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Homewood youth program, ARThouse, relocates to permanent home

ARThouse, an arts education program for children in Homewood, started when children began joining artist and sculptor Vanessa German on her front porch as she created art. The casual gathering of children on her porch quickly grew into a program requiring more space than her porch could offer. After utilizing a temporary space, ARThouse will now be establishing permanent roots in the community with a new space solely dedicated to the program.  

“The ARThouse started out as a porch, a porch where I worked because the ceiling in the basement was too low, a porch where kids came to sit with me and make art,” says German. “The kids in my neighborhood showed me what my front porch was for, the kids who recognized the creative power of art. They demanded access to the space and materials the way that only children can, making a spectacle of their love and joy.”

German and the children would use anything and everything as canvases for their art—slate from rooftops of demolished houses, scrap wood, bricks, cardboard, shoeboxes and anything else they could find. In time, her porch became too crowded with children joining her to create art. She was offered an empty home down the street as a temporary space to work with the kids and has been there for the past two years.

“For the last two years kids have been coming after school and on the weekends to paint, for a snack, or a hug, or a kind word,” says German. “They stop by to see their work on display. The house is their gallery and is filled to the brim with art. People stop on the street to stare and say it makes them feel good to see something so beautiful in the neighborhood and that all the kids have a safe place to go.”

With her time expired at the temporary space, German is now preparing to relocate the program to a new home where it can become a more permanent fixture in the community.

The new space is more than twice the size of the temporary space German utilized for ARThouse. It’s a two family home with nearly 1,000 square feet of space on the first floor. It includes a kitchen, bathroom, and three large open spaces that will provide plenty of creative space for children.

“Now we have the opportunity to have a space that is not only ours, but that would belong to the community,” says German. “There will always be space for everyone at the new house. It is on the same block as the temporary house and it has an attached vacant lot. Imagine in the spring and summer there being art making outside in a safe, fenced in space. All of this good can happen in a neighborhood that most people don't hear about unless something violent and tragic has occurred.”

Before German can begin using the space to its full potential, some repairs and updates need to be made. The home needs plumbing, electric, porch and roof repairs, as well as new flooring, new windows, a fence and landscape/gardening.

German is selling five of her sculptures and has set up an indiegogo campaign to help raise funds to help pay for the repairs and updates for the space.

“The house will need some work—a lot of elbow grease, but we will fix this place up with care and with love,” says German. “We will transform it into the ARThouse.”

To learn more about the ARThouse, visit http://lovefrontporch.com.

'Kinky Boots' actor returns to Pittsburgh to chair Art for Change fundraiser

Actor and Pittsburgh native Billy Porter is returning to his hometown of Pittsburgh on May 12 to serve as the honorary chair for the Persad Center’s 26th Art for Change event, an annual art auction fundraiser held to benefit the organization.

Porter is well recognized for his performance in the Broadway musical “Kinky Boots” where he portrayed the character Lola, a drag queen that helps main character, Charlie, save his shoe factory. Porter won a Tony award for Best Musical Actor in 2013 for his performance.

“The show Billy won the Tony for, Kinky Boots, very much fits into the work that Persad Center is doing by changing people’s hearts and minds about how people perceive the LGBTQ community,” says Bob McGrogan, Persad Center’s Director of Development. “Kinky Boots is a tale of a drag performer who helps save a failing shoe factory and along the way also changes the way a blue collar community perceives her. The Art for Change auction is the celebration of this kind of work.”

Art for Change serves as Persad Center’s largest annual fundraiser that helps the organization support its mission of improving the well-being of the LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS communities through outreach, prevention, training and advocacy, and professional counseling.

This year’s fundraising goal is $250,000 and will benefit the non-profit’s Free Care Fund that helps provide free services to the LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS communities.

“Our Board of Directors has pledged that we will not deny our quality services to any eligible client regardless of their ability to pay,” says McGrogan. “We also do so much work in advocacy and outreach that is not charged for obviously. This work is made possible by the support of our Free Care Fund.”

The event, held at the Wyndham Grand in downtown from 6PM to 11PM, will feature a verbal and silent auction featuring over 200 donated works of art, including paintings, photography, sculpture, furniture and jewelry. Among the many notable pieces of art included in the auction is a Herb Ritts black and white photograph featuring Pee Wee Herman dressed as a cowboy posing with a horse. The auction will also feature artwork from local artists including Michael Lotenero, Thad Mosley, Mark Perrot, Martha Rial, Lila Hirsch Brody, Patrick Ruane and Jack Weiss.

“The event was started in 1988 and has been supported by the art community both locally and nationally ever since,” says McGrogan. “Many of the artists that donate have been donating for many, many years and keep coming back. We are honored and privileged of our relationship with the arts community.”

The event will also feature food from 20 different local restaurants, entertainment, and a cash bar. Guests who purchase VIP tickets will have access to a VIP lounge where Billy Porter will be greeting and mingling with guests.

General admission and VIP tickets for Art for Change can be purchased at www.persadcenter.com

Writer: Liz Miles
Source: Bob McGrogan, Persad Center

Awesome Pittsburgh awards Farm Truck Foods $1,000 grant

Awesome Pittsburgh, an organization that awards monthly, $1,000 grants to people or groups with brilliant ideas, has announced its April grantee, Farm Truck Foods, a food truck solution for Pittsburgh’s food desert dilemma.

The USDA defines a food desert as an urban-neighborhood and/or rural town without ready access to fresh, healthy and affordable foods. There are seven identified food deserts in the greater Pittsburgh area including Clairton, Millvale, McKees Rocks, Stowe, East End, North Side and Hilltop.

Michelle Lagree, Meredith Neel and Landon DePaulo are the founders of Farm Truck Foods and are bringing their combined experiences in health to launch a food truck program that will travel to these identified desert communities and provide education and easier access to fresh, healthy foods.

“It is an honor to be able to say our business idea is a Pittsburgh Awesome Award winner,” says Lagree. “Our team knows Farm Truck Foods is something that is going to help boost Pittsburgh’s economy and health, and to have further assurance and help from a great organization like Awesome Pittsburgh makes it that much more exciting to get started.”

With the assistance of the Awesome Pittsburgh grant, Lagree says they will be able to make modifications to their truck to make it better suited for the Farm Truck Foods mission. The plan is to have a fully operational truck by this June.

“The money will be utilized for retrofitting our truck,” says Lagree. “This is a costly expense due to needing cooler space added along with storage for our produce and dried products.”

Farm Truck Foods will deliver fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, eggs and canned goods to low-income community members at affordable prices, as well as provide educational resources such as recipes, demonstrations and samples to introduce people to new foods.

“Our model is also different than others because we are not just selling these products to the community members and leaving. We are working hand in hand with the community to provide an educational resource,” says Lagree. “We believe that our food trucks will be one of the many solutions for alleviating the lack of options within food deserts.”

In order to serve each community as effectively as possible, Lagree says Farm Truck Foods will partner with community leadership, stakeholders and members.

“The plan will be to work together with the communities to determine how Farm Truck Foods can most effectively assist the residents,” says Lagree. “The communities will help determine our stop schedules, our stop locations and types of produce we sell.”

Beverly's Birthdays founder honored for providng celebrations for homeless youth

In recognition of her work with homeless children in the Pittsburgh region, Megan Yunn has been honored with a Hometown Heroes Award.

Hometown Heroes is a program created by KDKA radio to recognize ordinary individuals doing extraordinary things in the community. Yunn is being recognized as a Hero for her work with the non-profit she founded called Beverly’s Birthdays.

“I was really excited about the award,” says Yunn. “Personally it is a huge achievement, but even more so it is such great exposure for Beverly’s Birthdays. We were able to share our story with so many people and as a result we will get to spread more birthday cheer to so many deserving children.”

Beverly’s Birthdays provides birthday celebrations for homeless youth. Yunn got the idea for the non-profit after having an eye-opening conversation with Beverly, a 12-year-old girl she was helping with her homework at an afterschool program. Beverly told Yunn that she had never had a birthday party or had a birthday cake.

A few months after Beverly’s admission, Yunn submitted her non-profit idea to the “BE BIG in Your Community” contest, a signature component of the Clifford The Big Red Dog BE BIG! campaign, where she was selected as the first place winner and received a starter grant to make Beverly’s Birthdays a reality.

Since then Yunn and her organization have provided birthday celebrations and presents to more than 400 homeless children.

“The first year we serviced three shelters and provided birthdays for 60 children,” says Yunn. “In 2013 we expanded to 13 shelters and serviced 355 homeless children. In 2014 we are slated to partner with 16 shelters and service over 577 homeless youth.”

To provide parties, Beverly’s Birthdays partners with other non-profit organizations to help bring birthday parties to the homeless children in their programs. Each birthday party includes pizza, birthday cake, birthday treat bags, and games. On each child’s actual birthday, Beverly’s Birthdays sends a birthday box filled with small presents.

“I am amazed every day how far the organization has come in just two years,” says Yunn. “It is awesome and it is all thanks to the Pittsburgh community who has embraced this idea with open arms and hearts.”
 
Writer: Liz Miles
Source: Megan Yunn, Beverly's Birthdays

Do you have your act together? Pittsburgh parents make creating a will easier and more affordable

This past January, Andrew Fisher--a physician living in Friendship--was driving on an icy Turnpike when he found himself part of a 12-car pileup. As he climbed out of his vehicle to check on the condition of others, he was struck from behind, killed instantly. He was 35 years old.
 
Unfortunately, the Fisher family had not drawn up a will or gotten other formal paperwork in order. They aren't alone in this--according to a 2013 poll from Rocket Lawyer, only 39 percent of Americans have a will, let alone power of attorney, a living will or life insurance.
 
As Andrew's wife, Elly, faces her grief over losing her husband, she also has to spend thousands of dollars and navigate probate court in order to settle her husband's estate. "We're facing the possibility that the state of Pennsylvania will make me segregate some of our savings for the children," she says.
 
Obstacles to Organization

A lot of us are uncomfortable about the idea of this sort of paperwork. It's morbid and unpleasant. Nobody wants to sit down and think about who would take care of our children in the event of a tragedy.
 
Even when people do realize the importance of getting their act together, many couples are deterred by the cost. Drawing up this paperwork with a lawyer costs about $800, depending on the complexity of a couple's estate.
 
"We had looked into doing it before, actually met with a lawyer and spent an hour and a half discussing all of this paperwork," says Nadine Champsi Carl (of Pittsburgh Mommy Blog). "When we found out that filing with that law firm would cost nearly $1,000, we realized we just couldn't afford to do it at that time."
 
There are DIY options for folks who are unable to afford a lawyer. Numerous books and websites offer templates for wills, living wills, and power of attorney. But young families are often tripped up by the logistics of the DIY option.
 
Many of these documents require three witnesses not named in the document in addition to a stamp from a licensed notary. Carl, like most parents with young children, felt overwhelmed by the idea of coordinating childcare in addition to a time when she, her husband and any potential witnesses they needed would all be available at the same time.

The Answer: Family-friendly signing events

This past January, the Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library hosted a Get Your Act Together event.
 
Four mobile notaries set up shop at tables in the front of the play space and families brought prepared paperwork they'd downloaded from legal sites or library books. They signed and served as one another's witnesses while their children all played together in a safe space.
 
Shaken by the death of Andrew Fisher just weeks before, many young couples in the area jumped at the opportunity to attend. The event reached capacity within hours of the announcement.
 
Elly Fisher agrees such events are important for young families. She says: "I think that anyone who's been upset about Andrew's death should at least make sure to have a conversation with their partner. After the death of a spouse, there is so much grief that it would be a gift to your partner and loved ones to leave a document that details your wishes so they don't have to make those decisions."

Families interested in a Get Your Act Together event can come to the next signing on April 28 at the Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library (5401 Centre Ave, Shadyside) Bring completed documents to have them signed and notarized at the event. Registration costs $31.20 per person and includes 3 notary stamps plus the notary travel fee. The event is limited to 20 people; click here to reserve a space.
 
Also, you can find checklists and necessary forms here and here.

Free gender neutral sewing workshop dispels stereotypes, promotes economic stability

In an attempt to demystify the sewing machine and dispel gender stereotypes in crafts, a free gender neutral sewing class will be held at the Mattress Factory Art Museum tomorrow from 6:30PM to 8:30PM

Jenn Gooch, a local artist, started the class last year in her former studio space in Lawrenceville called WERK. Since closing the studio earlier this year, Gooch has been able to continue her Gender Neutral Learn-to-Sew workshop with the help of a Seed Award grant from the Sprout Fund. She plans on holding the workshop monthly at different locations throughout the city.

“When I decided to close the WERK storefront, I really wanted to continue Gender-Neutral Learn-to-Sew as a pop-up event,” says Gooch. “Last year the class was BYO-Sewing Machine, but thanks in part to this Seed Award from Sprout, I was able to mobilize the class and purchase five sewing machines for attendants to work on if they are unable to bring their own machine. I also provide material, thread and other supplies at the classes.”

Gooch decided to make the class gender neutral to help promote and encourage individuals of any sex to embrace crafting.
“There are some ridiculous gender stereotypes in many crafts in the U.S. and fibers suffers some of the worst of these stereotypes,” says Gooch. “I wanted to create an open environment where anyone interested in learning how a sewing machine works can feel welcome.”

Through the workshop, Gooch helps to promote home economics, survival and economic sustainability.

“Clothing and shelter are basic needs and require sewing,” she says. “A few sewing skills can help an individual have control over their wardrobe, home furnishings and so much more. Everyone like's to feel like a million bucks, but being able to go to a thrift store, tailor something and get that feeling for five bucks and 30 minutes labor is priceless.”

Good says sewing was a skill she was taught as a child. She was brought up in a conservative Pentecostal community with churchwomen who would sew their own long skirts and other apparel. Her grandmother was also a seamstress and taught Gooch many of her sewing skills. 

“I come from people that made what they couldn't afford,” she says. “Manipulating the earth and its material with tools, be it sewing, woodworking, et cetera, not only gives you the power to be able to create and repair your own goods, but it's what makes us human.”

Click here for the WERK facebook page where you can find more information about the workshop and Gooch's other free or low-cost classes.

Writer: Liz Miles
Sources: Jenn Gooch, WERK

Pittsburgh sends first kid robotics team to compete with world

The first team from Pittsburgh is headed to the FIRST Robotics World Championship in St. Louis April 23-26, and it includes middle-schoolers for this normally high-school-only competition.
 
The team hails from the Sarah Heinz House, which runs 160 youth programs, including the local Boys & Girls Club of America. Robotics starts here in first grade, says Bob Bechtold, its director of outreach and corporate partnerships, so the kids are ready early for competition.

They've been in local competitions for five years, including the Pittsburgh Regional FIRST Robotics Competition in March, which placed them in line for St. Louis. And they were one match away from the world competition last year.

However, the team itself hasn't always been ready.

"Five years ago, we could hardly get our robot to move," Bechtold says. "To see the program grow to the point where the kids are telling the adults, 'Leave us alone, we've got this' – it's incredible."
 
To compete in the regional contest, the team received its instructions just six weeks ahead: Build a robot that could throw an exercise ball into a goal. At the regional contest, robots competed together on the field, six at a time, with some playing defense. Previous competitions had challenged robots to throw a Frisbee or basketball, or to kick a soccer ball.
 
The world championship will pit the best robots against each other in the same challenge. Bechtold compares it to a NASCAR race: "Every robot has its own pit. The kids are turning wrenches and working on computers."
 
The Sarah Heinz House team comes from 10 area schools. They beat 40 other teams in the regional competition and are ranked in the top three percent, compared to all 2,729 teams in the world, based on individual scoring. In St. Louis, they will compete against teams from across the country as well as from Israel, Canada, Mexico, Chile and the Dominican Republic.
 
Sarah Heinz House is hoping to get help raising the $15,000 to $20,000 needed to send the kids to St. Louis. "It's been a challenge for our organization," Bechtold admits. But, he says, "we've seen kids show emotion that we didn't know they even had in them [and] teamwork coming together." The quick turnaround for the earlier challenge forced the 20 team members to divide up into specialties, since all the robot design and manufacturing tasks have to be done at once, from the robot's frame to its programming.  

"They're definitely getting a lot of the STEM skills they need as well," Bechtold says.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Bob Bechtold, Sarah Heinz House

Free for nonprofits: services of talented Point Park communications students

The free marketing and design services that Point Park University (PPU) students have been providing for local nonprofits is going big-time this fall, expanding to students from more disciplines and offering an expanded list of services to more nonprofits.
 
Now dubbed Wood Street Communications after PPU's location downtown, the program has been running unofficially for many years among students in the senior capstone course for public relations and advertising in the School of Communication. Each year they have been picking a nonprofit for whom to devise an integrated marketing campaign.
 
But when Wood Street director Heather Starr Fiedler was teaching a design class last year how to do fake logos for Disney World and fictitious brochures for Apple, she realized "we had to find a way to get our non-journalism students that real-world feel like our news students."
 
And, Fiedler says, "we could connect people in the nonprofit world with real world help. We have students who could act as skilled volunteers. One of our missions is to serve the community and it's a real great experience for our students."
 
The new student-run organization, officially debuting in the fall, will offer help with public relations and advertising, graphic and web design, photography and videography, event planning, social media and branding, and publication writing and design.
 
Pittsburgh Cares has already been connecting PPU to such clients as Sojourner House, for whom students did a montage video about their work for a fundraiser. They've also helped Dress for Success, and this semester are focusing on the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
 
In the past, 20-40 students have been involved, but with the expansion to photo, video, PR, graphic design and other classes, Wood Street should include 100 students, Fiedler says.
 
"Everybody is going to get involved," she says. "I want them to get professional, real-world experience so they have something to add to their portfolio." And she hopes "that the students get a sense of how good it feels to serve their community. The students so far have really ended up getting so much out of it, really falling in love with the nonprofits…"
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Heather Starr Fiedler, Point Park University

Spring Redd Up set to collect 300 tons of trash

A dozen years ago, Boris Weinstein's began a personal campaign to clean up litter in Shadyside. That campaign has transformed into bi-annual Redd Ups that collect 300 tons of trash in 300 communities throughout Allegheny and the surrounding counties of Beaver, Butler and Washington.

"Redd up" means to clear or to tidy in Pittsburghese.
 
"This works," Weinstein says of his organization, Citizens Against Litter, "because I was able to organize a network of leaders in all the neighborhoods – I call them 'Clean Pittsburgh Stewards' – and it's through them that we're able to have successful Redd Ups."
 
Now about 55 volunteers on average per community participate in the fall and spring Redd Ups. The spring version runs through May.
 
"I felt that if I could demonstrate the effectiveness of a volunteer organization on one neighborhood," he adds, "it could be replicated."
           
Litter comes from four main causes, Weinstein says: everyday carelessness; illegal dump sites that attract major collections; business owners who don't clean up their properties regularly; and too few waste containers at businesses and apartments, causing them to overflow. "That's where you get flyaway litter," he says.
 
This year's volunteer contingent includes several hundred Duquesne University students working on the South Side flats and slopes, Uptown and the Hill District on April 12.
 
To volunteer and find a neighborhood group with which to connect, call 412-688-9120 or e-mail Weinstein here.
 
As he concludes: "I always say, people who care must pick up for people who don't care."  
 
Writer: Marty Levine 
Source: Boris Weinstein, Citizens Against Litter

Local volunteer is a finalist fo the Alliance for Community Trees Volunteer of the Year Award

The Nine Mile Run Watershed Association (NMRWA) has a finalist for the Alliance for Community Trees 2013 Volunteer of the Year Award: Larry Patchel.
 
Patchel is a volunteer for many local organizations. He has promoted the value of urban trees and helped dig planting holes with kids at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf and the Boys and Girls Club of Wilkinsburg. As a member of  the American Chestnut Foundation, Patchel helps to hybridize Chinese and American chestnuts, taking care of seedlings until they become trees. To benefit the Men’s Garden Club of Pittsburgh, he sharpens pruners and other tools annually in a tent at the Phipps Conservatory plant sale, and has attended all the tree plantings for the 500 Tree Initiative in Wilkinsburg, a program of the NMRWA.

The Alliance for Community Trees is a national organization dedicated to supporting urban forestry. Each year they give an award to an outstanding volunteer working to improve their community and neighborhood with trees.
 
The NMRWA was created in 2001 to restore and protect the area of Nine Mile Run that flows through the East End, Wilkinsburg, Edgewood and Swissvale. Much of the stream is underground, but 2.2 miles runs through Frick Park, and the group touts its recovery efforts there as “one of the largest and most successful urban stream and wetlands restorations in the United States,” which was completed in 2006.
 
Patchel, who has been part of the NMRWA since its beginning, is credited with many volunteer events for the group each year, particularly garden and tree plantings. The group also cites “his horticultural knowledge and vast range of experience to teach other volunteers about proper tree planting and pruning techniques, soil composition, plant taxonomy, and proper tool usage and safety.”
 
Patchel says he is most proud of helping with tree plantings along Penn Avenue, and says working with the Boys and Girls Club has been the most enjoyable.
 
“It is fun to see the kids just learning to use a shovel, rake or some other hand tool,” he says. Of the many kids he’s introduced to the environmental cause throughout the years, Patchel adds, “I hope they would get involved in any way that would help improve the only earth like planet we know of.”
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Larry Patchell, Nine Mile Run Watershed Association

To Kill a Mockingbird (and cook it in a nice sauce) may win you a prize

The sixth annual Edible Book Fest, to be put on by University of Pittsburgh’s Hillman Library on April 10, is bound to attract some odd, creative and tasty entries, says Ashley Cox, who is in charge of the contest.
 
Cox, by day a conservation technician with Pitt’s University Library System, brought the contest with her when she moved here half a dozen years ago from Denton, Texas, where she worked at the University of Northern Texas. There the entries included a few old-school jello recipes that featured meat.
 
In Pittsburgh, last year’s winners included desserts from the Harry Potter cookbook and an homage to Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast: Fancy Feast cat food molded in the shape of a car.
 
The Pittsburgh branch of the contest is open to anyone willing to design an (ideally) edible creation based on a favorite book or its cover, characters or scenes. Contestants will be dropping off their entries from 9 to 11:30AM next Thursday at Hillman’s Cup and Chaucer café, after which the creations will be voted overall favorite; best interpretation of a cover or scene; best visual representation of a cover, topic, story, or theme; and most creative interpretation of a title or the book’s contents.
 
At 2PM, the books will be eaten – the ones not made of catfood, that is. (Food is the required material, but the results need not be actually edible, and contestants are asked to list all their ingredients.)
 
The festival has a serious purpose too: it’s a chance for Pitt librarians to talk about the work of the preservation department and its archival material. But mostly it’s about literary-inspired food.
 
 “We tend to get dioramas made from cake,” Cox recalls. Other entries have included a mango creation inspired by House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, a block of cheese carved into a monkey (after The Cheese Monkeys by Chip Kid), the black-and-white cover of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern rendered in multi-tiered vanilla and chocolate pastry, and the kitchen-science book How to Read a French Fry as, well, just a whole mess o’ fries.
 
“You can be pretty literal and pretty creative,” she says.
 
The contest is still waiting for its first meat dish; no one has actually killed a mockingbird for the contest.
 
“Not yet,” Cox laughs. “Hopefully not at all.”
 
RSVP for a spot in the contest to Cox here.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Ashley Cox, Pitt

Idea Foundry aims to bring awareness to the virtues of impact investing

It’s been tough to get investors to sit still for business ideas that also have a social or environmental mission, says Nicole Muise-Kielkucki, business manager for social enterprise at Idea Foundry, Inc., the nonprofit economic development agency in Oakland.
 
But a few years ago, Idea Foundry began to get more and more applicants whose business ideas had a social enterprise – a mission to do good. Idea Foundry thought that was great. “But when they present their story,” Muise-Kielkucki says of these prospective startups, “a lot of traditional investor-types kind of tune out."
 
“We need to attract a different type of investor,” she says. “There are very few impact investors in Pittsburgh.”
 
Idea Foundry is hoping to bring more awareness to the benefits of financing socially aware companies, known as impact investing. Their InterSector program, which coaches and gives early funds to such companies is taking applications for its third round of funding, due April 15. Partnering with Pittsburgh Venture Capital Association, it is hosting a panel discussion with experienced impact investors from other cities and three local social entrepreneurs.
 
The April 8 lunch event at the Duquesne Club will feature Eric Weinberg, founder and CEO of Impact Capital Strategies, LLC, and Jacob Gray of the Wharton Social Impact Initiative.
 
Large global foundations have long attempted impact investing, but trying to get venture capitalists to go for such projects is the aim of this event. It will highlight the success other cities are seeing already.
 
“We want to get past some of the misconceptions about social enterprises,” says Muise-Kielkucki. “We are aiming to show that there is a strong business case” for it. Pittsburgh in particular, she concludes, “is ripe for this.”
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Nicole Muise-Kielkucki, Idea Foundry

Every Child to bring upwards of 500 non-profits to Pittsburgh this fall

Every Child is about to bring up to 500 nonprofits to town this fall for a national conference – and is also prepping for another conference next month that will help local kids in foster care.
 
“Our services are focused on family permanency,” says Jada Shirriel, director of marketing and development for the nonprofit.That includes child abuse and neglect prevention, pregnancy support, help with foster care and adoption and assistance caring for medically fragile children. It also runs special programs, such as one in an East Pittsburgh public housing community to help residents “understand more productive ways of working with their children and being a better example for generations to come,” Shirriel explains.
 
All the nonprofit’s services are delivered in clients’ homes. “We go to where our families are, where they are comfortable,” she says. In 2012, it began working with the local Persad Center to make sure Every Child staff members knew how best to help families with a member identifying as LGBT.
 
The national conference, the 2014 gathering of the Alliance for Children and Families, will take place here in Pittsburgh, Oct 15-17, just a month after Every Child’s gala Sept. 19, hosted by Ramon Foster of the Steelers. On April 26, the group will hold its “LIVING in Care” youth conference (LIVING stands for “Let’s invest in values intended to nurture growth”), for which Every Child received a Heinz Endowment youth philanthropy grant. LIVING will be a health education conference for youth in foster care, focusing on “My mind, my body, my relationships,” for kids 10-15 and will also offer a training track for foster parents.
 
Source: Jada Shirriel and Rachel Rodgers; Every Child

DATA award finalist AGLogic seeks to help kids communicate in a safe space

AGLogic’s latest creation – one of 75 finalists worldwide for the 2014 Design, Art and Technology Award (DATA) from Pittsburgh Technology Council – is being tested as a way to help avoid future tragedy.
 
According to C. Scott Gilbert, the company’s founder and director, a participant in a large youth group at a local megachurch had committed suicide without the child’s fellow youth-group members or the child’s parents understanding why, until private journals were discovered. The church wanted to create a way for its youth group members to reach out in a friendly environment with concerns and troubles, so that no one would suffer in silence in the future.
 
The church asked AGLogic to create a private social network whose members can invite future members, fostering a trust among participants.The solution was So Communique:The Responsive Social Network. It has a “safe zone” to ask anonymous questions –which will be answered anonymously.
 
Kids who use the network, which is still in beta, can ask questions about difficult issues, says Gilbert, and “trust the response because it came back from the trusted source” – members of the network designated to handle the queries. “For kids, it’s a non-threatening way for them to ask questions.”
 
The social network is getting close to launch, being tested in churches, coffeeshops, individual families and even a suicide prevention hotline. Once available, it will be free to nonprofits with 100 or fewer users, as well as to families of five or fewer.
 
“We are absolutely delighted” to be a DATA finalist, Gilbert adds. “That’s going to give us a chance to meet a lot of people, and we are in good company. The DATA is a big deal to us and we’re honored.”
 
One of many local and statewide finalists, AGLogic is headquartered in Brookville, 16 miles from Punxsutawney.  
 
Other local finalists include a Fred Rogers Company/Schell Games collaboration, Wing Ma’am, Eric Singer, Walking Thumbs, Smith Micro, BHiveLab, MARC USA, MarketSpace Communications, Red Privet LLC, Peerless design, inc:, The Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, Lightwave International, Paul Zelevansky, Ecologic and Matthews International, as well as students from Chartiers Valley School District, Blackhawk High School, Fox Chapel School District, West Allegheny Entertainment Technology Academy, Carnegie Mellon University and Point Park University.

Writer: Marty Levine
Source: C Scott Gilbert, AGLogic

Service Summit: just like an 'activity fair for service'

The Pittsburgh Service Summit is back for its fifth year with an expanded list of speakers and award winners on a day “designed to educate and inform leaders and emerging leaders,” says founder Tom Baker, a county councilman, “of the incredible opportunities that exist in our region to serve others and make a positive difference.”
 
This year’s event, March 25 at Carlow University’s Saint Agnes Center, features talks from Aradhna Oliphant, head of Leadership Pittsburgh; City Councilman Dan Gilman; Jim Hunt, founder and CEO of Amazing Cities; and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.
 
According to Baker, the four “will focus on their personal journeys and also share with the group about how we can all do more in our lives to give back and help others.” The event attracted more than 400 people last year. “We always need more civic leaders in our region and this event is focused on ensuring that we have more lifelong learners and dedicated volunteers,” Baker says. “I saw a need, especially for young professionals very early in their careers, to learn about the myriad of opportunities that exist to keep the momentum going after college.” He describes the evening as “a mini ... activity fair that you might see for students on a college campus, but geared in a way that makes sense for young professionals and lifelong leaders.”
 
Awards given at the annual event are:
2014 Western PA Rising Stars: Laura Amster, Becca Burns, Kayla Bowyer, Megan Carlton, John Cordier, Brandi Cox, Doug Foster, Maggie Gabos, Jackie Hunter, Joe Kleppick, Paul Matthews, Kyshira Moffett, Krish Mohan, Laura Pollanen, Jonathan Raso, Leah Scott, Ryan Scott, Lindsey Smith, Kate Stoltzfus, Quincy Swatson, Julie Wadlinger, and J. Wester.
 
Get Involved! Man of the Year: Todd Owens
 
Get Involved! Woman of the Year: Candi Castleberry-Singleton
 
Get Involved! Male Emerging Leader Award: Mike Church
 
Get Involved! Female Emerging Leader Award: Meghan Dillie
 
Dr. Tom Baker Community Leader Award 2014 Honoree: Commander Scott Schubert
 
Patty Verostko Award for Child Advocacy: Stephanie Tecza
 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Tom Baker
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