Outreach: Turning the big 5-0!

Group of people standing together
Original Outreach board members

Pat had a difficult family life, with parents showing little interest in how he spent his days. Morris had a great family, but just didn’t fit in with his peers. Anna was off-the-charts gifted but didn’t engage with her classes.

To escape the daily grind, these teens turned to drugs and became part of a group that skipped school to hang out at Mt. Lebanon Park. It was during one of these afternoons that a counselor from Outreach approached them. He had a genuine interest in what they were experiencing and showed up consistently, without judgment, to listen and learn from the teens who were spending their days at the park. Eventually, he suggested they visit Outreach’s office in Uptown Mt. Lebanon.

There, they formed groups, talked about their lives and the challenges that they faced with difficult families, disinterested or absent parents and complicated sibling relationships. The counselors who ran the groups understood that the drug use was masking emotional and psychological stressors; they encouraged the teens to explore these emotions and issues so that they could create new coping skills and healthy habits.

This is how it all started in 1974—a group of caring, nonjudgmental adults making meaningful connections with teens in need of support, counsel and guidance as they navigated their complicated worlds. It’s why Outreach mattered back then; and it’s why we still matter today, nearly 50 years later.

Outreach Teen & Family Services’ origins date back to the 1960s as a grassroots concept between the Mt. Lebanon Police Department and the community relations board. The organization was officially formed in 1974 under a grant from the Pennsylvania State Law Enforcement Assistance Administration. In 1981, the organization incorporated as a nonprofit agency with the name Outreach South, later changed to Outreach Teen & Family Services.

For five decades, Outreach has been a community resource to help youth and families thrive by providing counseling and educational programs in a welcoming and supportive environment. While we’ve evolved with the times, our primary purpose remains to be a place of comfort and compassion, where kids and families can find professional counselors ready to guide them along their journeys.

Our core group of clients is still mainly teens, ages 13-17, but the agency has expanded over the years, and we now also work with clients as young as 5 and as old as 21. Issues our counselors focus on have moved from predominantly drug and alcohol to a broader range of topics that includes anxiety, depression, stress, adjustment and family/school issues.

In November, we will kick off our 50th Anniversary Campaign with our annual appeal.  Donate and join us as we embark on our path to continue helping children, teens, and families for the next 50 years. And stay tuned for more details about our annual Connections Gala on April 26, 2024, where we will be celebrating our history and looking toward our future.

We want to hear from you! Do you or a family member have an Outreach story to share? Contact Mary Birks, mbirks@outreachteen.org, and learn how your experiences can be included in our 50th Anniversary video and social media campaign. (All stories can remain anonymous.)