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--- Issued April 17, 2014

“The play was outstanding,” said HACE executive Director John E. Horan, referring to “The Luckiest Grandpa.”

The production, starring public housing youths from the John E. Horan Garden Apartments YMCA Kids Club, was performed April 9-10 at the Erie County Public Library’s Hirt Auditorium.

Students from Lincoln Elementary and Edison Elementary had private shows on April 9 with more than 150 people in attendance.

“The size of the audience was spectacular,” Horan said.  “The majority of the audience was comprised of adults, including parents, relatives, Inter-Agency members, and COPPS officers. "Our young actors really felt special."

The plot centered on a grandfather who became addicted to playing bingo, missed his granddaughters' birthday party, and had a diabetic health scare, leading him to sort out the important things in life.

The 18 young actors were from the John E. Horan Garden Apartments YMCA-Kids Club Theatre group. They were from Pineview, Erie Heights and the John E. Horan Garden Apartments.

The play was sponsored by the Housing Authority, the YMCA of Greater Erie and Preferred Systems, Inc., a provider of continuing education programs in Northwestern Pennsylvania.

Directing the youths were Angela Howell, Marcus Atkinson and Jessica Flock of the Kids Club.

“There’s nothing better than helping children find their passion – something they are good at and like to do,” said Horan. “And most children love the theater.”

Under Horan, the Erie Housing Authority received a NAHRO (National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials) Award of Merit in Housing and Community Development for its YMCA Theatre Arts Program.

Horan feels his best work is providing support services such as the theater program for the families who live in public housing to help them get on their feet financially and move up the economic ladder.  Besides the theater program, he has pioneered a full-range of convenient on-site services designed to remove barriers to self-sufficiency, including: Head Start, child care, adult education, English as a Second Language, Job training, job opportunities, education incentives, as well as scholarships, internships, medical clinics, youth centers, libraries, art clubs, boat building and sailing, scouting, mental health counseling, and even therapeutic horseback riding.

The theater program began in 2005. The youths involved learn the basics of developing; setting up, and performing in live theatrical productions.

The Authority's support services program, including activities listed above and others in its summer youth program, is believed to be "one of the most innovative in the country," according to Jacqueline Molinaro-Thompson, division director of public housing in Pittsburgh's Department of Housing and Urban Development field office.