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Denise Zellous, formerly homeless for 11 years and a drug addict for 20 plus year is also a survivor of both childhood sexual and physical abuse who later in life experienced domestic violence and incarceration. In April of 2000 Denise found a pathway to recovery at a comprehensive rehabilitation program run by Bethlehem Haven, in Uptown Pittsburgh Pa. She went on to use the traumatic experiences of her life to become a Certified Peer Specialist and receive National Credentials in Family Development


Denise created the Hope Project, which started as a Grassroots Community Project in 2011. Returning back to where Denise began her recovery, she focused the Hope Project on providing 19 homeless women, in the Bethlehem Haven transitional living program, with store bought, everyday essentials for when they secured permanent housing. Those essentials included pots and pans, dishes and silverware, towels and washcloths, sheets and comforters, along with cleaning supplies. This project was first backed by Dress for Success, funded with $500 in seed money from Walmart, and a fundraiser held by her friend, Staci Latimer. The Hope Project transitioned to the Zellous Hope Project, in June of 2013, as a 501c3 non-profit, that she initially operated from the living room of her home.


In 2016, Denise applied for and received a Pittsburgh Foundation Small and Mighty Grant for small non-profits. This was her first foundation grant and proved to be more than just money. The Small and Mighty Grant program was a mentorship for small organizations, creating a pathway for partnerships and growth created by Michelle L McMurray. In 2017, Denise began to build on her educational background as a Certified Peer Specialist, Certified Trainer and National Credentialed Family Development Worker, learning more about leadership, capacity building, and sustainability for her business. In 2018, Denise moved Zellous Hope from her home to the main street of downtown McKees Rocks.


Denise Zellous is a 2012 recipient of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Jefferson Award, for Outstanding Service Benefitting Local Communities for Public Service for her program. She also humbly accepted the 2010 Pittsburgh Dress for Success Women Rock Award. In 2013, by proclamation of Pittsburgh City Council, April 23rd was declared “Denise Zellous Day” in the City of Pittsburgh and the Allegheny County Council bestowed her with a proclamation for community service as well. In 2014, Denise was awarded the Fall Annual Black History Award, along with a proclamation from the Mayor. She was also honored with the Million Women March Award in 2017.


Focusing on becoming a better community leader in 2017, she graduated from CORO's Leadership Program and went on to stabilize her business by completing the New Sun Rising's Incubator program in 2018 and PACE's Capacity Building program in 2019.


Today, the Zellous Hope Project serves hundreds of individuals and families throughout Allegheny County and has formed partnerships and a collaborative with other organizations and programs to meet the needs of those it serves.  


The Zellous Hope Mission is simple, but powerful. It is, Providing a bridge over the holes on the road to better living, by working with existing organizations to create what those we serve say they need to live better.. Denise's non-profit's driving principle is: Empathy is the mother of hope and it is our reasonable duty to give birth to that hope.

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