Each year, we honor a special individual or organization with the Pearl of Hope Award. This award recognizes the deep commitment of an individual or an organization to the mission of Sojourner House and Sojourner MOMS. We’re proud to award the 2023 Pearl of Hope Award to our long-time community partner, Homeless Children’s Education Fund (HCEF)!
For 15 years, Sojourner House and HCEF have partnered on a number of projects aimed at helping the children and families served by Sojourner House. The Pearl of Hope award represents our thanks and gratitude for HCEF’s never-ending support and dedication to our mutual work.
A Shared Mission
Sojourner House and HCEF share a dedication to supporting and educating children experiencing homelessness in our community.
The mission of HCEF is to advance the education of children and youth experiencing homelessness in Southwestern PA, guiding them to be productive, empowered citizens. This mission aligns strongly with Sojourner House’s dedication to strengthening family relationships and promoting self-sufficiency.
Both of our organizations know that education – and parental and familial involvement in education – are key to helping children become successful and empowered.
Working Together Since 2008
In 2008, HCEF first connected and supported Sojourner House by providing backpacks and school supplies for the children in our Preschool Learning Center. Beyond these tangible donations, HCEF also gave an educational mini-grant, which enabled Sojourner House staff to provide further enrichment activities for the kids in our care.
“It takes a community to help our families thrive and I thank HCEF for being an instrumental community partner for Sojourner House MOMS,” said De’netta Benjamin-Miller, Executive Director of Sojourner House. “HCEF’s collaboration with Sojourner House MOMS to enhance our play yard speaks to their commitment to our mission and, most all, our children.”The relationship between HCEF and Sojourner House has grown strong over the last 15 years, built on this common foundation. Currently, HCEF continues to provide afterschool programs and supplies as they did so many years ago. But their impact in the daily lives of our children has grown. We are proud to have HCEF learning centers at our facilities, which give our kids a dedicated space of their own to do homework, use the computer, play with toys and video games, or read. Having a dedicated space where the kids can be kids is fundamental to providing care and services to our families.
The learning center is also the hub of our summer camps, sponsored by HCEF. Four days a week through July and August, volunteers and Pittsburgh Public School teachers provide days of fun and educational activities, including art projects, academic work, a weekly field trip, and physical activities in the summer sun!
“The collaboration between Homeless Children’s Education Fund (HCEF) and the Sojourner House is truly perfection. We believe and trust in the work the Sojourner House performs for families, providing a safe haven for children. We, then, support those families with educational programs and opportunities preparing the children to grow into productive citizens,” said Ardana “AJ” Jefferson, Executive Director, Homeless Children’s Education Fund.
Collaboration on MOMS Green
It was this long-standing relationship that led HCEF and Sojourner House to undertake their largest project ever, MOMS Green. Sojourner House’s outdoor play yard was first opened in 2011 and quickly became a favorite spot for our families to meet, play, and socialize. But 11 years of use meant that it was time for us to upgrade the space, ensuring it remains accessible and beneficial to our clients and their families. HCEF partnered with us to take on this huge undertaking, and on November 10, 2022, they were able to cut the ribbon with us on our new pavilion and play space, where our families can share a meal, play a game, plant a garden, celebrate together, or just enjoy the outdoors.
“Partnering with the Sojourner House has allowed HCEF to have a seat at the table on its exciting developments, such as the MOMS Green and its new pavilion,” said Jefferson. “We are honored to be a part of the Sojourner House family and look forward to continuing our historic partnership in helping our city’s most vulnerable.”
Sojourner House is grateful to the Homeless Children’s Education Fund for their years of support, partnership, and dedication to the youth of our community. The Pearl of Hope award honors that long tradition and symbolizes our continued commitment to the future.
“Nelson Mandela said, ‘It is in your hands, to make a better world for all who live in it.’ Thank you HCEF for making the world a better place for our children,” said Benjamin-Miller.