For today’s visit, the Woodcock Global Honors Fellowship traveled to the neighborhood of Homewood to visit Everyday Cafe and talk with Dr. John M. Wallace Jr., who is a part of the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work. Dr. Wallace discussed his past as a resident of Homewood, and how he always wanted to give back to the community that raised him. In fact, the Everyday Cafe was located on the same block that he lived on as a child.
Dr. Wallace’s ventures to develop Homewood begin with an area called the Bible Center. We discussed the different developments in the small location that housed the project. Within three blocks of each other, Dr. Wallace and his team had created administrative offices, a Bio-Shelter, an outdoor classroom, the Everyday Cafe, and a ministry house and farm. Future plans included a business development center, a commercial kitchen, a pre-school and a “Maker’s Clubhouse”.
The plan imagined by Dr. Wallace was to use these facilities to mend the community and economic division of Homewood. These ideas were detailed in the Oasis Project. The most significant part of the Oasis Project in my opinion was the Oasis Transportation Company, which is a bus system for children who had to walk to school as a result of an ordinance from the township. Dr. Wallace’s character truly shown through this facet of the Oasis Project, where kids now are safely transported to school where they would have to face dangerous conditions otherwise.
The fact that Dr. Wallace is able to fulfill his childhood visions through not-for-profit efforts and still make a profit impressed me. He has created various opportunities for the youth in Homewood, such as creating STEAM classes outside of the classroom, as Homewood’s education system provides students with only nine weeks of science per year. The Everyday Cafe employs teenage residents, and functions as a meeting place for a continually-diversifying demographic. The local gardens provide the rest of the projects with fresh food, where otherwise produce would be imported from thousands of miles away. Dr. Wallace’s achievements in the Bible Center area display an inspirational example of innovation, entrepreneurship, and ability to manage in a complex environment, all while thriving in a not-for-profit setting.