New Castle News

New Castle

March 11, 2014

Steelers Partnership: From rags to riches, Croton native finds success by putting God, others first



Had he followed the path of some others in his family, things might have turned out differently.

One of his relatives earned a place on America’s Most Wanted List for murder. Others had drug problems.

“That kind of thing can repeat unless a person chooses to go a different direction,” he said. “That wasn’t what I wanted.”

But Damian acknowledges he didn’t do it by himself. “You have to be blessed with good people in your life,” he said.

“And every step of my journey, from a kid through teen years and into adulthood, I was blessed with good mentors.

Mrs. Collingwood, a teacher at Croton Elementary, was one of those. “She made an impression about getting a good education and making something out of my life.”

Damian became more serious about his studies and eventually began tutoring other students.

“She was key in helping me set a trajectory.”

Growing up in New Castle was another blessing, according to Damian. “It’s the most competitive place in the world,” he said.


As a young teen, Damian became a follower of Jesus Christ.

A neighbor, Dr. Jim Snow, used to drive neighborhood children to vacation Bible School and Sunday School at Croton United Methodist.

Damian began reading Scripture in seventh grade and was particularly affected by a verse that proclaimed the followers of Jesus “would have springs of living water flowing in and through them.”

He joined the youth group at Wesleyan Church on Pulaski Road, although he admitted at first it was just to play basketball there.

“But Rob Wothridge and Rev. Tim Figgs took me under their wings,” said Damian, who became a youth group leader there. By age 15, was teaching and preaching at church.

He desired to be a pastor and after high school attended Indiana Wesleyan College in Marion, Ind. He moved to Wisconsin and helped start a church — the first of many he would plant.

He met Anne in 1997 at a church camp in Wyoming, recruiting for a Christian School. He was so smitten by her that he convinced a pastor friend to create a position for her. They eventually married and he brought her to western Pennsylvania.

“Ministry was the right idea for me, but not as a traditional pastor,” Damian said.

He decided to launch an inner-city church in Pittsburgh. In 2006, the Steel City Church opened at a location that previously served as a nightclub.

“We put up posters throughout the Strip District and more than 200 people came to the first service,” he said. “Drug dealers, drug users, prostitutes and impoverished people came looking for God.”

Damian linked with Ilkin following a sports team chapel service he conducted. They soon shared ideas, and Ilkin embraced Damian’s vision.

“We created an experience on the road for Steeler fans, who are already there (in road locations prior to Steeler games) waiting for the team because they live in those markets,” Damian said.

“Fans can show up the team hotel, meet players and have a meal. Then Tunch talks about his Steeler experience and what it means to be a Pittsburgh Steeler. We used that revenue to keep the inner city church going.

“Steeler fans just want to hear about the journey, and we let the players like Antwaan Randel-El and Randy Clark tell the story.”

As for Damian’s journey, it’s been quite a ride, and it’s still going.



Text Only | Photo Reprints
New Castle
  • Taggart.jpg Arsonists damage New Castle’s football field

    With the New Castle football team just days away from the start of practice, vandals have hit Taggart Stadium. Someone set fire to artificial turf at the stadium and damaged a blocking sled the team uses in practice.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • school.jpg New Castle hires information technology director

    The New Castle school district has a new information technology director. At its meeting this week the board hired Emily Sanders of Cranberry Township to fill the position, left vacant by the retirement of Beth Barber.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • NC_Hoops.jpg Former Lady 'Canes stars reunite for tour of Europe

    Ryenn Micaletti and Abby Allen are headed to Europe. Micaletti and Allen — both members of the 2007 WPIAL Class AAAA girls basketball championship team — have joined forces with News Release Basketball to spend nearly three weeks in Germany and Belgium later this summer playing basketball and helping run clinics.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • High school registration scheduled at New Castle

    Registration has been set for new students in grades seven through 12 moving into the New Castle school district.

    July 15, 2014

  • Police.jpg Couple accused of contacting rape victim

    A man accused of raping a woman at gunpoint allegedly tried to get her to drop the charges.

    July 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • festival1.jpg Break out the bubbly

    New Castle may be the Fireworks Capital of America, but Friday night bubbles filled the air.

    July 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • wampum1.jpg State title ties: Wampum, New Castle teams celebrate incredible success

    Their spectaular success stories are separated by more than a half century. But they sat side-by-side Thursday morning, sharing more than just breakfast at Jata’s Diner, a familiar meeting spot for former Wampum High School players. 

    July 5, 2014 4 Photos

  • Hooker.tiff Male Athlete of the Year: New Castle's Malik Hooker

    Once in a while, an athlete comes along who redefines the very word. Then, there’s Malik Hooker. The New Castle High graduate took athleticism to a level rarely seen before in the area on the basketball court and on the football turf.

    July 4, 2014 1 Photo 1 Story

  • school.jpg New Castle board adopts budget despite uncertainty

    The New Castle school board adopted its 2014-15 budget Monday but may have to re-open it next week. The $5.4 million budget, introduced in May, has no tax increase and will not tap into the fund balance. Taxes remain at 17.72 mills.

    July 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • school.jpg District to sell closed schools, contents

    The New Castle school district will advertise for proposals to buy its three just-closed elementary schools.

    June 26, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads

Do you talk to yourself when you're alone?

Yes, but I’m basically just thinking out loud.
No, that would be weird.
I don’t know. Next time I’m alone, I’ll ask.
     View Results