was a couple of years ago, when we first bought the building. We didn’t know that there were all the taxes that were owed on it. It kind of put us in a bad place. We’re reaching out to anybody who can help us out.”
Councilman Edward Lea said he would put Lippincott in touch with the city’s new recreation board.
In February council adopted a resolution creating the Monessen Recreation/Civic Center board of directors and appointed a director and board members.
Kevin Iacovangelo was appointed executive director and Marlon Wheeler, Cheryl Fleming, Dave Evans, Patsy Altimore, John Sawnn, Jessica Popovich and Chad Carrotto were appointed to the board.
Lippincott said he can be contacted at 724-882-9265, while Whitlock can be reached at 724-518-5679.