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Bus stop, wet day, let's try WORD PLAY

Waiting is one of the toughest things for kids to do. WORD PLAY, a new bus stop game from The Fred Rogers Company, aims to make it fun and educational instead.
The game, for toddlers to first graders, was conceived as one way to help kids learn in informal situations. "It also sprang from a song, 'Why Don't We Think of Something To Do While We're Waiting,' a song Fred Rogers sang," says Margy Whitmer, WORD PLAY project manager and media producer at The Fred Rogers Company.
WORD PLAY was piloted last year. It used posters sporting simple pictures and words at bus stops, asking parents to text for questions to discuss with their kids, such as, "How many words start with the letter J, three or five?"
Finding an unsatisfying response to that approach, Whitmer's company used this year's game posters to present questions and activities right on the colorful posters themselves.
Talking and reading to kids leads to an increase in their vocabularies, helping them get ready to be successful in school, Whitmer says. "Learning is easier for them, so life is easier for them," she says.
The game also encourages the child and parent to create together. "One of the keys to good social and emotional development is the ability to develop relationships," she notes. Parents are encouraged to take photos or videos of the game in action; a Facebook page and Twitter hashtags will also be provided on the September and October posters. The August poster is available at bus stops now.
The Fred Rogers Company is working today with libraries and community groups to tell parents about the program. "My fantasy," says Whitmer, "is that cities do this everywhere. It seems so simple to me. When you learn something organically in the context of the relationship or when it us really important to you, then you really learn it."
Learn more about the new WORD PLAY here.
Funding for WORD PLAY has been provided by the Sprout Fund, The Grable Foundation and The James F. McCandless Charitable Trust.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Margy Whitmer, The Fred Rogers Company

Win pairs of full season tickets to the Steelers and Pirates and more

When Junior Achievement (JA) President Dennis Gilfoyle calls the JA Golden Ticket Raffle "the Powerball of sports raffles," he isn't far off the mark. "And we've added a lot of horsepower this year," he says.
Each $50 ticket will get you four chances to win a pair of tickets to a full season of home games to the Steelers, Penguins and – new this year – to the Pirates and the Power arena football team, as well as full home seasons of Penn State football (with parking), Pitt football, Pitt men’s basketball, Pitt women’s basketball and Duquesne men’s basketball.
And every week there is an added chance for winnings. Last week two Cambria Club tickets for a Pirates game were up for grabs for those who bought raffles; this week, it's two tickets to the Steelers Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
Last year, JA, which teaches kids financial literacy, entrepreneurship and workforce readiness, netted $70,000 from the raffle. That gave the organization revenue to reach out to another 3,000 to 3,500 students with programming. It also helped JA create new programs to help integrate refugee and immigrant youth into the community.
"And these young folks are so eager to learn the American way," Gilfoyle says. "They're passing it on to their families."
JA is now offered exclusively through school programs, so Gilfoyle urges kids and parents interested in their programs to contact their schools to set one up. JA also works with homeschoolers and in libraries, such as a North Hills program this month in a pre-school financial literacy camp.
The JA Golden Ticket Raffle drawing is Aug. 29 at a Rivers Club event featuring Penguins as guest bartenders.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Dennis Gilfoyle, JA

Why we should cheer on kindergartners and more ways to help your community

The Month of Living Generously is the time when businesses kick off their United Way workplace campaigns, but you don't have to wait until your company does it – you don't even have to have a workplace. United Way of Allegheny County is holding three Days of Caring in August and September, where individuals and companies can sign up to serve any of United Way's traditional three focal areas: youth, seniors and struggling families.
The Days, says Christy Stuber, the organization's volunteer initiatives director, "are really important to give people a first-hand perspective on the needs of the community."
Children and Youth Day (Aug. 29) will give volunteers the chance to cheer on parents and kindergarteners at their first day of school at Pittsburgh Arlington, Faison, King, Langley, Miller and Weil. The Day for Seniors and Adults with Disabilities (Sept. 4) will help assess seniors' homes for falling and fire hazards and perform health and safety repairs for Homewood families. For the Sept. 12 Day for Financially Struggling Families, volunteers will sort food at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and pass out food at its Produce for People site, as well as conducting more home repairs in Homewood.
"To go out and cheer a kindergartener on their first day seems like an easy and fun activity," Stuber says. But she points to a report from the University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development, which cites research showing that encouraging attendance pays off. Not only does chronic kindergarten absenteeism result in lower school performance in first grade, but the first day itself means a lot. Kids who miss their first day go on to miss twice as many days as those who attend school from the beginning.
Last year, United Way had 2,000 participants in their Days of Caring events; Stuber believes volunteering is a very important part of giving: "It's the interaction that we have with the people that we serve," she says, "that is really special."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Christy Stuber, United Way of Allegheny County

What has 1,000 bells and a sip and savor tent?

In its 30th year, Family House's signature fundraising event, the Polo Match at Hartwood Acres on Sept. 7, just keeps getting better.
Family House provides 160 affordable rooms, complete with transportation and food pantries, for patients and their families who are in town for serious or lengthy medical treatments. "The need gets greater and greater every year, as people need more and more medical treatment," says Bob Howard, Executive Director of Family House. The need "comes at all income levels and at all strata. We're seeing an increased demand mostly in transplants and trauma. The Veterans Administration is using us a lot, as well as West Penn [Allegheny Health System Hospitals] and UPMC."
Some transplants can require patients and their families to be here for a year and a half to two years. "You can imagine the cost in terms of family expenses – it's huge," he says. "Our average length of stay is four to five days, but that keeps creeping up as the longer lengths of recovery for more complex procedures continue to grow."
The annual Polo Match raises $150,000-200,000 a year for Family House. "It's a matter of getting people to come to polo not only to have fun … but to understand our mission."
New this year at the Polo Match is a Sip, Savor & Shop tent featuring Narcisi Winery, Donato’s and other food and shopping venues, as well a young professionals' tent sponsored by Young Business Leaders of Family House. The organization has already distributed about 1,000 bells for attendees to decorate and label with their city names to show how far Family House reaches. Normally, each side rings a single bell when its team scores, but this year Howard expects to hear 500 bells per side.
"It's a lot of fun," he says, "and for people who have not experienced polo, it's a unique way to spend the day and meet a lot of people."
Says Julie Hughes, president of Fifth Third Bank Western Pennsylvania, which is presenting this year's match: "It's a mission we as a leadership team in this affiliate have a passion around, so we're excited to be able to take a deeper role this year." Although the bank has sponsored parts of the Polo Match in the past, this is its first year as lead sponsor. Bank employees will work serving dinners in Family House homes this year as well.
Polo Match ticket packages may be purchased here (www.familyhouse.org/events/polo/‎).
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Bob Howard, Family House; Julie Hughes, Fifth Third Bank Western Pennsylvania

Pearl Club aims to help urban girls toward their goals, especially college

Tamasia Johnson is a Promise Coach, part of a mentoring program helping Pittsburgh Public School kids take advantage of the Pittsburgh Promise college scholarship program. But she thought an extra step was needed to help local girls become Promise-ready.
So Johnson started The Pearl Club as another mentoring resource for young women from Pittsburgh's inner-city neighborhoods.
The program was launched in May for high-school freshmen, sophomores and juniors at Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy 6-12 in Oakland and has already grown to include Pittsburgh Westinghouse 6-12 students in Homewood.
"What I'm trying to do is create a sisterhood for young women based on certain values: strength, empowerment and success," says Johnson. The program aims to encourage participants to graduate from high school and attend college. "A lot of young women aren't given a lot of opportunity or are in environments where they can succeed despite their situation.
"We just don't go in front of a group of students and say, 'This is what college is like,'" she says of Pearl Club sessions. "We're in the room presenting them with ways to solve problems. We give girls a mentor and we also focus on setting a goal." Each girl then posts her goal on the Pearl Club blog and tracks its progress there.
Club members, Johnson says, "learn together, build together and build trust. That's a support system that college women need and women need throughout their lives."
The Pearl Club will hold its first public event, called “The Pearl Club presents … Promise-ready Pearls, that’s the goal!” on August 17 at the Squirrel Hill branch of Carnegie Library to show girls of all ages the club’s fundamentals and opportunities.
Johnson hopes this fall to expand from the current 22 students in two schools to include meeting sites at two local churches. In the meantime, she is very pleased with the local response: "It's actually taken off faster than I thought it would!"
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Tamasia Johnson, The Pearl Club

Game of Drones, Robot Takeover, Emergency Tetherball, more at Mini-Maker

There's nothing "mini" about the collection of maker projects kids can see demonstrated or make themselves at the third annual Pittsburgh Mini Maker Faire on Aug. 18 at Buhl Community Park and the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh on the North Side.
Co-presented by the museum and HackPittsburgh, Mini-Maker is bringing together groups involved in 3-D technology, robots, electronics, indie crafts, sustainable living and more.
“New projects at this year’s Pittsburgh Mini Maker Faire include floating origami, electronic stuffed animals, steampunk fashion, robot wars and lots more,” says Bill Schlageter, the museum's director of marketing. “I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the Girls of Steel FIRST Robotics team demonstrate their 2013 Frisbee shooting, pyramid climbing robot, EVE.”
This year's makers include: Game of Drones (a drone –a personal unmanned air vehicle – that plays basketball with ping pong balls; Rookie of the Gear Pitching Machine  (a large-scale catapult created at the museum's MAKESHOP gets its trial run before debuting at PNC Park; and the Emergency Tetherball Kit (through which the old game gets a makeover for any streetlamp or pole).
Schlageter says he hopes kids attending the Faire will enjoy "the best of DIY creativity … and be inspired to make, create, learn, invent, craft, recycle, build, think and play all year long."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Bill Schlageter, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

Hive releases its first grants for kids' connected learning

Hive Pittsburgh has made its first three grants to programs for tweens to young adults, all aimed at promoting connected learning: the idea that kids learn better when they are genuinely interested in a subject, work with peers and connect with the larger community.
STARTup SOMETHING, featured in Kidsburgh, received $10,000 to take participating teens to local tech start-ups, pairing them with mentors and teaching them about entrepreneurship and the perseverance needed to make such companies successful. It's a project of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh.
STARTup SOMETHING was chosen because it helps with local workforce development efforts, says Ryan Coon, program officer at The Sprout Fund, which administers the Hive, and because it expands the mentor pool for Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Another recipient of $10,000, the Avonworth Pittsburgh Galleries, was chosen because "it put a lot of leadership and management responsibility in the hands of the kids," he says, "and for the community connections to galleries and museums and other strong cultural assets we have in the city."
For this project, Avonworth High School kids will manage the art exhibition spaces on their campuses. Curators from the Pittsburgh Glass Center, Carnegie Museum of Art, Toonseum and the Mattress Factory will be the students' mentors during the school year, helping them create exhibits in tune with the partnering museums. The project will culminate with an art show by participants.
The final grant of $15,000 went to Power Up Homewood, which The Andy Warhol Museum has been running for several years. For its Hive program, Power Up will take 8th and 9th grade Westinghouse High School girls to visit the Greater Pittsburgh Coliseum, a Homewood event venue and cultural center. From there, the kids will explore their neighborhood's history and current issues and use silk-screening, graphic design, GPS data collection and mapping to form a creative response. The project will be displayed on the Warhol's website, Trolley Station Oral History Center and Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
Combining art-making with media-savvy storytelling is "a bridge between the hands-on creativity and the more technical creativity, which is something that was really unique about the project," Coon says.
Sprout will work with Hive grant recipients to connect them with other investors, he adds. "A lot of times what we're investing in is the people behind it," he says of Hive and other Sprout projects. "What we like to do is stay involved with those people and help them become leaders in whatever community they are serving."
Sprout will be documenting each project's progress and telling their stories on the Hive website. Coon believes these projects, and future Hive grants to be announced as early as next month, "can be replicated elsewhere – not just replicated but revised and made unique for every context."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Ryan Coon, The Sprout Fund

STEM innovations, all in 7-minute bursts, at STEM Summit

ASSET, which helps school districts throughout the state implement programs for teaching STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects within any type of class, is co-sponsoring the Pittsburgh STEM Summit this year for the first time. Because the summit was instituted by the Pittsburgh Technology Council, ASSET Executive Director Cynthia Pulkowski believes it's a good move for her educational nonprofit.
"We think it's important to get behind organizations like the Tech Council and their work" in developing ways to share tools and promising practices in STEM-focused learning.
The idea behind the Summit is to bring together school districts with businesses, nonprofits and other groups working to make sure local students are ready for college and careers. "Business is such a big stakeholder in the programs school districts are developing for career readiness," Pulkowski notes.
This year's event on Aug. 15 includes two keynote speakers and 14 very quick presentations – all seven minutes long – followed by Q&As, along with opportunities for participants to get to know other local organizations and their leaders.
The morning keynote speaker is Gil Taran, CEO of iCarnegie, a Carnegie Mellon University company that creates new educational and workforce development programs. The afternoon program features Mario Livio, a senior astrophysicist at the Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute and author of multiple books, including most recently Is God A Mathematician?
The brief presentations include:
  • Spooktacular STEAM with Specter Studios, about the Adventures in Technology program, which immerses students in tech business issues
  • Arts & Bots, from The Ellis School, about their use of the Hummingbird Robotics Kit to create interdisciplinary STEAM lessons (involving STEM subjects with the arts added)
  • Bots IQ The Smart Sport, concerning the Pittsburgh chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Association's creation of BotsIQ, a competition where students design and build robots for a gladiator-style contest and learn about associated careers 
"I'll be interested in hearing what everybody says," remarks Pulkowski. "I always look at the Summit as: How can we partner with the other presenters there?"
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Cynthia Pulkowski, ASSET

Build it and they will check stuff out

Tricia George was strolling through Millvale in 2007 with her landlord, Brian Wolovich, when they decided to do something about all the dilapidated buildings they saw in town.
They decided to start a library. It helps that Wolovich also happens to be a member of the borough council and a teacher.
"Outside of the Millvale High School library, Millvale has never had a public library," George says. "And Millvale High School shut down many years ago."
Plus, she says, the rates of local students attaining high-school diplomas and college degrees were also lower than those in the Pittsburgh metro area.
"It was a very small idea" when it began, George says. Now the Millvale Community Library will open on Aug. 18 with a day-long celebration featuring yoga, story time, bands, food and more.
It's really a community center "with the name of a library," she says, although of course it is a full-service library, offering books, CDs and DVDs to borrow. But it also has a wildlife habitat in back, as well as community garden spaces and a performance stage. "Eventually, there will be a tool library in the basement," says George, who is now secretary of the board of trustees, which Wolovich heads.
Their group raised enough money by 2009 to buy two buildings next to each other. The library is housed on the first floor of 213 Grant, with apartments above it, while 211 Grant is being renovated for artists, businesses and other renters.
"It's a relatively small library, especially for the Pittsburgh area," she admits – and especially compared to the Carnegie branches. But it already has several fall activities planned, including a woodworking makeshop by the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh and a children's arts and crafts program.
George seems most proud that the library was a community effort, with 1,000 volunteers who put in 5,000 hours over the past half decade.
"The library project has given them a place to come together and a purpose for coming together," she says. "It will go on as long as those people are involved. You can't look at any one group of people and say, 'They built this library.' It's been a gracious contribution from a large group of people."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Tricia George, Millvale Community Library

Changing the foster kid experience, one bag at a time

Bridgette Jodon's journey to July's $1,000 Awesome Pittsburgh grant began with a very simple idea.
Even when Bridgette was single, just a few years ago, she knew she wanted to become a foster parent. But several family members became ill, and she put the notion on hold.
Then she met her future husband, Jason, who said he was open to adoption. They married in March 2012 and live in Natrona Heights, where they decided to start a family. But Bridgette developed thyroid cancer.

That didn't stop her from becoming involved in her church's charity, which focuses on services for kids in the foster system. By the time she had finished her cancer treatment in January 2013 and was okay, she knew what she had to do.
"I had just sat and wept one night over these babies who are having a hard time," she recalls.
According to the federal Department of Health and Human Services' U.S. Children’s Bureau, more than 250,000 American children enter the foster care system every year, and half will remain there without reuniting with their parents. Every year, more than 20,000 children age out of the system without being adopted. Of those who leave the system at 18 (or age 21, in Pennsylvania), they are more likely than the average kid to have dropped out of school, be poor and unemployed and, for nearly 40 percent of them, to become homeless.
"I don't think any of us could rest on the statistics," says Bridgette Jodon, who is a special ed teacher in the Highland School District. But she admits she cannot fix the system. So she devised a small change.
Jodon had noticed that kids arriving at their foster homes usually carried their few belongings in a trash bag.
"Of all the things I saw, I couldn't get that out of my head," she says. "It was just inappropriate. I said, this is just unacceptable. It's something we can change easily and show the children that we care."
So she decided to begin purchasing sturdier and more appropriate cinch sacs for the children, which can also be worn as backpacks. She called them G.L.A.D. Bags, which plays on the trash bag brand but stands for God’s Love And Devotion. Then she began to raise money to fill them with items the kids could use: toothpaste, toothbrushes, hair brushes, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, socks, small fleece blankets, journals, pencils, small comfort toys and luggage tags. The Awesome Pittsburgh grant will allow her to buy the cinch sacs; she is still seeking donations of the items.
"It's so much more dignified than handing them a trash bag," she says. "We just want to change what we can for them, to be protective of their hearts and what they are going through. We want to say: 'Even though this is a difficult time, we are taking care of you,' and just giving them things that are theirs – 'This is your journal, this is your toothbrush.'"
The Jodons began welcoming their first foster children last week. The kids stayed for three days, then were reunited with a family member. "That was a heart breaker," Bridgette admits. "But that's the goal."

Do Good:
Interested in becoming a foster parent yourself? Learn about it here.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Bridgette Jodon; Awesome Pittsburgh

Visual art classes for the visually impaired: Touch Art to start

"For a lot of folks I talked to in the blind and visually impaired community," says Kristen Ervin, who has been an art instructor for people with disabilities for the last five years, "they had a great experience in school, making art, but they never had an opportunity again."
Ervin knows blind crochet and ceramics artists, but realized that most people with visual difficulties don't have access to traditional art resources, unless they use teachers and facilities provided by social services. In fact, she says, she has seen such individuals denied enrollment in regular art classes.
So, with partner Tirzah DeCaria, she set out to rectify the situation. They created Touch Art.  
Touch Art will offer tactile art workshops for adults at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Sept. 20 through Oct. 25. The organization also plans a student exhibition and a seminar for teaching artists and arts administrators who want to learn how best to serve the visually impaired.
This fall's Touch Art workshops, funded by a $6,000 Sprout Fund grant, will teach students how to make paper, hollow beads in precious metal clay, ceramic sound sculptures and fiber art memory vessels. The latter class will involve taking personally significant fabric pieces – say, a part of a favorite dress that has worn out – and creating something into which they are woven. Amanda Gross, leader of Knit the Bridge, will teach this class.
Before the workshops start, Ervin will teach the teaching artists to use verbal descriptions and braille labeling, alongside setting up their classes to be more easily navigable.
"This isn't really hard," she says. "People who happen to have visual impairment really want to make things and be creative, and here is a blueprint on how to do it.
"In my experience, other than driving, I know people who are blind who do all kinds of things," she concludes. "Depending on the person and what they've been exposed to, the sky's the limit."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Kristen Ervin, Touch Art

What was born in the 70's and is still a kid at heart?

Where else can you hear someone say, "We have been doing a lot of neat things with bugs?"
Not a lot of places – except the Roving Art Cart, Citiparks' peripatetic tent city of art opportunities, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year with a big finish at all the regional parks.
What began as an actual cart – just a four-foot by six-foot wooden box with shelves full of art supplies – is now five or more hand-sewn tents (the number depends on the venue). There, kids can make papier mâché puppets, including lady bugs, as well as mosaic insects. They can pose in the digital photo station with flower leis, straw hats, mustaches and empty picture frames; decorate free t-shirts; paint on easels outdoors; and mold clay creations.
The spin-art bikes are back this year, offering three stationary bicycles, from tot-sized to adults, which turn the art. The canvases are recycled 45-rpm records. The bikes also power sewing machines used by Roving Art Cart to demonstrate fiber arts.
And, yes, it has face painting. The Cart's last hour every Friday is a birthday party with treats and extra art projects.
The "huge finale" this year, says Cart Manager Nancy Burns, encompasses the next few weeks, ending Aug. 16. The Cart will let kids fly kites at the Schenley Oval, see a potter in action at Frick, build kaleidoscopes at Riverview and create animal-themed art in Highland Park, just for starters. Some of the Cart art will join the puppet parade at the annual kids' reading event, Alphabet Trail and Tales, this year to be held at Blue Slide Park in September.
"It's a beautiful model," says Burns. "It's proven the test of time to survive 40 years."
And remember, she adds: "It's free, it's fun, and it's from 10 to 1." Tuesdays through Fridays, that is. See the schedule here.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Nancy Burns, Citiparks

2013 BikeFest offers more than 80 rides and events over three weeks

"If you're into anything cycling-related you can find something to ride at BikeFest," says Mike Carroll, Bike Pittsburgh's event coordinator.
Indeed, the ninth year of this annual three-week event should feature more than 80 rides, parties and other bike-y things, Carroll says. More than 60 of them are already up on the group's website.
This year's full calendar includes the Public Art Bike Ride on Aug. 13. It's a tour of public art in the city, starting at the Langley Observatory clock, sponsored by the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.
For more skilled riders there's the Royal Rumball on Aug. 11. This is an alley cat-style bike race, meaning participants won't know the full route, but will cycle through a series of checkpoints, starting at the graden at Highland Park's entrance. And the ride has a professional wrestling theme, and so, Carroll is betting, sites relating to Bruno Sammartino and Kurt Angle are involved. Also involved: 50 miles and 5,000 feet of climbing.
The 20-mile Cycling Through Samsara, which also starts in Highland Park on Aug. 11, opens and closes with yoga sessions. And Try a Bike is back for the third year, allowing riders to test recumbent bikes, tandems, unicycles, electric-assist bikes and high-wheel bikes at the Bud Harris Cycling Oval on Washington Boulevard.
Other events include:
  • Church Ride Revised
  • Troubled Streams Tour
  • Pinball Ride!
  • BikeFest Moonlight Ride
  • Trees of Pittsburgh Ride, 2013
  • Bike-in-Movie
  • Hello, Hill District!
  • The Every Pittsburgh Neighborhood Ride
  • 12 Bridges, 3 Rivers, 21 Miles
  • Lost Streams of Four Mile Run
"What's great is to see is the community getting creative to encourage others to explore the city in a safe way – to explore what makes Pittsburgh unique," Carroll says.
The event kicks off with a fundraising party at Pittsburgh Opera on Aug. 9 and closes with the 20th annual Pedal Pittsburgh's three rides, for riders of all levels.
"Everybody has a different idea of why they love riding a bike," he says. "If we can get them together to get them to share their ideas, that's what BikeFest is really all about."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Mike Carroll, Bike Pittsburgh

Green Workplace Challenge: back and greener than ever

Last year's PGH Green Workplace Challenge was such a success in helping local businesses and other organizations reduce their energy and water consumption that it's back and bigger than ever, with new categories for sustainable – and profitable – actions.
The 2013-2014 Challenge already has more than 45 places (including nonprofits, municipalities and universities) participating. The year-long contest helps them track and gauge improvements in their greening efforts, and offers a guidebook with bright green ideas, so to speak.
"They're all targeted so that the results can be measured, says Matthew Mehalik, program manager for competition sponsor Sustainable Pittsburgh. "It's not just 'Do this so you'll feel good.'"
Participants establish an energy-use baseline and earn points for the effects of their actions while helping the environment and saving themselves money in the process. Entrants who sign up by the July 31 deadline will be entered into a drawing to win their choice of an energy audit; a waste, recycling and green procurement assessment from the Pennsylvania Resources Council; a ZipCar credit account; a green energy voucher from Community Energy, supplier of Pennsylvania-generated wind and solar energy; and bicycles for a shared office bike program.
This year's contest adds transportation and waste management as new categories for companies to track and improve upon.
Last year, Mehalik says, lighting saw the biggest energy and cost savings for entrants, since lights operate 24/7 in most cases, or at least during business hours. Companies were helped by using more efficient lighting or sensors that turned lights on when a space was occupied, which worked particularly well for warehouses and other large areas. The more industrial companies worked on making their equipment operate at peak efficiency.
Mehalik recommends that participants take advantage of energy audits: "Businesses that underwent energy audits tended to be the best performing," he says. "The energy audits reveal what their opportunities are …."
Overall, he adds, companies would like to see more of their employees engaged in green efforts, so the competition guidebook offers them new ways to do so. The contest, he concludes, "is a way to do more creative things with your business operations that pay off."

Do Good:
Looking for additional ways to green your organization? Connect with Pittsburgh Green Innovators here
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Matthew Mehalik, Sustainable Pittsburgh

First Steel City Solutions Conference to bring HandsOn Tech to more nonprofits

HandsOn Tech is only in its second year of helping nonprofits, particularly the newer and smaller variety, take advantage of the latest technology. But the group has already designed the Steel City Solutions Conference as a management and technology conference on Aug. 9 in Garfield for local nonprofits to meet and learn from more than a dozen of the city's best business minds and nonprofit leaders.
Three nonprofit technology consultants with this AmeriCorps/VISTA program – E. Louise Larson, Annie Bontempo and Will True – say that their event will allow nonprofit staffers who can't attend one of HandsOn's normal educational sessions to gain much-needed knowledge in one productive day.
The speakers and keynote panelists will be:
  • Phil Laboon, founder of Eyeflow Internet Marketing
  • Christopher Whitlatch, who leads the social media and online efforts of The Pittsburgh Foundation
  • Craig Grella, founder and executive director of OrgSpring
  • Ben Weaver, community programs and technology coordinator of Pittsburgh Cares
  • Cynthia Closkey, president of Big Big Design
  • Bobby Moore, executive director of Pittsburgh Cares
  • Thor Erickson, community programs manager at the Design Center
  • Terry Doloughty, community development specialist at CTAC
  • Nicole Moga, community development specialist at CTAC
  • Andrew Butcher, cofounder and CEO of GTECH Strategies
  • Roy Cheran, vice president of marketing and sales at DonorPro
  • Mary McGlohon, software engineer at Google Pittsburgh
  • Marimba Milliones, president and CEO of Hill Community Development Corporation
"One of our goals is to get nonprofits talking to one another – all sizes of nonprofits – and for nonprofits to be talking to businesses and learn different ways to accomplish their goals," says Larson.
Participants will attend a panel by keynoters Erickson, Milliones and Butcher – an informal Q and A for nonprofit staffers – moderated by Colman Wolfson, Innovation Works' business development strategist. They will then split into three tracks – technology, management and outreach – at three different Penn Avenue art galleries: Irma Freeman Center, International Children's Gallery and Most Wanted Fine Art. The day includes sessions on everything from "An Office Culture of Innovation," "Donor Management" and "Accidental Techie Resources" to "Measuring Your Outreach Impact," "Social Media Strategizing" and "On the Importance of Branding."
"We wanted to have the conference in inspirational settings and we thought art galleries would be a good choice," says Bontempo. As an audience, "we are targeting smaller nonprofits who don't have a tech person," she adds. 
"The primary hope that I have," says True, "is that people come out with a tactical game plan or position they wish their organization to take."
HandsOn Tech is managed by Pittsburgh Cares.
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: E. Louise Larson, Annie Bontempo and Will True, HandsOn Tech
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