The Catapult Greater Pittsburgh logo, featuring their new mascot, Cat the frog.
It’s a new year and new look for our partner Circles Greater Pittsburgh, now known as Catapult Greater Pittsburgh.
Circles Greater Pittsburgh first started 6 years ago as a local chapter of the national anti-poverty organization Circles USA. Ever since, the organization has grown steadily with its unique, community-centered approach to helping individuals overcome poverty and achieve financial stability.
By 2020, the group had added many different offerings onto the original Circles model, including entrepreneurship and homeownership programs and a retail space for budding minority businesses on Penn Avenue in East Liberty called Gallery on Penn.
It eventually became clear to the organization that it was time to branch out on their own.
“After six great years in partnership with Circles USA, we decided to launch as an independent organization on January 4th, 2021, explained Jodi Salant, Innovation and Growth Manager of Catapult. “Although the leadership, professionals, and many of the programs remain the same, our offerings will be more robust and better suited for the communities we serve.”
A personal mission to help Pittsburgh’s Black communities overcome poverty
Tammy Thompson, Catapult’s executive director and a poverty expert in her own right, says that the shift is also helping them to be more intentional in supporting Pittsburgh’s Black communities.
“We want to provide access to wealth-building opportunities to communities who have been systemically disenfranchised from receiving them for generations,” she said. “Additionally, we want to support communities in unpacking the trauma associated with experiencing long-term poverty and racism and challenge the policies that disproportionately keep Black families living under the poverty line.”
Thompson understands this trauma firsthand. Facing many of the common barriers of systemic racism, her personal path was paved with homelessness, food insecurity, job loss, and countless other obstacles. She was able to use her pain to move out of poverty and has since dedicated her life to empower and equip individuals and families to do the same.
This perspective informs Catapult’s holistic program offering. From emergency resources and peer-to-peer support groups to trauma-informed financial education, wealth building, and political advocacy, the idea is to meet participants where they’re at. Anyone interested can get involved with any of the Catapult programs that make sense for them.
Expanding offerings and reach in 2021
Catapult Greater Pittsburgh is looking forward to expanding this already broad array of programming in 2021. Last year, the PNC Foundation awarded the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) a 10 million dollar grant to be used for equitable economic recovery initiatives in the city, and the URA earmarked one million of it for Catapult’s Startup to Storefront entrepreneurship program. That money is helping Catapult bring this entrepreneurship program and a new retail incubator space—Gallery on Centre—to the Hill District.
In addition to growing their current programming, Catapult will also be launching new programs throughout the year, including “kidpreneur” and culinary programs within their entrepreneurship initiatives. They are also planning to bring on new staff members and are seeking corporate partners to help them reach more people.
With all the new developments, Thompson says they are feeling excited and even more grounded in their mission.
“At Catapult, we do not want to see any individual or family lose their footing based on a temporary financial crisis,” she said. “We understand that it is going to take us working with one individual at a time to pursue economic justice, and that it has to be done with compassion, flexibility, innovation, and dignity, to create the urgently needed opportunities for personal growth in our communities.”
Follow along with Catapult’s growth at catapultpittsburgh.org.