Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Mckees Rocks Native Honored for Pursuing Community Potential

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Mckees Rocks Native Honored for Pursuing Community Potential

Article excerpt

Taris Vrcek was surprised when he learned Focus on Renewal wanted to honor him at its gala Saturday for his contributions to community development in McKees Rocks.

"A lot of people are doing good work. A lot of people are worthy. I'm just grateful for the honor," Mr. Vrcek said.

Under his direction, the McKees Rocks Community Development Corp. has launched a number of programs to restore economic vitality to the borough.

Mr. Vrcek is the executive director and a founding member of the organization, which began its work in 2004.

"We all saw this potential in the community. The unique downtown buildings, the riverfront, the proximity to downtown Pittsburgh and envisioned what the town could become," he said.

While economic development became the core mission of the redevelopment corporation, Mr. Vrcek said, the organization wanted to go further and develop a larger community development strategy that would encompass the neighborhoods and also work with the residents to help them succeed as well.

"Focus on Renewal was the perfect partner to develop this strategy," he said.

Focus on Renewal is a nonprofit that offers a wide range of social services in the McKees Rocks area to help young and elderly people and families.

The Rev. Regis Ryan, a Roman Catholic priest who guided Focus on Renewal for many years, was one of the founding members of the community development corporation and he helped to foster a close working relationship between the two groups, Mr. Vrcek said.

One initiative the collaboration produced is a program to help local residents develop the work skills needed in today's job market.

CSX Railroad is in the process of building an intermodal transfer hub in the McKees Rocks Industrial Park that will create hundreds of high-paying jobs, and Mr. Vrcek wants to work with CSX to help local residents compete for a share of those jobs.

He represents the third generation of his family to live in McKees Rocks, and he knows intimately the heritage of McKees Rocks as a center for manufacturing and the railroads, all built on the strong work ethic of those who grew up and lived in the town. …

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