GOING BACK TO HELP OTHERS UP
Bill Strickland grew up in Manchester, an inner-city Pittsburgh neighborhood that some people call a ghetto. He left for a college education but he didn’t turn his back on Manchester; he came back and now works four blocks from the house where he grew up. That work is all about helping other kids like he was see their way to productive, fulfilling lives.
INSPIRED BY A TEACHER
It started for in high school for Strickland. He was amazed at the beauty his art teacher could make with a potter’s wheel and a mound of clay. He saw that process as an analogy for shaping young lives into something beautiful.
While still in college, Strickland founded the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild to teach children how to make pottery. Not exactly rolling in money, he secured the donation of a row house so that he had a place for the equipment and the training. After graduating, he took over a struggling trade school, the Bidwell Training Center, which provided vocational training to displaced and underemployed workers.
GOING BIG / MAKING ALLIANCES
The Bidwell Training Center, now morphed into the nonprofit Manchester Bidwell Corporation, was and is his base of operations. Pittsburgh unemployment was high, and Strickland started teaching skills that people needed in order to get work. He formed relationships with local businesses, government officials, and other individuals who, like him, saw the potential of this work.
“If this country has a future,” he says, “it’s because of the ability to form visions and partnerships.”
Strickland learned how to raise money, enough that his operation now serves almost 4,000 young people a year through classes and workshops in ceramics, photography, digital imaging, and design art.
His training center offers accredited Associates degrees in fields as wide-ranging as culinary arts, chemistry, health, horticulture, and office technology. It contains a gallery, a recording studio, and a greenhouse. Graduates become pharmaceutical, medical, and chemical technicians, as well as travel agents.
A GREAT RESULT FOR HIS LIFELONG EFFORT The Manchester Bidwell Corporation is a mainstay of Pittsburgh life now, a place of hope, a place where, as Strickland says, “Your most authentic talents, passion, values, and experiences intersect with the chance to contribute to some greater good.”
Now retired, he knows that hundreds of Pittsburgh citizens now have solid adult lives because of his dedication and his approach. “It’s all in the way we treat people—and ourselves—that determines a person’s outcome.”