In 2009, the nonprofit assistance organization then known as South Hills Interfaith Ministries moved into its Bethel Park center on South Park Road.

“We knew then there were issues with the building that we wanted to address at some point going forward,” executive director Jim Guffey recalled.

Improvements such as a roof replacement and security system installation took place during the next several years, and the opportunity for a major overhaul finally came with the receipt of a $370,000 grant from the Allegheny County Gaming Economic Development Tourism Fund.

“That prompted us to think about expansion and improved accessibility and safety, and making it more of a welcoming space,” Seth Dubin, director of development and communications, said. “It ended up being a pretty significant cost to us. Luckily, we had the generosity of a lot of people in the community who stepped forward to help underwrite it.”

With most of the work expected to wrap up by the start of June, members of the since-renamed South Hills Interfaith Movement staff look forward to settling into their renovated space.

The project makes the building compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards. Upgrades include:

• Reconfiguring 7,200 square feet of existing space to enhance client support services, such as the addition of private meeting rooms, and office layouts.

• A 350-square-foot addition at the lower level to provide an accessible entrance near the parking area at the rear of the building. The addition will feature a lobby and reception area, along with a new vestibule for energy-efficient entry.

• A 360-square-foot elevator tower to provide accessibility to both of the building’s floors.

• Consolidating staff offices on the upper level, relocating support staff to the lower level near the new entrance.

• Improving the food pantry and clothing shop on the lower level.

• Replacing existing mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering systems for improved efficiency.

• Creating a new conference room on the lower level for use by local community groups.

“As we look to the future, it opens the opportunity for the facility and SHIM to be an even greater community asset,” Guffey said, and regarding a popular outdoor feature, he reassured: “The garden that occupies our front lawn will return, and it will be expanded.”

Since 1968, SHIM has provided food, clothing and services to help combat suburban poverty, a situation faced by a growing number of residents.

“Our numbers doubled during the pandemic, and they doubled again after,” Dubin said. “We’ve been lucky enough to be able to keep up with it because of we’ve had the capacity and the support of the community.”

According to SHIM, its food pantries welcomed 930 new households in 2023, and the pantries benefited 7,869 individuals last year.

“We now take a box truck to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and load that up with 7,000 pounds of food six times a month,” Dubin reported. “It is quite an operation, all really spearheaded by volunteers.”

During the Bethel Park renovation, pantry items are distributed in a drive-through manner. And as far as parking, the lot at neighboring Bethany Lutheran Church has accommodated SHIM-bound vehicles.

“The church has been phenomenal,” Guffey said. “They truly see us as part of their mission of what they’re supposed to be doing.”

Along with the Gaming Economic Development Tourism Fund, financial support for the project came from the Jefferson Regional Foundation, Eden Hall Foundation and individual donors, who in general account for about 60% of SHIM contributions, Dubin said.

MCF Architecture, the nation’s 17th-longest-running firm in that field, developed the design for the renovated building. The contractor is Volpatt Construction Corp. of Castle Shannon.

Look for an opening ceremony in late summer or early fall, according to Guffey.

For more information about South Hills Interfaith Movement, visit

Harry Funk is a TribLive news editor, specifically serving as editor of the Hampton, North Allegheny, North Hills, Pine Creek and Bethel Park journals. A professional journalist since 1985, he joined TribLive in 2022. You can contact Harry at