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At the McKeesport Agape Center, they're not just fixing problems — they're finding solutions

Updated: Mar 1

Article originally posted by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, written by Laura Esposito. lesposito@post-gazette.com


The McKeesport Agape Center started from a Facebook page, and some leftover pork chops in Kelly Doyle’s freezer.

Born and raised in McKeesport, Ms. Doyle, 50, has always been aware of the inequalities that plague the area, where 27% of residents live below the poverty line — more than double the national average.

As someone who “hates to see people suffer,” Ms. Doyle decided to act. More than a decade ago, she launched a Facebook group called “What’s Happening in White Oak,” a community-based page for people in her neighborhood — another Mon Valley community bordering McKeesport — to express their need for food and other necessities. 

“I would take pork chops, or whatever I had leftover in my freezer, and give it to people,” Ms. Doyle said.

The group’s popularity skyrocketed, with more than 14,000 followers today. But Ms. Doyle wanted more. So in 2019, she sold her business, an advertising agency, and founded an official food bank —  McKeesport Agape Center — with her husband, 49-year-old Mike Doyle.

Volunteers pitched in to help launch the nonprofit organization — donating their time, money, and even a building.

The Agape Center first operated in Ms. Doyle’s garage, then her former office, a 1,500-square-foot site. It was cramped, but the only option. That changed in March 2020, when Ms. Doyle discovered $155,000 had been deposited into her Paypal.

A friend contacted Ms. Doyle and told her who the donor was. Once they spoke, the donor — who asked Ms. Doyle not to name them — told her the money was for her to purchase a church on Prescott Street that was listed for sale. With the help of this stranger’s kindness, the 13,000-square-foot building became the Agape Center’s headquarters. 

Now, they serve and deliver goods to approximately 1,200 households monthly — and it’s more than just meals. The Agape Center offers resume writing workshops, clothing closets, and a pet pantry.

Ms. Doyle said her goal isn’t just to help those in need; she wants to help them find solutions.

One day last year she encountered a homeless man on the street with holes in his shoes. He told Ms. Doyle he wanted to work but couldn’t find a job. So, she and other volunteers at The Agape Center “walked with him the whole way.” 

They purchased him new work boots and helped him find a job. Now, he lives in an apartment he pays for.

“I want to leave people better than I found them,” she said.

Another way she does that is by making sure their children have toys to unwrap on Christmas morning. 


This will be the second year the Agape Center will participate in the Marines’ Toys for Tots distribution. Working with Pittsburgh Cares, the Marines distribute toys directly to agencies like the center that help needy families.

Ms. Doyle said she hopes to distribute toys to more than 3,600 children. An ambitious goal, but according to her, the Agape Center is “built on miracles.”

That’s where the PG Charities Goodfellows Fund campaign comes in. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has been running Goodfellows since 1947, which raises money for the Toys for Tots program.

From now until Christmas, the Post-Gazette will profile other agencies that benefit from Goodfellows. Here’s how to help: Post-Gazette readers can make a tax-deductible donation using the coupon that appears with this story and sending it to Post-Gazette Goodfellows, Box 590, Pittsburgh PA 15230, or you can donate online at www.post-gazette.com/goodfellows. A tradition of Goodfellows is that the PG acknowledges every contribution in the newspaper.

The Agape Center plans to expand next year into more areas surrounding Pittsburgh, like Braddock, North Braddock, and Rankin. Ms. Doyle is also hoping to hire four employees. Up until now, the organization has been entirely run by volunteers.

“People come in [to the Agape Center] and they do not leave the way they came in,” said Ms. Doyle. “And that’s what drives us.” 


First Published November 30, 2023, 5:30am



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