NEW CASTLE, Pa. (WYTV) – This week’s Hometown Hero is a native of Youngstown and has spent the past 15 years working with the athletic department at New Castle High School. He’s also a classroom aide for students with autism.
Four years ago, Pat Minenok wanted to expand the football team’s weight room inside a 100-year-old building that used to be a metal shop.
After getting permission to tear down a few walls, he found an enormous amount of empty space, and his idea grew from there.
“I knew the district was planning on replacing our artificial turf in our stadium and I thought, ‘Wow, if we could just clean this place out and knock these walls down, we could put that turf in here and it would be a great place for all of our athletic teams, and even the kids that don’t play in athletics, to work out,'” Minenok said.
Minenok eventually renovated the space into The Rack, a free workout facility available to New Castle’s sports teams, students, faculty and alumni, and The Rack is still expanding.
“We’re still constantly trying to make things better. You can hear the equipment outside. We’re getting some paving done on the outside of the building for some more parking,” Minenok said.
The Rack allows student-athletes and non-athletes of all ages and backgrounds to learn life lessons, make friends, get a workout and even snack, all for free.
Minenok said none of it would be possible without the help of countless volunteers and donations.
“Something like this doesn’t happen without a lot of help. Initially, we had to get the approval from our superintendent, John Sarandrea, our school business director, Joseph Ambrosini — they were totally on board — and a lot of volunteer help. I’ve had some fathers and coaches that just donated hours and hours of hard work and time in this building,” Minenok said.
Minenok also said he’s gotten help from students and several organizations throughout the community, as well as the Pittsburgh Pirates and NFL Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis.
“There’s a lot of people in this area that have big hearts, and they just want to see the kids succeed and they want to give them the best chance. It means a lot to me because it’s been a big task and it’s been tiring at times, and these people that show up when I’m starting to feel tired… I can’t thank them enough,” Minenok said.
Minenok said his biggest reward is the reaction from students.
“You should see the electricity in here and how happy it makes these kids,” he said.