Finding a Home in Homestead
Before opening, Dragon’s Den participated in a number of events in order to hear the community’s thoughts and wishes. The number of people that were interested in volunteering and finding out more about our plans delighted and surprised us.
Pursuing their passion for community engagement, the founders began a naming contest in the community’s schools, churches, libraries, and local businesses. Five thousand flyers were printed, and the response was overwhelming. In a few short weeks, we received hundreds of suggestions from across the community.
A focus group of children and adults selected the winning name, and Dragon’s Den was born. Years ago, St. Mary Magdalene’s was home to the Dragons, a name that still has meaning to the adults and parents of the community, and we are proud to carry on that tradition.
The central location of the iconic building between local parks and schools presents a unique opportunity to adapt the well-established concept of the Italian “Oratorio” to our community. The Oratorio is a central and safe place where kids can independently walk and receive the tools they need to thrive through activities, empathy, and continuous engagement.
From Empty Church to Community Center
“The worship site is one of many Catholic churches in this region forced to close its doors as industry downsized, pushing people away from their homes…
“The town will be their biggest supporters. It is good to see that site being maintained and used instead of it being another area of blight.”
“As the Mayor of the Borough of Homestead, I am pleased to support the conception of a long awaited activity center for the youth of the Steel Valley… The community is anticipating wonderful results from having this type of facility within their boundaries. Collaborating with local non-profits as well as our schools is another positive feature of this program. I feel enriching children’s lives in as many ways as possible is a worthwhile health goal for the entire Steel valley, and I am anxious to see the results of this type of learning”
– Betty Esper, Mayor of Homestead Borough
“Like many other steel towns, the collapse of the steel industry, particularly US Steel’s Homestead Works, in the 1980’s led to great economic distress throughout the Steel Valley area that persists to this day…. As the Superintendent of Steel Valley School District, I see many ways in which The Dragon’s Den will complement our curriculum. As a resident in the Steel Valley community, I am excited that passionate and caring people like the Petrucci’s are bringing their creative energies to Homestead. I look forward to working together with the Dragon’s Den in an effort to improve the lives of the children of our community.”
– Edward Wehrer, Superintendent, Steel Valley School District.
“As the Co-Founder and President of another non-profit … I wholeheartedly support such an innovative youth center. Mrs Giulia Petrucci, the founder, made a concerted effort to meet with me last year to get my reactions, to benchmark her programs, and to discuss opportunities for partnership and collaboration. I was impressed by her energy, her passion, her drive, and her creativity. I knew then that it would only be a matter of time before she achieved her dream for the children of Homestead.”
– Josephine B. Moore, Co-Founder & President Emerita
“This initiative is sorely needed in the Steel Valley area. Since the decline of the steel industry, many businesses have closed and many residents have relocated, the children who live in the community today, as well as surrounding communities will benefit from the opportunity to grow their leadership skills as well as trust, respect and responsibility, the children need and deserve a sage environment that will help grow needed skills in a safe environment. I am excited to welcome this endeavor to our community. I look forward to working with Dragon’s Den and exploring partnerships that can benefit the students of Saint Therese School and the surrounding communities”
– Jonathan M. Cuniak, Saint Therese School Principal
“The Dragon’s Den is evolving daily as a place for children to learn, to explore, and to grow. It is an ingenious idea that is motivated by the generous inventive spirits of Mr. and Mrs. Petrucci. I have personally seen the project as it has developed and I support this dream of creating a child-focused center 150%. I look forward to the day our school children can enjoy a visit to the Dragon’s Den.”
– Sr. Lynn Rettinger, Sacred Heart Elementary Principal
“We are excited that the Dragon’s Den has acquired the former St. Mary Magdalene Church and Rectory in Homestead and plans to renovate the property. As a center for youth activities, this project will complement our revitalization and bring vibrancy to the Avenue area.”
– Cathrine Lesko, President of The Steel Enterprise Zone Corporation
“The reuse of the former church building as an activity and learning experience for children is a perfect addition to our Steel Valley community. A children and youth activity/ learning center will enhance the life experience available for local and regional children. This will be a perfect reuse of a building that has stood as a community asset for close to 100 years.”
– C.L., R.V. Anderson Funeral Home Inc.
“As a founder and president of a nonprofit, I am excited to welcome this very unique multi-purpose activity center serving the young people in Pittsburgh. I also look forward to the collaboration between our organizations in the promotion of mind-broadening experiences for our youth.”
– Hilda Pang Fu, Founder and President Luminari Inc.
“The[ir] commitment to the community, the people (especially youth), has been inspirational and an asset of the town…. The Dragon’s Den is now an anchor.”
– Lloyd Cunningham, Homestead Borough Council
Enduring Memories of St. Mary Magdalene's Church
“I went to school there from kindergarten until 6th grade, [and] I was a member of the church until it closed. I was baptized, had my communion, and was married in the church. It’s great to see the church space not being wasted.”
– Dan Lesko
“When I was told about the activity center I was very excited. I think the center will breath new life into what is already a beautiful structure. I was honored when they chose my suggestion for the name!”
– Dawn Packer
“I am a Sister … and I taught at St. Mary Magdalene two different times our parents worked at the mill all of their lives. These people were wonderful “down to earth”. THANK YOU for bringing added life to this area, and I wish you great success”
– Signed email
“I grew up in Homestead and belonged to the parish and attended the school. I love the new idea for the former church and offer the following suggestion as a name “Angels’ Haven” … Be assured of my prayers for all involved in the new endeavor.”
– Signed email
“I am so happy the church is being used for something good. I will be relieved my grandkids will have a safe place to go. They are the answer to a lot of the mothers’ prayer! Safe place for our children and grandkids to be. Thank you!! Thank God.”
– Mrs. Paula Shields Glancy, Local Crossing Guard
“Saw your flyer asking for name submissions to your new center … Youth Empowerment is what it will hopefully achieve for the local youth. They don’t have many outlets that I see besides a few parks. If you seek volunteers, (or employees) I am 60 years old, have lived in Homestead 6 years. I live walking distance to it, have flexible hours at work”
– Signed email