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Neighborhood Allies awards $478,000 to transformation projects

Trade-skills training in Wilkinsburg and Homewood. A mobile market that delivers healthy and affordable food to food desert areas. Community leadership training in Pittsburgh's Hilltop neighborhoods.

These creative, innovative and collaborative projects and ideas are just a sampling of the investments totaling $478,000 recently announced by Neighborhood Allies. Funded through Neighborhood Allies’ Catalytic Awards, the programs aim to help transform struggling neighborhoods into more sustainable, healthier, safer and stronger communities.
Funds raised from local foundations, banks and some governmental organizations support the Catalytic Awards, according to Talia Piazza, Neighborhood Allies program manager for community resources and communications.
Neighborhood Allies, whose predecessor organization was the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development, launched in 2013 with the purpose of including 21st-century community development initiatives. As the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development, the organization awarded catalytic grants about four times a year. But, Piazza said, this is the organization’s first group of awards as Neighborhood Allies.

A total of seven awards have been made in the fall 2014 round, representing a new approach to investing in neighborhoods that support innovative, resident-driven development and revitalization strategies.
“These financial investments, coupled with intensive support from our talented staff and dedicated partners, will provide the needed resources to produce positive social impact and improve neighborhoods so that all residents are able to enjoy a better quality of life,” said Neighborhood Allies President Presley Gillespie.
Six priority communities across the City of Pittsburgh and neighboring suburbs received awards. Projects will address local issues and opportunities ranging from neighborhood leadership, wealth building, access to healthy foods, blight removal, workforce development and job placement initiatives.
The fall 2014 Catalytic grantees really do run the gamut.
Larimer Consensus Group was awarded $68,000 to hire the organization’s first staff person to coordinate resident representation and action-oriented participation in the revitalization and development of the neighborhood. Millvale Community Library received $75,000 to hire staff to guide development projects that improve community health through the EcoDistrict Sustainability Plan.
The Catalytic Grant provided $75,000 to Farm Truck Foods, which will pilot a mobile market program and food truck that provides universal access to whole, nutritious, affordable and local foods to residents living in food deserts or in communities with poor access to healthy food.
Community Workz, Inc. received $65,000 and strives to build capacity and strengthen the leadership at community organizations in Beltzhoover, Allentown and Knoxville.
Center that CARES was awarded $60,000 to launch Tech Central at the Jeron X. Grayson Community Center in the Hill District. Tech Central bridges the digital divide to 21st-century technology and connects the most vulnerable students to resources within the region and beyond.

Trade Institute of Pittsburgh received $75,000 to expand its facility and programming to address chronic unemployment in Wilkinsburg and Homewood and to reach individuals who have spent time in prison, juvenile centers or rehab facilities. The program offers comprehensive, stable and effective trade-skill and life-skill training. The training aims to make students employable and offers a chance to increase earning potential and to obtain a job outside of the minimum wage job market.

CARE Ownership was awarded $60,000 to implement a wealth-building program that trains and empowers current Larimer residents to become owner-occupants of multi-unit, formerly blighted properties.
“This [program] is truly catalytic,” Piazza said about the landlord training program. “It’s really creating opportunities for real residents [to contribute] to the revitalization of their neighborhood.”
CARE Ownership uses existing properties and trains residents how to manage, operate and own neighborhood real estate, Piazza said, adding that the program creates change with a fast turnaround, removing blight and creating a residence while teaching real-life skills.

For more details on the fall 2014 awardees and their projects, visit www.neigborhoodallies.com. Neighborhood Allies plans to hold another Catalytic Grant funding round in early 2015.
Source: Talia Piazza, Neighborhood Allies

Grant supports minority business owners in Wilkinsburg

The Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation recently secured funding to implement a Business Image Improvement Fund, which will offer support to African American business owners within Wilkinsburg's Central Business District.
Projects that the fund may support include renovating a storefront, developing a sign or logo and establishing an online presence. The program was created in response to feedback from Wilkinsburg’s business community.
Funding for the Business Image Improvement Fund was provided in part by a grant from the Poise Foundation, a local organization that assists Pittsburgh’s black community in achieving self-sustaining practices through strategic leadership, collective giving, grant making and advocacy.
Leslie Parr, owner of Wilkinsburg-based Shining Stars Creative Childcare & Learning Center, is one of several business owners who support the Business Image Improvement Fund. She explained, “The WCDC has supported my aspirations of owning my own business … The WCDC works diligently with businesses in the Wilkinsburg community to successfully match resources and programs to businesses’ needs.”
Jennifer Salmans, WCDC program coordinator, explained that business owners have requested assistance with purchasing a storefront sign or improvements like updating interiors that maybe haven’t been renovated in 10 years. Salmans said chosen applicants will meet with a consultant to approve the improvement project.
“The goals are to do improvements that will enhance the appearance of the business,” she said, noting that the WCDC has an end goal of improving the Central Business District as a whole.
The Poise Foundation’s $5,000 donation has launched the program and, Salmans says, the WCDC is grateful. She added that she would like to see the fund grow to reach $50,000 with help from other donors. If the fund does expand, Salmans said the WCDC may open up the program to all Wilkinsburg Central Business District storeowners.
The Business Image Improvement Fund will be available in early 2015 and will be dispersed through an application process. Applicants must be already-existing businesses operating in Wilkinsburg’s Central Business District. Interested applicants should contact Jennifer Salmans at (412) 727-7855 or jennifer@wilkinsburgcdc.org for more information and an application.
Source: Jennifer Salmans, WCDC

Home ownership assistance opportunity available in Monessen

After receiving a $233,386 grant from Westmoreland County, the Mon Valley Initiative will use that money to help Monessen families become homeowners.
The grant money will provide down payment and closing cost assistance to up to 20 low- to moderate-income individuals and families in an effort to stabilize the housing stock and to provide affordable homeownership opportunities in the City of Monessen.
Each eligible household may receive up to $10,000 in assistance to be applied toward home inspection and closing costs, recording fees, settlement fees and costs to provide information to the homebuyer. No funds are available for repairs to the home.
Qualified applicants for MVI Down Payment and Closing Cost Assistance must have an income between 60 percent and 80 percent of the area median income for Westmoreland County, verified by a third party.
Applicants must plan to purchase a single-family housing unit in Monessen that passes code inspection that the applicant intends to make their primary residence. The family or individual must intend to make the home their primary residence and must also have, or be willing to purchase, mine subsidence insurance.
In addition to home and readiness requirements, applicants must receive a certificate of completion of housing counseling from MVI.
“Applicants must be mortgage-ready to take advantage of this opportunity,” said Jonathan Weaver, MVI housing counselor. “This program is for you if you already have an income and good credit, but may need some financial assistance when it comes to purchasing a home.”
In addition to families approaching MVI about the opportunity, the organization is working with area realtors.
“Buying a home in Monessen is already a bargain,” said Christa Ross, RE/MAX Select Realty realtor. “With additional down payment assistance made available through this grant to MVI, it creates a great opportunity for buyers to own their own home with very little cash out of pocket, rather than continuing to rent.”
MVI supports several programs that work to stabilize Monessen’s neighborhoods, explained Patrick Shattuck, MVI director of housing and real estate development. Though this home ownership opportunity will be available until May 2016, Shattuck warns that the program is first come, first serve.

He said if the program instantly finds 20 households, the opportunity may not be available for the projected two or more years. Shattuck said MVI’s goal is to get people to “buy in Monessen” and  “commit to Monessen.” According to Trulia.com, the average list price in Monessen's zip code 15062 is $60,020 and the median sale price is $44,600.
“Monessen has got some fantastic neighborhoods,” Shattuck said. “[Monessen has] a wide variety of options at affordable prices for homeowners.”
To inquire about this opportunity, please contact Jonathan Weaver at 412-464-4000 ext. 4008 or email jweaver@monvalleyinitiative.com
Source: MVI, Patrick Shattuck

Meet Kathy Lachenauer, new executive director of Family House

A new face at Family House is doing her part to ensure Pittsburgh stays a world-class medical leader.

Kathy Lachenauer was recently named the new executive director of Family House, a nonprofit that provides housing for families of loved ones receiving treatment in Pittsburgh. And Lachenauer has big plans for fundraising and relationship development at Family House in 2015.
Lachenauer, whose passion for philanthropy is evident through her strong background in fundraising, marketing and development work, comes to Family House after 15 years at Carnegie Mellon University where she served as the Associate Vice President for University Advancement.
“It is truly an honor to join Family House,” she said. “I’ve been touched seeing the tremendous impact the organization has on the lives of thousands of families who come to Pittsburgh to heal. I am excited to work with the staff, volunteers and health care community to grow Family House’s reach and impact in the years to come. The four homes are a treasured resource for our region and for families in their times of greatest need. I’m very proud to be part of something so special.”
Lachenauer’s professional background, however, was only part of the reason she was drawn to Family House.

Sharing a story from her own life as a new mother, Lachenauer said she knows from personal experience how important Family House's services are.
“When I was a new mom, my first son was born with a severe cleft lip and palate -- so severe that it couldn’t be treated in Pittsburgh and I had to travel to Boston with my newborn baby,” she said. “The hospital there didn’t have a Family House. Instead, it had an expensive hotel that was nearly always full. So, I spent many nights in my baby’s room after his surgery. I felt shattered after a couple days of this because you never really got to sleep. I remember thinking ‘There’s got to be a better way.’ When I got back to Pittsburgh, I heard about Family House and thought, ‘Yes! This is amazing that Pittsburgh is helping families in this way. It’s just what I could have used.’”
As Lachenauer begins her tenure as executive director, her goals for 2015 include fundraising for home improvements on the four Family Houses.

Lachenauer said she wants to ensure that the houses are in excellent shape and a source of pride for the region.
“Just like anybody’s home, our homes need homeowner upkeep and repair -- from new roofing to a renovated porch to plumbing and heating upgrades," she said. "We’ve responsibly set aside dollars to help with these capital needs but, again, as with any homeowner who has an older house the needs are significant and beyond current dollars in our budget."

Since its inception in 1983, Family House has provided affordable and convenient accommodations for patients and their families who are receiving medical treatment at Pittsburgh-area hospitals. Each year, nearly 15,000 families from all over the world stay at Family House’s four locations surrounding Pittsburgh’s acclaimed hospitals in the Oakland-Shadyside area.
In addition to fortifying the physical structure of the four Family Houses, Lachenauer says her two other 2015 goals as executive director include building community pride in Family House and engaging more volunteers.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of Family House,” she began. “Imagine being a scared patient and family member arriving in Pittsburgh, knowing no one, but then walking into one of our homes and being greeted by a friendly, supportive volunteer.”
Volunteers are also critical to Family House’s economic model, Lachenauer explained. In addition to keeping costs down with volunteers, which maintains affordable lodging rates, she said families are grateful when volunteer groups cook group dinners in Family House kitchens.
“There’s nothing like coming back to Family House after an exhausting day at the hospital and having a home-cooked meal in the kitchen for you,” she said.

Although Family House only has enough volunteers to offer one meal a week, Lachenauer said she would like to see both the number of helping hands and homemade dinners increase.
Residents from all 50 states and 28 countries have stayed in Pittsburgh’s Family Houses. Lachenauer explained that the families come to Pittsburgh for its world-class medical care.
“Our region should take great pride in our excellent medical care, but Pittsburgh should also take great pride in having an asset like Family House. The Pittsburgh community, through Family House, is helping save lives by providing affordable shelter and emotional support in people’s greatest time of need. Additionally, Pittsburgh can remain a world-class leader in medical care by having an asset that enables patients from around the world to avail themselves of our doctors … I’m proud to be a Pittsburgher and draw much of the pride from the impact I see at Family House each and every day.”
Lachenauer lives near Frick Park with her husband and two children, and volunteers as a coach for a 45-student cross-country team at the Carlow Campus School.
Source: Kathy Lachenauer, Family House 

Rent-free Wilkinsburg storefront up for grabs for interested arts nonprofit

Do you work for an arts nonprofit in need of office or gallery space? Wilkinsburg may have just the place for you.
PMC Management Company, LLC, a firm that owns commercial property in Wilkinsburg, has offered to temporarily donate a storefront at 811 Wood St. to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit or government-run arts organization.
The space will be available for donation for up to two years while the firm renovates the building’s upper floors. The unit will be donated rent-free, but interested organizations must agree to pay utilities. 
Qualified organizations must provide documentation detailing their nonprofit or government status as well as a plan for the donated space by Dec. 15. This information may be sent to Chuck Alcorn, Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation economic development coordinator, via email (chuck@wilkinsburgcdc.org) or general delivery (1001 Wood St., Wilkinsburg, PA 15221).
Activating the storefront goes hand in hand with WCDC’s mission to revitalize Wilkinsburg and surrounding areas through business and residential development and cultural enrichment.
“We really see this as an opportunity to bring in another positive aspect to Wilkinsburg,” Alcorn said. He added that the storefront is a promising space for local artists, as the unit is large enough to showcase work. “[We] hope that people see the potential in the space and contact us with proposals.”
For questions about this opportunity, please email (chuck@wilkinsburgcdc.org) or call Chuck Alcorn at (412) 727-7855.
Source: Chuck Alcorn, Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation

Indiegogo campaign helps Bloomfield Sandwich Shop continue free turkey tradition

A bountiful Thanksgiving feast isn’t a guarantee. It’s often a luxury many cannot afford. And some people don’t have the option of spending the holiday with family. But in Pittsburgh, a certain Mama makes sure a good Thanksgiving dinner is attainable for all.
Mama Ros’ Sandwich Shop, also known as The Bloomfield Sandwich Shop, has been providing free Thanksgiving meals to anyone who needs it for 12 years. The shop on Liberty Avenue serves about 200 Thanksgiving meals per year, but anticipates about 400 diners this Thursday.
“It's open to everyone and anyone, not specifically the homeless. It's just about giving back to the community and sharing a meal with your fellow Pittsburgher,”
said Jon Potter, who has been lending a hand to Mama Ros’ this year. “We are also delivering 130 meals to people who are not able to make it to the store that day.”
The shop can support this increase thanks in part to an Indiegogo.com initiative that raised $3,000 last spring.  Mama Ros’ Sandwich Shop customers took to the crowdfunding website to help the local business known for helping others after a particularly hard winter affected funds.
While eating at Mama Ros’ earlier this year, Jonathan Tai, a magician, and Potter, a local jack-of-all trades paraglider and hostel owner, met the Mama and the Papa themselves, Rosalyn Dukes and her partner Mike Miller. Tai and Potter were inspired to help them raise money for the shop by launching the online campaign.
In a previous interview, Tai said the restaurant has a reputation for wanting to feed everyone, even those who can’t always afford it. That’s not just on Thanksgiving, but 365 days a year. The campaign, which reached its $3,000 goal, helped Dukes and Miller continue to do just that.
A video on the Indiegogo.com page discusses the mom and pop’s annual Thanksgiving feast. “We try every year, as best we can, to serve as many people as we can a free Thanksgiving dinner,” Dukes says in the clip.
She added that patrons are welcome to eat in the diner, or they can take the traditional turkey dinner home with them. The meals are pay what you can or pay nothing at all. Last November, Mama Ros’ served more than 15 20-pound turkeys.
“It’s for everybody,” Miller adds in the video. “College kids that can’t come home. People that have families who just can’t, right now, afford to have a good turkey dinner.”
Potter said the community rallied around the shop; now, this is Mama Ros’ way of giving back.
“The purpose was to get them back on their feet because they help the community so much. Because of the help the community gave back, they are able to put on their annual free Thanksgiving meal,” he said.
Potter added that the campaign also helped spread awareness about the shop and its mission to feed people, even when they can’t afford to pay.
“When you go there, you feel like you’re sitting in your mom’s kitchen … that’s why it’s so special,” he said.  
Potter said 400 pounds of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and green beans will be served at Mama Ros’ on Thanksgiving Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Source: Jon Potter, Indiegogo “Saving Mama Ros' Sandwich Shop”

Homeless shelter opens early for severe weather season

Due to the bitter chill that descended on Pittsburgh in mid-November, the Severe Weather Safety Center opened earlier than planned to shelter Pittsburgh’s population of street homeless people.

Operated by Pittsburgh Mercy Health System’s Operation Safety Net and the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, the Severe Weather Safety Center opened on Nov. 13 instead of the scheduled date of Nov. 15.

The shelter provides temporary, overnight accommodations for men at the Smithfield United Church of Christ at 620 Smithfield St., Downtown. New this year, homeless women seeking shelter will report directly to Shepherd’s Heart Fellowship at 13 Pride St., Uptown.

Both locations will offer professional social services, medical care and protection from frigid temperatures to people who do not typically use other existing shelter services. On nights when the temperature drops to 25 degrees Fahrenheit or below or when dangerous winter weather exists or is predicted by the National Weather Service, the Severe Weather Safety Center will be open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. until March 15, 2015.

“In the past, there were a lot of incidents of frostbite and people didn’t have the option to go inside during the winter,” said Operation Safety Net Program Manager Stephanie Chiappini said, adding that cases of frostbite and deaths due to cold weather were more common before the shelter opened. “Now that there is a shelter we don’t see nearly as much frostbite.”

In the past five years, Operation Safety Net has successfully connected more than 1,200 of the individuals it serves to housing, according to a media release.

Chiappini said the shelter costs $85,000 to operate each year, and the organization is always seeking donations from individuals, corporations, churches and other organizations willing to help people who are homeless. 

To support Operation Safety Net with a secure online donation, visit pmhs.org and specify that your gift is intended for the Severe Weather Emergency Shelter. To make alternate arrangements for a donation, contact Pittsburgh Mercy Health System Development at 724-934-3537 or email Development@pmhs.org

During the winter of 2013-14, one of the coldest on record, the Severe Weather Emergency Shelter operated 79 nights, an increase of 17 from the previous winter. The shelter served 156 individuals on Feb. 11, 2014, the highest number for that season. The low temperature for that day was 1 degree Fahrenheit.

Fashion for Freedom: A patriotic fashion show supporting military personnel

Texas-based nonprofit Fashion for Freedom worked with Eye Kandy Boutique in Harmony to host its first event in western Pennsylvania last weekend. All proceeds from this fashionable fundraiser were given to Defenders of Freedom (DOF), an organization that supports U.S. troops during and after service.
Fashion for Freedom’s patriotic fashion show put a spotlight on both active and retired military personnel as they escorted each model down the runway at this year’s fundraiser.
DOF grew out of the Welcome Home a Hero program in September 2004. They were supported by the U.S. Army’s Rest and Recuperation program, which gave soldiers the opportunity to come home for two weeks during their year-long tour. Whether sending out personalized care packages or assisting veterans in their transition to civilian life, DOF continually gives aid to our country’s armed forces to provide them an easier experience in times of discomfort.
An entrepreneur and activist for soldiers returning home from service, Eye Kandy Boutique owner Kandy Barkley recently became a board member for Western Pennsylvania’s Fashion for Freedom sector and played an instrumental part in organizing their first regional fundraiser.
Barkley says she first realized how passionate she was about supporting our country’s troops when she saw the aftermath of her own father returning home from the Vietnam War.
“It wasn’t an experience he talked about very much,” Barkley said, adding that his homecoming helped Barkley to see the way soldiers were treated when they returned home.
“Pennsylvania has the second highest rate of homelessness in the country,” Barkley said, largely due to military veterans who have no resources for mental and physical ailments. This harrowing matter is one of many factors that influenced Barkley to become active in making life better for these individuals.
DOF founder Donna Cranston flew in from Texas to attend this year’s event and take part in an inspiring evening, which included live music, dance performances, silent auctions and a special appearance from Marine Corps Huey Crew Chief, Kirk Brehmer from the Real Captain Phillips Rescue. ShuBrew and Spring Street Cafe provided beer tasting and hors d’ouevres.
Fashion for Freedom welcomed the public to join them to support Defenders of Freedom. DOF promotes the empowerment of veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation New Dawn. The organization offers a multitude of services including career guidance, employment search assistance and guidance for veterans into the civilian sector.
For information on upcoming fashion inspired fundraisers, visit Eye Kandy on Facebook.

Bullying prevention grants available for preschools, day care centers

Parents and teachers of Pittsburgh’s youngest children can apply for additional resources to help nip the bullying bug early, thanks to funding from the Marcus L. Ruscitto Foundation.

The foundation recently announced a new bullying prevention campaign called “Know What’s Right, Do What’s Right” that offers grant opportunities for preschools, kindergartens and early elementary schools in western Pennsylvania. The funding supports programming and curriculum to complement what parents and teachers are already doing in early childhood education.

Not-for-profit public and private schools and day care centers can apply for a grant to be used for one of two programs, said Jon Rosenson, spokesperson and board member from the Marcus L. Ruscitto Foundation. “I Can Problem Solve” is a program that helps students to identify or deter bullying behaviors, while The Josh and Gab show is an hour of entertainment and bullying prevention from a singing comedy duo.
“The youngest children are the most impressionable,” Rosenson said, adding that bullying prevention works best at this age, while bullying intervention is more appropriate for older kids.

More than 70 percent of students and an equal number of school staff have witnessed bullying in educational environments, according to the U.S. Department of Healthy and Human Services.

Schools that have already received grants for Know What’s Right, Do What’s Right include H.W. Good Elementary, Mendon Elementary and West Newton Elementary in the Yough School District; St. Gregory School in Zelienople; St. Bartholomew School in Penn Hills; St. Joseph School in Verona; Green Valley Primary in North Versailles; and Mt. Washington Children’s Center in Mt. Washington.

More information about the bullying campaign can be found here

Campaign supports local musicians at Bloomfield Saturday Market

Hatch, a crowd-sourcing platform that helps to fund projects that benefit communities in Allegheny County, is collaborating with Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corporation (PDCDC) for a campaign to support the Bloomfield Saturday Market.

Specifically, Hatch and PDCDC will be working to support the continued employment of local musicians at each market next year. This year's market was open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays from May 31 through Nov. 1 at 5050 Liberty Ave.

“The music is a great aspect of the markets,” says Christina Howell, Program Manager for the Bloomfield Development Corporation, which organized the market. “People will talk to the musicians and get to know their neighbors.”

Funding for this year's market came from Allegheny Health Network, state and city government, and sponsorships. The market featured many local produce growers and locally interested organizations including The Pittsburgh Pie Guy, Pollak’s Candies, Ohio City Pasta, Zeke’s Coffee, Good L’Oven Bakery, HealCrest Urban Farm, Butter Hill Farm, Olive & Marlowe and Freedom Farms.

“The market’s goal is to improve the health and wellness of the community through access to fresh produce and recipes,” says Howell.

With the Hatch campaign, Bloomfield Community Development hopes to raise $2,070 to bring live music to all four hours of each market next year. Typically, musical artists at the market are from the greater Pittsburgh region.

“The more we can support a hyper-local community, the better off we are in Bloomfield,” says Howell.

Click here to donate to the campaign through Nov. 15.

The Ellis School presents essential career skills for girls

Educators agree that studying so-called hard sciences like technology, engineering and math is a smart choice for students preparing for the workforce of the future.

But it’s soft skills, like collaboration and perseverance, that will turn those smarts into success. And those skills, along with technology literacy, are especially important for girls intent on successful careers, according to The Ellis School. 

Dr. Lisa Abel-Palmieri, Ellis’ director of the Learning Innovation Institute, will host a public discussion next week about the three most important skills girls need for success in school, higher education, and work. 

The three key core competencies — collaboration, perseverance and technology literacy —have always been essential to the curriculum at Pittsburgh’s only independent all-girls school, Abel-Palmieri said. Now, The Ellis School is looking to share opportunities to build these character traits with the larger community.

“We hope the parents will seek opportunities for their daughter, whether it’s in their own schools or within and around the Pittsburgh community,” Abel-Palmieri said. “There’s a number of amazing learning partners, like Assemble, Tech Shop and the many programs at the Carnegie Science Center.” 

Abel-Palmieri said she also hopes to gain an understanding of what’s important to girls and parents, especially in relation to STEM — shorthand for science, technology, engineering and math. 

In addition to creating the Learning Innovation Institute last summer to develop innovative learning practices for teachers and students, Abel-Palmieri said The Ellis School recently redesigned its STEM curriculum. 

“Our niche is infusing these skills into STEM, to make sure that girls have an equal opportunity to be engaged in careers in highly technical fields,” Abel-Palmieri said, adding that these types of jobs will be most prevalent in the future. “When you build these character traits in tech literacy, you’re leveling the playing field.” 

“Three Must-Have Career Skills for Girls” is set for 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Nov. 11 at The Ellis School, 6425 Fifth Ave., Shadyside. Interested parents and educators can register for the presentation here.

Play it Forward toy drive seeks volunteers, space

Three years ago, Heather Starr Fiedler and Amy Kier realized they had many toys their children no longer played with. Rather than throw them out, they decided to start Play It Forward, a gently used toy drive.

To continue its success and growth, Fiedler and Kier are looking for volunteers to organize group drives and volunteer empty spaces to serve as donation drop-off sites for this year’s event.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for the entire family to get involved,” says Fiedler. “Parents can use the opportunity to talk to their kids about giving back to children who are less fortunate than them and groups of all ages and sizes can help donate, collect, sort and organize toys, or volunteer in our ‘shopping’ day and help the family pick the toys for their children.”

Since its inception, the toy drive has been a huge success. Last year, 2,000 children received toys.

“We collect more and more toys each year,” says Fiedler. “The first year we collected about 5,000 toys and we counted 20,000 the second year. Last year we honestly lost track and were overwhelmed by the donations.”

Fielder says Play it Forward differs from other toy drives because they only collect gently used toys, books, games and stuffed animals.

“We are not asking for people to go to the store and purchase a toy, but rather clean out their own playrooms and donate items that are no longer being used,” says Fiedler.

Because of the great number of toys donated each year, Fiedler also needs volunteers to donate extra space in their homes or businesses to serve as drop-off sites for storing the toys until day the donations are available for shopping.

“With just two of us, there’s no way we can collect all of the toys ourselves,” says Fiedler. “So we ask anyone with some spare room to help collect and organize the toys for us. It could be a store room at a business or just a family’s basement.”

For those interested in helping by donating to Play it Forward, Fiedler says while all donations are welcome, they often get plenty of donations for younger children, but they struggle to get donations that are appropriate for older age groups.

“Many of the families that come for assistance have kids of all ages,” says Fiedler. “We encourage people to think outside the ‘toy box’ and donate items like sporting equipment, jewelry and electronics that they may not think of as toys, but that an older child or young teen may enjoy.”

Donations will be accepted through Dec. 1. Families in need can shop for free between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Dec. 13 at a location not yet announced.

Learn more about Play it Forward by visiting www.facebook.com/playitforwardpittsburgh

Art pop-up supports transitional services for women

Life transitions can be difficult, especially for women who traditionally earn less than men. That’s why The Center for Women strives to help women get their feet back on the ground after experiencing life circumstances such as returning to work after being a stay-at-home parent, losing a spouse, or going through a divorce.

To help support and increase community awareness for their services, The Center for Women has partnered with Pittsburgh 10, a collective of primarily female local artists, to host a one-day pop-up art exhibit from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday, October 19, at The Center on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill.

The event will feature new works from Zivi Aviraz, Lila Hirsch-Brody, Kathi DePasse, Joel Kranich, Helen Naimark, Lilli Nieland, Jane Ogren, Phiris (Kathy) Sickels, David Sparks, and Susan Sparks. The work of jewelry designer Danielle Brannigan and ceramicist Sally Allan will also be exhibited.

“We are excited to welcome the Pittsburgh 10 to exhibit their unique pieces at The Center for Women,” says Becky Abrams, director at the center. “We’re always eager to bring new people into The Center to learn more about our programs and volunteer needs, and this collaboration with the Pittsburgh 10 is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for us to raise funds as well as awareness for our programs.”

Attendees will have the opportunity to purchase their favorite pieces from the exhibit and a portion of the proceeds will benefit The Center for Women to support its mission. The organization strives to be a resource for information, referrals, and programming to provide financial and career readiness skills to a vulnerable population of women in transition.

“Getting back on your feet after a transition can lead to financial devastation if you are not knowledgeable about what resources are available to help you,” says Abrams. “Women who are returning to the workforce after raising children are faced with needing to brush up on their career skills, learning new skills and entering a very different and competitive job market.”

The Center, which opened in August 2013, offers services to women of all backgrounds, including Financial Fitness and Return to the Workforce workshops; personal, financial, and career mentoring; internships and job shadowing opportunities; and consultations with volunteer attorneys and financial experts.

“The Center’s programming promotes economic independence, building on and complementing existing career center programming, most of which focuses on hard skills such as resume development, interview skills and vocational assessments,” says Abrams. “The Center’s programming includes focus on ‘soft’ skills such as coaching and mentoring, job experience, self-esteem building, appropriate dress and workforce readiness. These programs and services are important to women in transition so that they can have a place to support them while they get back on their feet. Women helping women to reach and maintain financial independence is the goal of The Center for Women.”

For more information, visit www.centerforwomenpgh.org.

Barebones returns with one-time Rocky Horror Picture Show production

On Monday Oct. 27 at Regent Square Theater, Barebones Productions will be performing its annual one-time production of The Rocky Horror Picture show as a fundraiser.

Barebones Productions was founded by Patrick Jordan, a local actor who wanted to fill a void in the city’s theater landscape.

“I started Barebones Productions to fill what I felt was a void in the Pittsburgh theater landscape,” he says. “There was important work I felt was being looked over in the market in general. Barebones Productions grew from there.”

Past productions from the theater company include A Steady Rain, The MotherF**ker with the Hat, Jesus Hopped the A Train, Killer Joe and others.

Funds raised through The Rocky Horror Picture Show production will help support the company’s mission to facilitate the growth of local theater artists through the production of challenging, entertaining, thought-provoking plays and to attract new young theater audiences by employing minimal production elements for maximum impact.

This is the second year Jordan has produced The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Last year, it sold out. Tickets for this year’s show cost $50 if purchased in advance ($60 at the door) and include admittance to the show, alcoholic beverages, and snacks.

“It was supposed to be just a one time thing,” says Jordan. “The response was so positive and everyone, including the performers, had so much fun that people kept asking us to do it again.”

This year’s cast, just as last year, is full of local artists and performers.

“I can honestly say its incredible and the only time you will see this many local artists having this much fun on stage at one time,” says Jordan. “We have a lot of amazing performers returning from last year.”

These returning performers include the Legendary Phat Man Dee, Dave Mansueto, dynamic frontman and multi-talented Wammo, Daina Griffith, Gregg Dutton, Liz Adams, Sarah Siplak from Wreck Kids and more. Jordan says there will also be some surprised additions to the cast that will be teased on Facebook and Twitter.

The popularity of the Barebone’ Rocky Horror production has drawn the attention of many theater-lovers, but its also attracted individuals who may not have otherwise been interested in theater.

“We had a few people come last year that just like Rocky Horror and wanted to see our twist on it and now they are returning patrons of Barebones,” says Jordan. “It’s cool to see people stray from the norm and become supporters of the arts.”
For those who haven’t seen Rocky Horror Picture Show or aren’t familiar with the popular live cast performances of the film,

Jordan says guests can expect a “powerhouse performances and a kick ass night out” from the show.

For more information visit www.barebonesproductions.com

2015 Fast Pitch offers nonprofits more than just grant money

The application for Social Venture Partners (SVP) 2015 Fast Pitch program is now open. SVP designed the annual program to offer Allegheny County's nonprofit organizations more than just grant money in a process referred to as “engaged giving.”

SVP Pittsburgh Director Elizabeth Visnic describes engaged giving as a responsive approach to philanthropy, including grants plus investing time, professional skills and/or life experience to strengthen nonprofit programs.

“Engaged giving also leverages the resources of others from throughout the community toward a common goal— recognizing that we can do more together than any one of us can do alone,” Visnic says.

Fast Pitch is a two-month program designed to build the capacity of and create visibility for innovative nonprofits in Allegheny County. Through the Fast Pitch process, nonprofit leaders are trained to creative effective messaging for their organization and its needs. The participating nonprofits are provided with the tools and resources to improve their communication, increase their fundraising success and elevate their profile– necessary skills for success in today’s economy.

“Unlike other competitions that focus solely on cash awards, Fast Pitch programming is designed for all participants’ benefit," Visnic says. "Each nonprofit finalist finishes the program with a clearly defined message, valuable networks from throughout the community, and they have shared their vision with 350+ community members gathered for the purpose of learning how to get involved. The Fast Pitch is much more than a one-night event or cash prizes.”

The Fast Pitch winner is selected at the final event in the spring, where finalists present a three-minute pitch, crafted with the help of coaches. The top two presenters are awarded cash prizes of $15,000 and $7,500. Fast Pitch attendees select the winners via ballot. Whether receiving a top prize or not, all nonprofits benefit greatly from the exposure to foundations, philanthropists and other members of the community eager to offer their assistance to participants of the program, Visnic says.

Nonprofits interested in getting a glimpse at what SVP is about can attend the organization’s Fall Pitch event this month on Oct. 21. Fall Pitch is similar to Fast Pitch where finalists give 10-minute PowerPoint pitches. The winner of the Fall Pitch receives 18 months of capacity-building assistance and a $12,500 grant.

Learn more about Fast Pitch and purchase tickets to Fall Pitch here: www.socialventurepartners.org/pittsburgh/

Pugtoberfest supports regional rescue efforts

A group of pugs is referred to as a grumble, and if you were anywhere near Kunkle Park in Apollo, Armstrong County, last Saturday, you likely heard-- and saw— quite a few grumbles of grumbling, snorting pugs. Pugs from western Pennsylvania and beyond gathered at the park for the annual celebration of Pugtoberfest in PA, a fundraiser to support two local pug rescues, Guardian Angels Pug Rescue and Southwest PA Pugs with Special Needs.

Patti Levay runs Guardian Angels Pug Rescue; Lisa Ward runs Southwest PA Pugs with Special Needs. Both rescues are in Westmoreland County, with Levay in Latrobe and Ward in Leechburg.

More than 600 people and their pugs attended this year’s event, which grows more popular every year. Guests attended from as far as California and others came from Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, New Jersey and New York.

“It’s grown by leaps and bounds. You always expect a little increase, but this year we were surprised,” Levay says.

The event featured food, a Chinese auction, vendors and contests. The pug-centered contest categories included a pug race, curliest tail, longest tongue, best pug/owner look-a-like, best trick and best individual and group costumes. Non-pug breeds also had their own contest categories including cutest "pugwannabe" and best "pugwannabe" costume. 

“We had a lot of original costumes this year,” says Levay. “The pug that won first place was dressed up as an aviator in a leather outfit with goggles. We also had a pug in a stroller dressed as an angel, and the stroller was decorated like a cloud.”

Other pugs were dressed as Little Bo Peep, a three-headed pug, a pug in a “pug lite” beer box and other creative and store-bought outfits.

In addition to raising funds through fun and games, Pugtoberfest also serves as an opportunity for guests to meet pug rescues available for adoption and foster. Many of the pugs rescued by both organizations are ill or elderly or have special needs.

“A lot of them are seniors or special needs. They come in with health conditions people just didn’t want to be bothered with,” says Levay, adding that 70 percent of the dogs have eye or knee issues.

Levay says she recently rescued a senior pug that was severely underweight with sores and tumors. A veterinarian suggested she euthanize the senior dog, but instead Levay opted for the $700 surgery to prolong his life.

“I think that the dog deserved the chance to know love,” she says. “The rest of his life he’ll be comfortable, happy and have a warm place to sleep.”

Currently Levay has 10 dogs at her rescue and one in foster care and the number of dogs she can care for at one time is limited.  Young and healthy rescues tend to spend a very brief time with Levay, but others that are older or have health issues can stay longer. Two of her dogs have been with the rescue for three years. Southwest PA Pugs with Special Needs currently has six dogs, two of which have been with the rescue for a couple years as well.

Both rescues rely heavily on personal donations to ensure they can continue to support the pugs in their care and also rescue additional pugs when resources allow.

“Just to take a dog in costs around $300,” says Levay. “That doesn’t include if they need spayed or neutered or have other health issues.”

On top of the intake costs and vet bills for health issues, the rescues also need to pay for regular day-to-day items like dog food, cleaning supplies, eye drops, flea medication and heartworm medication.

“People always ask what I need and if they can donate toys and beds,” says Levay. “I always say ‘How about a bottle of bleach instead?’ People don’t think about those kinds of things.”

Pugtoberfest serves as both rescues' largest annual fundraiser, bringing in around $4,500 last year to split between the rescues. Other fundraising efforts include an annual summer luau and pet photos with the Easter Bunny.

For more information, visit Guardian Angels Pug Rescue or Southwest PA Pugs with Special Needs.


At 10 years, City of Asylum Pittsburgh honors five exiled writers

Yaghoub Yadali was a writer in Iran when he wrote The Rituals of Restlessness in 2004. Three years later, he was sentenced to a year in prison due to the descriptions of an adulterous love affair in his debut novel.

All around the world, literary artists like Yadali are persecuted and even exiled for their writings. A fortunate few of these writers have found refuge in organizations like City of Asylum Pittsburgh that provide them with the sanctuary and support they need to continue their craft and reestablish themselves in a new country.

This month, City of Asylum Pittsburgh is celebrating its 10th anniversary by honoring five exiled writers who have sought sanctuary through the organization: Huang Xiang, Horacio Castellanos Moya, Khet Mar, Israel Centeno and Yaghoub Yadali.

The five honored writers will be reading from their novels at a celebration event on Saturday, Oct. 18, from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at Alphabet City Tent on Sampsonia Way in the North Side.

The event is free to the public and tickets can be reserved online. Prior to the free event City of Asylum will be holding a private reception from 6 p.m. to 7:45 p.m with tickets available for $75 per person. Reception attendees will have their choice of one book and enjoy an international dinner buffet and drinks, as well as the opportunity to mingle with the night's honorees.

Since its inception, City of Asylum Pittsburgh has hosted more than 15 exiled, visiting and exchange writers and presented more than 250 authors and musicians from 42 countries in free readings and concerts. The organization provides an invaluable resource to these writers and also a learning opportunity for the Pittsburgh community.

"There is no more powerful way to be reminded of the importance of defending creative free expression in our own lives," says Henry Reese, founder of City of Asylum Pittsburgh. "When we provide sanctuary to an exiled writer in our community, we also make space in ourselves for important human values."

In addition to providing housing to exiled writers, the organization also provides additional assistance like a stipend, medical benefits, transportation and even an immigration attorney. Services such as commissioning English translations, helping writers find a publisher or securing employment for spouses, are tailored to each writer’s skills and needs in an effort to help the writer become stable and self-supporting.

Among its most visible advancements since City of Asylum’s founding are a series of homes with writing on the exterior. It all started in 2004, when exiled writer Huang Xiang covered his City of Asylum residence with Chinese calligraphies of his poems. The overwhelming response from visitors and neighbors led to the development of additional houses on Sampsonia Way that feature text-based artwork on the facades. Since then, public awareness and community interest in the organization has grown beyond Reese's expectations.

"We had no idea that a program providing sanctuary to endangered, exiled writers would resonate so deeply in the community," says Reese. "We only thought about the writers and making a new home for them, and then we discovered that our own neighborhood was being transformed in the process."

The organization has also developed monthly readings with international authors and translators, an annual free Jazz Poetry Concert, the founding and continued publishing of Sampsonia Way magazine and a sister city exchange with Brussels, Belgium.

While the past 10 years have been a successful journey so far, Reese hopes that City of Asylum continues to grow and make an impact in Pittsburgh.

"We would like to grow our writer sanctuary program so it can support a half-dozen or more exiled writers concurrently," says Reese. "We also hope our neighborhood will be be an inspiring community to live in, where art and the imagination are central."

Next year, City of Asylum will open the Alphabet City literary center, which will feature flexible seating for up to 125 guests and serve as a home for readings, performances, seminars and cultural events, in addition to a bookstore and café.

"We would like to make Alphabet City a hub for Pittsburgh's creative cultural and social life, where you can always find interesting conversation, books, and performances along with good food and drink," says Reese.

Pressley Ridge students create new permanent art mural downtown

For people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, art and creativity have been proven to improve and enhance physical, mental and emotional well-being. With this in mind, Pressley Ridge School for Autism is organizing the creation of a mural Downtown, crafted with help from students at the school.

“Art acts as a visual tool for communication as well as a multi-sensory activity for children who have autism,” says Kelly Weimer, Director of Autism Services at Pressley Ridge. “For someone who may have difficulty with language, the art-making process becomes an outlet for self-expression and creativity. It gives children a way to express themselves in a positive manner. Children who have autism also respond to sensory input differently than most people. The smell and the feel of paint both contribute to opening up the children’s senses when they are exploring the materials, giving them a new experience.”

The mural is being painted on the brick wall of a building at 1208 Fifth Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh and will become a permanent art installation.

The first painting day was Saturday, Oct. 4.  A second painting session will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 11, and is open to the public.

“We’re hoping even more folks can help this Saturday at our final Community Paint Day,” says Weimer.

To help plan and coordinate this mural project, Pressley Ridge partnered with Moving the Lives of Kids Community Mural Project (MLK Mural).

“Pressley Ridge has been working closely with MLK Mural for the entire process,” says Weimer. “MLK Mural frequently does these types of programs to engage youth in their community through art, but we wanted to collaborate on something specific to the autism community and our children.”
Kyle Holbrook, founder of MLK Mural, designed the mural to incorporate both the Pittsburgh Penguins and features of the autism community like illustrations that will appeal to the senses of the kids and the puzzle piece symbol often used for autism awareness.
“[The puzzle piece] signifies the complexity of the disorder, but also the diversity of people affected by autism,” says Weimer.
Once the mural is completed, Weimer hopes it will serve as a permanent reminder to children of the positive impact they can make on the city.

“This project will showcase how talented and passionate our students are. They can create something amazing and affect the community in such a positive way, just like anyone else,” says Weimer. “We hope that the Pittsburgh community can view this mural and think of the students at the Pressley Ridge School for Autism in a new and inspiring way.”
To learn more about Pressley Ridge School for Autism, please visit www.PressleyRidge.org.

ASSET hopes to close STEM funding gap with new scholarship program

In celebration of its 20th anniversary, ASSET, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing teaching and learning to empower students, announced a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Scholarship Program to support innovative STEM education programs.

All school districts and education organizations including libraries or tutoring programs may apply for a piece of the anticipated $200,000 scholarship pie for the 2014-2015 school year. Recently, ASSET was awarded a $50,000 matching grant from The Hillman Foundation to help reach this grant pool goal. Other sponsors include Bayer Corporation, Dollar Bank Foundation and Westinghouse.

“At ASSET, our focus is on directly impacting teachers and students,” said Dr. Cynthia Pulkowski, Executive Director. “Establishing the STEM Scholarship Program is the perfect way to celebrate our 20th anniversary because the program is representative of our mission — advancing teaching and learning to engage, inspire and empower all students.”

According to ASSET, budget constraints in many school districts have resulted in drastic reductions to vital STEM education programs that help children develop necessary skills and knowledge to succeed. Through this scholarship program, ASSET hopes to help some school districts close the funding gap and ensure that high-quality STEM education opportunities are available to all students, regardless of budget constraints.

Dollars granted through the scholarship will provide classroom materials and/or professional development for educators; increase student participation in hands-on STEM learning; and enhance educators’ effective instrumental practices.

The first round application deadline was Sept. 15 and applications and scholarships will be reviewed and awarded as received. While any school district or educational organization is invited to apply, preference will be given to organizations with a high percentage of students on free/reduced lunch, high levels of diversity and low proficiency on state assessments.

To apply or learn more about ASSET’s STEM Scholarship Program, visit www.assetinc.org

ATHENA Awards recognize excellence in professional women

This year's Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Awards Program honored the president and CEO of UPMC Health Plan and the sales manager for Lightning Energy Services.

For 24 years, The Allegheny Conference on Community Development has recognized exceptional professional women through the Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Award and the ATHENA Young Professionals Award.

During the awards luncheon on Monday, UPMC Health Plan President and CEO Diane Holder received the Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Award. Amelia Papapetropoulos, Sales Manager for Lightning Energy Services, received the ATHENA Young Professionals Award.

The ATHENA Awards are named after the Greek goddess of strength and wisdom and annually recognize professional women who serve as exemplary examples of these traits. The Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Awards Program Luncheon is one of the largest stand-alone events of its kind among some 500 presented annually across the globe in affiliation with ATHENA International.

Holder was selected from a pool of 25 nominees and five finalists as this year’s Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Award recipient. 

“Through their examples, inspiration and mentorship, ATHENA Awards recipients make a difference for countless women from many walks of life,” said Allegheny Conference Chief Financial Officer Janel Skelley. “That’s what distinguishes such ATHENA award recipients as Diane Holder, who joins the ranks of 23 other remarkable women we’ve been privileged to recognize with this award.”

Holder has led UMPC’s insurance division, as well as strategic and business operations, for 15 health-related insurance and health management companies. She focuses on helping people live longer, healthier lives and advocating for good health for all members of the community. Holder serves on numerous boards, mentors groups and individuals, and lends her support and guidance to the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Women Work and Standing Firm, among other organizations. She is a mother of three children.

Papapetropoulos was selected from a pool of 25 nominees and three finalists for The ATHENA Young Professional Award, which recognizes leaders under the age of 35.

She is the founder of Young Professional Women in Energy and works for equity and greater visibility for women in the energy sector. She is also president of Amelia’s Elegant Catering and developer of fire-resistant clothing for women field workers. She is a member of the region’s Young Professional Board for Junior Achievement, an evaluator at the University of Pittsburgh’s national entrepreneurship completion and has been named one of Pittsburgh Magazine’s “40 Under 40.” She is a contributing author to the book Empower! Women’s Stories of Breakthrough, Discovery and Triumph.

Other 2014 Athena Award Finalists include:
  • Linda Croushore, Executive Director, The Consortium for Public Education;
  • Susan Kirsch, Shareholder-Tax Advisory Services, Schneider Downs;
  • Karen Larrimer, Chief Customer Officer and Chief Marketing Officer, PNC; and
  • Suzy Teele, Chief Operating Officer, SnapRetail.
The other 2014 ATHENA Young Professional Award finalists, chosen from among 25 nominees, were:
  • Stephanie Garbe Compliance Senior Specialist, PNC; and
  • Sabrina Saunders, Executive Director, Strong Women Strong Girls.

Sample fine wine and food at HEARTH's annual fundraiser

An evening devoted to sampling wine and food from Pittsburgh's most beloved eateries will benefit HEARTH, a non-profit that provides safe and affordable housing for the area's homeless.

The Art of Wine & Food will feature treats from Bluebird Kitchen, The Capital Grille, Il Pizzaiolo, Mallorca, Jimmy Wan's, Willow and more from 6 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 2 at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh on the North Side. 

This year, event organizers hope to raise $50,000. Last year's event raised $55,000. 

As the organization's largest annual fundraiser, The Art of Food & Wine supports HEARTH's mission of helping local families to become independent and self-sufficient through support services and adequate housing. 

“The event began in 2002 and was held at Manchester Craftsmen's Guild,” says event committee member Vicki Gill. “It’s developed into not only a fundraiser, but a ‘friend’ raiser bringing awareness of the programs HEARTH provides to people who love wine and food.”

Kelli Burns Entertainment will DJ for the evening. Guests can purchase tickets for a chance to win prizes in the Chinese auction, including an autographed Neil Walker jersey, overnight stays at some of Pittsburgh’s best hotels, a South African photo safari and golfing at Mystic Rock at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.

Sponsors for the festivities include Jackie and Chuck Fusina, First National Bank, TriState Capital Bank, Guardian Storage, RAK Medical Inc./Globus Medical, Savinis, D'Amico and Kane LLC, Sitko Bruno and Trek Development Group.

For more information, visit www.hearth-bp.org/winefood.htm

LunaMetrics provides valuable SEO training to non-profits for second year

With the success of last year’s free Search Engine Optimization training for non-profits and students, LunaMetrics has arranged to host the training again this year on Oct. 18 and 19 at its South Side offices.

According to Chris Vella, LunaMetrics search analyist and trainer for this year’s session, many non-profits find that learning SEO skills on their own is out of reach.

“Non-profits have a lot to gain from learning SEO, especially in Pittsburgh where the non-profit sector thrives," Vella says. "Competition is a real threat to any organization, and employing SEO best practices helps an organization to get into fighting shape. SEO audits for organizations can cost upwards of $10,000, so this is truly a valuable opportunity.”

The training will provide non-profits with the tools they need to improve their web presence. The training is available for seven to eight non-profits and about 20 students. A group of students will recommend website changes for each non-profit to make in order to improve its SEO.

“Having a strong presence on the Internet is vital to any organization’s survival and that’s becoming a more widely accepted notion these days,” says Vella. “It’s not always obvious, however, how to build that strong presence an organization desires. SEO, search engine optimization, is about building or growing your audience and making your organization easier to discover online.“

Students benefit from the training by learning an employable skill, which Vella notes is increasingly important in today’s fierce job market.

“Students will also have the opportunity to network with other students interested in professional development from the Pittsburgh area and local non-profits,” says Vella. “We’ve also tried to involve organizations that could potentially offer the students internships following the training.”

Vella himself is an example of how the training can help students find employment. He attended the training last year and began working for the digital consulting firm a short time later.

“The training brought so many opportunities to me, and I eventually ended up being hired at LunaMetrics as a search analyst,” says Vella. “The tables have turned and I’m conducting the training this year. I hope to give this year’s students a similar experience.”

Learn more about the training at www.lunametrics.com/website-traffic/seo/pittsburgh-seo-training/

RADical Days offers free admission to more than 30 regional assets

The next few weeks are looking pretty rad thanks to free admission to the region's most beloved cultural gems, courtesy of the Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD) and its annual RADical Days.

In honor of RAD’s 20th anniversary, this year’s RADical Days will run for 20 days from Sept. 24 through Nov. 9. Free tours at PNC Park kick off the event on Sept. 24, followed by free admission and special programming from 35 other venues including the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, Society for Contemporary Craft, Phipps Conservatory, Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall, Heinz Field and more.

“RAD and the regional assets invite you to enjoy 20 RADical Days as a thank you to the public for its annual support of regional libraries, parks, sports facilities and arts and culture programming,” says David Donahoe, RAD Executive Director. 

Since its inception in 1994, RAD has funded nearly 150 regional assets through the one percent county sales tax paid by residents and visitors to Allegheny County. This tax has resulted in a major investment in the region and RAD-support assets, including libraries, parks, trails, sports and civic facilities, transit systems, arts organizations, and regional facilities like the zoo, conservatory, and aviary.

“With nearly $1.5 billion invested in Allegheny County since 1994, RAD sales tax dollars have sustained and improved our regional assets, which enhance our lives and communities in many ways,” says Donahoe.

While there are more than 35 locations offering free admission or programs, admission will not be free every day at every location. A schedule of all RADical Days offerings is available online. RADical Days alerts are also available via text message by texting RAD to 79797.

Tossing 75,000 water balloons for Team Tassy

One local organization's efforts to battle global poverty made a splash in Oakland's Schenley Plaza earlier this month, leaving a larger-than-life water balloon fight in its wake. 

Pittsburgh's Third Annual Great American Water Balloon Fight pitted more than 600 balloon-tossers against each other, divided among local celebrity team captains including Tall Cathy from 96.1 FM KISS, Sally Wiggin from WTAE-TV and Jonny Hartwell from 3WS radio station. More than 100 volunteers filled 75,000 water balloons for the event benefiting Team Tassy, which works to end global poverty.

Ian Rosenberger founded Team Tassy after traveling to Haiti to assist in relief efforts following the 2010 earthquake. While there, he befriended Tassy Fils-aime, a Haitian who needed surgery to remove a tumor from his face. Through fundraising, Rosenberger raised $100,000 to help pay for her surgery at Allegheny General Hospital. 

After Tassy’s surgery was funded, Rosenberger decided to continue his mission of helping Haitians and eliminating poverty and founded Team Tassy. The Great American Water Balloon Fight is now one of the organization’s most popular fundraisers.

"The Great American Water Balloon Fight was created because of two beliefs, the first being that giving should be a joy, and the second is that if we can get everyone involved with the fight to end global poverty, we can make it happen within our lifetime,” Rosenberger says.

Rosenberger said that Team Tassy's efforts expanded beyond Pittsburgh to Denver this year, adding that he hopes the organization will continue to expand their fight to end global poverty. 


Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry celebrates successful garden harvest

With the summer season coming to a close, Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry (SHCFP) is enjoying the peak harvests of its Squirrel Hill volunteer garden before it winds down for the fall. The garden was launched in the spring through a collaboration with Repair the World: Pittsburgh and has helped provide food pantry clients with fresh produce options in addition to traditional pantry staples.

“Part of SHCFP’s mission is to ensure our clients have access to fresh, nutritious healthy foods, and the new garden is a wonderful way of continuing and sustaining our efforts,” says Matthew Bolton, director of SHCFP. “Even though individuals in our community may be food-insecure and rely on our services for help, we make sure they don’t have to make nutritional sacrifices.”

The volunteer garden, located on Murray Avenue broke ground in early spring and throughout the summer the garden has been providing SHCFP with fresh produce to distribute to the more than 1,700 clients utilizing the pantry. Vegetables reaped from the garden include green beans, beats, tomatoes and other seasonal vegetables.

Everything from general garden operations to coordinating volunteers for ongoing garden care and harvests was done by SHCFP and Repair the World: Pittsburgh, a local non-profit dedicated to organizing one-time and ongoing service opportunities around the issues of education, food access, senior services and refugee resettlement.

Many low-income families struggle to have access to general food stuffs and its especially difficult for these families to access healthy foods that typically run a higher cost. This is why SCHFP has had the ongoing mission of providing healthy options to its clients like fruits and vegetables in addition to the traditional pantry staples of non-perishable food items.

While the garden was established by SCHFP and Repair the World: Pittsburgh, its ongoing successful harvesting is all thanks to dedicated volunteers who donate their time to maintain the garden, take care of the plants and harvest ripened vegetables.

"The Squirrel Hill volunteer garden truly showcases the tremendous spirt of volunteerism in Pittsburgh," Bolten says. "Our overall goal is to ensure food security for everyone and we can only fully do so with the support of our entire community."

For more information visit www.sqfoodpantry.org

Ready Freddy welcomes 2014 kindergarteners to Pittsburgh Public Schools

On Thursday, Aug. 28, Ready Freddy, a program devised by the University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Child Development, welcomed and encouraged incoming kindergarten students to Pittsburgh Public Schools for its sixth year.

The program launched in 2008 with a first-day-of-school event at one school. This year, Ready Freddy is at 14 Pittsburgh Public Schools and iterations of the program have been adopted in 20 different states. Expansion of the program in Pittsburgh has been thanks to the help of United Way, Carnegie Library, Reading is Fundamental, A+ Schools and the Housing Authority among others.

 “Often times Universities are criticized for being overly theoretical without understanding the practicalities of what it takes to apply the work directly in the community,” says says Ken Smyth-Leistico, assistant director at the University of Pittsburgh Office of Child Development. “This office takes great pride in understanding the challenges of what occurs by those doing direct practice and utilizing theory and best practices to fill those gaps. Ready Freddy was developed and led by staff here and it grew organically by blending the interest area of local foundations, the expertise of the Office of Child Development staff, need assessments of local schools and other avenues for input.”

Ready Freddy is designed to increase awareness about the importance of kindergarten and to help ease the transition from the home to the classroom.

“Nearly half of all children struggle with the transition to kindergarten, according to national studies,” says Smythe-Leistico.
“Late arrivals and poor initial attendance are considered significant predictors for school failure. The Ready Freddy Program targets those children most likely to be absent on the first day.”

Months before students arrive for their first day of class and Ready Freddy’s first-day-of-school festivities, the Ready Freddy team canvasses city neighborhoods, enrolls children in kindergarten, takes parents on virtual tours of the schools, and shares activity calendars as well as an interactive Web book with families.

“There are a host of reasons why children might be nervous for the first day so to ensure we have an impact with as many children as possible, several types of activities are offered during the months leading up to the first day, the first day itself, and even the months that come after,” says Smyth-Leistico. “The first day itself has become a cause for celebration.”

To ease nerves, school entrances are transformed into festive, celebratory spaces. Community members students may know are invited to stand next to teachers the students are meeting for the first time and hand the kids off. After the first day of school, Ready Freddy continues to work with families to keep the kids in the classroom.

“Naturally, the normal challenges of everyday life will lead to children beginning to miss school,” Smyth-Leistico says. “The Ready Freddy Program promotes continued dialogue with families to help problem solve difficult circumstances to ensure missing school is not the result.”

Learn more about Ready Freddy at www.readyfreddy.org

Partners join forces to build new playground in Whitehall

Various community stakeholders and more than 200 community volunteers are working together to build a new playground for children in Prospect Park in Whitehall on Sept. 9.

An old playground in the park will be replaced by a new playground with a design based on children’s drawings created at a special design event in July. The new park will feature a variety of colorful playground equipment including climbing walls, swings and slides all in compliance with today’s playground safety standards. The park flooring will also be covered with 51,000 square feet of safety surfacing floor tiles.

The project was started by South Hills Interfaith Ministries. Other stakeholders in the project include Whitehall Borough, Economic Development South, Heinz Endowments, Jefferson Regional Foundation and KaBOOM!, a national organization whose goal is to ensure all children get the balanced and active play they need to thrive. KaBOOM! made the equipment available at cost and will also provide playground building expertise for the construction. More than 200 volunteers from the community will also aid in the construction process.

“The old playground was outdated by today’s standards. Its drab and gray and it has probably been 15 years since its been renovated,” says Jim Guffey, Executive Director at South Hills Interfaith Ministries. “The wish of the community has always been to have a new playground.”

The Whitehall playground is the 12th playground project in the Pittsburgh area that has received funding through an $800,000 grant from the Heinz Endowments. The playground was also funded by Jefferson Regional Foundation.

“Jefferson Regional Foundation coming in with additional funding means the Heinz grant will get to go even further and support other playground projects in Pittsburgh,” says Guffey.

More than 1,000 community children will get to enjoy the playground, including refugee children living in the Prospect Park neighborhood of Whitehall who have little experience with carefree outdoor play. The refugees come mostly from Bhutan and Myanmar, but also include individuals and families from countries like Burundi, Sudan, Turkey, Bosnia, Vietnam, Morocco, Russia and Iraq.

“Resettlement in Whitehall started in the late 90s and we’ve been a very receptive community,” says Guffey. “We have residents from more than 25 different countries, speaking more than 30 languages. I love to use the analogy that we have our own little united nations.”

The kick-off ceremony for the construction project will start at 8:30AM and conclude with a ribbon-cutting ceremony 2:30PM.

If you’re interested in donating your time to help construct the playground in Whitehall, visit

Just Harvest wins national farmers market poster contest

Just Harvest won first place in the Farmers Market Coalition’s first-ever nationwide farmers market poster contest, beating out more than 160 entries for a prize of $1,000.

Just Harvest will use the funds to support their mission of educating, empowering and mobilizing people to eliminate hunger, poverty and economic injustice in our communities by influencing public policy, engaging in advocacy, and connecting people to public benefits.

"We are also enormously gratified by the national recognition of our efforts—that we are seen as the best in the country in creatively promoting this type of program,” says Emily Schmidlapp, Just Harvest's Fresh Access coordinator.

Just Harvest’s poster for Fresh Access won in the Best EBT and/or Incentive Program poster category of the contest. The designer of the poster was Doug Dean, Art Director of Wall-to-Wall.

Fresh Access enables the use of food stamp/electronic benefits transfer (EBT), credit and debit cards with participating vendors at these markets. At the Just Harvest tent, shoppers swipe their card and receive tokens, which can be used as cash to purchase food.

Use of the program has grown rapidly. Last market season, total sales topped $42,000 that benefited local farmers and communities. As of June 30 this year, sales have quadrupled since the same time last year.

Since its inception, the Fresh Access Program has grown from being in two Citiparks farmers markets in 2013 to seven markets in 2014, as well as the Swissvale Farmers Market and the Market Square Farmers Market operated by Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. Fresh Access will also be available at the Bloomfield Farmers Market and Lawrenceville Farmers Market before the close of summer.

"We are thrilled by the success of this program, but not surprised," Schmidlapp says. "The nearly one in four Pittsburghers who live in poverty are literally hungry for fresh food options. Half of all Pittsburgh residents live in neighborhoods that lack access to nutritious food. This program helps address that problem while putting money in the pockets of local farmers and contributing to healthy, vibrant communities. It's a win-win-win."

Anyone interested in posting one of the award-winning posters to help promote Fresh Access can contact Katie Mahoney at Just Harvest via katiem@justharvest.org.

Sarah Heinz House summer camp gets a facelift

Overnight summer camp is the quintessential childhood experience and thanks to three area construction companies, the Sarah Heinz House summer camp just got that much better.

Major renovations were made to the camp this summer thanks to the donated supplies, building materials and professional know-how of three local construction companies and their suppliers—Massaro Construction Group, dck worldwide, LLC and Mascaro Construction Group, LP. Area companies Clista Electric, Renick Brothers, Modany/Falcone, Patrinos Painting, Red Rocks Group, and Gateway Engineers also donated labor, supplies and consulting services to the effort.

“Any time you have the opportunity to help a good cause, you forget about the competitive nature of business and work together,” says John Sebastian, dck worldwide, LLC Executive Vice President. Sebastian helped spearhead the renovation efforts along with Demeshia Seals, Vice President of Massaro Construction Group, and Ron Cortes, Vice President of Building Operations at Mascaro Construction Company, LP.

Sarah Heinz House serves area youth ages 3 to 18 by providing safe, quality after school and summer programs for more than 3,000 adolescents each year through membership programs and community outreach activities. The resident summer camp serves more than 200 youth each summer.

The 70-year-old, 111-acre overnight camp on Slippery Rock Creek near Ellwood City provides an array of activities for youth including boating, swimming, crafts, nature hikes, archery, paintball and geocaching. Developing a sense of independence and life skills are also key components of the camp experience.

“The work to improve and update our camp facilities was extensive,” says Jennifer Cairns, Executive Director at Sarah Heinz House. “These companies stepped up and pitched in to respond to our critical need for repairs and completed the project in time for kinds to enjoy another horizon expanding summer camp.”

The renovations totaled more than $31,000 and included installing new shower and plumbing fixtures, updating electrical wiring, new kitchen appliances, painting, and a new roof and lighting over an existing deck built by a Sarah Heinz House member last summer as an Eagle Scout Project.

“This collaboration shows the true giving spirit of Pittsburgh’s corporate community,” adds Ms. Cairns. “The important contributions of all of these companies help to ensure that our summer camp will continue to be available and affordable for area youth for years to come."

Learn more about Sarah Heinz House programs at www.sarahheinzhouse.org

Political candidates perform stand-up at annual fundraiser

On Wednesday, Aug. 13, Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) held its annual Candidates Comedy Night fundraiser at the Pittsburgh Improv in Homestead, Pa., and raised more than $40,00 to benefit the Music Festival Fund.
The Music Festival Fund creates a resource to provide youth with items and opportunities that are not available through traditional government funding.

“It has paid for things like camps, dance or karate lessons or even school books for kids going to college, “ says Ondréa L. Burton, Manager, Events and Donations, DHS. “It is funded entirely through donations from two major events, the Allegheny County Music Festival, this year on August 31 and featuring Rusted Root, and the Candidates Comedy Night.”

Each year, the event puts political candidates for races of local interest into the spotlight for an evening of fun as candidates perform a stand-up routine, sing, dance or play an instrument. Gene Collier, columnist with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and professional stand-up comedian emcees the event and keep the jokes flowing between acts.

“The topics and talent are all over the map,” says Burton. “Some do comedy routines or just tell stories. Some sing songs or do skits. The candidates, for the most part, are very familiar to the audience, so sometimes it’s nice to see an unexpected lighter side.”

Political figures featured in last week’s event included candidates for the U. S. House of Representatives Mike Doyle, Tim Murphy and Erin McClelland; incumbent Governor Tom Corbett; Senatorial candidates Mike Stack and Wayne D. Fontana; and candidate for governor Tom Wolf.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and City of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto also performed at the event.

Some highlights of the night included gubernational candidate Tom Wolf joking about how Pittsburgh has been welcoming to him, but he added that “unfortunately they think I’m Edgar Snydner.”

Congressional candidate Erin McClelland (D) joked about being the only female candidate at the event and the only one “not suffering the long-term side effects of Viagara.”

Congressman Tim Murphy (R) decided to go the musical route and played his guitar, singing a ballad he personally wrote about the EPA taking jobs away from coal miners through regulations on the industry.

Closing remarks and thanks came from DHS Executive Director, Marc Cherna, at the end of the night.
Learn more about Candidates Comedy Night at www.alleghenycounty.us/dhs/ccn.asp

Non-profit helps veterans find much needed resources

The more than 97,000 veterans in Allegheny County now have a new tool to help them find necessary resources once they return home.

Checkpoint, a new organization created by Pittsburgher and Iraq War veteran Jared Souder, is a web platform that provides a database of veteran-friendly resources, as well as reviews and feedback by fellow veterans to help future veterans make informed decisions about the outlets they seek for services.

“The idea for Checkpoint really came out of my own frustration with the fragmentation of resources in the Veterans’ space and the incredible effort required of veterans or military family members who were trying to find the right things,” says Souder. “I spent four years working with homeless veterans as the head of a local agency and even as someone who worked in this field full-time and knew a lot about what was going in, I would still run into roadblocks and come up with a lot of unanswerable questions. I kept saying to myself that there’s got to be a more effective way.”

Checkpoint helps alleviate some of this frustration by bringing together the vast world of veteran services into one, easy to access platform that empowers veterans to have a voice in their own community.  Checkpoint users can identify specific providers serving specific needs like career advancement, medical care, and more.

Although there are national databases that provide similar information, Souder says they lack a local presence and ultimately have little local visibility and support. Local agencies also compile their own lists of contacts, but these lists are only affective if the veteran is already connected with the agency. According to Souder, Checkpoint will help bridge the gap.

“We’ve got the touch and presence of a local agency because we’re part of the local community, but we’re using a lot of the same sorts of technology that you’ll see with commercial information aggregators like Yelp! And Angie’s List,” says Souder.

So far, the response from the veterans’ community has been appreciative.

“I think within the veteran community, there’s been a recognition for a long time that this ahs been a problem, but nothing has really been able to fill the void effectively,” says Souder. “When I go out and talk about what we’re doing, I constantly have people coming up to me and telling me how they needed this and how excited they are to see it develop.”

Although Souder is the founder of Checkpoint, he says the organization wouldn’t have been possible without the support of The Heinz Endowments who provided him with the financial resources he needed to get Checkpoint moving, as well as connections and expertise.

“I can safely say that without them this would still be just an idea in my head,” he says.

Souder says he’s also received significant support from organizations like Steel City Vets, Team Red, White & Blue, and The Mission Continues.

While Checkpoint will start out as a very local resource, Souder has big plans for the organization.

“I absolutely think what we’re doing has the potential to impact communities all over the United States, so in my heart I believe that we’ll expand, but right now we’re really just trying to fine tune our model and processes here in Pittsburgh so we can make sure we have the best, most positive impact in southwest Pennsylvania.“

In these infant stages of the organization, financial support and awareness are vital to Checkpoint’s success. To help on both of these fronts, the organization is hosting an event Oct. 3-5 called The Crucible. This event will be a three-day, 70-mile extreme hike through the Pennsylvania Laurel Highlands Trail.

“The event is designed to bring together a group of veterans and civilians and simulate perspectives, support and mirror some of the challenges and conditions veterans face on a daily basis,” says Souder.

Visit www.thecheckpoint.org to learn more about what Checkpoint is doing for the Veterans of southwest Pennsylvania.

Vintage school bus turned fermentation lab rolls into town

Fermentation on Wheels will be rolling into Pittsburgh this month with a variety of free workshops to bridge communities and restore a genuine fascination and interest in local, traditionally preserved foods.

Fermentation on Wheels is a creative education and food-preservation project founded in Oregon by culinary artist Tara Whitsitt who converted a 1986 International Harvester school bus into a fermentation lab and workshop space in the summer of 2013. In October that year, she hit the road and has since made more than 100 stops in 23 states and traveled more than 7,000 miles in her bus.

While in Pittsburgh, Whitsitt will be incorporating regional produce that she acquires from local farms and farmer’s markets into her fermentation workshops being held Aug.15 through Aug. 23.

“Each workshop presents something new and surprising as farms are growing different vegetable varieties,” says Whitsitt. “The produce available at the farm or farmer’s market I visit will determine what I bring to each workshop. Given that it’s summer, I might ferment cucumbers or zucchini, but honestly it’s going to be what inspires or excites me in the moment.”

Whitsitt’s first event will be at Chatham University where she’ll hold a community potluck and culture share. on Aug. 15 from 4PM to 7PM

For the culture share, attendees are encouraged to bring starter cultures of their own for exchange and discussion as well as bring an empty jar to take a culture home. Cultures are a key component to the fermentation process and are used to help inhibit the growth of undesirable microorganisms and promote the growth of desired bacteria.

The potluck at Chatham will feature a fermented-food theme and a 30- to 45-minute talk about fermentation.

“The potluck is open to all who are interested in fermentation and my project,” she says. “It’s meant to bridge the community of fermenters—beginners and experts alike—so that they can teach and learn from one another. It’s an exercise in community building and attendees are encouraged to bring all types of foods, fermented or non-fermented. “

An additional vegetable fermentation workshop for adults is in the works at Wigle Whiskey on Aug. 23.

Whitsitt will also be hosting educational workshops for children and youth while she's in town. She’ll be participating in Children Museum of Pittsburgh’s “Pickle Day” on Aug. 16 from 11AM to 3PM and will also hold a fermentation workshop for ages 10 and older at the museum on Aug. 20 from 5PM to 6:30PM.

“It’s important to educate our youth about food since they will be managing and participating in our future food system,” she says. “This system plays a huge role in our environmental impact, which will ultimately decide how long we can happily live here on Earth. It’s so important that we learn to consume food and other resources more thoughtfully.”

With all of her workshops, Whitsitt hopes participants walk away with a better understanding of our food system and the confidence to begin fermenting in their own home kitchens.

“I hope participants leave with a sense of being able to comfortably and fearlessly ferment in their own kitchens and that they’ll think twice about the foods they consume,” she says. “I also want participants to gain a new perspective on bacteria and its importance to our eco-system and how we tie into the greater world of living things. My project is a way to display a sustainable and simple lifestyle that encourages people to use energy more efficiently and intentionally.”

For more information and the full workshop schedule visit www.fermentationonwheels.com

Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse holds pay-what-you-can fundraiser

The Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse (PCCR) is hosting a pay-what-you-wish fundraiser on Aug. 21, from 6PM to 9PM at the Wigle Barrelhouse and Whiskey Garden in the Northside.  

The goal of all PCCR efforts is to reduce consumption and re-imagine waste as something to be harvested and repurposed to help the community. This is achieved through the sale of secondhand creative supplies at the PCCR store in the East End and through a variety of creative programming and workshops.

The organization relies heavily on the generosity of others and funds earned through sales and shop services at its retail store in order to survive and continue to serve the creative community. Recently, PCCR has found that interest in the organization’s work is growing faster than their ability to grow staff and facilities.The Barrelhouse fundraiser will help support this growth and help PCCR develop a more sustainable operation.  

“We are a resource center for creative people that needs our community to support us, not only by donating stuff and shopping, but also by contributing financially and by volunteering,” says Erika Johnson, Executive Director for PCCR. “We need a little bit of ‘venture capital’ to help us grow from the scrappy labor of love we’ve always been to a larger, sustainable operation. One of our big fundraising priorities right now is to save up money to replace the 21-year-old van we rely on to travel to programs and collect materials.”

Entry to the fundraiser will be a pay-what-you-can model that allows attendees to contribute what their finances allow. Johnson says this entry model was important because it allows all kinds of people to connect, create and support the PCCR.

“We care a lot about creating spaces where everyone feels welcome,” says Johnson. “A pay-what-you-can fundraiser allows everyone to participate and contribute. The creative reuse community includes a lot of artists and teachers who want to support us, but might not be able to attend a traditional fundraiser.”

The event will feature craft cocktails and food provided by Bar Marco, East End Food Co-op and Bistro to Go. Food trucks are also expected, including The Pop Stop and others. PCCR will also be organizing a non-traditional raffle of curious finds from the PCCR shop.

The Lone Pine String Band will be providing entertainment throughout the evening and the PCCR will have a build-your-own-party-hat station and a photo booth.

Guests who purchase their tickets online before Aug. 21, will receive a discount code from Uber to use for transportation to and from the event.

For ticketing, visit http://www.eventbrite.com/e/wigle-whiskey-bantam-night-benefiting-creative-reuse-tickets-12081045733

Save the Carrie Deer and preserve a piece of Pittsburgh's industrial past

Among the rusted ruins of the Carrie Furnaces stands a behemoth of a sculpture known as the Carrier Deer. Since 1997, this 40-foot tall deer head created from remnants of the former Blast Furnace Plant has played an artistic homage to the remarkable natural powers of reclamation that have taken hold of the site since its closure in the 1980s.

However, just as time and nature have slowly deteriorated the Carrie Furnace, time is slowly taking a toll on the Carrier Deer as well. To help preserve this Pittsburgh treasure, The Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area is holding an event called Save the Carrie Deer on Saturday, August 16. The event will feature an open air screening of The Carrie Deer documentary and serve as a kickoff to the campaign to restore the historic sculpture. This event will be the very first public screening of the film.  

The documentary, created through a collaboration of Rivers of Steel and independent production company, Glyph, Inc., tells the story behind the sculpture including how seven core artists came together to create the Carrier Deer and the collaboration, process, and experimentation that took place to create such a giant sculpture. The Deer was created during the early years of a period where many artists were taking part in industrial salvage and guerilla site-specific artworks. The artists spent an entire year creating the Carrie Deer and in the process risked injury, fought nature, and eluded police to create this iconic piece of Pittsburgh.

The Rivers of Steel hopes to raise an initial $5,000 to get structural repair work started on the Deer and eventually a total of $20,000 to achieve a full restoration.

“The biggest threat to the Deer is time itself,” says Ron Baraff, Director of Museum and Archives at Rivers of Steel. “It is exposed to the elements and made of materials that will ultimately breakdown over time if steps are not taken to support and restore elements of the sculpture.”

Man has also been an ongoing threat to the sculpture including demolition activities and acts of vandalism that have plagued the area from 1998 to 2010. Since 2010, the Rivers of Steel has taken on the huge task of stabilizing the site structures and enhancing its security to prevent future vandalism.

The construction and location of the sculpture have also been an ongoing issue for preservation as the original team of artists that constructed the piece in the late 90s never imagined that the piece would still be standing today, 16 years later.

“They were building it in the moment and there were no guarantees that the site would be saved,” says Baraff. “It was assumed by many, if not all, that the furnaces would be torn down just like everything else at the site.”

The sculpture has no welded connections and was constructed on top of the roof of a pump building that has since collapsed. To reinforce the Deer for years to come, Baraff says a support ring needs to be created for the bottom of the Deer to support and distribute the weight of the piece and vertical supports must be added along with the shoring up and tacking of horizontal elements. After this is completed, they can reposition the sagging head of the Deer and return it to close to its original state. The pump building will also get a new roof and be repurposed into a gallery space.  

“We have in the Carrie Furnaces, a prime opportunity to showcase the rich industrial legacy of the region as well as show the impact of post-industrialism on the region,” says Baraff. “This is where the Deer really comes into play. It is the poster child of post-industrial rustbelt America and what happens to these sites when the work goes away. The Deer’s presence on the site allows us to show what happens and to use these interactions to open new and exciting doors for visitors to the site. The exploration of the aesthetics of the site and the environmental impact of the site are all possible because this sculpture is there and acting as the gatekeeper.”

Tickets for the Save the Carrie Deer VIP reception are $125 and include VIP seating for the screening, meet-and-greet opportunities with the artists and filmmakers, food and drink by Superior Motors and Dorothy 6, a silent auction, live music and a twilight tour of the Carrie Furnace site.

General admission tickets can also be purchased for $10 and include seating for the screening as well as street food vendors and live music.

For more information, visit http://www.riversofsteel.com/things-to-do/event/save-the-deer-event/

85 Broads renames and rebrands to Ellevate

The Pittsburgh chapter of the global organization 85 Broads recently announced the organization’s transition to a new name and branding. The entire organization is now called Ellevate and features a more modern look and additional tools and resources for its chapters across the globe.

Ellevate Pittsburgh made the announcement at a recent networking event held at Savoy along with Young Professional Women in Energy to benefit Special Spaces Pittsburgh Metro.

"We decided to use the opportunity to share the news of what exactly changed with the organization with the crowd of members and nonmembers at the event," says Kristina Martin, Events Assistant for Ellevate Pittsburgh. "It was an educational opportunity. We brought fliers and promotional pieces and our president addressed the crowd and we answered guests questions."

Ellevate is an organization for women “trailblazers” who want to advance in their career and lives surrounded by likeminded women who can relate and help them reach their goals. The organization was designed to provide women a global network of backing and ensure that women realize they can succeed professionally. Ellevate has more than 40 regional chapters and campus clubs in 130 countries.

“Ellevate uses the term ‘women trailblazers’ to describe females who are driven and dedicated,” says Martin. “These women want to make leaps and bounds and land on top in their respective fields. They want to propel forward, so they devise a plan for how they’re going to do just that.”

Membership includes women of all ages and in all professional stages.

“Membership is across the board,” says Martin. “We attract everyone from high school and college students to senior level professionals. You’ll find there’s an energy you can’t fake here and the women you meet genuinely wish to share advice, help make connections and lend a hand.”

Beyond the new name, the new Ellevate also features new membership levels, an updated website, new promotional materials and updated methods and capabilities for communication to aid local chapters in better informing the public about Ellevate and what the organization can do for its members.

“The organization has tweaked its membership levels and added a new category called ‘entrepreneur’ to keep up with the times and cater to the ladies of 2014,” says Martin. “The updated look of the website and the ability to feature local members on the website are also bonuses.”

For 2014-15, Ellevate Pittsburgh is hoping to hit the ground running with its new branding and introduce some new programming including skill share sessions, a second story slam, a daylong unconference, and one-on-one sessions with experts in various fields.

“More than that though, we truly want to bring together women in the name of fun and empowerment, and I mean that,” says Martin.

For more information, follow Ellevate on twitter @EllevatePIT

Gutchies for good: TRIM Pittsburgh's Underwear Party

If you find yourself at The Livermore on August 8, you may feel a little overdressed in your usual cocktail attire. The bar will be full of the scantily clad from 8PM to 11PM as it hosts TRIM Pittsburgh’s first annual Underwear Party benefiting the Animal Rescue League Shelter and Wildlife Center.

TRIM, a mens’ underwear and swimwear boutique in East Liberty, is throwing the party in celebration of National Underwear Day. While underwear is welcome attire at the party, guests are encouraged to wear whatever makes them comfortable including swimwear or regular street clothing. 

“What we want to do with this event is to have fun while raising money for a good cause,” says Thomas West, owner of TRIM Pittsburgh. “We decided to help fundraise for the Animal Rescue League because not only is it a good cause, but I love animals. I have fond memories of my dog Lola that I rescued from an animal shelter. She was the best dog and what better way to remember her than to fundraise for the Animal Rescue League.”

The event will feature a DJ, a cash bar, small bites provided by The Livermore, giveaways and an underwear runway show featuring models of all body types.

“The models will be both your typical model and your average guy,” says West. “We want to show that every man should care about what they wear under their clothes, even if no one else sees it. It helps set the tone for the day—whether that be work, a social event or a date.”

Dan Burda, owner of hair salon Studio Raw 2.0 in Ross Township, will be the emcee for the night’s festivities.

“Dan is very active in the Pittsburgh community and I couldn’t think of a better person to emcee our first underwear event,” says West.

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased in store at TRIM Pittsburgh or over the phone by calling 412-512-2828.

For more information, visit www.trimpittsburgh.com.

PGH Funded: Komen Pittsburgh awards $1 million in grants

Susan G. Komen Pittsburgh has awarded $1 million in community grants to local organizations looking to fund breast health education, screening and treatment initiatives throughout western and central Pennsylvania.

Since Komen Pittsburgh’s inception in 1993, the organization has awarded more than $18.5 million to local organizations through its grant program. Komen Pittsburgh awards large grants once a year and small grants on a monthly basis that help serve emerging needs.

The majority of the funds raised for the grant program are acquired through Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure.

“The largest source of our funding comes from a long-time Pittsburgh tradition–our annual Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure that takes place every Mother’s Day in Schenley Park,” says Kathy Purcell, chief executive officer of Komen Pittsburgh. “Funds are raised for Race through a variety of sources including individual pledges and corporate sponsorship. It’s this community’s tremendous support of our Race that enables us to provide services throughout our region.”

Purcell adds that 75 percent of all the money donated to Komen Pittsburgh remains in the region to serve the local community.

“Komen Pittsburgh is a local organization,” she says. “The contributions we receive come from people who live and work in our community. It’s our responsibility to put those funds to work in a manner that best meets the community needs. We service 34 counties in western and central Pennsylvania, and we work diligently to have the broadest reach possible in those counties.”

Of the $1 million recently awarded, more than half of it has been awarded to Adagio Health for its Mammogram Voucher Program.

“Our greatest tool in the fight against breast cancer is early detection, and Komen Pittsburgh’s Mammogram Voucher Program (MVP) reduces barriers for uninsured women and men so that they can access potentially life-saving breast screenings,” Purcell says.“The MVP is also the only program in Pennsylvania that includes men and has no age limitations.”

The entire list of grant awardees is featured below.

Adagio Health
Mammogram Voucher Program, $568,063.00

Cornerstone Care, Inc.
Dancing with a Pink Ribbon Breast Health Outreach, $72,484.00

YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh
ENCOREplus – Bilingual Breast Health Program, $61,190.00

J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital Foundation
Breast Health Coordinator, $57,000.00

Magee Womencare International
Wisewomen Ministries: Trained Peers Providing Culturally Appropriate Breast Health Education and Support, $44,050.00

Allegheny General Hospital
Breast Imaging Fellowship, $30,000.00

Allegheny General Hospital
Interdisciplinary Breast Surgical Fellowship, $30,000.00

Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC
Breast Imaging Fellowship, $30,000.00

Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC
Interdisciplinary Breast Surgical Fellowship, $30,000.00

Indiana Regional Medical Center
Small Choices – Big Change, $28,046.00

UPMC Hamot
Telemedicine Cancer Risk Genetic Counseling in Erie, Altoona, and Johnstown UPMC Facilities, $25,792.00

Allied Coordinated Transportation Services
Transportation Program for Breast Health Care, $23,375.00

Organizations interested in being a recipient of a Komen Pittsburgh grant must apply during the organization’s Request for Applications period that is issued mid-summer of each year with a submission deadline of December. An independent, confidential panel then reviews the applications and evaluates them on how well they address the needs identified in the Komen Pittsburgh Community Profile. Any non-profit within the 34-county service area that provides breast services is eligible to submit an application.

For more information visit www.komenpittsburgh.org.

Pittsburgh Public Market launches Kickstarter for a shared use kitchen

Pittsburgh Public Market, a non-profit founded by Neighbors in the Strip, launched a Kickstarter campaign to garner the last bit of funds needed to launch The Market Kitchen, a commercial kitchen space to help local food businesses grow at their own pace.

Approximately $600,000 has already been secured for the project thanks to the Mary Hillman Jennings Foundation, the Allegheny County Development Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund, and the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Community Service. With the help of the Kickstarter campaign, Pittsburgh Public Market hopes to raise an additional $10,000 for the project. The campaign will end on July 31 and this last bit of funding will be used for construction necessary to finish the space.

Plans for the kitchen have been a long time coming according to Kelly James, Kitchen Manager at the Pittsburgh Public Market.

“Neighbors in the Strip recognized the impact that The Market Kitchen project would have on Pittsburgh Public Market and began planning the shared use kitchen in 2005,” she says. “Like starting any other business, feasibility and funding had to be considered from every angle. We also obtained the ideal space for the project when Pittsburgh Public Market moved to 2401 Penn Avenue.”

According to Kelly, the food industry can be extremely challenging for entrepreneurs and often requires substantial loans and a brick and mortar location to retail from. Other than La Dorita’s shared use kitchen in Sharpsburg, food entrepreneurs who can’t afford their own private space are left scrambling for rental spaces in local churches or community centers and these types of rentals are often unpredictable in scheduling.

“The Market Kitchen offers an alternative to sky high rent and utility bills,” she says. “Kitchen members will also have the opportunity to benefit from being able to utilize Pittsburgh Public Market to retail and market their product. They will be able to build their brand at their own pace. Personal chefs and cake decorators will have a home to base their business from, food trucks can use the kitchen as their commissary kitchen, and even existing businesses that have the need for more prep space can benefit. Best of all, the members of The Market Kitchen will be part of a supportive community of chefs.”

Groundbreaking for the kitchen will happen in the next couple of weeks and it's hoped the kitchen will be ready for use in late August or early September. Once completed, the fully licensed commercial kitchen will include brand new, high quality equipment, onsite cold and dry storage, and loading dock access.

The Market Kitchen will be able to accommodate four users at a time and will be available to rent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Bookings are already being made for the space and several businesses already have permanent schedules in place.

“I will be curious to see how many businesses we will be able to support,” James says. “At this stage we are seeing so many differing needs and schedules and we will continue to plug in users until the schedule is completely full.”

For more information about The Market Kitchen project and Kickstarter campaign, visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1607216439/the-market-kitchen-is-a-food-entrepreneurs-dream-c

Adrenaline rush: Fundraiser challenges participants to repel down a building

Kathleen C. D'Appolonia understands the struggles of addiction well. Her son suffered with addiction for several years and nearly lost his life. Today he's eight years sober and will be repelling down the Westin as part of the Shatterproof Challenge to raise awareness for addiction.

The Shatterproof Challenge is an event organized by Shatterproof, a non-profit organization that works to support addiction advocacy efforts across the country. Participants in the Shatterproof Challenge who fundraise $1,000 or more are invited to repel down a building in the host city. In Pittsburgh, this building is the Westin Hotel in downtown.

Funds raised through the challenges are used to strengthen addiction resources in research, prevention, treatment and public policy. Currently Shatterproof is focusing funds on the launch of a resource center in December that will provide a comprehensive collection of information for all audiences that need support with addiction. They will also advocate for insurance reimbursement for screening and intervention programs for teens and for Good Samaritan Laws and Naloxone legislation to help prevent overdoses.

"I think I'm not different from many other parents who have dealt with their child's addiction," D'Appolonia says. "We experienced the nightmare of finding and coordinating evidence-based care and dealt with the stigma and secrecy of addiction. We were furious to find that there is so little research into the causes and markers for prevention and that there's so little that the professionals in your life like physicians, psychologists, teachers, police, attorneys and others can help with."

D'Appolonia adds that she hopes the Shatterproof Challenge and the funds raised through these events will help bring awareness to addiction and reduce the stigma addicts and their families experience during such a difficult time.

"Often people don't want to hear about addiction," she says. "Sometimes there's the assumption that there's a defect somewhere in your child or in his/her upbringing and that it's a moral failing. Families that deal with addiction often feel shame. They deal not only with their addicted child, but also with the devastating impact the addiction has on the rest of the family and they deal with it in silence. Imagine if your child had cancer. There would outpourings of support. That doesn't happen with addiction. Shatterproof will address this by educating the public on the prevalence of the disease, the science of addiction, and the need for better resources and support."

Learn more about the Shatterproof Challenge at www.shatterproof.org

Summer Food Service Program helps prevent child hunger once school ends

More than 40,000 children in Allegheny County public schools get free lunches through the National School Lunch Program, leaving a large swath of county children vulnerable to hunger once the school year ends.

To help prevent children from suffering from hunger during the summer months, Allegheny County Department of Human Services is sponsoring more than 80 sites throughout the county to participate in the Summer Food Service Program, a federally funded program that provides free breakfast and lunch to children under 18 years of age as well as eligible individuals with disabilities. The sites opened for the summer on June 9 and will provide free meals through Aug.15, 2014.

“Summer Food is food that’s in when school is out. It ensures a nutritious meal can be served when school cafeterias are closed for the summer,” says Sally Petrilli, service administrator for DHS Office of Community Services.

Petrilli adds that while many low-income families also receive food assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), these benefits “can only be stretched so far for some families and Summer Food allows those families in need to focus on dinner and weekend meals, easing the burden a bit.”

Last year, 137,000 meals were served through Summer Food. To help encourage higher participation, Petrilli says the DHS-sponsored sites also offer recreational activities. This effort is especially important in light of a recent report from the Food Research and Action Center that shows only 18.7 percent of students who received free lunches in 2013 also participated in free summer meal programs.  

“Recreation options bring more children to participate and receive a meal,” she says. “This year Allegheny County Parks will host basketball mini camps at some of the sites. Allegheny County Department of Human Services will also provide arts and crafts materials and sports equipment like soccer balls.”

More information about the DHS-sponsored Summer Food Service Program sites can be found at www.alleghenycounty.us/dhs/food.aspx

New Pittsburgh tour series helps support non-profits

Pittsburgh Transportation Group has launched a new group tour division with a focus on giving back to the community called “Pittsburgh Tours & More.” This new division features a series of specialized Pittsburgh tours that are teamed with participating nonprofit organizations that will receive a portion of each tour’s proceeds.

“Giving back to the community has been a longstanding tradition of our company and we wanted to continue that tradition with our new tour division,” says Jamie Campolongo, president of Pittsburgh Transportation Group (PTG). “We’re creating another way to put the fun in fundraising for a number of Pittsburgh nonprofit groups.”

Current non-profit partners include Pittsburgh Film Office, Josh Gibson Foundation, Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank and Animal Rescue League & Wildlife Center. Ticket prices for the tours range from $30 to $85 and run anywhere from 2.5 hours to 6 hours in length. Public tours run Fridays and Saturdays. Each tour also includes a food element such as a treat, lunch or sampling.

"We tried to cover a wide swath of needs and interests in our choices of tour partnered nonprofits," says Group Tours Director Sherris Moreira. "The tours already help spotlight and promote Pittsburgh, but by partnering the tours with nonprofits, it’s another great way to spotlight and promote the city. We chose to support nonprofits that also give back to the community at large, so to us, it’s a complete win-win."

The tours benefiting the partnering non-profits include the following:

Lights, Camera, Pittsburgh: The Official Film Office Movie Tour (2.5 hours) benefiting the Pittsburgh Film Office features an interactive tour through the city backdrops of such movies as The Dark Knight Rises, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Flashdance, Inspector Gadget, Jack Reacher and dozens more created in partnership with The Pittsburgh Film Office. Chateau Café & Cakery will also provide treats on the tour.

City of Champions: The Pittsburgh Sports History Tour (2.5 hours) benefits the Josh Gibson Foundation and explores the sports history of Pittsburgh and includes tours of former football fields like Forbes Field, the “Cradle of Quarterbacks” legend, and the stomping grounds of famous Pittsburgh athletes like Johnny Unitas. Treats will also be provided on the tour by Chateau Café & Cakery.

Flavor of Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh’s Popular Food Culture Tour (3 hours) benefits the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank and will give tour-goers the chance to taste their way through Pittsburgh with bites from popular food destinations featured in Huffington Post, Man Vs Food, Drive-Ins and Dives, Undercover Boss, The Food Network, The Travel Channel and more. The food samplings included in this tour are enough for a meal.

The Amish Experience: Country Living at its Best Tour (6 hours) benefiting the Animal Rescue League & Wild Life Center goes beyond the city limits and explores the countryside and shops of Old Order Amish in the heart of Western Pennsylvania. A homestyle lunch is provided on the tour by Tavern on the Square in New Wilmington.

In addition to these offerings, Pittsburgh Transportation Group has also been partnering with other non-profits to help them develop their own fundraising tours.

"We’ve been approached by nonprofits that are developing tours of their own and we are just putting the wheels under their tours, so to speak," says Moreira. "This way, we can partner and promote to interested constituents. So far, these encompass public art, business incubators and historical churches. It’s actually very exciting to be able to provide another means of fundraising to a variety of nonprofits and charitable organizations."

Moreira adds that the tours are a great opportunity to do something fun and also contribute to a good cause.

"We all need to do fun things for ourselves, but sometimes it’s hard to do so with other pressing matters in our lives," she says. "Tours that give back to good causes help alleviate the guilt of taking time for ourselves and people have responded well to that concept."

Learn more about Pittsburgh Transportation Group’s fundraising tourism at http://www.pghtoursandmore.net/

PGH Funded: Goodwill SWPA receives $800,000 grant

Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania (SWPA) has received an $800,000 grant from The Richard King Mellon Foundation to aid in the implementation of the agency’s 2013-2016 strategic plan.

The grant will fund various aspects of the strategic plan with the goal of building Goodwill SWPA’s infrastructure through initiatives such as program recruitment, safety improvements, technology for training, communications and retail enhancements.  

“We are extremely grateful to The Richard King Mellon Foundation for this significant grant for our strategic plan.” says Michael J. Smith, President and CEO of Goodwill SWPA. “Over the next three years, our plan serves as a blueprint for the transformation of our agency. The grant provides the needed resources to implement many of the key aspects of the plan.”          

There are five goals outlined in Goodwill SWPA’s strategic plan. They are: implementation of a holistic and integrated service delivery model; implementation of innovative green initiatives; implementation of innovative human service programs; enhancements to organizational capacity to support innovation and create a culture of continuous improvement; and continuing to enhance financial stability. 

With the assistance of this grant, Smith believes Goodwill SWPA is “well positioned to expand Goodwill’s role as a recognized leader in workforce development and social services for people with special needs, as well as to support other community organizations that are committed to diversity and sustainability.”

Improving Goodwill SWPA’s technology will be among the primary focuses for the funds.

“This grant will help us develop a stronger technology infrastructure especially so we can better train employees throughout the region,” says Smith.  

In 2013, Goodwill SWPA helped more than 53,000 individuals overcome various barriers to unemployment through its various trainings, programs and other services.

This is the second grant awarded to Goodwill SWPA from The Richard King Mellon Foundation. The foundation was a leading supporter of a large scale capital campaign in 2010 to help fund the organization’s move to its current Lawrenceville location.

More information about Goodwill’s strategic plan can be found at: http://www.goodwillswpa.org/about-goodwill.

Mayor Peduto announces plan to end veteran homelessness by 2015

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto recently announced his committment to ending veteran homelessness in Pittsburgh by the end of 2015 in partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

With his announcement, Pittsburgh joins a growing number of communities across the country that have pledged to end veteran homelessness.

 “Veteran homelessness is not an intractable social problem that can’t be solved,” says Mayor Peduto. “By focusing our resources and renewing our communities’ commitment to this issue, we can end veteran homelessness in our city and our country. I’m proud to join Mayors across the country as we work toward the important goal of honoring the service of our veterans by making sure all of them have a home to call their own.”

Pittsburgh will work with HUD, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), and the National League of Cities to leverage federal resources and develop a local strategy to make sure every veteran in the community has access to stable housing and the supportive services they need to stay off the street.

“We know that in order to achieve the aggressive goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015, we need the support and commitment of local elected officials,” says Jane E. Miller, Director of HUD’s Pittsburgh Field Office. “I am so pleased Mayor Peduto has pledged his support and look forward to working with him to build momentum in reaching this goal.”

As of last count in January 2014 there were 97 homeless veterans in the Pittsburgh area, 78 living in emergency shelters and 19 living unsheltered.

Since 2010, when the Federal government launched Opening Doors, a strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness, there has been a 24 percent reduction in homelessness among veterans. This reduction was achieved through a partnership between the Obama Administration, local governments, non-profits and the private sector.  Mayor Peduto plans to use the momentum created by the Opening Doors plan to further reduce and eradicate veteran homelessness.

To learn more about resources for local veterans experiencing homelessness, visit https://www.onecpd.info/homelessness-assistance/resources-for-homeless-veterans/.

CMU grads develop smartphone case to prevent sexual violence

After three roommates at Carnegie Mellon University each had friends fall victim to sexual violence, they decided to do something about it.

Alan Fu, Jayon Wang and Siri Ramos founded the company Lifeshel after they graduated in October 2013. The company’s first product is called Whistl, a mobile alert system smartphone case that emits sound at 120 decibels that can be heard up to 300 feet away. The sound is comparable to the level of noise from a rock concert. The case, when partnered with the Lifeshel mobile application, will alert the case owner’s family and authorities that they are in trouble.

“This product is important to us because we feel the problem deeply,” says Ramos, the company’s chief technology officer. “While attending school, all three of us had close friends that experienced sexual violence. This made us realize that this problem doesn't only happen to friends, and that it could just as easily happen to our siblings, parents, and children. We’ve created this product for them and anyone else who has experienced sexual violence.”

Ramos added that sexual violence is a topic that has been gaining attention in the media and is hopeful this increased publicity will help incite change and that Lifeshel can help.

“In the past few months, the problem of sexual assault has finally been gaining massive media attention,” says Ramos. “It is a welcome sight to see people taking action to stop it. However, it is a problem that has existed in our society for way too long. Lifeshel aims to protect people and communities via our brand and our smartphone cases. Our cases are the equivalent of a home or auto security system except for your person.”

Although there are traditional forms of self-protection like whistles or pepper spray, Ramos believes that Lifeshel products are more likely to be carried by individuals and can harness the powerful features of smartphones to aid in the case of an attack.

“Whistl is always on your smartphone, so it is always on you,” says Ramos. “In our age of constant connectivity, hardly anyone forgets their phone. In fact, most people always know where their phone is 24/7. This is in stark contrast to traditional self-defense solutions that get buried at the bottom of purses or left at home.”

The mobile application Lifeshel has developed will work in conjunction with the case to send automatic notifications to loved ones, friends and police when the alert noise is activated and will also include features like location notifications, a strobing flash to disorient attackers and automatic sound and video recording to be used as evidence.

“Our app and network will enable helpful locals to protect their community against sexual assault,” says Ramos. “This means that if you are ever in a panic situation, people on our network will be able to get to you and help you, even before the police can. This will be the difference between actual prevention versus simply dealing with the aftermath of a painful event.”

The Whistl smart phone case and Lifeshel mobile application are currently in the prototype phase of development. They hope to start testing the prototypes with college students in Pittsburgh.

After successfully launching Whistl, Lifeshel hopes to develop additional personal safety smartphone cases like a case that includes a pepper spray feature without being bulky or cumbersome.

More information about Lifeshel can be found at www.lifeshel.com or by following the company on Twitter at www.twitter.com/lifeshel.

A fete for From The Ground Up Project at Phipps

To commemorate the end of the From the Ground Up Project, Phipps Conservatory hosted a Community Feast for all those involved in the yearlong project dedicated to helping high school students look at food and nutrition in new ways.

The students were also paired with a group of student partners from Gidan Makama Museum in Kano, Nigeria to make connections between culture and food. Fourteen students from Pittsburgh and 17 students from Nigeria participated in the project.

The project was sponsored through Museums ConnectSM, a program made possible by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by the American Alliance of Museums. 

Throughout the project, the students in Pittsburgh communicated regularly with their partner students in Nigeria who were also participating in the From the Ground Up project. The students communicated through Skype and Facebook, discussing their experiences and sharing photos and videos.

“The outcome of the Nigeria collaboration element of the project was for the students to develop a deeper understanding of food and nutrition in their own and their partner’s country, and develop skills to grow and cook their own food, as well as make cultural culinary comparisons,” says Jordyn Melino, exhibit coordinator at Phipps Conservatory and coordinator for the project.

The Community Feast, held on May 31, served as a gathering for the students and community organizations that played a significant role in the project’s success. The event showcased healthy prepared dishes with homegrown ingredients from recipes discovered by students in the project. Student participants also displayed recipe books and photo documentaries of what they learned.

“The purpose of From the Ground Up was to engage high school students to take initiative in creating a handmade recipe book that reflects traditional recipes of their region or culture while learning about food nutrition, cooking and traditions through the progression of following local food from farm to table,” says Melino. “The students were encouraged to interact with elders in their family or community to obtain traditional recipes and methods of cooking.”

Now that the project has come to a close, Phipps intends to continue to share the experiences from the project with the community.

“We’ll continue to share our experiences from this project with the visitors at Phipps,” says Melino. “The student-created recipe books from this project will be on display at Phipps’ upcoming Tropical Forest Congo exhibit opening in February 2015 and visitors will be able compare recipes between the Pittsburgh and Nigeria recipe books.”

To learn more about From the Ground Up visit http://phippsscienceeducation.org/category/from-the-ground-up/

Urban Chicken Coop Tour shows the fun side of urban chicken farming

Chickens and urban living aren’t typically two terms that go hand-in-hand, but this year’s 4th annual Chicks-in-the-Hood Pittsburgh Urban Chicken Coop Tour proves that you can have a taste of country living right in your own city backyard.

The tour, on Sun., June 8, is organized by Pittsburgh Pro-Poultry People and is a one-day, self-guided tour of 15 Pittsburgh residents’ chicken coops in the North Side and East End neighborhoods of the city.  Last year, the tour attracted more than 250 attendees. Tickets are $10 for adults and include a tour booklet, a map with directions to each participating coop on the tour and an official Chicks-in-the-Hood collectible pin. All proceeds will benefit the Animal Rescue League. Last year’s tour raised $2,540 to benefit Just Harvest.

“The tour is meant to promote the joys of backyard chickens,” says Jody Noble-Choder, founder and organizer of the tour. “We are passionate about chickens for many reasons—they bring us closer to the food chain and the circle of life, they provide fresh eggs, create fertilizer for the garden, are voracious insect eaters, and are great pets. They’re funny, affectionate and educational.”

Noble-Choder lives in the old US Army Corps of Engineers Lockmaster’s house at the Highland Park Dam on the Allegheny River. She’s been a chicken farmer for the past five years and currently has 11 chickens with creative names like Buffy the Wormslayer, Attila the Hen, Vera Wing, Hillary Rodham Chicken, and Margaret Hatcher to name a few.  Her chickens free range on the banks of the Allegheny River.

“I was a Martha Stewart devotee,” says Noble-Choder. “Martha had Easter Egger chickens that laid blue green eggs and I wanted some. When my husband and I moved to our home, we created a variety of gardens including an organic potager garden. We’ve also incorporated various sustainable practices into our gardens including rain barrels, composting, and solar panels. Chickens in the garden were a natural fit.”

Noble-Choder says chickens need approximately 2 square feet of coop space and 3 square feet of outdoor space per chicken and that an average size city lot can easily accommodate three to five chickens. They are also relatively easy to care for.

“Chickens require less time for care than my dogs,” she says. “You don't have to walk your chicken every day.  Each morning, I let my chickens out of their coop and into their run. I give them feed and make sure they have water. In the evening, the chickens go into their coop themselves and I lock the coop each night to ensure that they do not fall prey to night time predators such as raccoons. I also gather the eggs each evening. Once a week I clean the coop. A fun summer evening for us is sitting in a lawn chair with a glass of wine and watching the chicken antics.”

Tour attendees will get the chance to meet Noble-Choder’s chickens on the tour as well as learn the ins and outs of owning your own chickens.

“Tour attendees enjoy meeting—many for the first time—chickens and learning how to care for them and the benefits of having backyard chickens,” says Noble-Choder. “Many times, the wife will be dragging her reluctant husband along the tour because she wants chickens and he is resistant. Usually by the end of the tour he is convinced and ready to build a coop.”

Currently, the City of Pittsburgh regulates chickens under the zoning code, requiring a zoning variance for a chicken coop, however, the Pittsburgh Pro-Poultry People, Burgh’s Bees and Grow Pittsburgh have been working with City Planning on more chicken/bee friendly regulations.

“The consensus seems to be that chickens are an animal control rather than zoning issue,” says Noble-Choder. “The hope is to change the current regulations from zoning to animal control.”

Noble-Choder also notes that each municipality has different requirements concerning chickens and to check with your municipal zoning officer to understand what your municipality’s specific requirements are if you’re interested in starting your own backyard chicken farm.

Tickets can be purchased the day of the tour at Commonplace Voluto www.commonplacecoffee.com at 5467 Penn Avenue in Friendship/Garfield; Tazza D’Oro  www.tazzadoro.com at 1125 North Highland Avenue in Highland Park; Animal Nature  www.animalnature.net at 7610 Forbes Avenue in Regent Square; Thompson 0.08 Acres at 1240 Resaca Place, Pittsburgh  15212; and Choderwood at 7665 Lock Way West, Pittsburgh 15206, located at the Highland Park Dam at the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Allegheny River Boulevard. 

Family moves into Habitat for Humanity home after years in refugee camp

Originally from Burundi, new homeowners Beuline Ndikumana and Issa Ntamagendro were displaced by civil war in 1972 and forced into a refugee camp where their five children were born. After moving to America in 2008, they partnered with Habitat for Humanity to escape living in an overcrowded, public housing project. Now, after investing more than 350 hours of "sweat equity" work on their home as a down payment, the family will finally have a place to call their own.

The family received the keys to their home in a dedication ceremony held on Sat., May 17 where they signed papers for an interest free mortgage which will include escrow for homeowner’s insurance, municipal, county and school taxes. Their monthly payments will be less than $600. 

In 2011, Habitat acquired the property from a real estate agent who was aware of the organization’s search for a home large enough to fit the family.  

“A Howard Hanna realtor familiar with our program knew we were looking for an affordable home that would house 6 persons and that we love putting families into Sharpsburg and the Fox Chapel School District,” says Maggie Withrow, executive director for Habitat for Humanity Greater Pittsburgh. “The realtor had a house for sale in Sharpsburg that we evaluated and determined that a $50,000 purchase price to Habitat would ultimately be affordable to the family once we did a complete rehab.”

As part of their agreement with Habitat Pittsburgh to receive the house, Ndikumana and Ntamagendro helped work on repairs to the home. The organization allows homeowners to invest a minimum of 350 hours of sweat equity in place of a traditional down payment. This equity can be earned by working on their own home, the homes of others or by working in the ReStore retail outlet in Edgewood.

“Most low-income families do not have, and can likely never save, the cash down payment for a house,” says Withrow. “For traditional down payments, banks could require 10-25% of the cost of the house. For example, for a $90,000 house, a family would have to save a minimum of $9,000 which is totally out of reach.”

Although Ndikumana and Ntamagendro committed many hours to repairing their home, they certainly weren’t alone in the effort. More than 800 volunteers helped with repairs and updates that included converting an upstairs apartment kitchen into a bedroom, renovating all bathrooms, replacing windows, installing a new kitchen, new drywall, new molding, and reconfiguring walls. The house also needed a new furnace and new electrical work.

“It’s the largest house Habitat Pittsburgh has remodeled and it took us just over two years to complete,” says Withrow.

The project was made possible through the aid of several organizations. The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh provided volunteers from more than 15 congregations. Funds from the Fox Chapel Area School District’s annual telethon were also used to complete much needed weatherization work on the 124-year-old home. Additional supporters include Dollar Bank, Excela Health, General Motors, KDA Company, the Pittsburgh Association of Petroleum Geologists (PAPG), and Travelers Insurance, who helped rehabilitate this house through their financial sponsorship and volunteer labor. Volunteer groups from the Knights of Columbus, Newlonsburg Presbyterian Church, Nexus Real Estate, NAIOP, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and local universities also worked closely alongside the family in rehabilitating the home.

For more information about Habitat for Humanity Greater Pittsburgh visit www.pittsburghhabitat.org.

Source: Maggie Withrow, Habitat for Humanity Greater Pittsburgh
Photos from Habitat for Humanity Greater Pittsburgh and Ken Eber

PGH Funded: McAuley Ministries award $222,500 in grants

McAuley Ministries, Pittsburgh Mercy Health System’s grant-making foundation, has awarded seven grants totaling $222,500 to seven local nonprofit organizations.

These grants are awarded to help support health and wellness, community development, capacity building and collaborative funding initiatives in the Hill District, Uptown and West Oakland, three Pittsburgh communities historically served by the Sisters of Mercy. The organizations awarded grants include ACH Clear Pathways, Consumer Health Coalition, Grow Pittsburgh, Hill District Consensus Group, Pittsburgh Foundation for the Jail Collaborative, YouthPlaces and YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh.

The McAuley Ministries was established in 2008 following the sale of Mercy Hospital to UPMC. The proceeds from the sale were used to establish the McAuley Ministires, a grant-making foundation named in honor of Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy. The foundation has awarded 318 grants totaling more than $11.76 million since its inception.

“These are challenging times for nonprofit organizations with fewer public—local, state, and federal—dollars available and increased competition for philanthropic support,” says Michele Rone Cooper, executive director of McAuley Ministries. “Our hope is that every grant McAuley Ministries awards will help to sustain initiatives that are making a difference to residents and the community and support new initiatives that have the potential to improve the quality of life in the community.”

In order to be considered for a grant, organizations must apply as well as fit a variety of criteria, including non-profit status, location in Hill District, Uptown or West Oakland, and having projects that are consistent with the foundation’s grant-making priorities of addressing health and wellness, community development, capacity building and collaborative funding initiatives. The McAuley Ministries Board of Directors, comprised mostly of Sisters of Mercy, look for a specific plan to determine the impact of each proposed project and also consider factors like the applicant’s track record and capacity to achieve outcomes.

“Through McAuley Ministries, the Sisters are continuing their outreach, albeit in a different way,” says Rone Cooper. “From the very beginning, the Sisters determined that their vision for the organization was that of a good neighbor, where our funding contributes to neighborhoods that are safe, vibrant and celebrated, and where residents are healthy and enabled to reach their full potential.”

The grant amounts and funded projects for each organization are detailed below.

ACH Clear Pathways
$7,500 for strategic planning and board development. ACH was founded in 2010 to provide urban children with visual and performing arts programming during out-of-school hours.

Consumer Health Coalition
$20,000 to educate and assist community-based organizations and consumers on the benefits provided through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the options available for enrollment.

Grow Pittsburgh
$50,000 to establish an Edible Schoolyard program at Pittsburgh Miller African-Centered Academy and bring garden-based education to elementary school students. Grow Pittsburgh’s City Growers program will be established at two sites: the Centre Avenue YMCA through its residential men’s program and at the abandoned Martin Luther King baseball field between Uptown and the Hill District. Both initiatives will reinforce the benefits of gardening and the nutritional benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Hill District Consensus Group
$5,000 to address the “play deficit” among children. Community members will construct a custom KaBOOM! playground, designed by Hill District children. The Consensus Group will recruit a team of parents, neighbors, and community members to plan the playground and an additional 100 community members to participate in the construction.

Pittsburgh Foundation for the Jail Collaborative
$50,000 over two years. The Jail Collaborative is a public/private partnership designed to give incarcerated men and women a second chance, support successful re-entry to the community and, by doing so, keep families together and strengthen neighborhoods.

$40,000 to support a violence prevention initiative that will employ 75-80 teens and young adults during the summer.

YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh
$50,000 over two years to provide access to the Thelma Lovette YMCA. Financial assistance will be offered to 85 to 100 low-income Hill District families. Families must contribute a nominal portion of the membership fee and access the facility a minimum of eight visits per month to qualify for the subsidy.

For more information about the McAuley Ministries grant-making foundation visit www.mcauleyministries.org.

Source: Michele Rone Cooper, McAuley Ministries

Tennis program for autistic youth launches in Pittsburgh

A non-profit that makes tennis available to children with autism is launching in Pittsburgh this month at Shady Side Academy with its inaugural workshop being held on Sat., May 24.

The non-profit, ACEing Autism, is a national organization that uses its nationwide volunteer network to reach more than 500 children every week through its tennis programs. The program uses the sport of tennis as a means to enhance health and fitness, hand-eye coordination and motor development, as well as improve social skills for children with autism.

“Organized sports can provide important behavioral therapies for children with autism,” says Sara Longo, the program director for ACEing Autism in Pittsburgh. “There is a huge need for organized sports programs in the autistic community.”

As the program director, Longo will run the nine-week workshop at Shady Side Academy on Saturdays starting May 24. The first hour of each workshop is dedicated to children under 10 years old. The second hour is for children ages 11 to 20. No experience is required and all equipment is provided to the children participating. The cost for the workshop is $135 and special arrangements can be made for low income families looking to participate in the program.

Longo will run the program as a volunteer. She works fulltime as a Therapeutic Staff Support at the Watson Institute and has years of experience volunteering at local autism summer camps and outreach centers. She’s also an experienced tennis player.  

“I had the idea in my head for awhile that I wanted to open a tennis camp for children with autism,” says Longo. “When I was ready to act on it, I searched to see what was currently offered and found ACEing Autism. I immediately fell in love with their mission and reached out to the founder to see if I could open a branch in Pittsburgh.”

Once she gets her footing at Shady Side Academy, Longo hopes to expand the reach of the program.

“I am happy to make it my personal mission to grow ACEing Autism’s presence in Pittsburgh,” she says. “I hope to be able to expand to different schools in the future.”

For more information about ACEing Autism, visit http://www.aceingautism.com/.

PETA names Pittsburgher 'Sexiest Vegan Next Door'

Ashley Frohnert beat hundreds of contestants from around the country to win the title of “Sexiest Vegan Next Door.” The online competition was run by animal rights organization PETA and with the help of her newfound title, she hopes to become a more prominent and recognized voice for animal rights in western Pennsylvania.

 “I was surprised, excited and shocked when PETA told me I won,” says Frohnert. “This contest has definitely been on a lot of my friends', family, co-workers' and acquaintances' radar and I couldn't wait to let everyone know I had won.”

Frohnert, who currently lives in Garfield, became a vegetarian in 2008 when she learned of the harsh treatment of animals in routine factory farming. Shortly after, she decided to go vegan.

“I went fully vegan after learning how the egg industry violently disposes of male chicks as well as learning of the awful lives female dairy cows live and the fate of their babies,” says Frohnert.

She hopes her newfound fame as PETA’s “Sexiest Vegan Next Door” will aid in her pursuit of helping animals.
“I have been getting many questions and inquiries about my vegan lifestyle during my quest for the Sexiest Vegan title,” Frohnert says. “I feel that winning has made even more people interested in learning more about veganism.”

Frohnert currently volunteers with local animal shelters and recently raised $1,200 for the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society by completing a half-marathon. Her latest project is working with the Mayor Bill Peduto to launch a “Meatless Monday” program in Pittsburgh Public Schools cafeterias. She’s also organizing the Pittsburgh Walk for Farm Animals, is involved with the Foie Gras Free Pittsburgh campaign organized by Voices for Animals, and wants to make Pittsburgh a no-kill city for animal shelters.

“My hope is that bringing attention to these topics will at least get them on the city's radar for now,” she says. “Things may not change overnight, but over the next couple years we may see valuable changes helping animals.”

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

Kids pitch their best biz ideas to Entrepreneuring Youth

Pittsburgh-area kids who want to start their own companies are getting an early boost from Entrepreneuring Youth this year,  The group's first business-pitching event was Saturday.
"We realized a few years ago that we needed to start earlier with kids … to help them think creatively about ideas they can pursue for a business opportunity," says Entrepreneuring Youth leader Jerry Cozewith. Today the group partners with two local charter schools (Urban Pathways and Manchester Academic) and two schools in Beaver County to guide 6th through 12th graders in underserved neighborhoods through realistic training on how to form and pitch business ideas.
This June, the group's kids will participate in the George W. Tippins Business Plan Competition, named after one of Pittsburgh's more successful businessmen. Saturday's pitch, before local businesspeople at Google headquarters in Bakery Square, was practice for the Tippins contest in June.
These same business people will be working as coaches of the kids over the next few months, teaching them how to identify markets and customers, how to set prices and other fundamentals.
Eighteen kids – half from middle schools, half from high schools – gave two-minute pitches for ideas ranging from party-planning services to bakeries. Last year's competitors pitched lines of cosmetics, a video service, clothing companies and more.
Learning to make a two-minute elevator pitch "is a prized skill," Cozewith says, which can help kids learn how to talk to other adults "to get a summer job or into the college of your choice." Still, he allows, talking in front of a roomful of strangers for two minutes is "an eternity to young kids." Some of the aspiring entrepreneurs will not yet have made a single product. "They're as much selling themselves as their ideas," he says.
"The parents are proud and even amazed at what their kids can do – the way they speak, the poise they have, the confidence that have."
This weekend's six winners received gift cards as seed capital to buy materials for their businesses.
"This is just an awful lot of fun for everybody," Cozewith says.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jerry Cozewith, Entrepreneuring Youth

Pittsburgh is now a Trail Town

Allegheny County is already part of the Great Allegheny Passage, a trail that runs from here to Cumberland, Md. Now four parts of the county will gain the expertise of the Trail Town program, which helps "to create a sustainable region through tourism," its program manager Will Prince says, "using the trail as an economic engine."
The four county locations (Pittsburgh's South Side as well as Homestead, McKeesport and Boston) were chosen because they have businesses and destinations next to the trail for visitors to stop, have a meal or stay overnight – and because they could have more such businesses.
The kick-off event for Trail Town here will be March 19 in West Homestead's Bulgarian Macedonian National Educational & Cultural Center. Everyone is invited, says Prince, to meet trail groups, business owners and other local tourism experts to talk about improving the trail/town connection. Participants will walk the trail and walk the town, trying to see them from a visitor's perspective: How is access from the trail to the business district? What businesses that might attract trail users are lacking in town? Is the signage from trail to the business district clear? Are there fresh opportunities for development?
"It's a big expansion for our program," says Prince, whose organization already works with local trail groups in each county spot: Friends of the Riverfront for Pittsburgh; Steel Valley Trail Council for Homestead and Duquesne; McKeesport Trail Commission; and Mon/Yough Trail Council for areas south of McKeesport to the county line.
In fact, Trail Town is simultaneously expanding throughout western Pennsylvania, partnering with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council to create a 51-county trail coalition with 1,400 miles of trails. It will include trails in the state's oil region around Titusville and Oil City, the Montour Trail that joins Allegheny to Washington counties, the Trans-Allegheny Trail System that connects to Saltsburg and Ebensburg, and the Sheepskin Trail from near Connellsville to Dunbar.
Trail Town is a program of the Progress Fund, a nonprofit loan fund focused on small businesses in the travel industry.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Will Prince, Trail Town

INSPIREPGH: Art students inspired by kids with sickle cell disease

Derrick Davis and his fellow members of INSPIREPGH – a group formed by Art Institute of Pittsburgh students to give back to the community – have been meeting with kids who have sickle cell disease on many Saturdays since December at the Children’s Institute. 
The art student group had originally connected with the Children's Sickle Cell Foundation, Inc. through their school’s graphic design curriculum, which gives advanced students the chance to help local community organizations with free design services.
But the relationship has deepened. "We first met the kids around Christmas,” recalls Davis, president of INSPIREPGH.  “We helped them pick out Christmas gifts. I had no idea there were so many children with this disease – and how passionate they were about art. We wanted to show them they could do anything they wanted to, that they can't be held back."
Explains Tamara Pavlock, academic chair of graphic design, web and interactive media at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh: “They felt it would help the children with their pain to do these art projects.The strength of these children is amazing."
Now INSPIREPGH is holding ARTICULATE ART, an auction fundraiser at Sonoma Grille downtown on March 20, emceed by Franco Dok Harris.
Participants will have the opportunity to bid on original works by local artists and photographers Duane Rieder, Scott Smathers, Mark Bender, Terese Jungle, Mick Opalko, Elizabeth Castonquay and Karl Huber. Rieder and Smathers are Art Institute alumni, while the others are school faculty members. Pavlock, Davis and his fellow INSPIREPGH officers are also preparing artwork inspired by the kids whom they’ve met through the foundation. 
"We have such a great relationship with them,” concludes Pavlock about the foundation. She expects her students to continue this relationship – and their time with the kids – in the future.
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Derrick Davis and Tamara Pavlock, Art Institute of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Funded: Love Your Block deadline extended

The city has extended its deadline to March 7 for this spring's Love Your Block grants – the grants that give micro-managing a good name.
Love Your Block gives local nonprofits $2,000 to buy equipment and supplies to bring neighbors together for an improvement project on a single city block.That's $1,000 more than the last time these grants were offered.
The $2,000, in the form of Home Depot gift cards from The Home Depot Foundation, also comes with aid from city departments for such things as graffiti removal and trash pick-up.
Nonprofits qualify if they have can produce "a detailed and realistic action plan," bring together 20 neighborhood volunteers from mid-April through mid-June, attend a grant orientation workshop, and secure permission to make their proposed changes from local property owners.
Priority will be given to projects on blocks with a large number of military veterans as residents and/or volunteers and projects that collaborate with a community group or bring other donations to bear on their projects.
The two top proposals will get an added $3,000 Home Depot gift card for a future project. Love Your Block is also supported by the Corporation for National Community Service and AmeriCorps VISTA program.
More than 290 block projects have been approved to date by Love Your Block, which the city says has collected more than 37,000 pounds of trash, created 197 green spaces, added almost $161,000 in donations and involved more than 3,300 volunteers. Spring 2014 winners will be notified by mid-March.

Writer: Marty Levine

'Through their art, they show how the world was deceived': Holocaust art contest

For only the third year since the contest began in 1985, the Israeli winners of the Holocaust Center of Greater Pittsburgh’s Waldman International Arts and Writing Competition will be flown to Pittsburgh to join their local counterparts for a celebration, this year at the Andy Warhol Museum on April 27.
The local winning entries in the genres of writing, film and visual arts from middle- and high-school students were recently announced. The winners hail from Springdale Jr./Sr. High School, Pittsburgh Allderdice, Fox Chapel High School, South Allegheny High School, Community Day School and Yeshiva Girls School.
Jennie Pelled, the Center’s development and program associate, says: “I’m really proud that the competition invites the whole Pittsburgh and Israel communities to get involved. It’s not just a Jewish competition. The submissions we get are amazing and the kids are just very inspiring every year.”
Each year the contest concentrates on a different theme; this year it was the art and music of the Holocaust. Students wrote about the model concentration camp at Terezin, created by the Nazis to pass inspection by the Red Cross, which featured an inmate orchestra and other art activities for show. Students also wrote about the Vilna Ghetto and Oskar Schindler.
Pelled cites one of the winning poems from an Israeli high-school senior to show how students imagined kids their age having to pretend to be okay for camp inspectors:
“It's a whole new world outside, did you see?
They've been painting walls, planting flowers,
Playing dress-up with our lives;
But I'm prepared too, mama,
I've practiced my smile and my walk
And not looking hungry, which was hardest of all
Mama, please don't cry –
Today I was a star, not the yellow kind
But do you think you could still sew the memory of me onto your jacket
Close to your heart, where it's warm?”
“The teachers really promoted it,” Pelled says of the contest, “and put the subject on the map for these kids. They can research and identify with the children going through the Holocaust. Then you learn ... there’s a lot you can apply to the real world today,” from general issues of continuing prejudice to more specific discussions about bullying or marriage equality.
“Through their art,” she says,“they show how the world was deceived.”
The contest is also sponsored by Partnership2Gether and Jfilm.
Marty Levine
Source: Jennie Pelled, Holocaust Center of Greater Pittsburgh

Coro wants South Pittsburgh known for peace and cooperation

The South Side and its South Pittsburgh neighbors have great community leaders, but they’re all vying for the same bucks and volunteers, says Robert Young, director of development for the Coro Center for Civic Leadership, Pittsburgh. The Coro NEXT Leaders Project aims to fix that, answering the question “How can we bring together community leaders in the south of Pittsburgh to better collaborate on the common issues?” at this year’s NEXT Leaders Project opening event on March 6 at  St Paul's Retreat Center on the South Side.
Young, who is part of the NEXT Leaders program, says the group has already had a number of strategy sessions and dialog with leaders, both seasoned and emerging, in preparation for this event. The issues they’ll be concentrating on include youth engagement – “How to start almost from the cradle … to engage youth as the next generation of leaders,” he says.
Those issues also include street-level blight – better cleanup, raising the quality of the housing stock—as well as public safety, which can involve building a better block watch program, and educating the neighborhood groups on how to obtain grants.
All of this will move the groups toward a one-day summit in late summer, where Young says the effort will continue to create partnerships, to share innovative projects already underway in their communities, to learn from one another and to gain a better understanding of how to cooperate.
To RSVP for the March 6 event, click here.

Pittsburgh Funded: Youth funding youth at Teens 4 Change

Three Rivers Community Foundation takes a chance on non-traditional groups looking for funding,” says Sydney Olberg, who heads TRCF’s Teens 4 Change. And Teens 4 Change has an even bolder vision – it takes a new group of about 15 high-school teens each year and teaches them how to make smart grants to other youth-led or youth-driven organizations that offer services to youth as well.  “So that the youth voice is incorporated into the project,” Olberg explains. “It’s also about the future of grant making and hoping that social justice becomes a part of it.”
TRCF focuses its giving on social-justice groups – “changing the inequalities in the system,” Olberg says – so the teens also learn about local social-justice issues before they choose the recipients of their $500 to $2,000 grants.
Teens 4 Change’s last round of six grants funded such causes as Educating Teens HIV/AID, Inc. and the PRYSE Academy, a Pitt student summer program for refugee youth  that teaches skills for navigating in society and for appreciating other cultures.
This year’s Teens 4 Change program has the help of a past member, now in college. The kids are learning how to write their own Request For Proposals, do outreach to applicants, even design graphics for program advertising.  “It’s good practice for youth to be reaching out to each other and seeing each other as a network,” Olberg notes.
TRCF has just received reports from two of last year’s awardees, she says; PRYSE, for one, has doubled its refugee contacts, thanks to the grant.
The deadline for groups to apply is April 4 at 5 p.m.  The application is online at the TRCF site, or you can contact Olberg at  (612) 886- 5268 or email here.
“It is an empowering experience to apply to youth and to be funded by youth,” she concludes. “We’re a starting point for taking a chance on these youth-led programs.”
Writer: Marty Levine (forgood@popcitymedia.com)
Source: Sydney Olberg, Teens 4 Change

'Housing options' offers creative housing solutions for those with disabilities

Among people with disabilities such as autism in Pennsylvania, there's a 17,000-person waiting list seeking community housing funds, says Linda Marino, resource coordinator at Jewish Family & Children’s Service (www.jfcspgh.org) (JF&CS).
That’s why JF&CS and Jewish Residential Services, which focuses its support work on families of individuals with special needs, will present “Housing options for individuals with disabilities” on March 4 at Rodef Shalom in Oakland.
Local disability housing advocates appearing to speak and answer questions include Deborah Friedman, executive director of Jewish Residential Services, who will talk about current residential programs and plans for housing in Squirrel Hill; Mary Hartley, a consultant for the United Way of Allegheny County’s 21andAble Initiative, discussing innovative housing models for adults with disabilities; Elliot Frank, president of Autism Housing Development Corporation of Pittsburgh, who will speak on The Heidelberg Apartment project for autism spectrum adults and typical adults living together; Nancy Murray, head of the ARC of Greater Pittsburgh and ACHIEVA, will talk on ACHIEVA’s “A Home of My Own” program that combines a family's private resources with government funding and natural supports to help people with disabilities to live safely in a home of their choice; and Robert Garber, an attorney, landlord, court-appointed co-guardian and family member of an individual with special needs, whose topic is privately arranging residential services for a family member with special needs.
The event, Marino says, “isn’t a step-by-step approach to getting housing. Some people are doing some very creative things to get housing for their loved ones,” and the event will highlight “how housing can be provided by thinking outside the box,” such as creating housing with other parents of adult children with disabilities, or directly with a social services agency.
She points to The Heidelberg Apartment project as a great example of community housing possibilities. “We want them all to live in the community together – that’s what inclusion is all about,” she says of adults with disabilities, although there are various degrees of independence. “A lot of people can live in the community with support. Everybody’s different, so everybodys needs are at a different level. The preference is for folks to live in a community. My son’s group home is in a community and he’s a part of the community.”
The presentation is free and open to the community and includes a light kosher meal at 6 p.m. Registration is required. For more information or to register, contact Marino at 412-422-7200 or email here.
 “I think this is a good start for a lot of people looking for adults to live in their community and not in their [family] houses,” she says.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Linda Marino, Jewish Family & Children’s Service

National scholarships for African Americans come here

The NAACP offers two college scholarships annually, and last year no students from the Pittsburgh area applied for either of them.
That will likely change this year as the national scholarship opportunities are being administered by the local POISE Foundation – the first public foundation in Pennsylvania organized and managed by African Americans.
The POISE Foundation’s mission, says Karris Jackson, its vice president of programs, "is to assist the Pittsburgh region’s black community in achieving self-sustaining practices, through strategic leadership, collective giving, grant making and advocacy." POISE manages 150 scholarship and grant funds currently.
The NAACP's Agnes Jones Jackson Scholarship is available only to NAACP members, but its Hubertus W.V. Willems Scholarship is available to all male students.
"I find that a lot of students start the application but never complete it," Jackson says. "That’s usually because they did not give themselves enough time to gather all the necessary documents and/or to write a thoughtful essay."
Over the past few years, POISE has heard from an increasing number of students needing emergency funding to remain in school, she notes. "African American students often lack access to the networks that expose them to the vast number of available scholarships," she adds. "I also think that African American students have a higher degree of need and, as a result, depend more heavily on scholarship money to help cover the cost of tuition.
"Scholarships help to close the gap between financial aid and family responsibility," she concludes. The NAACP scholarships provide up to $3,000 each. "This is a great opportunity for students in the Pittsburgh region and we hope more will take advantage."
Applications are being accepted from now until March 17.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Karris Jackson, POISE Foundation

You knew the Giant Rubber Duck would be on the cover ...

With a cover featuring Pittsburgh's largest visitor last year – the giant rubber duck – VisitPittsburgh's new 2014 Official Visitors Guide to Pittsburgh, which debuted last week, also features double the number of neighborhoods.
"There's a travel trend," says Connie George, the organization's vice president of communications. "People want to get a taste of a city by experiencing its neighborhoods – and actually neighborhoods are what makes Pittsburgh so strong."
VisitPittsburgh picked neighborhoods that past visitors have liked, and that are home to their own attractions: Mt. Washington, East Liberty, Downtown, North Shore, Strip District, Lawrenceville, Oakland, Shadyside and two that aren't even city neighborhoods: Sewickley and Monroeville. 
The book marks the debut of the group's new brand: a bridge and river logo and the slogan "Mighty. Beautiful."
"We tried in the book to show that Pittsburgh is a friendly city and a very vibrant city that has transformed itself into a surprisingly progressive city," George says.
The book goes free to potential tourists who call for information or those who stop by VisitPittsburgh's seven welcome centers, from Fifth Avenue Place and the Duquesne Incline to Golden Triangle Bicycle Rental. Their sales team also uses it to attract conventions and inform visiting press, including 90 travel journalists a year.
It also features "new and exciting photography," she adds, including the cover shot by local photographer Roy Engelbrecht (http://www.rephoto.net/) and photos by ex-Post-Gazette Pulitzer winner Martha Rial, among others.
It will be available for download "soon," the group says.

Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Connie George, VisitPittsburgh

Aiming at a larger problem -- Racial Equity in Arts group starts

The Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council (GPAC) has launched the Pittsburgh Coalition for Racial Equity in the Arts because "the arts really have an ability to lead broader society and push the changes," says Tiffany Wilhelm, deputy director of GPAC.
The Coalition has just begun but already has 80 individual and group members.  GPAC has been sponsoring workshops and arts events promoting better arts access for those with disabilities, and the new Coalition will add to GPAC's ongoing push for diversity in the arts, she says.
"Now we want to be more public about talking about race and racial equity," Wilhelm says. "We see organizations that are led by people of color or involve artists of color not getting as much opportunity … People say that they feel like funding is not always equitable and that people are getting passed up for exhibitions and performances. It really is the same challenges and inequities we see in broader society."
Wilhelm notes that the current exhibition in GPAC's own gallery features art by African American men. "They felt it was unusual to have an opportunity to exhibit Downtown," she reports. "We felt that that shouldn't be unusual."
How can the arts help to fix these societal issues? Arts organizations and individual artists can exhibit and perform work that starts people talking about race. Wilhelm points to Bricolage's theatrical series focused on race relations and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's "Race: Are we so different?" exhibit slated to open in March. The first Coalition event will be "Moving Against Racism in the Arts" on Feb. 20 at The Alloy Studio (5530 Penn Ave.) in partnership with the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater. The dance and discussion program for artists and arts administrators is being billed as "a candid community conversation with movement, writing, and small group sharing to set us in motion to listen, learn, and lead."
"The more we can connect to what is happening in the community and the conversations that are already happening, the better off we will be," concludes Wilhelm. In the meantime, the Coalition will be looking for more events that will provide "lots of entry points for people to join the conversation ..."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Tiffany Wilhelm, Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council

Fast Pitch: 'best nonprofit coaching around' up for grabs

Sure, $30,000 is at stake for local nonprofits, but it's the coaching that is the biggest prize of the local Social Venture Partners' fourth annual Fast Pitch competition, says Director Elizabeth Visnic.
The contest this year will be held on March 6 the Circuit Center (5 Hot Metal Street) on the South Side. Finalists chosen March 3 will hit the stage to give a three-minute pitch, to be judged by the Partners and the public.
The nonprofits have been busy receiving expert coaching on honing and delivering their message – a skill that will leave them better able to plan for their futures and seek other funding as well.
This year's semi-finalists are:
  • CARE Ownership Asset Development & Training Program
  • CHS Homeless Assistance Programs
  • First Tee of Pittsburgh
  • High School Urban Eco Stewards: Young Naturalist Educators
  • Homeless Education Network
  • Lending Hearts
  • Music Smiles
  • Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse
  • J.A.W.S. (Jobs Access and Waste reduction through Small business creation)
  • Refugee Teen Mentoring Program
  • Small Seeds Development Inc.
  • Treasure House Fashions 
Among the prizes this year are capacity-building grants from the Partners and from the Forbes Fund – not only cash but continued coaching.
"I think we've gone a lot deeper in our whole coaching program" this year, says Visnic.  She calls it        "really one of the best in the country for coaching pitches," based on exchanges Pittsburgh SVP group has had with other SVP organizations around the world.
"We have a great array," of semi-finalists, Visnic notes, "from faith-based communities, social services, social enterprises – generating their own resources to sustain what they are doing – and others.
"It is their opportunity to raise awareness about their issue to everyone in Pittsburgh, and their specific role."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Elizabeth Visnic, Social Venture Partners Pittsburgh

NPC's Design Our Future targets action on startups, diversity, public policy

The New Pittsburgh Collaborative (NPC) has narrowed down the priorities for its Design Our Future program, starting its members on a two-year effort to focus greater city attention on three areas:

  • Diversity, inclusion, and equity
  • Public policy and leadership
  • Startups, innovation, and entrepreneurship
The process began on Nov. 9, when more than 60 individuals from about 40 organizations met at NPC to come up with the region's biggest opportunities and challenges. Since then, 300 ideas became 40 issue-specific designs, now narrowed to the three categories above.

"Accessibility is such a big issue," says NPC head Dan Law about the first focal issue for Design Our Future, "not just to jobs but to our civic organizations, our local government, the chance for young people to be integrated into our neighborhoods." Solutions may lie in changing people's "economic trajectory," Law says.  
Law says the discussions about the issues will include not only young professionals in their twenties and thirties but younger students and older people in mid-career. "The intergenerational, interdisciplinary approach is going to be the linchpin for future collaboration," he says.
"We're still trying to figure out what is the recipe for constructive and productive dialog on equity," Law adds. "These are very difficult questions, but we firmly believe we need to take the time to have dialog before we move to have constructive programs."
Law hopes to encourage local individuals and groups to contact the NPC and be a part of Design Our Future. Concludes Law: "We don't have all the answers yet but we're going to spend the next two years figuring it out."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Dan Law, NPC

Deadline Pittsburgh -- GPAC artist's grants, Feb. 24

Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council is offering up to $2,500 each in Artist Opportunity Grants with a Feb. 24 application deadline to "help artists hone their skills and craft [through] important professional development opportunities, such as travel to work with a mentor, participation in a festival or artist residency."
Four factors make artists most eligible: If the grant will sponsor something the artist has not attempted before; if the artist is committed to undertake the opportunity; if it fits in well with the current stage of the artist's career, and if it "will help you achieve a professional goal."
These grants don't fund the creation of new work; rather, they fund such items as "childcare, framing, shipping, travel expenses, professional installation of your work, documenting, and tons of other stuff that you usually can’t afford."
The thrice yearly grants also have deadlines of May 19 and October 20.
Sponsors of this grant opportunity include the Fund for Individual Artists of The Pittsburgh Foundation, The Heinz Endowments and the Hillman Family Foundations.
Eligibility requirements: Artists must be at least 18, live in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Mercer, Lawrence, Somerset, Venango, Washington or Westmoreland counties for at least the past year and "have a record of artistic accomplishment that can be documented, including evidence of work that has been publicly performed, exhibited, published, critically reviewed, etc."
Writer: Marty Levine 

Could your nonprofit benefit from 46 weeks of help?

Dannai Harriel believes there are nonprofits in Pittsburgh that could use the help of a budding health professional who really wants to serve this community.
Harriel is program manager for Pittsburgh Health Corps (PHC), the local group of AmeriCorps members who are again this year seeking placements in Pittsburgh nonprofits where they can work on public-health projects.
"There are so many grassroots, smaller organizations doing this type of work," says Harriel. "I know there are organizations out there who could benefit from an AmeriCorps member.”
The PHC/AmeriCorps members will each put in 1,700 hours of community service over a 46-week period from September 2014 through July 2015. Notes Harriel, the group is particularly looking for opportunities to work on promoting community involvement in healthy eating, exercise, environmental stewardship and managing such diseases as hypertension, diabetes and asthma.
The typical PHC member, says Harriel, is a recent college graduate who wants to move into public health, medicine or social services. PHC already partners with health centers, food banks where members work to promote good nutrition, and the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, where they are doing outreach and testing to prevent the spread of HIV.
Now she hopes organizations that start community gardens and that promote community fitness will want to take on PHC members as well.
“I would really like to see our members in schools," she adds, "because they’re young and they’re so excited. I could see them with children to help inspire them to be healthier. Maybe it can trickle down to their parents and the community."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Dannai Harriel, Pittsburgh Health Corps

Not just for babies anymore: new Parenting Expo debuts

"Once you get past the baby years, there's not a lot out there for parents who are looking for great resources and great education in a live event," says Debi Gilboa, the East End family doctor, national parenting speaker and mother of four. The new Parenting Expo, which debuts nationally in Pittsburgh on March 8 at the Monroeville Convention Center, is the only such local event that's for parents with kids beyond the toddler years, Gilboa believes.
That's why she is now involved in gathering the workshop presenters, participatory stage presentations for kids and other features of the event. It will be, she says, "an expo unlike any other I've ever seen, and I've searched as a parent and as a parent speaker."
The event will have many local facets, she explains, from Pittsburgh Zoo animals to local sports mascots. Set for the stage are demonstrations for which kids will be invited up to participate, encompassing the martial arts, dancing and storytelling, as well as lessons on how they can pack their own healthy lunches, and mock college interviews for the older kids.
Thirty different parenting workshops, each about half an hour, will cover such topics as the family finances, how to help with homework, potty training and bedtime, and other tough subjects, such as talking sex with your teen.
Kids 14 and under are free, while adult tickets are $8 in advance. The day will include prizes and giveaways as well.
"As parents we have a lot of questions," Gilboa says. "This is a good way for parents to hear from 30 different experts." She hopes that the parents who attend will get "answers to several of the questions that have been bugging them recently, and fantastic resources to answer the questions they don't know, that will bug them in the future."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Debi Gilboa

Who loves their library the most?

You love your library – or you ought to. 
To honor those who love it so much they work hard to ensure its future, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh created a Community Advocate award – and the library is seeking nominations once again this year, with a March 1 deadline.
The award was created three years ago to recognize those who pushed to get a voter question on the November 2011 ballot to increase taxes to support the libraries. It passed with 72 percent of the vote.
"Our board and our trustees were just overwhelmed by such a grassroots effort," says Maggie McFalls, Carnegie Library's community engagement coordinator. The first Community Advocate Award went to those behind the voter initiative.
Now the library is seeking nominees for this year's award, to be presented at the annual public meeting at 6:30 p.m. on March 26 at the East Liberty branch. Nominations will be accepted online and at "nomination stations" at all libraries.
Honorees can be an individual or group. "Because the library serves everybody, we get every type of volunteer and advocate you can imagine," says McFalls: teens, seniors and volunteer friends-of-the-library groups for every branch.
The Squirrel Hill branch's group, for instance, has been a strong organization for years, she says, conducting very successful book sales, lately with an online component. The solid Lawrenceville branch advocacy team was formed in 2009 when local artists and activists mobilized after the branch faced possible closure.
Teens come to the library to paint murals in the stacks, McFalls notes. Young volunteers help to work the Carnegie Library's after-hours events. All it takes to help the library system, and win the award, she concludes, is "just a genuine passion and enthusiasm for the importance of libraries."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Maggie McFalls, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Join one, go to nine venues for free, thanks to We (Heart) Our Members

Jennifer Scanlon Roach has been the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh’s associate director of visitor services since 2003 and "this is the first time we've been able to make this concept work," she says.
This concept is “We (Heart) Members Days,” in which nine local cultural institutions have agreed to give the members of each venue free access to all the others on selected days in February:
  • Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Sat., Feb. 1
  • Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, Sun., Feb. 2
  • Senator John Heinz History Center, Sat., Feb. 8
  • Mattress Factory, Sun., Feb. 9
  • Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Sat., Feb. 15
  • Frick Art & Historical Center, Sun., Feb. 16
  • Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, Mon., Feb. 17
  • Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Sat., Feb. 22
  • National Aviary, Sun., Feb. 23 
Details are available at the individual websites of each organization.
"When you look around we all benefit from these cultural arts in Pittsburgh," says Roach. "We really hope its adding to current member benefits to our organizations, so they can not only know what it's like to be a member of the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, for instance, but can explore other cultural institutions in Pittsburgh and see what it's like to be a member as well."
Each organization will also be such additional benefits as a 10 percent discount in some venue gift shops and a 10 percent discount on new memberships.
"It's not a matter of visiting once and checking it off your Pittsburgh bucket list," Roach adds. "We're hoping people will discover that there is so much more these institutions offer on a membership basis."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jennifer Scanlon Roach, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

Lending Hearts keeps kids with cancer 'looking ahead'

Vasso Paliouras was inspired to start Lending Hearts after her younger sister was diagnosed with cancer while still in high school. The nonprofit organization provides peer support – fun, healthy and educational group activities – for kids and teens going through cancer treatment or in remission. 
“Due to their diagnosis, they were missing out on experiences and the typical life of a kid," says Paliouras. So Lending Hearts' monthly programs “keep them looking ahead, out of the hospital.” The group activities are “something unique we can provide to them.”
That has included a special pre-show program at a performance of the Pittsburgh Ballet's "Nutcracker" each year, with a behind-the-scenes look at a new aspect of the show. At the end, the kids are encouraged to get up and dance with the characters.
Another popular activity, says Paliouras, was "An Afternoon with the Penguins." While a Penguins away game played on a large-screen television, the kids enjoyed visits from the Penguins mascot and penguins from the National Aviary.
“After that event, a father sent me an email," Paliouras recalls. The father explained that his child had been having trouble adjusting to remission and normal life after cancer. He concluded the email: "That event just made a whole difference in my child’s outlook.”
Paliouras says she would like to develop an online extension of their activities – “What do we do when they can’t actually join us?” Through the group's website, the virtual Lending Hearts “will be parallel to what we do through other means and other supportive measures.”
The group is also holding its second annual Lending Hearts Gala, at which they will honor former Pittsburgh Steeler Merril Hoge, who in 2003 was diagnosed with stage two Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, on Feb. 27.
Paliouras' sister, happily, is now in remission.
“Everybody gets something different out of it," concludes Paliouras about the group's efforts, "and we hope it is making a difference for as many people as possible."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Vasso Paliouras, Lending Hearts

Women candidates and campaigners get one-day primer

“Ready to Run Campaign Training for Women” – both campaign workers and candidates – is set once again for Jan. 25 from the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University.
“It’s bi-partisan, of course,” says the center's executive director, Dana Brown. “And it's one day, which is certainly a bit of a challenge.”
That's because the event covers navigating the political party structure, running for judge, media training, fundraising, public speaking and developing a campaign plan. Trainers include Deb Scofield, president of Executive Speech & Presentations Coaching, and Nancy Bocskor, author of Go Fish: How to Catch (and Keep) Contributors: A Practical Guide to Fundraising.
The keynote will be given by Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper, who will talk about her experience and what women candidates need to know before embarking on their own campaigns.
“Even though I do this every year I always take away new things myself,” says Brown.
Fewer than 25 percent of state legislative offices are held by women, she points out, and the state has never had a female senator or governor. There are several barriers to entering politics, she acknowledges.
No one likes the lack of privacy that candidates endure, and the negativity in campaigns. For women, the political party structure can throw up barriers as well, Brown says: "It's a little less friendly to women ... It was created by men, so any time they’re expanding they tend to pull from their networks.”
Women are also more affected by the work/life imbalance of a political career, since women still tend to be primary caretakers of children and aging parents.
While this event has greater attendance in odd-numbered years – when local political races happen – campaigning is still a desired skill, she says. “While a lot of folks actually are down [on politics] because of what we see in Congress or federally, locally there does seem to be consistent interest. My job is to get women off the fence.”
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Dana Brown, Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics

Student with tough time communicating? Art Expression helps

Art, says Angela Lowden, founder of Art Expression, can bring students of different abilities and social groups together. “They are able to express themselves, value each other’s differences and see each other in a very different light, and often they become friends,” Lowden says.
Art Expression, a Mt. Lebanon nonprofit, got its start in 2001 when Lowden approached her school district with the idea of bringing art therapists, although not strictly art therapy, to help students improve their social skills and problem solving, learn confidence, become independent, and even discover how to react to bullying appropriately.
“We use art therapists as our art facilitators because they are sensitive to our students’ needs,” says Lowden, an Art Institute graduate who also has a teaching degree from Duquesne University. Art Expression has a variety of programs, including one that focuses on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and math) to enhance students' academic skills while they're having fun with art materials.
In April, Art Expression was named one of 50 finalists for the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award by the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, chosen from among more than 300 nominees from 49 states.
Today, the organization is in seven school districts in four counties, as well as community centers and a dozen homeless shelters.
“When I walk into a shelter," says one of the nonprofit's art facilitators, Cheryl Silinskas, "I know that I am walking into a group that is experiencing crisis. The kids aren’t 100 percent aware of what is happening, but they know things aren’t working at home.
“Sometimes what surfaces through art is that, oh, here’s a child who experienced a death in the family and no one at the school knows about it.”
The kids value that Silinskas and her colleagues are available to them, she says. “This is their great opportunity to be in a school setting … and be able to deal with what is weighing on them.”
In school classrooms, adds Silinskas, “often they will talk about what is happening in their lives, things that during the school day they need to express and that really has nowhere to go.”
“We see a lot of children of divorce as well" in classrooms, says Lowden, "and they are able to express their stress.”
The art, adds Silinskas, "is all about making mistakes and getting through that. They’re always thrown when I come in and begin, ‘I’m going to teach you to make the worst possible painting.' It shifts their focus” from trying to be perfect in school at all times.
“They feel peaceful after these sessions …," says Lowden, "and the teachers are amazed as well. They make great teams, the teachers and our art facilitators.”
Art Expression is seeking new school district partners in more rural and urban districts, says Lowden: “I believe in helping all children" – especially, she adds, "because those children don’t get the services the children get in suburban areas.”
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Angela Lowden and Cheryl Silinskas, Art Expression

Diversity focus of mini grants from Civic Inclusion and Engagement Fund

Two local nonprofits – Vibrant Pittsburgh and the Urban Affairs Foundation (of the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh) put their heads and money together and have awarded Civic Inclusion & Engagement Fund mini-grants to 12 projects. These dozen projects will provide services to African Americans, Latinos, the LGBT community, refugees and new immigrants, individuals with disabilities and faith-based community groups.  
Among the awardees are:
  • Union Project and Creative Citizens Studios, which will make hands-on arts experiences more accessible and affordable to people with disabilities
  • Coro Latinoamericano and the Latin American Cultural Union, for Canta Pittsburgh, which will promote Latino culture in Pittsburgh through a children's choir, musical instruction and performances
  • Just Harvest, Latino Family Center, One Woman Farm and Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh, aiming to expand Citiparks Farmers’ Markets to new, diverse neighborhoods
  • J-Serve International, the Agency for Jewish Learning, Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh and Repair the World Pittsburgh, creating a teen volunteer experience
  • University of Pittsburgh's Facilitating Opportunities for Refugee Growth & Empowerment (FORGE) and Keep It Real Pittsburgh, forming a summer camp with English and academic skill-building and creative expression workshops and programming
  • Chinese Association for Science and Technology and Chinese Students and Scholars Association at the University of Pittsburgh, working to attract and retain young Chinese talent in the greater Pittsburgh area through networking and mentoring
  • Junior Achievement of Western PA, Jewish Family and Children’s Services, South Hill Interfaith Ministries and PRYSE Academy, instituting a Refugee Youth Employment Program
  • Dreams of Hope, Father Ryan Arts Center and Little House, Big Art, whose speaQ project is billed as "a youth-led, neighborhood open mic program"
  • Christian Evangelic Economic Development and Union of African Communities, creating a diversity festival and speaker series
  • Jewish Family and Children’s Services and Northern Area Multiservice Center, creating World Refugee Day Celebration, and
  • Black Political Empowerment Project, Pittsburgh Public Schools, Cease Fire/PA and Voices Against Violence establishing a Youth Summit Against Violence.
Writer: Marty Levine

Free tax prep for those who most need it

“I know for a fact that there are people who qualify and don’t use the sites” that offer free tax preparation, says Angela Reynolds, director of programs for financially struggling adults and families? at United Way of Allegheny County.
That's why this year the Money in Your Pocket coalition of 11 different agencies is hoping even more people take advantage of their 14 tax prep sites in Allegheny County, which open on Jan. 20 through tax day.
They don't charge a fee, even if they do get money for you. And they're being staffed by IRS trained and certified tax preparers who will be looking for every possible way to increase people's refunds, says Reynolds.
Families with up to $40,000 income per year and individuals who make up to $20,000 per year are eligible. To make an appointment, call 211 to get an assessment of whether you qualify and which center can best help, since only certain centers can handle particularly specialized tax returns.
Last year, the service handled more than 5,800 returns and pointed program participants toward such important deductions as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which allows qualified recipients to pay less federal tax or no tax, or even to get $475-5,891 back.
This year the 200 volunteers will handle up to 6,500 returns, Reynolds hopes. She also anticipates that the free service may help people begin to realize that itemizing deductions is easier than they've assumed, and also realize that using paid tax preparers may involve unexpected fees. The coalition is working with the IRS to identify some of the zipcodes where people may qualify but don't use the service as often as in other neighborhoods, she says. “We are trying to increase the number of houses that are aware that these services exist.”
The volunteers, she adds, “They’re being trained to ask the right questions of households so they come across all the tax credits for which they ought to be eligible.”
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Angela Reynolds, United Way

Oral histories and exhibit honor local African Americans

When Demeatria Boccella, founder of the Utopia Modeling Agency for African Americans and the Fashion Africana event, was a young girl, she read fashion magazines and wanted to be a model. But, she recalls, she “saw limited, narrow portrayals of women of color … I saw no one like me who had darker skin or stronger African features. It led to a few self-destructive actions.”
Today, thanks to mentors who aided her self-esteem, she grew into an adult who has been able to make a difference in the fashion industry. Now she is one of 12 African Americans from Western Pennsylvania who are being honored as "individuals who have achieved milestones in civic leadership, the arts and civil rights" by PNC. The company has recorded their oral histories, which will be available as part of a free public exhibit that opens on Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 20, at PNC’s Pittsburgh Legacy Building.
  • The other honorees are:
    Esther Bush, president of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh
  • Alma Speed Fox, civil and women’s rights advocate
  • Patricia Prattis Jennings, the first black woman to be awarded a major American symphony's full contract
  • Wendell Freeland, bombardier with the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II, local Urban League leader and co-founder of Hill House Association
  • Helen Faison, a pioneer Pittsburgh teacher after whom the district has named two schools
  • Rod Doss, editor and publisher of the New Pittsburgh Courier
  • Thaddeus Mosley, nationally renowned sculptor
  • Julius Jones, retired chief executive officer of the YMCA of Pittsburgh
  • Swin Cash, two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time WNBA champion
  • Billy Porter, Tony award-winning actor
  • Sean Jones, trumpeter and artistic director of the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra 
“It is such a distinguished group of individuals," says Boccella, "and it is truly an honor to be recognized with them. They are individuals who really inspire me.
“I love the outreach to the young people," she adds, pointing to essays written by 6th through 8th graders in city schools as part of this project. "When I was young I knew very few people who looked like me” in the professional world. “There are quite a few black professionals who are being recognized, and I think that it is very exciting.
“I hope they are inspired," she says of any young people who see he exhibit Downtown, "that they feel like, hey, I could do this too, that they feel empowered and inspired to pursue their dreams.”
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Demeatria Boccella

Are you part of the creative economy?

Pittsburgh Technology Council (PTC) has teamed with Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Toronto's Rotman School and Echo Strategies to collect data to paint a picture of all the jobs in the creative economy of this region.
The results will be reported at the 2014 Pittsburgh Creative Industries Summit on Feb. 19 at CMU's McConomy Auditorium in the University Center.
"We’re doing an assessment of the current state of where all the jobs are that actually have some [association] with the historic creative industries,” says Audrey Russo, head of the PTC. Manufacturing companies are now doing website design, which previously they had outsourced or hadn’t even done. “What we’re finding is we not only have more people in this space but it is cutting across traditional clusters,” from multinational corporations to small businesses. The findings set for release at the Summit will help the region understand and benchmark the creative economy.
“What does that mean in terms of skill set development, in terms of jobs?" Russo asks. "What does it mean for talent attraction and development? Those jobs exist in so many clusters. It’s not just technology, it’s tied to innovation. It’s tied to design. I’m excited because this is the first time we’ve had this different type of snapshot of our region.”
The people at Echo Strategies, which helped collect and analyze the data, "think there are indicators potentially that can give us a clear path on what our opportunities are … what we should be doing and what we shouldn’t be doing," Russo concludes.
The study focuses on seven key sectors – design, communications, entertainment, fine art, data science, software and hardware, and creative industry support services – in eight counties: Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington, Fayette, Westmoreland and Armstrong. The keynote speaker will be Kevin Stolarick, the Rotman research director whose work backed the ideas in Richard Florida’s book, The Rise of the Creative Class.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Audrey Russo, Pittsburgh Technology Council

144 volunteers needed to go to the principal's office

A+ Schools, the local educational advocacy group, is looking for 12 dozen volunteers to interview principals and other school officials to find out how well they understand and are helping with issues central to their students' own concerns.
The interviewing project, called School Works, began in 2009 “to understand the opportunities and resources that exist for kids in schools," says Amy Scott, A+'s Research and Data Analysis, "so we can understand better whether there are opportunities and resources that might be contributing to the achievement gap …” by their absence. In previous years project volunteers have interviewed middle-school and high-school principals, counselors and teachers. For this school year, they will target high-school principals, counselors and learning environment specialists – teachers who focus on student behavior in schools and the teachers’ working conditions.
“We're striving to better understand the level of exposure, access and experiences with the issues identified by Teen Bloc,” a student leadership program, which this fall developed a Student Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights asks for everything from the right to free expression and to participate in educational decisions to "equitable academic resources … a socially, emotionally, and physically safe and positive school climate … effective teachers," as well as "positive school disciplinary policies and practices." The student group hopes next that the school board will adopt the bill. They have met with individual members of the board, “and there are school board members who are supportive,” says Scott.
Anybody can be an effective volunteer to conduct the interviews, she adds. "In the past we’ve had concerned citizens, parents, folks who work in education and folks who work in business. It’s a wonderful opportunity for them to visit a school and get firsthand knowledge of how schools are working and being run.”
Sign up now for the training that runs Jan. 23-31. Interviews will be done Feb. 10-21.
For more information on volunteering for School Works, contact Volunteer Coordinator Mollie Pollack at (412) 697-1298, ext. 101.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Amy Scott, A+ Schools

Firefly Arts: Gathering families, helping kids with autism

Before Rebecca Covert founded Firefly Arts, she worked as a storyteller and teaching artist for eight years locally. But when she had a son with an autism spectrum disorder, she discovered a new challenge: "My whole job was to engage children in literacy and math through an arts curriculum," Covert recalls. "But I’d go home and I couldn’t even get my own son to respond.”
Working at the problem, she discovered ways that art could still work “to bring my son out of his shell, build a relationship with us and focus on the world.”
Firefly, currently applying to be an official nonprofit, held its first gathering of families in November. Group members have already provided art activities for Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's autism-friendly Nutcracker performance, while Covert has been asked to work with autistic kids at a local camp and at various arts organizations.
“We want to build community among families raising autistic children through art activities,” Covert explains. “We’re using arts as an accessible means to develop concept knowledge … which is a difficult thing for autistic children. It’s all about taking an abstract concept and making it a concrete experience.” Some children with autism, for example, may be able to learn gross motor movement as part of a dance but, when asked to make a doll dance, may not be able to make the connection between the two ideas.
Firefly's teaching artists may present movement, visual arts and music to help the kids explore different concepts, such as making friends, riding the bus or figuring out what "our neighborhood” signifies.
Parents will be able to enjoy the program as a stress release, respite, creative outlet and chance to socialize, Covert says. In the proposed 8-week program, while kids work with teaching artists, parents will get such things as cooking classes, yoga and photography courses. "They don’t want to be here and talk about autism," Covert says she found in speaking with parents at Firefly's first event. "They want to be here and meet new people and take a step away” from the very demanding task of raising their kids.
Before its main program is finalized, Firefly artists will be conducting one arts workshop each month, January through March, for whole families, perhaps exploring habitats, such as the ocean and rainforest.
Families can register online to be part of Firefly's programs. The fledgling group also has a Facebook page and an  fundraising campaign (with video)
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Rebecca Covert, Firefly Arts

New contest looking for talented kid jazz performers

Jazz's legacy in Pittsburgh has inspired Familylinks – which provides family services focused on behavioral, social and developmental health issues – to hold an "up-and-comer contest" for high school and college jazz performers.
Winner of the Just Jazz YouTube Contest will perform as part of Familylinks'
Just Jazz II fundraising event on March 21 at the Twentieth Century Club in Oakland.
“We wanted to do the contest as a way to continue the Pittsburgh jazz history and highlight the contributions of that tradition,” says Mary Bockovich, the group's director of development. And to help make people, particularly young people, aware of Familylinks’ services, of course.
“Young people in general who don’t have a lot of experience with social services or ‘the system’ are probably not aware of what we do,” she says. Familylinks offers drug and alcohol services, programs for young adults and for kids who are homeless or in foster care, workforce readiness training and more. 
Government funding for such programs is flat and shrinking, Bockovich notes, so Familylinks is looking for this event to support its Downtown outreach center and shelter for 18- to 21-year-olds. The organization also has a year-old mentoring program for 16-21 year olds who have been involved in child welfare cases, which is looking for assistance. "We’re seeing that kids involved with the child welfare system really haven’t had the benefit of a caring, consistent adult in their lives," she says.
Eligible for the contest are jazz combos that can include a singer; they will be judged by up-to-seven-minute videos submitted by Feb. 1. Just Jazz II headliners Lisa Ferraro and Benny Benack, III will pick five finalists and online public voting will last until Feb. 25. The winner will be announced March 1.
With all the emphasis on helping young people, Bockovich adds, it was natural for Familylinks to want to help young musicians through the new contest: “We would love to give them the opportunity to showcase their talents and to perform for a fairly substantial crowd. They will get some exposure and maybe even a paying gig out of it.”
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Mary Bockovich, Familylinks

Charities, honorees, winter ease: More ways to make it a season of giving

If it is truly better to give than to receive, here are just three ways during this holiday season that the local philanthropic community is looking for your help. You can honor those who have given and give to those who have the least.
On Dec. 21, at the winter solstice, Operation Safety Net will hold its annual candlelight memorial service to remember those who died while homeless in Pittsburgh in 2013.
The vigil at Fort Pitt Boulevard and Grant Street, underneath the highway overpass, honors the 10 individuals who suffered this fate thus far this year and also marks the longest night of the winter. The service includes music by the Mt. Ararat Baptist Church Men’s Choir and a reading of the names; it is free and open to the public.
Operation Safety Net, part of Pittsburgh Mercy Health System and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, has held this service each year since 1998. They will also be collecting new men’s and women’s hats, gloves, and socks for distribution to those whom Operation Safety Net serves at the local Severe Weather Emergency Shelter.
Homelessness is a particular problem among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Pittsburgh's LGBTQ Community Center downtown has also put out an emergency appeal for blankets and coats. In addition, the donations will help low-income members of the community.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh on Dec. 17 will recognize individual volunteers and local organizations that have given the most to the organization this year. Among its Celebrate Coalitions winners this year, to be honored at the James Street Speakeasy in the East Allegheny neighborhood, are:
· Dennis Hazenstab of Lawrenceville, Male Recruitment Advisory Board Member of the Year
· Doug Foster of Wexford, BIG Speakers Bureau Member of the Year
· Jackie Belczyk of the North Side, Young Professional Outreach Board Member of the Year
· Heidi Nevala of Mt. Lebanon, Washington County Advisory Board Member of the Year
· The Saturday Light Brigade and Washington and Jefferson College, both BIG Community Partners of the Year.
Keynote speaker at the event is Emmai Alaquiva, who was homeless at one time in his life but is now director for CBS Sports Network and CEO of the multimedia company Ya Momz House, Inc.  He also founded and leads the arts education program Hip Hop on L.O.C.K.
Writer: Marty Levine

Coro's MLK winners exemplify 'values-based leadership'

"Values-based leadership," says Greg Crowley, president and CEO of the local Coro Center for Civic Leadership, is all about "aligning your leadership with a higher purpose. It's a kind of leadership that we seek to inspire in people – and that is also inspired by the leadership of Martin Luther King."
That's why Coro is presenting its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Awards on Jan. 24, 2014 at the New Hazlett Theater. The awards honor two individuals in the community (one of whom is a Coro alumnus) and an organization, chosen from among this year's 22 nominees. All of the nominees and winners will have a moment to speak about their work at the ceremony.

"Anybody can be great because anybody can serve," Crowley says King memorably told a Pittsburgh crowd during a visit here in 1966. Values-based leadership is thus not about how competitive the institutions in our region can be with each other or nationally, it's about how the organizations and individuals serve the whole community of people.
The Distinguished Individual Leadership winner this year is Dean Williams, director of the Formerly Convicted Citizens Project. The Project recognizes the huge barriers to employment, housing, even voting – to full citizenship – faced by those once incarcerated, as well as by their families.
Williams began holding workshops for hundreds of people trying to seek a better future after prison by aiming for pardons and expungement of their records. "Those people see him as an inspiration," Crowley says. His "Ban the Box" initiative, looking to eliminate the "Have you ever been convicted?" question from job applications, has been successful so far in changing Pittsburgh's employment forms.
The Distinguished Alumni Leadership Award will go to Tom Baker. "He's a young professional who has been a real inspiration to other young professionals," says Crowley. Baker runs the Pittsburgh Service Summit for those young professionals, as well as college students and leaders in the community, to connect with community organizations offering service opportunities, and he runs the local non-profit organization, Get Involved!, Inc. He is also serving on the North Hills School Board and has written several books.
Gaining Distinguished Organizational Leadership Award this year the Assemble maker learning space for kids in Garfield, run by Nina Barbuto. "Obviously, we have this challenge about how to inspire and teach kids about the arts," Crowley notes. "The committee really liked their catalytic ideas for the community."
"I want people to believe that their leadership is important in making a difference in the direction of our community – not just symbolically, but really," he concludes. "It's possible to have a real impact," especially realizing that most people and groups "started out small, without a lot of advantages. These small organizations and individuals are having an impact and their impact hasn't been fully realized yet.
"The great things we see happening in the community … these things that we feel so good about are occurring because of people who are making things happen on a small scale," he adds. "We want people to walk away thinking 'Maybe I can do more.'"
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Greg Crowley, Coro

'Eye-popping insights' show the value of sustainability

Court Gould, executive director of Sustainable Pittsburgh, could not be happier with the way the Dec. 10 “Sustainability EXPOsed” event highlighted new ideas for business and the community: "People around the region would be pleased to hear that 500-plus young, emerging leaders and veterans came together to hear one remarkably rapid-paced presentation after another whose focus was on providing up-to-date, eye-popping insights into the ways the practice of sustainability is paving the path to prosperity, public health and access to opportunity at greater levels."
Paul Hawken, author of four national bestsellers, including The Ecology of Commerce and Blessed Unrest, told the crowd that "sustainability goes right to the heart of reinvigorating the Pittsburgh region's story of innovating its way around adversity." Pursuing life, liberty and happiness today, Hawkens added, includes having clean air and water and equitable access to opportunity – qualities not particularly encouraged by our winner-take-all way of conducting commerce.
"There are more evolved models and we need not look very far," Gould points out  -- look at our natural eco-systems, he says, "where everything is interconnected and nothing is wasted.
"This is all about our perception," Gould adds. "We can either view climate change as a daunting challenge for which we can do little or we can view it as an opportunity … for us to shift what we value." For our region, this spells opportunities for doing business by emphasizing the local, the collaborative and the interdependent, all toward maximizing social benefit, "where businesses' values come from their role in improving community."
Nature does not negotiate, Hawken concluded, and we fail to appreciate this fact at our own peril.
Projjal Dutta, director of sustainability initiatives for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York, spoke on?“Taking the car out of carbon,” addressing how public transport systems in dense cities improve our quality of life and help us move from sprawl to community building, reducing carbon emissions in the meantime.
Gould says he was also very impressed with Jerry Tinianow, chief sustainability officer for Denver, who "brought home the message of how sustainability at its core is about behavior and choice," and with Jeanne VanBriesen, Carnegie Mellon University professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of their Water Quality in Urban Environmental Systems (Water-QUEST) project. He says she "raised awareness to the literal reality that all water use is highly energy-dependent," and that an efficient use of water resources would be a sign of true sustainability for a region or society.
The audience was also invited to discuss their best recommendations for our region, led by representatives from the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, who, Gould says, will use the discussion to put together their next regional agenda report, due at the end of January.
"Our region has the opportunity to seize being the place the world goes to in order to solve hard problems," was the conclusion of Mickey McManus, CEO and principal of MAYA Design, Gould says. "The Pittsburgh region is uniquely positioned to be the leading site for a shift to building an ecosystem for business based on these concepts of mutuality and innovation … The result can be rising to the top of the economic value chain while achieving a transition to a more functional, sustainable natural systems-based economy."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Court Gould, Sustainable Pittsburgh

Kids+Creativity gathers to celebrate year of accomplishment

The Kids+Creativity Network will celebrate its second year with an Assembly on Dec. 12, 3- 5:30 p.m. at the Carnegie Museum of Art. It will be a chance for members of the Network, which aims to remake learning in the Pittsburgh region, to examine what they’ve accomplished individually and as a group.
Cathy Lewis Long, head of the Sprout Fund, which supports Kids+Creativity, will give the state-of-the-Network address, outlining how far the group has come since the last Assembly, including its tremendous growth and the way members have built connections locally and nationally.
She will be joined by Linda Hippert, executive director of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, who will speak about how her organization, which assists the county’s school districts, has been teaming with those districts to advance teachers’ professional development and update classroom lessons and activities. Thanassis Rikakis, vice provost for Carnegie Mellon University, will talk about CMU’s new initiatives to integrate art, design and technology both at CMU and with their K-12 school partners. Rita Catalano, head of the Fred Rogers Center, will also add her organization's perspective.
They will be followed by brief “ignite talks” by individual Kids+Creativity members – five-minute snapshots of successful programs designed to inspire conversations and motivate members to create new endeavors of their own.
Finally, the Assembly will offer four breakout sessions centered around several key Kids+Creativity topics:
1. Ways to develop partnerships with schools. Ryan Coon, Sprout program officer, notes that “more and more schools are getting involved in Kids+Creativity and are really interested in partnering with members to bring new ideas into their classrooms.”
2. Access and equity for new classroom technology, especially for underserved communities, both in and out of schools
3. How to become a part of the new Remake Learning Digital Corps (see Pop City’s coverage here [http://www.popcitymedia.com/forgood/remakelearningdigitalcorps120413.aspx]); and
4. A hands-on maker activity led by staff from Garfield’s Assemble space.
The Assembly, concludes Coon, "is a good opportunity to see some of the things Kids+Creativity is up to and a chance to make partnerships with some of the network's active members."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Ryan Coon, The Sprout Fund

The Bagpiper's Hymnal! A Pottery-at-home kit! Nonprofit gifts are best

The Nonprofit Holiday Gift Catalog is back, and its bagpipe-ier and bully-er than ever.
The annual compendium, now in its fourth year from the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University, brings together some of the best items available as holiday presents from local nonprofits, “so that you can give gifts that mean something," says Center Programs Team Leader Carrie Richards, who put the catalog together with Evening Receptionist David Little.
Among the groups new this year to the catalog is the Balmoral School of Piping and Drumming, which offers The Bagpipers' Hymnal and a Piper's necktie.
"I had never heard of them before, but they're here in Pittsburgh,” Richards says. “The Bayer Center works with mom and pop nonprofits … and I was tickled that they wanted to be a part of it."
Other organizations new to the catalog are Biggies Bullies, which supports and rescues the bully breed of dog and Volunteers of America, which is selling a bracelet to support people with disabilities.
The Union Project, which runs a pottery studio among its projects, is offering The Clay Case this year. "It’s everything you need to work with clay at home with your family," she says. "They're kind of selling you a mess in a kit, which is pretty fantastic."
"The nonprofits are always thankful for the free publicity” of the catalog, she adds. “But I always hear from people: 'It made me feel like I was contributing something in my gift buying.'"
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Carrie Richards, Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management

Sculptor teams with high-school kids for anti-violence projects

"When you introduce something through art,” says Pittsburgh sculptor Blaine Siegel, “you're opening a different perception, a different doorway. Especially when kids talk about violence, it's just about 'Do this, don't do that.' Not the 'Why?' Art makes you think harder to find meaning. That's when there is a different thought process – kids are more engaged and you get to a much better place."
Siegel, an artist in residence in Wilkinsburg High School during the previous school year, is still working with Wilkinsburg students in an effort to use art to deal with violence. Siegel and his students have created videos and will do readings and musical performances at the Society for Contemporary Craft’s “Enough Violence” exhibition on Dec. 13.
Last year, Siegel converted Wilkinsburg High School’s woodshop into an art studio where, twice a week, 18 students worked with him on his sculptures, then branched out to do their own artwork. He also visited their classes for talks and demonstrations. In an English class studying writers of the Harlem Renaissance, for instance, he added visual art to the mix, guiding students in creating a mosaic, while in a health class studying the respiratory system he helped students sculpt a model of a body with a mechanical lung that inhaled and exhaled, introducing them also to artists who created body-themed.
Wilkinsburg is the most violent high school in Pennsylvania, according to a state study in 2012.  "I don't believe it – but the perception exists," Siegel says. He showed his students a speech by Pakistani teen Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban and has since spoken out widely about the violence – and her own reaction to it.
"I started to draw parallels between her and these kids' experiences," Siegel says. He noticed them constantly making music – singing, banging on lockers – "representing the beauty these students are able to create in this atmosphere of violence," he says.
He first approached the school band, which made a video of drumming a Pakistani beat from Malala's region as they walked through school halls.
Then Siegel took a snippet of Malala's speech to the UN, in which she spoke of not wanting to shoot her attackers in revenge, and overlaid it with stills from the school. He asked a group of its students whether they would shoot in revenge for a gun crime, and the majority said yes. Then he played them Malala’s UN speech, and they saw a picture of a girl their age.
"Opinions started to change,” he reports, “and it's interesting to see that happen."
When he took students to view the “Enough Violence” exhibit, which contains a wide range of artistic responses to our society’s violence, they were most affected by the sculpture at the front of the show, which depicts a toddler with a gun holding up fellow toddlers, some in diapers. It started a vital discussion, he says, about nature versus nurture, and how violence is introduced to people at a young age.
"That got a lot of sharing going,” Siegel says. “They're young adults but they're also older kids, so that piece got to them."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Blaine Siegel

Happy hours for globally minded people

"We call it happy hour for globally minded people," says Thomas Buell, Jr., director of marketing and the Study Pittsburgh initiative for GlobalPittsburgh.
He's talking about GlobalPittsburgh First Thursdays, held next on Dec. 5 at Luke Wholey's Wild Alaskan Grille in the Strip District from 5:30 to 8 p.m., then in February and following (after skipping January) at Steel Cactus in Shadyside.
About 150 people from across the globe and the city usually attend, from 37 countries and speaking 27 languages. The crowd, Buell says, includes "a lot of internationals – professionals, students and ex-pats – but also a lot of local people who are interested in learning about the world… They have travelled or they are interested in seeing how global Pittsburgh has become.
"It seems like it's really unlike a lot of networking, where people know each other," he adds. "This one, you can walk up to any table and introduce yourself. It's really friendly and welcoming.
Through this "citizen diplomacy," Buell says, the confluence of people can do things "the diplomats in Washington can't really achieve."
A hundred years ago, he notes, 33 percent of Pittsburghers were born outside the U.S. In recent years, that has fallen as low as four percent. Currently, it is around 10 percent. "This is a way to make Pittsburgh more welcoming and inclusive for people who live here, not just for newcomers," he says. "The visitors who come in learn from Pittsburgh but we want to make sure that Pittsburgh … learns from the people we bring in.
Register here for the event, which is free for GlobalPittsburgh members and $5 for others, and includes complimentary appetizers, prize drawings and more.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Thomas Buell, Jr., GlobalPittsburgh

Remake Learning Digital Corps: fresh troops for tech teaching

The Sprout Fund is looking to recruit up to 30 members of a new Remake Learning Digital Corps: technologists, university students, out-of-school-time teachers, makers, or "anyone interested in promoting and helping teens and tweens learn digital literacy," says Ani Martinez, a Sprout program associate who is coordinating the Corps.
The Corps is “going to change how youth develop digital literacy skills in afterschool programs throughout Allegheny County,” says Sprout program officer Ryan Coon.
Martinez says there are many tech programs that could use no- to low-cost tools in for their students but don't have the time or resources to train their own experts. “It's been a growing concern for connected educators for a long time," she says, referring to connected learning: the notion that young people learn better when they work with their peers, are personally interested in a subject and connect with the larger community.
The new Corps will be a travelling educational force, she says: "Hopefully, it will become a self-sustaining training platform that can be used with any educational site."
Corps members will learn Scratch, a programming language tool, and Thimble, developed by Mozilla as a way to learn coding. From there, Corps members can help students do everything from exploring Java to building hardware devices and apps, including working on a Hummingbird robotics kit, which teaches kids about circuits, lights, and motion.
Applications to be an instructor or site for the program close Dec. 20 and are available here. Sprout is looking 5-10 sites to deploy its first teachor-mentors.
"The hope," says Martinez, "is that [students] gain an interest in building and teaching themselves hardware and the Web at large – the 21st century communication skills and job training skills. If they can, early on, they will have a tremendous leg up when they reach the workforce."
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Ani Martinez and Ryan Coon, Remake Learning Digital Corps

Community Kitchen to teach food-service to job seekers having the toughest time

Pittsburgh Community Kitchen has been quietly working since July to create a catering business that provides food-service training to people who often have the toughest time getting a job: those reentering society from jail, people who have experienced recent homelessness, and individuals recovering from drug and alcohol abuse or who have experienced behavioral health issues.
"And it's often more than one" issue that their clients are getting past, says Jennifer Flanagan, who founded the Kitchen along with Tod Shoenberger, an executive chef with 20 years of operational experience in the food industry. “Food service is a really forgiving industry,” Flanagan says, “if you are responsible and have some skills,” and the Kitchen will offer "more than job readiness – industry-specific training."
Flanagan works for Allegheny County’s Department of Human Services, where she co-directs a Department of Justice-funded program offering workforce development for former inmates, so she has important experience creating such a program. And there are 42 other community kitchens with similar missions in the national Catalyst Kitchens Network, which originated in Seattle.
The Kitchen has already undertaken catering jobs for nearly half a year. "You can't really train people if you're not running the business well," she says. The free program uses chefs as teachers and also offers clientele access to case managers to provide extra support and make referrals to social-service agencies. "Our goal is to get them through the their barriers and stabilized" in life, she explains.
To accompany the training experience, which begins with the new year, the Kitchen already has a shared-use commercial kitchen in Pittsburgh Public Market’s recently opened Penn Avenue location. There, they’ll also train participants in co-packing: working with smaller food producers to produce their products and/or pack them for sale.
In addition, the Kitchen is planning a restaurant – at a location to be determined – that will “make the restaurant experience available to folks who couldn't necessarily support it,” Flanagan says. They’re also expecting to put a 10,000-square-foot commissary kitchen, using green technology, in the Energy Innovation Center opening in the Hill District in late 2014.
”We're looking to do other things to support whatever communities we go into," she adds, such as making meals from the 30,000 pounds of end-of-shelf-life produce tossed by food banks every month.
Concludes Flanagan: "I'm excited to start the training in January, and see where it takes us."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jennifer Flanagan, Pittsburgh Community Kitchen

Thought school was tough? Stigma of mental illness makes it tougher

Getting kids to encourage their classmates to stop stigmatizing mental health issues is somewhat uncharted territory, which is one of the reasons Pittsburgh Cares is teaming with Allegheny County to devise new school-based programs around this issue.
The program, Stand Together, began a few weeks ago with workshops in 10 area schools: Pittsburgh's Perry and Allderdice high schools and the Environmental Charter School, Propel Braddock Hills, South Allegheny Middle School, South Brook Middle School, South Park High School, Woodland Hills Junior High School and West Mifflin Area middle and high schools.
Working with the county's Office of Behavioral Health in the Department of Human Services, Pittsburgh Cares devised an initial full-day workshop in which the students learn about both mental illness and the stigma that often goes along with it.
Nationally, says Holly McGraw-Turkovic, program director at Pittsburgh Cares, 16 percent of school-age kids with mental illness will think about suicide, with up 44 percent of them dropping out of school, while about two thirds do not even receive treatment. “There’s a lot of myths out there connected to mental illness,” says McGraw-Turkovic. “Stigma comes from students being isolated."
During the first workshop, students also paint an "awareness icon" – a mannequin that they cover with positive messages about mental health issues. The second workshop uses Pittsburgh Cares' strength as a nonprofit affiliate of the national HandsOn Network – creating service-learning projects – and focuses it on the subject of mental illness stigma. The kids will brainstorm project ideas, then apply for the organization's mini-grant program for $100-$1000 to fund each project.
At the Stand Together website, the organization will be posting project ideas and guides, local connections and educational material on the issue, mental health fact sheets and a photo collections from finished projects, as well as a blog and project assessment tools.
South Allegheny is the only school so far to have completed its second workshop, and ideas for effective programs may be tough to devise, McGraw-Turkovic notes. There weren't many successful national programs to use as models, she says, so the pilot year of this two-year program will be testing how much kids' attitudes and knowledge have changed from its effects.
“We’re hoping in two years we can share this model with all our HandsOn affiliates across the country," she says, "giving them all the tools they need to replicate this program.” Stand Together was funded by a $105,000 grant from the Staunton Farm Foundation.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Holly McGraw-Turkovic, Pittsburgh Cares

Eat for a good cause with Bite Catering from Community Human Services

It's not unusual for a nonprofit to engage in social enterprises, or to raise money through side businesses, but it's probably unusual for that business to be catering.
That's what Community Human Services has been developing for the last year. The Oakland nonprofit already serves half-price lunches for those in need in its Bite Café on Lawn Street, dishing out about 5,000 a year. With their chef and executive staff aiming to cook up healthy fare for the neighborhood, Director Of Community Programs Trevor Smith said the organization decided it was time to take their talents to a wider audience.
The café, Smith says, provides " a chance to make some folks get a hot meal and have a chance to socialize.” However, he adds, "we honestly lose money for each meal that we sell" there. With Bite Catering, the organization is trying make the café services self-sustaining.
“Food is a common theme of what we do,” Smith notes, since the group also runs a food pantry and a second kitchen. “So it fits in with the character of the agency.”
So far, Bite has catered lots of meals for a number of other nonprofits – for meetings of 10 and dinners for 100, from the United Way and Forbes Funds to neighborhood churches and groups. Now they are trying to build up their business among for-profit companies as well.
“Nonprofits are or should be looking for ways to generate funding” from nontraditional sources, Smith says. “It certainly requires that our team work harder but by no means is it beyond their capacity.”
His hope for Bite Catering, he concludes, “is that it is able to fund in its entirety the lunches, and that we do an excellent job of catering, that we do great food and great service … If we can do that, the money for lunches will fall into place.”
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Trevor Smith, Community Human Services

How do homeless children do homework?

“The largest percentage of individuals who are experiencing homelessness are children – they far outnumber those individuals you see on the street,” says Bill Wolfe, executive director? of the Homeless Children's Education Fund? in the Strip District.
The latest federal stats show there are nearly 1.2 million homeless kids in the U.S. More than 1,700 of them are in Allegheny County. “That is a number that continues to grow,” Wolfe says.
And the problem is spread throughout the area, too: “A lot of people think that homelessness and poverty in general is just an urban problem. But there are 43 school districts in Allegheny County and every one of them has children experiencing homelessness. The only way we are going to break this cycle of homelessness is education.”
That's why the Homeless Children's Education Fund has services in all 27 county agencies that serve the homeless – 20 shelters and seven places that provide services during the day. “We have become the educational wing for those 27 facilities," Wolfe says.
Founder Joe Lagana, the retired head of the local Allegheny Intermediate Unit, "visited some of the shelters and agencies, and he noticed that when the kids came [there] they were basically put in front of a television set," Wolfe says. "The agencies didn’t have anybody to do [education] and the moms and dads were struggling with their own issues.”
In 17 of the facilities, the Fund has built learning and resource centers with computers and spots for kids to do homework. It provides tutors and volunteer mentors to work with kids after school and pays reading specialists to work on literacy issues. It brings in art, music and language lessons as well as artists to work with the students.
“Those portions of our programs really work to get the parents involved in the educational process with the children,” he says.
The Fund also provides books and schools supplies. Each August, with the help of Citizens Bank, the Fund distributes 2,500 new backpacks filled with age-appropriate school supplies.
The Fund is always looking for people to spread the word about the need in our community, and for volunteer help" “We are in constant need of volunteers to go in and work with children in the shelters. We will take one day a month if that is all you can give.”
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Bill Wolfe, Homeless Children's Education Fund

Find the right hire, intern to CEO, via Nonprofit Talent

Nonprofits looking for great matches for everyone from executive directors to volunteers now have someplace central to turn: Nonprofit Talent.

On Nov. 1, Todd Owens and Michelle Pagano Heck left spots with other local talent-search agencies to start the new venture. "We are extremely passionate about the work the nonprofit organizations do," says Owens. "We are, at our core, people who care tremendously about people and organizations that are working to help society.
"The whole premise of our business is that nonprofit organizations need talent in many forms to meet their missions," he says – from interns to board members, from volunteers to full-time staff. Now nonprofits here and across the state can find people in those four categories through Nonprofit Talent's services and through their website. "We can do a full executive search to find a CEO or someone in other key leadership roles. We can assess current talent and make recommendations on how the organization can better serve its mission."
The company has more than 100 positions posted on its website already and gets thousands of hits a day, he says. These postings are also spread through the company's social media and bi-weekly newsletter. This will be a particular help, Owens believes, to the 75 percent of nonprofits who have budgets under a million dollars and don't have well-developed human resources departments – or anyone whose specific job it is to seek and find the right personnel.
Nonprofit Talent already works with clients from here to Philadelphia, Doylestown, Lehigh Valley, Lancaster and Harrisburg. Their first major local client is a Pittsburgh Foundation-funded initiative called Talent City (Talent-city.com), a community project to identify those who can best serve in key leadership roles in the new mayoral administration beginning this January. It is also designed to solicit ideas about the future of Pittsburgh.
The local nonprofit sector is "fairly healthy," Owens allows, "in a community that is blessed with much largesse," including generous corporate donors, a successful United Way campaign, foundations still giving away the wealth of the industrial giants of the 1900s and new wealth being generated. "That's not to say that there aren't some challenges on the horizon" – including those Nonprofit Talent is designed to overcome.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Todd Owens, Nonprofit Talent

WorkAble finds clients jobs, even in recession

A year after beginning the countywide WorkAble job assistance program, it has a 90 percent job placement rate and is providing other important help for families on the edge of crisis during this recession.
The program is funded by the United Way and run by three faith-based groups – Jewish Family & Children's Service (JFCS), North Hills Community Outreach and South Hills Interfaith Ministries – but it is open to anyone who has found themselves un- or under-employed in recent years.
Just walk in the door of any of these agencies, call 412-904-5993 or click here and job counselors will take your employment and educational history and help figure out your employment needs and barriers. Do you have skills that could lead to more work in your field? Do you need to retrain? What else is going on in your life that you might need help with?
WorkAble has traditional workshops on resume writing, cover letters, job searches and networking as well as nontraditional ones on social media and budgeting, It brings in job recruiters and employers and holds career fairs once a month that offer mini-interviews with employers, not just places to drop off a resume.
But the program also provides deeper help, says JFCS Chief Operating Officer Linda Ehrenreich, using personal and group sessions to find out what other economic, social or psychological needs participants might have and helping them get aid for those issues as well. Each of the agencies has strengths in job counseling and all work with people who have barriers to gaining and retaining employment.
Of the 500 people served by WorkAble between October 2012 and today, 350 have graduated from the program, so to speak – and 330 have gotten jobs. But WorkAble is helping even after employment, assisting people with other needs that aid them in getting through life and keeping their jobs.
Says Ehrenreich: "It focuses on those who are falling off the cliff … the struggling families who are really in crisis.
For the future, she sees WorkAble expanding its volunteer base, seeking more corporate partners and developing its website and reach into the community. WorkAble is, she concludes, "a common sense model building on the strengths of three different agencies in three different locations."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Linda Ehrenreich, Jewish Family & Children's Service

MLK essay contest sending winners to Chautauqua

Carnegie Mellon University's Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards contest for local high-school and college students is calling for entries once again – and winners this year may get the chance to read their works at a special event in Chautauqua, New York.
Poetry and prose about students' personal experiences with race and discrimination are invited as contest entries by Nov. 22, with the awards ceremony set for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Jan. 20, 2014).  
It's sometimes difficult to get entries from kids in high school unless their teachers get involved and oversee the writing process, says organizer Jim Daniels, Thomas Stockham Baker Professor of English at CMU. "It's a hard subject for [kids] to write about and they need a lot of encouragement," Daniels says, "but if we ignore or don't talk about it, it's just beneath the surface and horrible things happen."

Among the increasing subjects of past winners has been the experience of international students here and in their own countries, "a reminder that it is not just an issue for this country," he says. Last year's winners included a student from Sri Lanka who talked about her experience there and in Lebanon as a family of immigrants finding their way. Another winning essay concerned a student whose mixed Latin American heritage, he said, was not evident, even to fellow Latinos. The first time a stranger approached him as a fellow Hispanic, asking him in Spanish what country he was from, was a thrilling moment he was able to record for his essay.
For the contest's 15th year, says Daniels, the awards ceremony and reading will also involve a performance by the CMU drama department's gospel choir. But bringing winners to Chautauqua is the most exciting development, he says, helping both students and the audience ponder the issues of race and discrimination more often than one day per year.
"None of them had been there before," he says of the students he brought to New York. "They were particularly surprised by the enthusiasm of the audience. They wanted us to stay longer." The group had a lunch and tour and were interviewed by the local daily for a long article. "They want us back. We want to go back. It's an exciting development."
Daniels hopes this year's entrants include more college students too. "The more people who get involved in responding, the more rewarding the awards will be," he concludes. "There are always surprises; I learn something every year from these pieces."
Entries should be less than 2,000 words and double-spaced (or up to five poems) and should be sent as Microsoft Word attachments (.docx preferred) here or to MLK Writing Contest, Department of English, Baker Hall 259, CMU, 5000 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15213.?Include your name, school, age, title of work(s) submitted, category of work(s) submitted (fiction, poetry, nonfiction), email address, home address and home phone number.

Selected entries are published by CMU.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jim Daniels, CMU

All nonprofits need apps, and CodeFest can design them

Nov. 15 is the deadline to submit your app needs to Steel City CodeFest, the 24-hour app-building event, which for its second year will concentrate on creating apps to help with the challenges nonprofits face.
"We see that nonprofits in general are very risk-averse in spending precious resources and investing in technology," says Garrett Cooper, director of innovation for the Forbes Funds, one CodeFest's organizers. Perhaps an expensive but unsuccessful technological fix burned them in the past, "so they are really cautious looking at the next generation of technology that might help them most efficiently," he says. Yet external demands from government and the public for accountability will force them to look for improvements. Cooper believes the majority of nonprofits can benefit from having even a single, simple app to help staff communicate or work more efficiently.
CodeFest started last year when Google Pittsburgh asked to team with a city agency and approached the Urban Redevelopment Authority, says Jennifer Wilhelm, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Strategist at the URA. CodeFest 2013, in February, designed apps mostly for local government agencies but found that implementation of the apps has been slower than they'd hoped, she says. Organizers intend for this year's focus on apps for nonprofits – likely 10 of them -- will lead to their use more quickly in the community.
Last year's winning apps were ParkIt, for commuters wishing to pay for parking with their mobile devices; OpenDataPgh, "for connecting the communities of Pittsburgh and city government through an open data platform"; and enLightened, for people to share energy-use data for cost savings and conservation. About 20 teams in all designed as many apps.
"We really want a bridge for technology groups between the for-profit world and the non-profit world," Cooper says. Thus, Forbes and the partnering organizations – which include American Eagle, Google, Maya Design and the University of Pittsburgh – will continue to help develop the apps after CodeFest is finished. He believes these apps can show the rest of the city how technology can be beneficial for its charitable groups.
Concludes Cooper: "We think we are going to come up with several apps that really help the local nonprofit sector."
Get an application for CodeFest here and direct any questions to Brittany Schrenker.
Writer: Marty Levine 
Sources: Garrett Cooper, Forbes Funds; Jennifer Wilhelm, URA

At TRETC, tech meets education in and out of classrooms

The Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference (TRETC) returns Nov. 19 and 20, and this year even more emphasis will be on helping educational efforts that happen outside of schools. Last year more than 400 educators from K-12 schools, universities and nonprofits attended the event.
The conference is growing in the number of attendees, educational sessions and vendors from the many local educational tech startups, says Justin Driscoll of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, one of the organizers.
TRETC, says another organizer, Norton Gusky of NLG-Consulting, "has kept the conversation alive in terms of the roles of technology as a better strategy for meeting the needs of learners, both in school and out of school." The conference aims to help educational programs best use, and use the best, technology in their learning spaces.
This year's first keynote speaker is Andrew Slack, Executive Director of the Harry Potter Alliance, a self-described group of "wizards and muggles" who are working for social change. Slack is a Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellow spending the year in New York City developing the Imagine Better Network, which will try to enlist an even broader fantasy fandom into improving the real world. He'll be talking about participatory learning, civic engagement and mobilizing social media to do social good.
The other keynote speaker is Richard Culatta, acting director of the Office of Educational Technology for the U.S. Department of Education. "He's very involved in the whole idea of using technology to remake learning," Gusky says.
TRETC's local presenters will include Nikki Navta, who authored the Zulama curriculum, which blends classroom and online learning. She will be demonstrating how game-based learning – not just playing but conceiving and developing games – has become a powerful tool for education. Also presenting is Ed McKaveney, technology director for the Hampton Township School District, who was named Chief Technology Officer of the Year for 2013 by the Consortium for School Networking – the first such awardee in Pennsylvania.
"We feel really fortunate he is here in our backyard," says Gusky. He'll be speaking about such new tech developments as 3D printing and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses).
Justin Aglio and Joe Oliphant, co-principals at Propel Braddock Hills High Schooj, will talk about Propel's new focus on innovation and design. The Sprout Fund will also have a Remake Learning Zone to showcase the projects they've funded at the intersection of digital learning and media. Another part of the program will highlight the roles of women in technology.
TRETC has been so successful, says Gusky, that organizers are thinking about expanding it into a national conference. "How do we highlight the region, not just for the region, but for the entire country?" he says.
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Norton Gusky, Justin Driscoll

HE-HO -- not a holiday fair, but housing and health help for artists

Individual artists are pioneers, of a sort--the first to move back into neighborhoods that have fallen on hard times. Then, once these places are made safe and attractive for the rest of us, real estate prices begin to rise--and artists get priced out.
Since they work for themselves, artists have also had a hard time getting health insurance, due to cost and availability. But with the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) offering health insurance to more people--and requiring adults to buy it--now seemed the right time to reach out to help local artists with both issues. So was born HE-HO: Artists’ Health and Housing Fair for the Community from the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, a free seminar to be held on Nov. 16, noon-6 p.m. at the Kingsley Association.
GPAC, says CEO Mitch Swain, "has made a commitment as an organization to do everything we can to help individual artists. We feel individual artists are an important cog as Pittsburgh seeks to redevelop itself."

HE-HO--for health and housing, of course--can benefit any low- to moderate-income Pittsburgher who needs help in these areas. HE-HO will include a home-buying workshop by sponsor Dollar Bank and another by Kingsley's NeighborWorks and a home-improvement session from the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

With help from the other sponsor, Highmark (Blue Cross Blue Shield), the event will also have free health screenings, and information and advice from the local Healthy Artists and Be Well!, PA Health Access Network and the Artists Health Insurance Resource Center of New York City.

From this last group, Renata Marinaro, who has been helping artists get health insurance for two decades, will talk the previous evening at 6 at Pittsburgh Filmmakers on "Navigating Health Care Reform for Arts Organizations, Collectives, and Arts Businesses," then address individual artists' needs at HE-HO.
GPAC has been hearing from its 67-member artists' advisory group that health insurance and housing are two big, tough issues for the local arts community. HE-HO organizer Christiane Leach, GPAC's artist relations coordinator and office manager, knows the artist's dilemma first-hand. She and other friends in the local arts community have donated their art to raise money for other artists' hospital bills. She has heard artists ask, "How can I live in a neighborhood, own a house and be part of the resurgence that is going on?" she says.
The event also includes information from local arts groups, yoga, massages, music (by Phat Man Dee, the Delicious Pastries and vocalist Anqwenique Wingfield), poetry, food and drink.
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Mitch Swain and Christiane Leach,  Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council

The newest college prep program in town already having success

In its second year in Pittsburgh, Higher Achievement is finding that it's a great fit for helping local 5th through 8th graders become college-bound.
"There are no entry requirements other than the will to do well," says Executive Director Wendy Etheridge Smith. "Both the child and the parent have to think that college is a good idea and that it is the goal." The nonprofit group aims to help kids "develop the culture and the character" to succeed.
Higher Achievement offers a summer program in the Hill District and Homewood, plus an afterschool program. "In order to compete effectively, students are going to graduate and go out and get more education," Smith says. "But you don't have to be a straight A fifth grader. You can be a C+ fifth grader and become a college scholar."
In fact, the program's average participant has a C+ average coming into the 5th grade. After a year in their program here, she says, 74 percent of students in math and 73 percent in reading went up a grade or maintained a high grade.
Besides academics and fun competitions surrounding them, the program offers electives in arts and recreation, from African drumming to jewelry making. The HA experience includes a three-day, two-night immersive college stay once a year, during which kids live in a dorm and take classes with college profs.
Higher Achievement, based in Washington, D.C., chose to come to Pittsburgh last year partly due to the Pittsburgh Promise college scholarship program and its Pathway programs designed to make sure kids are qualified for the scholarships. Today it operates in Pittsburgh Westinghouse and University Prep schools, which have the lowest percentage of Promise students.
Ninety-three percent of those who complete the HA program go to college and 76 percent of those students graduate, Smith says: "We're hoping to be a real catalyst for families and communities to reach for kids' dreams."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Wendy Etheridge Smith, Higher Achievement

Ready Freddy now ready to tackle school attendance issue

Ready Freddy is ready to move beyond its original mission of prepping kids for kindergarten enrollment to tackle school attendance problems.
The program was begun in 2006 by the University of Pittsburgh's Office of Child Development, which devises demo projects and test programs for school improvement.
Ready Freddy has aimed to get all eligible kids enrolled in kindergarten on time, even early, so they can be prepared for that first day. Being ready to transition to kindergarten is an important factor for school success.
Ready Freddy concentrates on seven Pittsburgh Public School: Langley, King, Miller, Weil, Faison, Arlington and Spring Hill. At each school it puts together a kindergarten team made up of school staff, such as principals, kindergarten teachers, social workers, counselors and others, then reaches out to community groups in the neighborhood to get them involved as well.
At Pittsburgh King PreK-8, for instance, the team is working with Reading is Fundamental, A+ Schools and local family support centers to figure out new ways to reach the community. If families do not enroll early or on time, says the program director, Aisha White, schools can even have too few classrooms and teachers set to handle the incoming kids.
Ready Freddy teams have been handing out flyers, setting up parent welcome spots at child-care centers and going door to door in public housing, telling parents how to enroll at their local schools and informing them that the district's pre-K program is free to certain income levels. During summers, kindergarten clubs at the seven focal schools invite families to attend preparatory sessions.
The schools also hold transition events that allow kids and parents to tour their future school building and meet the teachers, "so that process is not so anxiety-based, once they start school in September," White says. "They will already have made a connection with the staff people at the school and they will better know what to expect."
Then, she says, "we make the first day of kindergarten a big deal," by welcoming kids at the door with refreshments and decorations.
"We've had major impact at the very beginning," reports White. "Ready Freddy was able to increase kindergarten enrollment to 100 percent" of eligible kids at King and Pittsburgh Weil PreK-5.
Today, the program is planning "to come up with strategies to encourage and reward attendance," she says. "Attendance is a major issue nationwide," and of course it affects a child's ability to perform well in school. Kids who miss 18 or more days of school per year in kindergarten perform worse than their peers in first grade. In fact, it affects their education for years: only 17 percent of kids with high absences in the first two grades are proficient in reading in third grade.
At Spring Hill, King and Arlington, a Public Allies Americorps volunteer is collecting kindergarten attendance data, visiting the schools and calling the families of absent kids to encourage their attendance. The first two schools now use a kindergarten parent newsletter to keep families informed about classroom work and activities, and all three schools are working to reward the classrooms with the best attendance. White is hoping businesses local to all seven schools will pitch in by donating items for attendance rewards.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Aisha White, Ready Freddy

Free nonprofit consulting -- you know you can use it

Local nonprofits have a chance to get free management consulting from the University of Pittsburgh, and they're jumping at the chance.
The annual Nonprofit Clinic, run by Prof. Kevin Kearns' "Consulting in Nonprofit Organizations" class in Pitt's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA), gives second-year students headed for a life of public service the chance to serve now.
Not only is it a good educational experience for his students, Kearns says, but smaller nonprofits can take best advantage of free consulting, which includes marketing studies, feasibility studies, strategic planning, data collection, cost-benefit analyses and other services.
"The students bring some analytical skills, the nonprofits being the problems and it's a win-win for everybody," he says.
The four-year-old clinic always has "significantly more applicants than we can handle," he adds, since they can only help 10 nonprofits per year. While mostly social services groups apply, all types of nonprofits are eligible, including arts, economic development and neighborhood development groups.
One client last year, Kearns reports, asked the students to study how feasible it would be to apply for a complicated federal grant. The students found out that fulfilling the grant's requirements would cause the nonprofit to shift its mission and core values; they successfully warned the group not to seek this funding.
"They decided not to pursue that particular grant opportunity because it would have probably led them astray," says Kearns.
Applicants should contact Kearns here for an application form.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Kevin Kearns, GSPIA

ReelAbilities fest shows the power of film to reveal hidden lives

"About 20 percent of American’s have some sort of disability," notes Kristy Trautmann, head of the FISA Foundation, which focuses on improving the lives of people with disabilities, as well as women and girls. "It’s the only minority group that any of us could join at any time through illness or accident. And yet many people were raised to avoid people with disabilities. Children are chastened not to stare, not to ask questions. In fact, if they were honest many adults would admit that they aren’t sure how to approach a person with a disability – they don’t know what language is appropriate or how to act, and they don’t want to offend."
That's why FISA has teamed with JFilm, whose annual Jewish Film Festival aims to promote diversity and inclusion, to bring ReelAbilities to Pittsburgh for the first time. Pop City is a media sponsor. The Oct. 26-29 film festival (begun in New York in 2007) aims to "change perceptions and celebrate the many contributions of people with disabilities to our society," Trautmann says.
"It’s all about looking and seeing and coming to better understand someone else’s experience," Trautmann adds.
Says Kathryn Spitz Cohan, JFilm executive director: "While television shows have recently added more characters with disabilities … it is in these films that we really get a deeper look into the lives of individuals with disabilities."
Each film is accompanied by local programming, including speakers, panel discussions, art exhibits. In Jet Li's first dramatic role, in "Ocean Heaven," he plays a single father of a son with autism; the ReelAbilities showing of this movie concludes with a talk on community and social capital by Al Condeluci, head of Community Living and Support Services, and a reception. A program of short films includes guided tours of the University of Pittsburgh’s Human Engineering Research Laboratory, while the documentary "Crooked Beauty" is followed by story telling and performance art emceed by stand-up comedian Marion Grodin.
Says Trautmann: "There are a lot of challenges still facing people with disabilities: stigma, lack of accessible housing, a shortage of services to help individuals live in the community, difficulty finding employment. We hope that the festival will help people see that inclusion of people with disabilities is an important issue for our whole community. It’s about justice, not about charity."
For more information, go to the ReelAbilities website, call 412-992-5203 or email here.
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Kristy Trautmann, FISA Foundation; Kathryn Spitz Cohan, JFilm

Finding the kids most vulnerable for school trouble

A little knowledge is going a long way to help Pittsburgh Public Schools and other local districts pinpoint kids who are most vulnerable to falling behind or dropping out of school, and in devising early interventions.
Before 2010, the city school district didn't know how many of their kids were involved with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services' Office of Children, Youth and Families, which helps when youngsters are abused or neglected and sometimes separated from their families. But Erin Dalton, deputy director of DHS's Office of Data Analysis, Research, and Evaluation, credits Frederick W. Thieman, president of the Buhl Foundation, with bringing her agency and the school district together that year in their mutual quest to find better ways to serve local youth.
As a DHS report released just before the current school year says:
"While the protective benefits of involvement in the child welfare system are well documented, there is increasing recognition that the unstable family living situations and/or frequent placement changes experienced by children in this system can result in delays in school enrollment, increases in absenteeism, disruptive school changes and lack of continuity in curricula. These factors, in turn, are associated with negative school outcomes such as higher rates of dropout and truancy, lower achievement and increased risk of assignment to alternative school placements, and failure to receive critical special education services."
Previously, says Samantha Murphy, education liaison in the executive office of DHS, school districts have studied school absenteeism by looking at other possible contributing factors, such as children's gender or race. "Now it's a different conversation we're able to have," she says. The shared information allows the district and DHS to know whether the kids they have in common are absent or tardy, "so that our workers don't have to wait until there are 20 absences and a magistrate's hearing to intervene," Dalton says.
To help correct student attendance problems and subsequent achievement shortfalls, DHS and the district first targeted middle-school kids who got high scores on achievement tests but had low attendance and low grade-point averages. The idea of this effort, which lasted from 2011 until this year, was to take these smart kids and give them a different peer group and a challenging program at the gifted center in the city's West End, so "it would give them a different message about their future," Dalton says.  
The trouble was, she reports, "the kids weren't coming here often enough to expect a change" in their grades. Now the effort is aiming higher, she says, with after-school programs already having impacts on attendance and grades. This "Focus on Attendance" initiative kicked off in the 2012-13 school year. A school outreach specialist was hired for two district K-8 schools, working with staff as well as with 170 kids who missed too much school. The specialists involved the kids' families as well, and saw improved attendance as a result. The district also is emphasizing getting kids registered for kindergarten on time, making certain these children get on track from the very beginning of school.
DHS is now working with and sharing data with nine districts. "The relationships we're making between service providers and schools is really invaluable," says Murphy.
"We were among the first" to share data between the child-welfare office and school districts, notes Dalton. "Now, it's like, if you're not doing it, why aren't you working on that?"
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Erin Dalton and Samantha Murphy, Department of Human Services

Profit from this nonprofit speaker series

The Forbes Funds are hoping to increase the number of social entrepreneurs working in Pittsburgh, says the nonprofit's director of innovation, Garrett Cooper, so here's a hopeful sign: The first event in Forbes' Social Innovation Forum, a new free speakers' series beginning Oct. 30, is already fully booked.
Happily, the organization plans to hold the event quarterly. The first one features current social entrepreneurs talking about today's technology as well as tech ideas in the development stage, along with a discussion of crowd-funding and the experience of one local nonprofit, the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children. The first social entrepreneur panel includes representatives from the Reuse Technology Collaborative, Nonprofit Compliance Resource Collaborative and Conversant Labs.
"Pittsburgh has come a long way in seeding technology innovation," Cooper says, citing the city's current ranking as number seven in the U.S. for tech employment and number 13 among cities for tech start-ups, as well as the local presence of Carnegie Mellon University and Google. "Yet these innovations have yet to cross over to benefit the nonprofit sector.
"We wish to seed excitement about social entrepreneurism as a viable career path," he adds. "We hope that a handful of techies and entrepreneurs walk out of the discussions and think to themselves, 'I want to develop solutions for nonprofits, and I have a basic understanding of some of the next steps I need to take to make it a reality.'" He also hopes the series helps develop "a pipeline of social entrepreneurs to assist local nonprofits."
Forbes plans on keeping these forums small, with about 50 participants each. Future events will include reps from technology companies, nonprofits, government, foundations and local universities – not to mention free beer and wine.
Learn more about the Forbes Fund's efforts at their website.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Garrett Cooper, Forbes Funds

Accessible arts performances are good for everyone, says FISA Foundation

The FISA Foundation's multi-year effort to expand arts access for people with disabilities is having a real impact, according to a new report compiled by the organization.
"While we’ve come a long way in changing attitudes and promoting inclusion of people with disabilities," says Kristy Trautmann, FISA's executive director, "it is still very upsetting how many organizations and individuals consider accessibility as an afterthought, if they think about it at all. Too often the focus of accessibility planning is still about meeting the code," – doing only what the Americans with Disabilities Act requires – "as if to communicate that we would have done less if we could have."
To get past that way of thinking, FISA has spent the last five years bringing arts groups to a deeper understanding of how arts accessibility is not only the right thing to do, but it's good for business as well. The report reviews the changes arts groups can make in their performances and presentations, from more accessible seating to sign-language interpretation, assistive listening devices, large-print programs, captioning and "touch tours." More than that, it shows how local arts groups have benefited from changing their practices, with City Theatre and Pittsburgh Opera leading the charge.
FISA teamed with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council to help local arts groups discover low-cost accessibility aids. They held accessibility workshops for the groups and involved those with disabilities in assessing needs, building an audience and creating and staging disability-focused art pieces.
"It’s inspiring to see how many arts managers are now champions of accessibility and inclusion," says Trautmann. "They are driving this agenda because they deeply believe in it. We can all learn a lot from their example.
"One of the challenges is that many people who could benefit from these efforts don’t think of themselves as disabled," she adds. "They just know their hearing or vision 'isn’t what it used to be.' Many people used to love the arts but have reluctantly stopped purchasing tickets because it stopped being enjoyable. We want them to know that it’s time to come back and try again."
Rona Nesbit, executive vice president of the Cultural Trust, notes that "adding diversity to our audiences enhances everyone's experience. We believe that half of the pleasure of artistic engagement is being able to experience it with others."
And other cities' arts groups are taking notice, she adds: Representatives from the Cleveland Playhouse attended the recent autism-friendly performance of "The Lion King." The Trust also has received a request to serve as a consultant for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., as well as other arts groups around the country.
"We are up front about the fact that this is a work in progress," says Trautmann. "The most important thing any community member can do is to give feedback. If you have a good experience – if something works for you – let the arts organizations know. And if you see an opportunity for something to be better – let them know that too."
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Kristy Trautmann, FISA Foundation; Rona Nesbit, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

Clean Air Dash shows athletes, others how to push for pollution solution

"Even the healthiest people – athletes – can be affected by poor air quality," says Rachel Filippini, executive director of GASP, the Group Against Smog and Pollution. Educating athletes and everyone else about air-quality issues, and what they can do to improve them, formed the impetus for GASP's first Clean Air Dash and Festival on Oct. 19 in the South Side Riverfront Park. It's a 5K run along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail, with a festival featuring the Venture Outdoors climbing wall, yoga demonstrations, pumpkin painting and a Pittsburgh Passion obstacle course.
Also supporting the Clean Air Dash is the local Breathe Project coalition, funded by the Heinz Endowments.
Carnegie Mellon University’s mobile laboratory, dubbed Community Health: Air Pollution in Pittsburgh or CHAPP, will make its debut at the event. "It's a way of them taking a very sophisticated laboratory out into the community," explains Filippini. "Air quality has been improving over the years but we still have high levels of fine particulates, ground-level ozone and hazardous air pollutants."
Fine particulates come from diesel vehicles as well as from coal-fired power plants, coke-making facilities and wood burning. "They are still a significant problem – probably of greatest concern because they are so pervasive and come from so many sources and are still relatively high when compared to other parts of the country. And they are linked to so many health concerns," including asthma and other respiratory problems, as well as strokes and heart attacks.
Runners, for instance, can minimize their exposure to pollution by enjoying their sport far from main thoroughfares and rush hours, as well as earlier in the day. And everyone can become an air-quality champion, she adds, by writing letters about pollution solutions to their elected officials, attending hearings on environmental issues, and changing their behavior – from riding to walking, or from private to public transportation.
"There is a lot to do in achieving cleaner air," Filipinni concludes, "and we all have a role to play achieving that goal."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Rachel Filippini, GASP

Even "accidental techies" can benefit from TechNow

Even  “accidental techies" can get a lot out of this year's TechNow conference, says Johna Lingelbach, network administrator for the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. She'll be presenting at the session "BYOD OMG" ("D" stands for "device").
"Year after year, people of varying skill level and work experience get together to share ideas," she says. "There is a strong comfort level of networking with all."
Run by the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University, this year's conference takes place Oct. 24 at the Regional Learning Alliance in Cranberry Township and offers nonprofits the latest in tech trends and information.
Keynote speaker for this 10th annual conference is Gavin Clabaugh, vice president of information services at the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Clabaugh is a founding member of the board of Aspiration, which develops and funds IT solutions for nonprofits. The day also offers sessions on "Looking Great Everywhere:  Responsive Web Design for Nonprofits," "#EverywhereAllTheTime: Integrating Technology Tools …" and "Impress Funders While Making Your Mission and Message Clear."
"Not only will you learn what's on the cutting edge of nonprofit technology, you'll also network with some great thought leaders," says Craig Grella, executive director of OrgSpring and one of the "Looking Great Everywhere" presenters. "I've made numerous connections at TechNow, many of whom became my close friends and business partners."
"Our goal," concludes Cindy Leonard, consulting team leader for the Bayer Center "is to inspire nonprofits to think about all the different ways that technology affects our missions and how it can be leveraged successfully to enhance operations and program outcomes."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Cindy Leonard, Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management

What do SNL, Orange is the New Black and Louie Anderson have in common?

The director of "Saturday Night Live," a writer on "Orange is the New Black" and comedian Louie Anderson, whose animated series Life With Louie earned Emmys in the 1990s, all have Pittsburgh connections, but more importantly they are coming to the city to speak as part of the new Steeltown Spotlight Series.
Steeltown Entertainment Project is all about connecting Pittsburgh to the entertainment industry, says President and CEO Carl Kurlander: "How many projects, how many people, can we bring back here and connect with people here and build an industry?"
Spotlight will feature the stories of people who made it from here to there – to Hollywood, of course. And the two towns now have something more in common, Kurlander says: "Imagine a town that for 100 years made the same product. Then, overnight, technology changed the product. Am I talking about Pittsburgh and the steel industry in 1980 or am I talking about Hollywood today?" The Netflix model of series distribution – all at once, for watching at any pace – "has changed everything" in Hollywood, he says.
Pittsburgh native Lauren Morelli, who writes for the Netflix series "Orange Is The New Black," opens the Spotlight program on Oct. 15 at the University of Pittsburgh’s Frick Fine Arts Building. She started her career as a dancer, then began reviewing dance performances, branching into writing short stories before joining the writer's room at "Orange."
Kurlander points to Morelli as one of the new breed of television creators. Today, she helps run "Orange" episodes filmed in New York and is part of a mostly female writing team.
Louie Anderson will appear on Oct. 22 for an event co-sponsored by the Toonseum, including a chance for audience members to have episodes from their lives turned into cartoon storyboards. Anderson will be joined by his series co-creator Matthew O’Callaghan and Joe Wos, head of the Toonseum.
Animation, says Kurlander, is not only a popular entertainment format, "but it produces a lot of jobs."
Pitcairn-raised Don Roy King, director of SNL for the past eight years, will speak this spring – on a date to be determined. "SNL, everyone knows, nurtures talent – and they go on to be legends," Kurlander notes. "Pittsburgh's starting to have a scene here … and Don is going to talk about not only directing live television but incubating talent."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Carl Kurlander, Steeltown Entertainment Project

Why does S. Korea fear ceiling fans? WorldQuest trivia contest has the answers

Oct. 21 marks the 10th annual WorldQuest International Trivia Competition, offered by the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, and "every year presents its own challenges in terms of asking questions that are relevant," says Dan Law, program officer for public policy programming for the Council. "It's not just, 'Name that official,' or 'Name that flag.'"
You'll have to get a team together and enter the contest, which raises funds for Council programs, to find out why South Koreans place signs near ceiling fans, warning its citizens not to sleep beneath a spinning one.
"We work very hard at bringing the world to Pittsburgh and bringing Pittsburgh to the world," he says; Council programs include seminars, video conferences and policy discussions for students, as well as breakfast briefings and weekly radio programs for adults in the community, featuring ambassadors, academics, journalists and other international figures.
WorldQuest has become "not just a trivia competition but an energetic show" at the Cabaret Theatre in the Cultural District downtown, attracting a cross-section of Pittsburgh teams of university students, law firms, financial institutions and nonprofits.
The five rounds of question categories include the year in review, where in the world, Pittsburgh and the world, international who's who and lost in translation, which Law describes as "interesting or even bizarre cultural quirks.
"This is one of the most challenging rounds but one of the funniest," he adds.
Each member of the winning team receives $150, while second- and third-prize winners get baskets of local show tickets, restaurant gift certificates and Pittsburgh memorabilia. Tops among the silent auction items is $2,000 worth of Delta Sky Miles.
The evening will be hosted by WTAE’s Sally Wiggin and 90.5 WESA’s Paul Guggenheimer, host of Essential Pittsburgh.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Dan Law, World Affairs Council

Students all over Pittsburgh design mobile apps at Winchester Thurston's App Lab

Mobile App Lab, Winchester Thurston's after-school app-designing class, has now expanded to allow high-school students from any school in the area to participate.
The program began in 2010 at the Shadyside school and focuses on teaching programming for mobile devices. "Many students have them and, if they don't, they see them in action," says program head David Nassar. "It's a real and tangible use of computer science today. All businesses are trying to create an app for their business. Even poets are creating poetry apps. Computer science is pervasive and I like to show the students that."
Students, who come from as close as Pittsburgh Obama or as far away as Quaker Valley and Mars, are expected to bring their knowledge back to their own schools. "We really want to bring computer science education to the forefront of people's minds in Pittsburgh and the larger area," says Nassar. Students who have already taken the course are acting as mentors, helping to teach current kids.
Students design lots of games, of course, but also some simple productivity apps, such as unit converters, and also work on painting and drawing programs. They come in with little to no programming knowledge and design apps they can complete in seven weeks.
"The students have come up with some pretty wild ideas," Nassar says. "It's exciting to see their creativity take them in directions I wouldn't have thought myself." They don't become full-fledged programmers after this short class, he notes, but it certainly piques their interest. "Students who hadn't even realized computer science might be something they would be excited about – they realize it."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: David Nassar, Winchester Thurston

Contemporary Craft's ENOUGH Violence exhibit is moving, and moving local groups to action

The new Society for Contemporary Craft (www.contemporarycraft.org) exhibit, ENOUGH Violence: Artists Speak Out, which opened Sept. 25, is not only bringing emotional and thought-provoking art to their Strip gallery but has brought community groups and victims of violence together to explore the powers of art – and the roots and solutions to violence.
The exhibit, which features sculptures and jewelry made from gun parts, figures of toddlers placed in violent situations normally perpetrated by adults, and a display of damaged doll dresses representing the victims of domestic violence, may prompt strong reactions at times, says the Society's Executive Director Janet McCall: "We're hearing from people that it's a hard show to take in. But it's an important message. We're glad we've done the show. It is opening up a lot of conversations. We're seeing a lot of people walking in the door who have never been here.
"For a lot of people, they feel so helpless and overwhelmed by the vastness of the problem," she adds. But she hopes the exhibit creates an occasion for getting at the root causes of violence, which may lead to concrete ideas for solutions.
McCall has already heard from local anti-violence groups that want to get involved in prompting further public discussion and action, and the Society has opened the door wide for such partnerships.
Artists involved with ENOUGH Violence have already been working with children with disabilities and those in schools and Allegheny County's Shuman Juvenile Detention Center to create their own artistic responses to living with violence. This month, fabric artist Tina Brewer will be working with RELIEF (Recognizing Every Lingering Inward Emotional Feeling) in McKeesport, a group that helps those who have lost a family member to violence. The group will use materials significant to their loved one to construct fabric vessels – collapsible boxes that will store memories and that can be connected to one another – to help with group members' healing. They will be displayed beginning in November as part of ENOUGH Violence.  
For the first Saturday of each month, the Society has invited local anti-violence groups to be available to talk to gallery patrons. They are also bringing in speakers, including:
  • October 18: Dr. Norman White of Saint Louis University will speak about street violence and Dr. Rolf Loeber, of the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine will talk about his decades-long study of anti-social and delinquent behavior risk factors in young boys and girls.
  • January 10, 2014: Dr. Judy Chang, also from Pitt's medical school, will give a talk on domestic violence and photographer Maria Montano will speak about her FACES project, for which she has taken 200 portraits of sexual-assault survivors.
  • January 20, 2014: Prof. Steve Gorelick of Hunter College will speak on violence in media and culture.
  • March 21, 2014: Dr. Ronald E. Voorhees of Carlow University will lead an informal discussion on the public health response to abuse and neglect.
"There are so many people who are in the community, particularly young people, who need help and don't even now there is help available," says Rachel Saul, the Society's studio program coordinator. Art, she adds, can be one place that generates understanding and healing. Artist Julie Sirek, who created the current exhibit's wall of identical white doll dresses that have been dirtied and damaged in various ways, says in her artist's statement that she witnessed domestic violence as a small child.
"What she learned was that she was never supposed to speak of it," Saul says. "She had to stuff away her feelings." Making the dresses has been a release for her, Saul adds, as viewing the art or making one's own pieces can be a release for anyone. Such work sends a message, Saul says: "This is not okay, and anyone who has had this experience must know that there is help out there, there are support services …"
Victims of violence, McCall says, are constantly reliving the moment of fear and experiencing the same feelings. "You need a process – something to help work through the emotion. I think art, for me, is always a therapeutic process. Even if you are not talking about it, the process allows you to visualize it … and let go of the feelings."
ENOUGH Violence even suggests ways for people to help the situation: volunteering at homeless shelters, getting involved politically for gun control, mentoring at-risk youth. "We hope," McCall concludes, "that for the groups who have come together, that we've connected, it won't be a one-time thing."
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Janet McCall and Rachel Saul, Society for Contemporary Craft

Green Schools Academy wants kids' green projects through November

Pittsburgh has turned last year's international green community-service day for local students into a two-month-long Green Schools Academy, and organizers at Green Building Alliance say they already have 1,661 kids, school officials and community members doing 22 projects created by 10 schools alongside representatives from local green agencies and businesses.
"Last year was a really great success," says the Alliance's Jenna Cramer, vice president of the Academy. "This is a great way to reach more people and talk about health and high-performing schools. It has allowed us to increase the number of projects and people involved."
The Academy kicked off in mid-September with projects such as Garden Day at the Environmental Charter School in Regent Square, Grow Pittsburgh's garden workshop at Pittsburgh Faison K-5 in Homewood, ALCOSAN's Eco-Mural lessons at Manchester Academy Charter School and others.
Projects coming up include talks on the benefits of native plants, school energy audits, green community tours, writing projects, local home repair efforts, community gardens, the creation of a worm bin for specialized composting, harvest festivals, and many more.
Other schools involved include Pittsburgh Langley K-8, Pittsburgh Schiller 6-8, Pittsburgh Perry High School, Spectrum Charter School, Kentucky Avenue School, Barrett Elementary School in the Steel Valley School District and Northwestern Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy in Erie.
"We want to make sure all schools provide healthy, safe and high-performing learning environments," says Cramer. That includes using the fewest resources possible, enhancing their environmental and sustainability education (which helps increase students' civic engagement and career preparation) and providing a healthy learning environment – from ensuring healthy indoor air quality and food to employing green cleaning and school gardens.
Create more projects and sign up for Green School Academy participation here
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jenna Cramer, Green Building Alliance

Nonprofit about to win 200 hours of expert advice from Social Venture Partners

One area nonprofit is about to get $12,500 and something even more valuable: hundreds of hours of advice and coaching from Social Venture Partners Pittsburgh.
SVPP focuses on giving their money and expertise to local nonprofits helping at-risk children, and for this year's Fall Pitch competition on Oct. 9 they have chosen two finalists helping homeless youth: HEARTH and the Allegheny Valley Association of Churches, Inc.
SVPP representatives visited the 15 applicants. "We want to get the right kind of applicants," says Elizabeth Visnic, the organization's director. "Are they ready for us? Are they asking for something we can deliver?"
SVPP can spend up to 200 hours helping a nonprofit, involving work from about a dozen partners. They offer strategy mapping (a kind of strategic planning), financial sustainability planning and help with messaging and networking.
"Each of the two finalists has specific needs that our partners can respond to," says Visnic. Hearth recently relocated its facility to a purchased property and is restructuring its board to conduct its operations differently. The Allegheny Valley Association of Churches is doing "a large number of projects and like most nonprofits are responding to where the need is," she says. But they recognize they could be more effective with strategy mapping, she adds. "Everybody needs to figure out, in three to five years, how are we going to be here?"
Concludes Visnic: "With a little bit of our assistance they can go to deeper levels of what they do."
Attend SVPP's Fall Pitch by signing up here.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Elizabeth Visnic, Social Venture Partners Pittsburgh

Pittsburghartplaces.org: Tour art and venues, relive art that's gone and create your own tours

The 13-county region has been clamoring for a public art and art venue directory, says Renee Piechocki, and now it's here: Pittsburghartplaces.org.
"For a long time we heard, 'How come there is a lack of a singular resource to direct people to Pittsburgh's collection of public art, or all the art galleries?'" says Piechocki, director of the city's office of public art, a partnership of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council and the Department of City Planning. "'Where are all the murals? What's in Westmoreland County?'"
Now, thanks to support from the Hillman Family and Colcom foundations, any self-identified art venue in the 13-county region can make a profile on the new website, from galleries and museum to bookstores and bars with open mic nights. Piechocki's office is now creating profiles for all the public art, both permanent and temporary, including 30 years of Three Rivers Arts Festival installations that are no longer here.
A bar on the left side of the "Places" section of the website lets you search by type of venue, artwork, programs, location and other pertinent information, such as whether there is free admission.
Once enough entries are made from venues in the region, as well as the entries about public art, the site will be "a cultural history of where we are and where we came from," she says.
The website will allow those who post, and those who use it, to experience a more comprehensive story about local art, she adds. Listings can include historical photographs and other related material. For instance, the entry for the Roberto Clemente statue outside PNC Park contains not only photographs but links to the artist's website, Clemente's biography and obituary, and places to click for two videos of the famous Pirates player's 3000th hit.
So far, the site too has been a hit, she says, particularly outside the city. "What was cool was to hear the local [community groups] say, 'Wow, we would never have the budget to do this,' or, 'Pittsburgh is known as an art region, not just an art city; thanks for including us.'"
Residents, visitors or even those preparing to host guests on a private great-art tour can upload their own choices to share. Non-art venues, such as the airport and convention center, can now post guides to their art, which appear nowhere else on the web.
Concludes Piechocki: "It's going to be exciting to see where people take this."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Renee Piechocki, Pittsburghartplaces.org

Groundbreaking videogame from Schell and Yale teaches teens risks of HIV

Schell Games, teaming with Yale University, has created a game that aims to teach at-risk teens about smart decision-making and wise behavior to reduce their chances of getting AIDS. The game, PlayForward: Elm City Stories, is now being tested by the Yale team on several hundred teens to see just how effective it can be, before it will likely be rolled out to schools, community groups and the public.
"If you get them to make better risk choices, across the board," says Sabrina Culyba, Schell senior game designer, about the game's intended players, ages 11-14, "you can influence their exposure to HIV."
The touch-enabled iPad game lets players create an aspirational avatar – a character they'd like to be – and build events into their young lives, such as a house, a job or travel opportunities. The avatars go through life experiences with their peers in grades seven through 12 and face branching choices that lead to different consequences.
The games within PlayForward include People Sense (in which players figure out how risky are different types of relationships); Refusal Power (about how people try to manipulate others into doing things, and the ability to say no to different kinds of peer pressure); Priority Sense (about the ability to make choices, including the levels of relationships with families and peers and the consequences of cumulative choices); and Know Power (which places players in a social conversation, during which peers express opinions while players learn how to defend their own stances).
Each player may end up picking an avatar of his or her own age and gender, but the goal of the game is to show stories of risk among a greater variety of people, both girls and boys. Each mini-game thus has 10 challenges for 10 types of character within the player's peer group.
The game, which won a 2013 DATA Award from the Pittsburgh Technology Council, was designed to be played over several weeks. "Completing those challenges and games allows you to find better paths and choices for your character," says Culyba. An epilogue shows what happens to each avatar in his or her twenties, using the player's aspirations and choices to show a welcome outcome of positive decisions or the health and income deficits of bad choices.
Yale's play2prevent team, led by Project Director Kimberly Hieftje, conceived the idea and got funding from the National Institutes of Health. They started a randomized, controlled trial of the game's effectiveness in February and have 115 kids enrolled, aiming for 330. They'll be measuring players' attitudes about and behavior toward drug and alcohol use as well as sex, before, during and as long as two years after the game.
Following the study, says Hieftje, they will talk to community members, parents and school directors "to see how can we get this game out there, who should be playing it and who can benefit?"
Was it tough to design a game that tries to change behavior and has a disease as its subject matter?
"Of course," Culyba says. "You have to walk the line. You're trying to talk about serious things. You have to be willing to talk about behavior in a very frank way.
"This game really wants to change behavior," she adds. "This is not really well understood in the game industry…. In real life, kids face emotional pressures that are different than when they are playing a game. That's a really tough challenge."
Writer: Marty Levine   
Sources: Sabrina Culyba, Schell Games; Kimberly Hieftje, Yale

Great events and good works from five nonprofits you've probably never heard of

Searching for some good to do, and some fun ways to celebrate good works in Pittsburgh?
We've just been through the United Way of Allegheny County's Month of Living Generously and are headed toward its fall campaign, as well as the Pittsburgh Foundation's Day of Giving on Oct. 3. But if you want a life lived with a big heart and an open hand, you may want to know about these nonprofits that likely escaped your attention. Most have new events to highlight their accomplishments and gather fuel for the coming year:

  • The Homeless Children's Education Fund in the Strip is holding two events for Homeless Children's Awareness Week (Oct. 13-20). This fund helps give homeless kids access to educational programs and services, and their first-ever Carnival in the Fall on Oct. 17 at the Priory Hotel's Grand Ballroom will feature rum tastings and tapas, live Latin music, a handmade auction of local artists' goods, a casual fashion show by designer Lana Neumeyer and more. "Stand Up and Run for Homeless Children," a 10K run and a 5K run and walk, will take place Oct. 19 beginning on North Park's Pearce Mill Road.
  • The Garden of Peace Project is also holding its first of what they hope to be an annual event: the Exploration of Self Conference on Oct 18 through 20, which aims to offer a wider understanding of the LGBT and HIV+ communities, whom the project serves. The conference will explore how spirituality and race affect the communities and Pittsburgh's efforts to be inclusive.
  • The Greater Pittsburgh Chapter of Autism Speaks' first-ever Chefs Create will be chaired by former Steeler great Lynn Swann and hosted by WTAE's Janelle Hall on Nov. 7 at the Fairmont Hotel. Chefs from nine of the city's top venues will be offering creations: Bistro 19's Jessica Bauer, Braddock's Jason Shaffer, Cioppino's Greg Alauzen, Donato's Donato Coluccio, McCormick & Schmicks' Christopher Noonan and Rick Kirsap, Monterey Bay Fish Grotto's Jordan Eback, Savoy's Kevin Watson, Seviche's Brian Kennedy and The Capital Grille's Travis Hall. There will also be a cocktail hour with live music.
  • Genre’s Kids with Cancer Fund was named for Genre Baker, who started this charity at nine in 2009 when he was diagnosed with leukemia. Genre's cancer is in remission, but his aim now is to provide children who are diagnosed with cancer at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, and their families, essential supplies and toiletries for what is too often a long first hospital stay. The nonprofit also tries to give each kid a handheld gaming system for their time in chemotherapy and undergoing blood transfusions, and has passed out 8-12 per month since 2010. It raises money through an annual golf outing, a 5K race and family fun day and of course your donations.
  • Parkinson disease may be well known, but the National Parkinson Foundation of Western Pennsylvania's annual Moving Day fundraising walk, held Sept 28 at Highmark Stadium beside Station Square this year, may be less well-recognized. The event includes a Movement Pavilion featuring yoga, dance and more, as well as face painting, balloon art and magic demonstrations, with the Pirate Parrot and Ammo the Riverhound in attendance.
Writer: Marty Levine

Still don't know about Heinz House after-school activities? Come to Community Day

Are all the after-school offerings at the Sarah Heinz House still unknown to a large part of Pittsburgh? Janice Wasson, its director of development and marketing, thinks too many people are unaware of these ultra-affordable, fun activities, costing just $25 for an entire year.
That's why the Heinz House on the North Side, home to the area's Boys and Girls Clubs of America, is holding its semi-annual free Community Day on September 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Heinz House will throw open its doors for potential members to check out the facilities and meet the staff.
Kids (accompanied by an adult, of course) should bring sneakers and a swimsuit and towel if they want to enjoy the gym or pool, along with refreshments and arts and crafts, a bounce house, balloon animals, face painting and more.
"Parents depend on us," Wasson notes, since the House is open from 3 to 9 p.m. on weekdays. "There is something for every child here," from first graders to 18-year-olds.
Kids must attend two Heinz House sessions when they first join -- a gym and swim class and a life skills class to promote social and emotional learning and cultural awareness. Then they are free to take advantage of more offerings in gymnastics, swimming, dance, and robotics, to name a few. They can also take part in the sports league and teen leadership development program, which involves performing community work and attending local and national conferences.
A meal and snack are also provided at no cost to kids in the program. They can learn to undertake peer-to-peer mentoring and coaching of younger kids, and have the chance to get paid part-time jobs, such as helping in the café and the pool.
Heinz House also offers swimming, gymnastics and dance for preschoolers and is open 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays for adults to use the fitness area and pool. 
"There's something for everybody here," Wasson says. "We want them to come away thinking it's a great place for kids, it's a safe place for kids, and … we seek to build good citizens. We truly believe that Sarah Heinz House has a way of affecting each child in a very personal way."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Janice Wasson, Sarah Heinz House

New film grants announced from Sprout at Happy Hour

The Sprout Fund is using its next Happy Hour on Sept. 26 to announce new film, video and multimedia grants, with applications due Nov. 8.
Happy Hours – designed to let the public know the latest about the Fund's efforts, past and future – are held every other month. The Sept. 26 event will take place at 6 p.m. at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont. Free beer, soft drinks and popcorn will accompany a showing of the Sprout-supported film Greetings from Pittsburgh: Neighborhood Narratives. Kristen Lauth Shaeffer and Andrew Halasz, creators of this anthology of nine shorts, will be on hand to speak about the project.

Sprout has supported nearly 20 film-related projects in the past, notes Kathleen Radock, development officer, and Pittsburgh continues to produce so many such artworks that Sprout decided it was time to apply its Seed Awards to those efforts.
Now Sprout is looking to grant up to $10,000 each to three or four film, video or multimedia proposals for "innovative community-based projects," Radock says. The website notes that Sprout has previous funded films that focus on "amplifying community voices, highlighting issues of social importance, promoting cultural and ethnic diversity, documenting local history, calling for civic action and the art of entertainment."
Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts will give grantees access to professional equipment, training and technical assistance. Sprout accepts applications from individuals as well as non-profit organizations and community groups. 
To RSVP for the free event, click here.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Kathleen Radock, The Sprout Fund

Fleming named head of United Way annual campaign

"I need to rally other leaders and let people know why they should get involved," says Kim Tillotson Fleming, chairman and CEO of Hefren-Tillotson, who was recently named chair of the 2013 annual campaign of the United Way of Allegheny County.
That's because the need here is greater than ever, she notes. "Although our unemployment rate has been better than the national average, the level of need for United Way services continues to grow," based on the number of calls the organization receives and the demand at local food banks.
"In terms of social services, I think that more money goes through United Way than any other agency," she adds. And the annual corporate campaigns reach 60,000 donors.
United Way's goal this year is to raise more than $33 million for school success programs and aid and advocacy for seniors, families in financial difficulties and people with disabilities. And Fleming seems to be up to leading the challenge.
She serves on the boards of Allegheny College, Allegheny Conference on Community Development, The Buhl Foundation, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera and the Pittsburgh Foundation, and has been deeply involved in United Way campaigns for years. After her own company's very successful campaign beat the employee participation goal one year, she walked nearly 20 miles between Hefren-Tillotson's Wexford and Pittsburgh offices to celebrate.
As the leader of this year's campaign, Fleming intends to increase membership in the Women's Leadership Council, which has had the strongest growth of any initiative at the local United Way. It has a group goal of raising a million dollars more this year to help women through such issues as loss of a job, divorce or health problems. She also hopes to encourage more people to pledge earlier and to increase their pledges across several years.
"I'm a huge believer in giving back," she says, "and I've found that people get more out of giving. I hope we're able to make it a very successful campaign, beyond our dreams for this year."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Kim Tillotson Fleming, United Way of Allegheny County

What are the best Pittsburgh restaurants using local produce?

Want to taste local produce being prepared in dishes at some of the best Pittsburgh restaurants? A Taste of Grow Pittsburgh, on Sept. 22 at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, features more than a dozen local restaurants and cafés doing just that, including Salt of the Earth, Avenue B, Square Café, E2, Legume, Root 174, The Porch at Schenley, Cure, Alma, Casbah, Habitat, Industry Public House, Red Oak Café, Whole Foods Market and La Prima Espresso. There's also wine from Engine House 25 and organic and local beers.

The participating restaurants also are part of Grow Pittsburgh's many programs, which promote and teach urban agriculture and gardening. The Edible Schoolyard program brings gardening experts to schools in September and October to work with the kids. The Urban Farmer in Training program at Braddock Farms, the group's largest production site at Braddock Avenue and 10th Street, helps kids learn the value of veggies as they harvest and cook. Grow Pittsburgh also offers an apprentice program for adults wanting to learn to work on small-acre community farms, as well as community gardening lessons.
"It's really great to see 12-year-olds wanting their own garden plot, families working together," says Kate Hickey, the organization's director of operations.
"All the chefs are very approachable" at A Taste, she adds. "They love talking about what they are creating. New folks are coming into the city every year, and it's a great way to discover these restaurants."
This year's event, the largest yet, will raise $25-30,000 for the organization. Tickets may be purchased here. The event includes live music and a silent auction with jewelry from local designer Caesar Azzam of Caesar's Designs and other items.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Kate Hickey, Grow Pittsburgh

Go global from Market Square with One Young World fest

Ashton Armstrong is determined not to let her participation in the One Young World (OYW) Summit here last October end there.
As part of the Pittsburgh delegation to the event, which brought together 1,300 young people from across the world to connect and plan projects for positive change, she was tremendously impressed. "We had great international speakers and met a huge number of people who were doing fantastic things," she recalls.
Since then, the 24-year-old Highland Park resident (and student in Pitt's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs) attended a youth assembly at the UN and found herself among 4 or 5 Pittsburghers in the crowd of 500.
That made her realize: "Hey, Pittsburgh is really on the map, yet people here may not feel that global connection directly."
Receiving help from the Sprout Fund and the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, which had sponsored Armstrong's OYW attendance, she and other delegates decided to create the OYW Local-Global Festival at Market Square on Sept. 25 (follow its Twitter updates here, or use the hashtags #oyw and #localglobal).
Their idea was to create a fun event that would also let people know that Pittsburgh is a place to connect with global concerns.
Among the groups offering information and interactive, global-themed activities are:
  • Global Pittsburgh
  • Global Links
  • Global Shapers
  • Food Revolution Pittsburgh
  • Cameroon Football Development Program
  • Building New Hope
  • Point Park University
  • Saudi Student Group Pittsburgh
  • Ten Thousand Villages
  • Vibrant Pittsburgh
  • Global Solutions
  • Amizade
  • Umoja African Arts Company
  • Women of the Cloud Forest
  • Japan-America Society of PA
The main OYW table will be collecting stories about Pittsburghers' local-global interactions and preparing the best stories, including videos, to present to OYW 2013, which takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa, the following week, and to the OYW in Dublin, Ireland in 2014.
Performers in Market Square for the OYW fest include Umoja, 3rd St. Belly Dance, Yamoussa Camara (a West African drummer and vocalist) and Timbeleza, a local Brazilian drumming corps.
Concludes Armstrong: "We're looking for people to understand that there are not only young people but other globally minded people in Pittsburgh who not only want to connect to the world but want to bring the world here."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Ashton Armstrong, OYW Local-Global Festival

Honoring women who support women in business: Just a few Athena Awards tables left

"Athena is the only award that recognizes women for their support of other women in business," notes Beth Marcello, chair of the Athena Awards, which will recognize local women during its annual luncheon on Sept. 30.
"We know that not just in Pittsburgh but everywhere women's salaries tend to be less than men's," she adds. There are also fewer women, in proportion to the population, on corporate boards and in top corporate jobs. "That's why awards programs are important for celebrating women who have risen to the top and who are supporting women around them."
The Athena awards recognize women who demonstrate exceptional career success, community involvement and mentoring of other women. This year's Athenas garnered a record number of nominations. The finalists are:
  • Lenore Blum, distinguished career professor of computer science, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Theresa Bone, vice president and corporate controller, EQT Corporation
  • Maurita Bryant, assistant chief, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police
  • Laura Ellsworth, partner-in-charge, Jones Day, Pittsburgh Office
  • Titina Ott, vice president worldwide alliance and channels, Oracle Corporation
Finalists for the ATHENA Young Professional Award, given for only the third year to a woman 35 or younger, are:
  • Marisa Bartley, business development officer, Citizens Bank
  • Erin Isler, director, loan syndications, PNC Capital Markets LLC
  • Amiena Mahsoob, director of education programs, World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh
This year’s luncheon is once again expected to sell out, gathering nearly 900 attendees. Only a few tables are left and are available here.
Marcello points to "a real diversity among the group of finalists," who are involved not only in the business world but in local nonprofits, health care, education, public service and other fields, in many local spheres. "They're involved in health-care organizations, regional-development organizations, in addition to their very stellar careers, and it increases their impact on their communities."
She is particularly pleased with the results of the award for young professionals: "These are women on the path for leadership, already exemplifying those Athena qualities of success and giving back to other women." Their commitment at such an early point in their careers, she concludes, "is profound."
The ATHENA Awards Program Luncheon, presented by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, will be held at the Westin Convention Center Hotel.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Beth Marcello, Athena Awards

Western PA breeds championship quarterbacks -- and story tellers

To the names of quarterbacks Joe Namath, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino, Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana, how about adding Haruka Doi and Cricket Branstrom?
Haruka, from Pt. Breeze, and Cricket, from Warren County (next to Erie), could be the latest editions to a western Pennsylvania hall of fame – if we get one for seven-year-old storytellers.
The pair won places in the national PBS KIDS GO! Writers Contest for 2013 – the second year in a row that WQED's locally run competition has spawned two winners countrywide.
Of all the public television-run contests, WQED's is one of the biggest, covering not only the western part of the state but eastern Ohio and all of West Virginia. A record 1,700 entries were received, and WQED, Pittsburgh Public Schools and sponsor EQT picked out three winners each in grades K-3. Haruka's story, the top winner for second grade, is the first WQED winner of first place nationally, earning her an iPad Mini.
Her story, "Willie and Hannah," tells the tale of Willie, a baby woodpecker, and Hannah the adult red-tailed hawk. "They become really good friends when they meet," Haruka says. "Hannah is partly a mother to Willie because his real parents are not here."
Hannah supplies Willie with many types of berries, but, being a baby, Willie becomes picky and likes only one variety – and he doesn't thank Hannah. She becomes mad and leaves Willie alone, which makes him so angry he jumps out of the nest, only to be attacked by a mink. Hannah hears his cries and comes to the rescue. Willie has learned his lesson – he won't be selfish again. Hannah leads him to the place where he can find all his favorite berries.
A standout feature of Haruka's story are the torn-paper collages with which she has illustrated each page, using the bright colors of magazines to create unique accompanying artwork.
"We were just kind of surprised as we watched her writing stories," says Haruka's father Yohei, who with mother Kazu came here from Japan a year before their daughter was born. "For her, this is normal. For us, it is amazing. She is constantly reading and borrowing books from libraries. She goes through book after book. This is her first major attempt at writing a story."
Haruka's homeroom teacher and principal at Pittsburgh Colfax worked with her on the project, says Yohei. "It really led her in the right direction and got her off the ground."
Cricket Branstrom, who earned third-place among first-grade winners nationally, wrote "Little Possom's Adventure," illustrated with watercolors. Josephine the baby possum is lost in the pine forest after she returns to find her mother. She asks many animals – a raccoon, bear, deer, bobcat, rabbit, eagle and more – how she can find her way home. "They all took her to the next animal and the bobcat takes her home," Cricket explains.
"Then her mom says it was just a dream. But Josephine grinned because she knew it was real."
"I think this contest has truly encouraged her to follow her dreams," says Cricket's mother, Carilee Branstrom. "She's told us she's wanted to be an author and illustrator when she grows up."
Haruka Doi shares Cricket's plans – sort of: When she grows up, Haruka says, she wants to be "a little bit a writer and a little bit a soccer player."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: WQED

Take over to make over: new South Side vacant lot rehab program

The success of ReClaim Northside, which provides resident training to rehab and green vacant lots, has prompted organizers GTECH Strategies to create ReClaim South.
Residents of Allentown, Arlington, Arlington Heights, Beltzhoover, Bon Air, Knoxville, Mount Oliver, Mount Washington, Southside Slopes and St. Clair have until 5 p.m. on Sept. 3 to apply for special training sessions or get a paper application at The Hilltop Alliance’s office, 512 Brownsville Road. Ten will be chosen Sept. 20.
GTECH (Growth Through Energy and Community Health) began ReClaim Northside to reduce blight and enhance the community's development skills, and its 10 participants are about to implement their vacant lot plans.
Besides the training, ReClaim South members each get $3,000 to put their plans in action. And Pittsburgh's Southside neighborhoods could use the help. GTECH and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy studied the local landscape last year and found, in their Green Toolbox Report, that there were more than 400 acres of vacant land in the Hilltop neighborhoods.
For ReClaim South, GTECH has also added a Green Task Force to develop unique plans for other communities under the Hilltop Alliance, as well as those under Economic Development South. Unlike the grassroots work that the rest of ReClaim encourages, this group of municipal managers and community organizers will approach the problem of neighborhood revamping from the top down for several communities that are farther along in their revitalization: Carrick, Overbrook, Brentwood, Baldwin and Whitehall. The Task Force has its first session on Aug. 30.
"We felt this was a good way to build momentum off of the Green Toolbox Report and take action," says Evaine K. Sing, ReClaim South project manager.
Since ReClaim Northside, she adds, GTECH has learned to help ReClaim participants strategize project priorities and vacant lot locations so that they can be sure they are planning projects the community needs and will support. Thus, for ReClaim South, GTECH will do a demonstration vacant lot project this fall to help participants get ideas and see how implementation works.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Evaine K. Sing, GTECH Strategies

Ever go sideways Hula Hooping? That's Fun Day at Clayton

Before kids were allowed to shake and shimmy in public using Hula Hoops, there was hoop rolling – and badminton, croquet, sack races and other activities for the overly dressed kids of Victorian times.
Now, in the name of 21st-century fitness, kids can take part in these games from the early 1900s and more at Let's Move Family Fun Day at the Frick on Sept. 7, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Let's Move is First Lady Michelle Obama's program focused on healthy eating and active lives for kids, but the Frick Art and Historical Center has managed to adapt it to include activities in and around Clayton, Henry Clay Frick's house.
Spokesperson Greg Langel anticipates that more than 700 people will attend this year. "We hope to provide our visitors the opportunity to use the Frick site in a new way," says Langel. "We have these grounds – five beautiful acres – and this day provides guests the chance to learn about historic, turn of the century Victorian games the Frick children participated in, and to be active on the site."
Other lawn games, of a more modern nature, include challenge hopscotch, bean-bag toss and a wacky obstacle course. Kids can also follow an activity guide on the site produced for a previous Let's Move event.
Langel hopes visitors will also tour Clayton. "A good portion of the displays and rooms in Clayton are children's rooms," he notes, "and much of what we talk about are the lives of the children." The day will also feature Yoga and a Story, for kids and their families, which combines a reading of Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” with simple yoga moves, such as tree, boat and rock poses.
A free Victorian photo booth will give kids mustaches, hats and other props to use. And if they want to see nearly real Victorian photos, they can venture into the gallery for Clayton Days Revisited: A Project by Vik Muniz. Back in 1999, Muniz used Victorian-era camera equipment to take new photos at Clayton from children's point of view. His 65 prints were originally exhibited in 2000, but they're being redisplayed now with a selection of works by Muniz from the subsequent 13 years.
The event is sponsored by UPMC Health Plan.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Greg Langel, Frick Art and Historical Center

Teacher feedback helps kids succeed in school

Teacher evaluations have always been crucial for Pittsburgh Public Schools, but now they will actually be useful, says a new report by A+ Schools.
Amy Scott, director of research and data analysis for A+, the nonprofit advocate for Pittsburgh school improvement, says the district and its teachers union have been collaborating for nearly five years on a new teacher evaluation system that takes best evaluation practices into account. They examined what evaluation methods held up over time and across evaluations, actually measuring the right factors and helping teachers improve. 
The new system uses a mix of classroom observations, student growth data (including, but not limited to, test results) and student surveys of teachers to assess teacher performance. A state law, Act 82, which takes effect this fall, mandates that teacher evaluations be based 50 percent on classroom observations and 50 percent on student outcomes. "Pittsburgh has specifically created a model that tries to take into consideration its student population," controlling for each student's family-income level, special education or gifted student status and other factors, Scott notes.
Teachers will be given ratings of distinguished, proficient, needs improvement or failing. Those in the latter two categories will need to take part in a performance improvement plan. Any teacher with a second "needs improvement" within a decade of the first such rating may be subject to district action.
Pittsburgh teachers got their first evaluation scores this year, which will give them a year to improve their practice, if needed. Scott believes the district is the only one in the state to act ahead of time. Eighty-five percent of city teachers were in the distinguished or proficient categories, she says, and 15 percent fell into the needs improvement or failing categories. Act 82 calls for principal evaluations in 2014-15.
The evaluation system is still "not perfect," Scott allows, so the district and union "should continue to work hard on improving the system so it can be more meaningful, so our teachers can continue to help our students succeed. The journey is not ended yet."

As the report concludes: "PPS should track the extent to which teachers find feedback from multiple measures helpful and actionable for improving their practice and create mechanisms to adjust feedback accordingly."
"The evaluation is really a teacher improvement system," Scott adds, and should lead to teachers participating in more professional development courses and workshops and prompt them to view helpful online videos, seek extra feedback and generally work toward increasing their effectiveness. "We see that as very promising – especially because what matters the most here are our students and their outcomes."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Amy Scott, director of research and data analysis for A+ Schools

Remember middle school? Wish you had someone looking out for you?

Middle school can be a difficult time for many kids, says Damon Bethea, mentoring projects director for United Way of Allegheny County. There are "a number of challenges: Getting used to the different environment. Juggling a schedule with different teachers. Wanting to be accepted, and dealing with bullying. Not to mention that physically, emotionally and mentally you're changing and questioning who you are in the world.
"It helps kids to feel supported by somebody who is outside a mom, dad, uncle or grandmother," he adds.
That's why United Way's Be a Sixth Grade Mentor program is expanding to include seventh and eighth grades and is now called Be a Middle School Mentor.
The program also now includes 12 Pittsburgh Public Schools, adding Pittsburgh Manchester, Pittsburgh Milliones/University Prep, Pittsburgh Obama and Pittsburgh Westinghouse this year, and plans to serve 460 students. Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh, Communities in Schools, Mt. Ararat Community Activity Center and the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh match mentors and mentees.
The University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center, in evaluating the program's first two years (2009-2011), found that participating students nearly doubled their chances of qualifying for the Pittsburgh Promise college scholarship offered in the district.
The program will be recruiting new mentors through the end of November for the 2013-14 school year. The main focus of mentoring is helping kids with their careers and other aspirations. But the mentoring program also helps them do well academically, including encouraging regular attendance. Meeting with their students at lunchtime or after school, mentors aid kids in talking to teachers and creating study plans. They also advise students on what type of college or training program they might need to meet their goals.
"Anybody can do this," Bethea says, "but you have to have the commitment and the understanding that you may not see results from your mentoring for years to come – but know that you are planting seeds in the life of this young person."
Mentors, he adds, are "someone who feels that they have a lot to give to a student … or people who just have a passion about their community and want to help." 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Damon Bethea, United Way of Allegheny County

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

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

Not meeting the right non-profits? Speed dating gives volunteers long-term relationships

Tired of hooking up with the wrong nonprofits? Left unfulfilled by encounters that take place only on the Web or phone? Just want to meet the one nonprofit who really wants you for you?
Pittsburgh Cares' second Volunteer Speed Dating mixer, on Aug. 5, is designed to connect 20 participating nonprofits with 100 potential volunteers, explains Amanda Trocki, the group's director of corporate programs. Hopeful volunteers will actually rotate between tables every five minutes, hearing from individual nonprofits and letting the nonprofits get to know them – a little. The volunteers will get a dating card to rate the nonprofits and request further info. 
"This is another way for nonprofits to share their mission with a new group of individuals," Trocki says. Among those signing up are some who have never volunteered before, long-time volunteers and "a lot of people we haven't seen in a while," she reports. "We're almost filled up volunteers, which is very exciting."
The event, at Wigle Whiskey in the Strip, will include new and well-established nonprofits in a variety of areas, such as environmental concerns, senior services, hunger and homelessness.
"We're kind of the matchmaker of the volunteer world at the moment," Trocki says. "Come prepared to get a lot of information very quickly."
The event is co-sponsored by Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project (PUMP). 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Amanda Trocki, Pittsburgh Cares

You know you want to get your brain wet: RiverQuest creates first RiverFest

RiverQuest has been taking kids out on our rivers for hands-on science experiences on its boat for 18 years now – more than 100,000 students – making it the largest such program in the country. It's also the only river-based science program in the region.
This year, Executive Director Gerry Balbier figured it was about time to help the public share kids' enthusiasm for our waterways.
"We really hope people begin to value our aquatic resources, and don't see them just as something that needs to be crossed on a bridge," says Balbier.
And so was born RiverFest, to be held July 13, 2-6 p.m., at the Fox Chapel Yacht Club's riverwalk and aboard the three-deck RiverQuest boat Explorer. Kids will have a chance to get their hands wet with explorations of aquatic life in on-board aquariums and labs. Each deck will be focused on a different aspect of riverine science: water chemistry, for testing water quality; macro-invertebrates, such as clams and worms dredged from the river mud, whose existence here signals a certain level of health in the rivers; and micro-invertebrates visible under microscopes. 
There will also be special activities brought over by the Carnegie Science Center; fishing instruction from Family Tyes; and a Fish and Boat Commission exhibit on fish that are common in local waters today: walleye, bass, catfish "and other species that are doing well in the three rivers," notes Balbier.
For the first year, RiverQuest will present awards to teacher-nominated science students who have participated in RiverQuest programs in three grade categories, as well as to science teachers the organization chooses to honor. There are also food and non-aquatic activities, such as a climbing wall.
Part of the group's mission is reducing their environmental footprint and increasing the use of green technology, a mission that RiverFest will also highlight.
"You'll walk away with a sense of your connection as a steward of the three rivers," he says, "not only as a wonderful recreation asset but a source of our water and many species."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Gerry Balbier, RiverQuest

Storytellers, comics artists, mad scientists: Do The LAB and Assemble have camps for you!

It may be July already, but there's still time to get your kids into some fun and useful (shhh!) camps.
Over at Assemble, the maker space in Garfield, Literary Arts Boom (The LAB) and Assemble itself are offering one-week camps that allow kids to discover just how far they can take the arts and sciences.
"We're trying to make it light-weight but educational," says Paula Levin, "lead experimentalist" of The LAB.
Each of the LAB camps will involve crafts, drawing, singing and movement. In the Comics Club Camp, kids can work on all sorts of pieces and processes, from penciling to inking, to create a portfolio for themselves and a group publication of selected items at the end. Held August 5-9, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at Assemble, the camp gives lots of time for drawing, writing and other activities. It emphasizes team-building and discovery, whether kids are talking about favorite superheroes or continuing each other's drawings without being able to see anything but the edge (known in art circles as constructing an "exquisite corpse").
"It gets the kids to see happy accidents, and we'll challenge them: here's the character, what's the deal with the character?" says Levin. The lead instructor is Juan Fernandez (www.crinkledcomics.com), who has taught at the Toonseum.
In the Storytellers' Studio, kids will work together and with camp leaders to create a story on day one, figuring out the characters and plot, and then build on it all week. On day two, they'll make puppets and scenery to act out the dialog. During day three, they'll adapt their story to comic-book form. Day four means adding raps or other songs with the folks from WYEP, whose Zoobeats machine allows for the creation of samples and mixes. Then they'll put it all together for day five.
"We want to really mix it up, because kids want to move," Levin says.
The Grable Foundation has funded LAB scholarships for the $50 cost of Storytellers' Studio for kids who qualify for free or reduced-cost school lunches.
Storytellers' Studio is already underway for the youngest kids, ages 5 to 7, this week through July 12, but there is another week for ages 8-10 (July 15-19) and one for ages 11-13 (July 22-26). The camp runs 3-6 p.m. on weekdays because it doubles as after-camp care for Assemble's Mini-Mad Science Camp, in which kids spend their camp weeks in hands-on experiments as well as art and writing.
Concludes Levin: "We want kids to have fun but still be creating and thinking over the summer."
Photograph by Alessandra Hartkopf

Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Paula Levin, Literary Arts Boom

Want to learn how to preserve historic pieces of your neighborhood?

How Pittsburgh-centric is this year's Statewide Heritage Conference, which arrives in Pittsburgh July 17-19? One of the sessions you can attend is called "Babushkas & Hard Hats."
Run by a multitude of statewide heritage groups, the conference focuses on the intersection of historic preservation, transportation and the environment. It is normally held in Harrisburg but last year moved to Lancaster, where the focus was on agricultural preservation. Here in Pittsburgh, the theme is industrial heritage, trails and rivers – particularly those that encourage economic development.
For neighborhood groups trying to keep historic bits of their landscape intact, says Jennifer Horn, program director for Preservation Pennsylvania, one of the conference organizers, "this is a great opportunity for them to get hands-on training and for them to interact with experts on the national level."
The Babushkas & Hard Hats session involves a tour of the Carrie Blast Furnace complex and the Bulgarian Macedonia National Educational and Cultural Center. Other sessions include:
  • “Preserving 19th and 20th Century Parks with a 21st Century Sensibility”
  • “Pittsburgh Underground: A Walking Tour of Pittsburgh’s Archaeological Past”
  • “Good, the Bad & the Uncertain: The Marcellus Gas Play and Pennsylvania Communities”
  • “Pittsburgh: Crucible of Modernism”
There will also be a "Transit and History Tour"; a celebration of Pittsburgh's top ten preservation opportunities by the Young Preservationists Association at Wigle Whiskey Distillery in the Strip; and keynote presentations from Arthur Ziegler and Michael Sriprasert of Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation and Matthew Christopher, founder of Abandoned America.
The conference attracts a largely professional audience, Horn says, including those involved in cultural resource management, history programs, archaeology, community and regional planning and economic and infrastructure development. "It's an opportunity for experts to share best practices … and through networking to bridge new partnerships," particularly between history and environmental groups, she adds. "We selected Pittsburgh because it really does demonstrate the power of preservation as an economic tool."
The conference is also sponsored by PennDOT, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Heritage PA and the Federal Highway Administration.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jennifer Horn, Preservation Pennsylvania

Wag if you're going: it's the first South Side Dog Fest

Steve Zumoff, co-owner of Double Wide Grill on the South Side, was looking for a fresh, family-friendly event to bring to the neighborhood – and a way to use the restaurant's just re-opened dog patio.
"We wanted to have a more community-based event, something that wasn't crazy, without alcohol and loud bands," Zumoff says. "We wanted something that was mellow, but fun."
So was born Lucky’s South Side Dog Festival, to be held on June 30 from 11 a.m.to 3 p.m. on 24th Street between East Carson and Sidney. People and pups are invited for a variety of contests and to learn about local places that provide canine services.
Nonprofits taking part include local members of the Frankie's Friends, who support improving veterinary care and are bringing a mobile spay and neuter facility for free services, as well as Animal Friends, Western Pennsylvania Human Society, Animal Rescue League, local pitbull-advocacy groups Hello Bully and Biggies Bullies, local independent pet rescue group Wearwoof and others. Some of the groups will be bringing dogs as potential adoptees as well.
For kids, there will be a bounce house and of course many creatures to pet. For the adults, there are competitions for best owner/dog lookalike, furriest human, best-dressed dog, best trick, best owner/dog kiss and a doggie Simon Sez game. For dogs, there are many fellow canines to sniff and a dog menu on the fenced-in dog patio of hamburgers, chicken, tofu and dog biscuits. The area can also host "dog birthday parties, dog showers, any event" related to canines, Zumoff says.
Local companies collaborating on the festival are Big Dog Coffee, Urban Dog, Grandma’s Dog Daycare and others, who will join many other businesses having booths at the festival as well.
"We're just trying to do something new on the South Side so people see the South Side as a nice place to go," Zumoff says. "It's the first year, so hopefully it goes smoothly so we can do it again in the future."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Steve Zumoff, Double Wide Grill

Tour local artists' studios and help our health-care system

The new documentary on Healthy Artists' work shows Pittsburgh why it's important to keep reforming our health-care system – and how local artists' studios are very cool.
The 30-minute film "Healthy Artists (the movie!)" by Garret Jones and Anthony DeAngelis of the local Studio Corrida documents the participation of more than 30 Pittsburgh artists in the Healthy Artists Movie Poster Exhibition in January, which illustrated the need for health-care reform for artists and other freelance workers.

The Sprout Fund Seed Award-funded work features Seth Clark, Lizzee Solomon, Jim Rugg, Andy Scott, Steph Neary, Brett Yasko, Laurie Trok and others, including Julie Sokolow, head of Healthy Artists.
It will be shown as part of Film Kitchen on July 9 at Pittsburgh Filmmakers' Melwood Screening Room, with a reception at 7 p.m. and the presentations at 8 p.m. Accompanying the new documentary will be short works from Brooklyn-based comedian/filmmaker Travis Irvine, whose work has been featured on Funny or Die and The Tonight Show.

Next comes the debut of the four-minute "The Intuition Artist" by local filmmaker Tim Murray, profiling Gabe Felice setting up his psychedelic art show and explaining what it’s like to be uninsured. Sokolow's six-minute "Everything Will Probably Be Fine" follows, depicting CMU graduate Jenn Gooch's experience with bankruptcy due to medical bills.
The featured Healthy Artists documentary, says Sokolow, " is instructive about how to get a grassroots effort going and have it take off in a national way." It shows how, following the poster exhibition, her group was invited to blog for Michael Moore and won an Emerging Artist Award in the MacArthur Foundation’s June 2013 Looking@Democracy Competition.
"We've had our message resonate nationally," she adds, "but it's important to address the issue in Pittsburgh," especially given the controversy over health-care giant UPMC's role as a nonprofit in the community.
After the screening, pediatrician Scott Tyson, president of Health Care 4 All PA‘s Education Fund, will talk about a new economic impact study by Prof. Gerald Friedman at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. This research, Sokolow says, demonstrates how the state could save $17 billion a year while providing medical, dental and vision coverage to all residents and create jobs in the process. "Republicans can get behind this study because it's about getting financially responsible," she says; after all, former GOP officials, such as state House Rep. David J. Steil, are on Healthcare 4 All PA's board.
Current state Sen. Jim Ferlo will then speak about his recent reintroduction of Senate Bill 400 as single-payer health-care legislation for the state.
"Our big approach has been to address the health-care crisis in our quirky voices," says Sokolow, "so it's interesting to get a politician to step onto our turf. We think it will be inspiring to see somebody meeting us halfway like that."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Julie Sokolow, Healthy Artists

Hurry, Athena Award nominations close Friday, June 28

The Athena Award "is the only award that really recognizes women for giving back to other women," notes the chair of this year's host committee, Beth Marcello, director of women's business development at PNC.
Nominations for the award (see the form and rules here) close on June 28, so get your submission in now, she says. No matter how prominent a woman may be in our community, Marcello cautions, the winner is based only on the nomination form.
The awards program, given in hundreds of cities around the world, regularly attracts a large following here, drawing more than 850 people to its annual luncheon (on Sept. 30 this year), making Pittsburgh one of the top 5 Athena sites in the city's 23rd year of participation. Pop City is again one of the sponsors.
Winners are women who excel in their profession, give back to their communities and act as role models to other women. While nominee numbers vary from year to year, Marcello says, the group averages 25 submissions for the main award and 12 for the award honoring a young professional, which is only in its third year. "It is very competitive," she says. "It's a tremendously difficult task for both selection committees," which choose five Athena finalists and three for the young professional award.
Marcello emphasizes that past recipients get involved with the Athena for the future, including winners from the last several years: Athena winner Kim Berkeley Clark, a judge in the family division of Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, and Young Professional Award winners Christy Uffelman, a partner in Align Leadership LLC, and Jennifer Cairns, executive director of Sarah Heinz House, which houses the local Boys & Girls Club of America.
"The intent is very much to keep these women in the Athena loop," Marcello says. "The Athena Awards are tremendously important for the Pittsburgh region. Pittsburgh has won a ton of awards recently ... but there is still sometimes a perception that Pittsburgh is not a welcoming place for women in leadership. It's pivotal to communicate within and outside the region that we are a community where women are doing great things."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Beth Marcello, Athena Awards

Patrick Dowd takes kid advocacy experience to Allies For Children

The region has gained a new children's advocacy group but lost a city councilman.
Patrick Dowd will resign in July from elected office after 10 years on the school board and council to become executive director of Allies For Children, a new public-policy advocate for children.
While it already has funding from the Heinz Endowments, The Grable Foundation, The Pittsburgh Foundation, the local United Way and others, Dowd called it "a start up" at the announcement on June 17. "I think we have an office; I don't know if we have a phone," he said. "I don't even know if we have a bank account."
From temporary offices in the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, the group will work across the state on the health, education and well-being of children – "all their basic needs," said interim President Martha W. Isler. While anchoring the western part of the state, she added, Allies For Children will team with partner organizations here, in central Pennsylvania and in the Philadelphia area to push local and state governments to act on a variety of kids' issues.
Locally, Allies For Children will join with such organizations as the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children. PAEYC's leader, Michelle Figlar, seemed very pleased with the new group's role in creating better government access and influence. "Building relationships with the grass roots and the grass tops is the key to success," she said. "Our collective and amplified voice can now advocate with all public officials."
In Dowd, said Pittsburgh Foundation Senior Program Officer Kevin Jenkins, "we believe we did find the person who ... is going to be able to do good things in the public policy arena."
"I am eager to be able to listen to you, to learn from you and to collaborate with you," Dowd told the crowd. "There is a real urgency to this work," Dowd added. In a region with 250,000 kids, 1 in 6 lives in poverty and nearly 1 in 2 is in a low-income household, forcing them to start life with a deficit.
"You will see Pittsburgh held up across the nation as a model," he concluded, "where people will say, 'Yes, that is the place where they are doing the most …'"
The group may be contacted here.
Writer: Marty Levine

Who else knows you are reading this? And why? PublicSource panel has the info

The June 25 showing of the documentary "We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks" by Pittsburgh Filmmakers at the Harris Theater seemed the perfect time to hold a discussion on government information gathering, says Sharon Walsh, editor of PublicSource, the local online investigative news organization. With governments seeking more information from ordinary citizens and attempting to reveal less to us, the panel will discuss the public's right to know, as well as the government's, and the press's role in all of this. It will concentrate on "privacy and the advantages and disadvantages of what we know not just the government but everyone is collecting on us," Walsh says.
Panelists will include:
  • Attorney Tom Farrell, previously a Greater Pittsburgh ACLU board member, who has sued the Obama administration, contending that a National Security Agency (NSA) program that collects telephone information violates the Constitution; 
  • Kim deBourbon, executive director of the Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Coalition, a nonprofit that tries to ensure Pennsylvanians have access to federal, state and local documents to which the law entitles them; and
  • Carl Prine, a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writer who has reported on the NSA and whistleblowers.
Walsh will moderate the discussion, which is free with the price of a film ticket and will take place prior to the movie, at 7 p.m.
"As a journalist, you want the government to be transparent, but when you find out what they are collecting, you're not sure you want them to be transparent about you," Walsh says.
While certain records are supposed by law to be publically accessible, she points out, "there are lots of different gradations to who is supposed to have access to what under law." Members of the public, she adds, "don't realize that journalists are asking [for documents] on behalf of the public, but they have as much of a right to these documents as we do." Politicians and bureaucrats stand in the way, as does the lack of public knowledge of how to request government documents.
Walsh says that, as a journalist, she tries not to have a public opinion about issues, but that "public information is the one thing journalists can have an opinion about."
Do Good:
Learn how to use Pennsylvania's Open Records Law at the ACLU's "YOUR Right to Know" workshop, June 27, 7:00 p.m., at the Homewood Library (7101 Hamilton Ave., 15208) with Sara Rose, ACLU staff attorney. To RSVP or for more info, email here or call 412-681-7736x322
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Sharon Walsh, PublicSource

Inspiration to action: Public Allies to hold first leadership conference

Public Allies Pittsburgh is hosting its first Leadership Conference to share the wisdom of a local group of leaders who rarely get to take center stage, says Misti McKeehen, the group's site director.
"We took a look at who in our community was doing innovative things and taking action but may not always be the presenter at typical conferences in town," she says. The event, June 25 at the Senator John Heinz History Center, will feature 10-minute presentations from 27 different people – representatives of the United Way of Allegheny County, Fitwits and The Garden of Peace project as well as those who have been serving with Public Allies, an AmeriCorps program of Coro Pittsburgh and Public Allies' national group that sends people into a 10-month service experience with local nonprofits and their communities.
The short presentations will concentrate on professional development, community engagement and issues specific to western Pennsylvania. Over lunch, participants will decide the action they will take as a result of what they've learned at the conference: perhaps mentoring a young person in the community or changing the way they perform their own leadership.
The conference begins with a keynote address from Cris Ros-Dukler of Milwaukee, who brought the Electronic Benefits Transfer card to the national food-stamp program, reducing both the cost to government and the perceived stigma of using the program.
Says McKeehen: "We wanted someone who could share with the audience how innovation and action could really have a huge impact."
Admission to the conference is free for students and AmeriCorps service members. The $10 fee for others includes lunch and admission to the Heinz History Center afterwards.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Misti McKeehen, Public Allies Pittsburgh

Who's the oldest kid in Pittsburgh?

Our local kids' museum turns the decidedly un-kid-like age of 30 today, but the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh is unabashedly celebrating with a very kid-friendly and public birthday party and free admission on June 22.
In 2004, when the museum was considering its recent expansion, it was receiving 100,000 visitors a year. "This year we expect to break all records; we're on track to pass 260,000," says museum spokesperson Bill Schlageter. When it opened, the museum's annual budget was $540,000; this year it is $5.4 million.
"It's a big moment for us," he says. Indeed, the museum was featured in May in a new book called Magnetic Museums, which covers five museums in the country that have "become vital players in the social, civic and economic vibrancy of their communities," he explains. The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh was also invited to join 20 other American institutions to start the “Wonder Collective” to show families across the country what attractions and assets they all offer.
The 30th birthday celebration runs 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and features:
  • Live music from the local Soundwaves Steel Drum Band and Elliott Sussman, who plays ragtime blues, Tin Pan Alley tunes and doo-wop on everything from dobro to banjo, ukulele, dulcimer and autoharp
  • Performances by Ben Sota, unicyclist and founder of Zany Umbrella Circus
  • Hula hooping with Stefanie Moser of Spinster Hoops, and
  • The chance to make birthday hats and die-cut birthday cards in the museum's studio and musical instruments in its MakeShop. "The kids will come up with their own musical instruments, and we hope everyone bring their instruments to the parade" at 2:00, says Schlageter.
The day is sponsored by the Jack Buncher Foundation.
Writer: Marty Levine  
Source: Bill Schlageter, Children's Museum of Pittsburgh

Custom dog collars and photos: winning businesses for Entrepreneuring Youth

Two teenage entrepreneurs split nearly $3,000 in prize money from the finals of the George W. Tippins Business Plan Competition here June 6 – and one of them is headed to New York City in October to compete for a $25,000 prize.
The winner of the Up-Start division for younger high-school students, Derica Sanchez of Urban Pathways Charter School downtown, pitched a business designing custom dog collars, beating out more than a dozen other students earlier in May's semi-finals.
"Derica is a quiet, responsible young lady who in the end revealed a greater depth of ability and talent for marketing than I would have expected for someone so young in her career," says Jerry Cozewith, head of the local nonprofit Entrepreneuring Youth, which sponsored the contest and preparatory programs educating kids about business success in Allegheny and several other local counties. "The judges were impressed by the prototypes of her products. She had a firm grasp on the competitive edge she needed to go forward."
Besides winning $1,200, she'll be attending the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year competition this month as a guest of Entrepreneuring Youth, and Cozewith expects her to be back next year to compete in the Start-Up division for older high schoolers.
There, the $1,500 top winner was Meghan Boboige, founder of Meg’s Photo Booth, which
sells her own and custom-commissioned photographs printed in high resolution on canvas. She was in the eleventh grade in Moon Area High School this year.
Meghan will be competing in the Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship business plan competition this fall, where last year's Tippins Start-Up winners, teens Jesse and Joziah Council of Beaver Area High School, took their line of all-natural skin-care products to New York and were runners up, winning $5,000.
Says Cozewith: "Meghan clearly had a quality product and understood the limitation of her business, so she had a very strong grasp of what her product was, what her business is, and the opportunity to grow it. She was very, very confident in her presentation."
In general, he adds, most kids only know the world of business from a consumer angle. Entrepreneuring Youth will be working over the summer to teach Meghan more about inventory, taking orders and other skills needed to make her idea work in the real world.
"Her fundamentals are strong, but we really need to get her thinking about the future, where the opportunities are, and what the costs and resources are," he says. "She'll be up against kids with more experience. We'll find someone in the photography business who can really speak to the world and really steel her to do a great job in New York."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jerry Cozewith, president, Entrepreneuring Youth

Umoja honoring 25 years of African-influenced arts at Asanté Awards

After 25 years of bringing African culture to Pittsburgh, Umoja African Arts Company will be holding its first Asanté Awards on June 28 for local artists in many categories. Asanté (Kiswahili for “thank you”) nominees were chosen because they worked with Umoja in the past, perform an art form that is tied to African cultures and are known to be community arts leaders.
"We realized that it was time to thank those who have contributed in the arts," says President and CEO Darcel Madkins.
The Asanté award nominees are:
  • Blues: Jill West & Blues Attack, Muddy Creek Blues, Pittsburgh Blues Society
  • Hip hop: Chris Edmunds, Hip Hop on L.O.C.K,, Jasiri X
  • Jazz: Joe Negri, Kevin Howard, Roger Humphries
  • Performing arts: August Wilson Center Dance, CAPA High School, Hill Dance Academy Theater
  • Spiritual: David Dance Team, Macedonia Baptish Church, Northside Institutional Church
  • Spoken word: Christina Springer, Kimberly Ellis, Leslie “Ezra” Smith
  • Theater: Bricolage Production Company, Kelly Strayhorn Theater, Pittsburgh Playwrights
The winners will be announced at the ceremony, which Umoja plans to hold every year from now on.
The honorary chairs of the event, including Oliver Byrd, will be honored for their arts leadership in the local community; Byrd helped create the August Wilson Center (where the awards will be held) and served on the board of the Multicultural Arts Initiative of the Heinz Endowments and Pittsburgh Foundation. The Umoja “Unity” Award goes to Damien Pwono, who founded Umoja when he was a student at the University of Pittsburgh, while the Cultural Spirit Award will be given to visual artist Thaddeus Mosley. Lynn Cullen will MC the event.
The semi-formal evening begins at 5:30 with a VIP reception featuring jazz and Congolese dance; the awards begin at 8. Says Madkins: "This is a way for people to showcase their work, for people in the community to see what they have done." Tickets are available here.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Darcel Madkins, Umoja African Arts Company

25 schools get STEAM spaces thanks to AIU, Grable, Benedum

Since 2009, Allegheny Intermediate Unit's (AIU) Center for Creativity has been making grants to fund education focused on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). "It's the concept of thinking in a more integrative way" about these educational subjects, says Rosanne Javorsky, the AIU's director of teaching and learning. "Science class doesn't end after a 42-minute period."
Since last year's experiment of giving larger grants was so successful, she says, this year the AIU has once again teamed with the Grable and Benedum foundations to make more and larger grants among a wider range of schools. On June 3, they announced $500,000 in funding to re-design or create spaces in 25 schools to involve students in STEAM subjects and projects. They awarded $20,000 each to 25 school districts in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Lawrence, Mercer, Washington and Westmoreland counties.  
Javorsky says they received more than 80 applications. "I could have awarded another 25, because they were just that good," she says. "People really had a vision for what STEAM education could look like in their schools, to engage kids in learning across different content areas."
Allegheny Valley Junior-Senior High School, for instance, received a grant to form Rachel's Neighborhood Garden as an outdoor classroom next to the Rachel Carson Homestead. East Allegheny students will spend a year designing a city with a local engineering company, while the Elizabeth Forward Middle School will create The DREAM Factory for kids to become makers. In that same spirit, Fox Chapel's Kerr Elementary will form the Creative Learning Maker Studio to use digital media in literacy education, and Keystone Oaks Middle and High School's Digital Playground project will teach computational skills through computer programming and gaming. North Hills will turn its Junior and Senior High libraries into research centers and media labs, while South Park Elementary Center will get a new "SPEC-TECH-ular Studio" where, they say, students will "explore STEAM through five pods including an art and music Creation Station, green screen, editing, robotics and discovery spaces.
"Our focus has always been on engaging students in meaningful learning," Javorsky says, leading to "kids who have not been very excited about school who are suddenly wanting to stay after school.
"On the national level there's a lot of talk about STEAM," she adds, "but we've been doing it here for five years, so I feel like we're ahead of the game."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Rosanne Javorsky, AIU 3

Walk this way (for public art) and make your venue's new arts-guide website

It's a huge couple of weeks for public art in Pittsburgh: a new edition of the free public art walking guide is debuting; we're getting a new website for regional arts venues; and the sculpture Arch returns.
You can pick up your free third edition of Pittsburgh Art in Public Places: Downtown Walking Tour June 12 in the Agnes Katz Plaza (Penn at Seventh downtown) from 5:30 until 7:30 p.m., when 10 local artists will be on hand to give 30-minute tours of their own local favorites. You can also get it in the city's Office of Public Art at 810 Penn Avenue, Suite 200 (also the location for the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, or GPAC), or just download it from here starting that day.
With a new design by local firm Little Kelpie and new photography by local artist Renee Rosensteel, the guide will take you to new artwork such as Cellphone Disco by Information Lab at Tito Way (between Penn and Liberty Avenues and Seventh and Eighth streets) and Ned Kahn's sculpture Cloud Arbor in the Buhl Community Park near the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. It will also lead you to new locations for existing art, such as Romare Bearden's 780-square-foot tile mural (in the new Gateway T station) and Clement Meadmore's piece, Up and Away, still here from the Three Rivers Arts Festival in the 1970s, which was at Wood Street and Fifth Avenue but is now in First Side Park.
The book also contains an expanded tour of the North Side, separating it from the previous North Shore tour, covering territory from the Federal Street underpass art project to the Mattress Factory.
But not everything arty in the Burgh will fit in a book, notes Office of Public Art Director Renee Piechocki. Her office is now beta testing a new website, Pittsburgh Art Places where every arts venue in the 13-county region can get a free page. It will also document former and temporary art that's gone. The idea is similar to the Pittsburgh Artist Registry, begun in 2007 to provide individual artists with their own pages.
Piechocki says they hope to have 150 venues listed by the time the site goes live in July. In the meantime, interested venues can email her here about how to create a profile prior to the debut, or attend one of the free informational sessions, listed here. The next one in Allegheny County is at GPAC on June 20.
In the meantime, regional residents can once again enjoy Arch, the robot/transformer sculpture that stood nearly 20 feet tall on the corner of Ft. Duquesne Boulevard and Seventh Street downtown from November 2008 through November 2011. Commissioned from Los Angeles artist Glenn Kaino by the Heinz Endowments to celebrate Pittsburgh's 250th anniversary, it was mostly made of wood and needed a restoration after years in Pittsburgh weather. Now it will have a new home on the terminal side of Pittsburgh International Airport, near US Airways. The installation began June 4 and can be followed on Arch's Facebook page through its debut on June 10.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Renee Piechocki, Office of Public Art

Make learning challenges your own through Remake Learning research fellowship

Remake Learning – headquarters for learning innovation news and programs of the Kids+Creativity Network – is offering two new fellowship opportunities for emerging researchers, technologists, scholars, writers, educators, practitioners and others. The Sprout Fund's two 2013-2014 Remake Learning Fellowships offer $15,000 (a $10,000 stipend and $5,000 for project support) to those with fresh research proposals in the area of connected learning, with a deadline of 5 p.m., June 14 (and an application available here).
Connected learning emphasizes students taking a personal interest in a subject, learning with their peers and still getting the academics needed to life, school and career. In places such as Assemble, the makeshop space in Garfield, students are there because they want to be, and they are working alongside and with other kid who have the same interests. "When young people are contributing, sharing, giving advice to each other … in a social setting, that creates a better experience," says Sprout's Program Officer for Engagement and Collaboration Dustin Stiver. "There is a sense of collegiality, if it's not just an older, didactic model of 'sage on a stage.'"
Next, they may be inspired by this informal learning and seek other classes or opportunities elsewhere in Pittsburgh. "Their interest really drives the academics," Stiver notes. "We're interested in looking at how that learning happens."
Sprout suggests three types of projects as possible proposals. You might want to investigate how and why kids traverse the cultural/learning landscape in Pittsburgh from one arts/learning venue to the next. Or you might chart how good digital citizenship – kids creating their identities online and curating who they are in digital media – stays healthy or turns into a bad experience, such as cyberbullying. Alternatively, you may wish to show how connected learning bridges from informal to formal learning settings.
You don't have to have an academic background to apply, says Stiver. "We're interested in taking the theory of connected learning and putting it in practice."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Dustin Stiver, The Sprout Fund

Young arts leaders find futures at Contemporary Craft

The Society for Contemporary Craft in the Strip District has expanded its apprentice and internship programs to help create the next generation of arts-management professionals. Even its artist-in-residence this summer is a college student.
"A lot of our thinking in bringing in these young people," says Contemporary Craft's Executive Director Janet McCall, "is making sure we stay relevant and connected to the community."
Winner of the Judy G. Cheteyan Scholarship this year is Sarah Ceurvorst, a recent undergraduate in psychology and fine arts at Carnegie Mellon University. Begun in 2001, the scholarship allows an arts-management student to learn Contemporary Craft's operations, from fundraising, marketing and how to run the organization's retail store to education, administration and exhibitions, which this year will be "ENOUGH Violence – Artists Speak Out." McCall says Contemporary Craft was reluctant at first to take on this exhibit but decided that "artists have problem-solving abilities the rest of us can learn from, and they are courageous in speaking out."
This year's studio apprentice post, launched last year, will be awarded to Samantha Skelton, who just earned her Master of Fine Arts degree at Miami University in Ohio. A year-long full-time position, this apprenticeship was created, McCall says, when the growing number of unusually high-quality Cheteyan scholarship applicants signaled that young people in the arts seemed unable to find jobs in the field. "The goal is to teach them how to build an arts education center," she says: "At the end of the year we hope they will have gained the real-life work experience they need to go on to the next step in their career," or in their education. They will also have a chance to develop their own art through time using the Contemporary Craft studio and working closely with visiting artists.
The newly created year-long exhibitions apprentice position, funded by the Fine Foundation, will give the recipient hands-on, behind-the-scenes experience in running an exhibition: creating the concept, identifying artists, choosing the artwork, developing the catalog material, doing the installation and de-installation, and working with artists on any lectures. It was awarded to Natalie Sweet, who has previously interned with the Andy Warhol Museum and Concept Gallery.
Finally, this year's artist in residence is Jennifer Moss, an MFA student in fiber arts at the Savannah College of Art and Design. "The artist in residence is a little bit of a surprise for us," says McCall, noting that this position usually goes to a well-established artist. "But we didn't want to let go of her, because we were very impressed with this very young fiber artist." Moss will be seen working on her art, which runs from wearable pieces to large-scale installations, everywhere from Strip sidewalks to the inside of Contemporary Craft's building, including a site-specific fiber piece on its walls in conjunction with the 2013 Fiberart International exhibit there.
"It should be a very fun and dramatic piece that will remain here," says McCall. "I think [Moss] represents where our organization wants to go."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Janet McCall, Society for Contemporary Craft

Spanish! Farming! Art! Sign up for great summer camps

It's not too late to sign your child up for some great summer camps – some brand new, some long running, and some just back for the summer of 2013. Here's a guide to some wonderful camps that still have openings:
Mini Mad Scientist Camp at Assemble: Kids can dive into new inventions and science experiments while (shhhhh!) learning about the scientific method and the design process and meet local pros in the science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) fields. Cost is $100 per week (bring your own lunch). Each week runs Monday through Friday 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sign up here for ages 5 through 7, July 8 through 12; here for ages 8 through 10, July 15 through 19; and here for ages 11 through 13, July 22 through 26
La Escuelita Arcoiris, a Spanish immersion pre-school in Squirrel Hill, has one-week Spanish language and culture day camps running June 24 through Aug. 2 (although Week 5, July 22 through 26, is full). Kids 6 through 10 will learn to speak Spanish while enjoying outdoor games, arts and crafts and cultural-immersion activities. Register here for a session that runs Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. through 3:30 p.m., with an extended day option available until 5:30 p.m.
At the Harvest and Create: A Farm to Table Immersion camp, run jointly by Union Project and Garfield Community Farm, there's already a waiting list for a second session this summer. It introduces kids 8 through 13 to both sustainable farming and hands-on clay creations. The two-week experience concludes with a mal made from student-harvested veggies on student-made ceramics. It also includes field trips to other farms and local restaurant kitchens. Running Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. and costs $450 per child. Get on the waiting list here
MobileQuest CoLab is a one-week camp for kids who want to make and play their own games on mobile technology. They'll work toward a game exhibition on the last day, and "come away from camp as designers and makers with real-world experiences in mobile technology and game design," say sponsors The Sprout Fund. Kids in the Greater Pittsburgh area must apply by May 28. Some need-based scholarships are available by emailing here. Apply to attend the camp here; acceptance notifications go out in early June.
Civic Engagement Summer Camp at Community Human Services in Oakland offers six one-week camps that each "introduces 5th and 6th grade students to topics and activities that broaden perspective, engage passions, and equip young people to become leaders," they say. "With a strong emphasis on community engagement, students will interact with leaders in various fields and come to a better understanding of what impacts their lives and how they can create positive change." The camp runs 8:30 a.m. through 4:30 pm. weekdays from June 24 until Aug. 2. Each week includes volunteering and a field trip. The cost is $125 per week, but there is a sliding scale for those whose income prevents them from affording the entire fee. Contact Trevor Smith by emailing here, or calling 412-246-1615. Week one has the theme of leadership, with subsequent weeks focusing on science, arts and music, diversity, environment and government.
Writer: Marty Levine

Girl-led change and fresh take on Title IX at Girls Coalition Conference

This year's Girls Coalition Annual Conference on June 13 – dubbed "Girls Can Change the World!" – is all about engaging girls' voices and hearing what girls are doing to advocate for change, says Heather Mediate, program director for the Coalition.
It will highlight thriving girl-led initiatives, solutions to continuing issues for girls and ways to build the success of girl-serving organizations.
Partnering this year with The Ellis School as its host, the Coalition's conference will cover such topics as "Grassroots feminism in Pittsburgh," "Developing inclusive programming," new developments in Title IX (including Pennsylvania's recently enacted Equity in Interscholastic Athletics Disclosure Act, set to take effect in October) and the Hardy Girls, Healthy Women curriculum.
This curriculum, developed at Colby College in Maine, "is really about helping girls to build strong critical thinking skills," says Mediate. "A lot of it is media literacy, and helping the leaders of girls' groups deal with the problems they see all around them" – and take action. Chatham University and the local Girl Scouts of America are piloting the curriculum here.

The leader of the Philadelphia chapter of Black Girls RUN!, Deneen Young, will speak at the conference about this organization, which has 55,000 members nationwide but no Pittsburgh chapter yet, and promotes solutions to health risks in the black female community.
The Maikuru Project: Teen Mom Mentoring Study out of the University of Pittsburgh will also be featured. Maikuru aims to prevent repeated teens pregnancies, using young mothers or couples as mentors to provide role models in parenting, wellness and decision-making and get teen mothers connected with the resources they need.
The other major goal of the conference is to bring together organizations that share the Girls Coalitions' focus. Thus, the conference has sessions for local leaders on building strong organizations, training and using a dedicated volunteer force, using social media and other crucial topics.
"Let's start some of the work and learn what is working," says Mediate.
Writer: Marty Levine 
Source: Heather Mediate, Girls Coalition Southwestern Pennsylvania

Questyinz 2.0 launches with new quests and new ways for kids to take part

Kids love being sent on journeys to get answers and solve puzzles, so the Allegheny County Library Association's online game Questyinz will be back June 1 with all new quests for children in grades K-5 to undertake this summer. The game is designed not only to promote literacy but to motivate kids to want to read.
Kristin Rama, the Association's youth services coordinator, says the game sent 2,741 kids last year on an average of five quests, involving 10 questions each, and they spent 2.5 million minutes reading to get to the end of their searches. In 17 categories, from math or science and nature to "Around the World," "Pittsburgh" and "My Neighborhood," each quest's queries prompted the kids to seek answers by completing real-world activities, asking questions of adults and looking up items in libraries and on the Internet to earn points and badges.
With funding from the Grable and Benedum foundations, the Association has devised all new quests this year and focused on adding other new features to help kids be even more successful in maintaining and developing their learning skills over the summer. One new feature is an online quest journal in which the kids can bookmark their favorite questions and quests. "With this age group, they're not big note takers," says Rama, "so it's nice for them to print something out and take it into the library." Or just to have someplace of their own to keep and examine the materials online.
This year the Association's mascot, the Reading Creature, will also be able to send "RC Mail" emails to kids, telling them they did a great job or earned a special badge, allowing the libraries to interact with kids and keep them motivated. A new "Read to Me" button lets the younger kids ask for the game to be read aloud to them.
Kids can now also add their own questions to Questyinz for other kids to answer, although these questions are not part of any specific quests.
The Association is continuing to partner with the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium and the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre to develop the quests, which allow students to interact with these organizations. But Questyinz's developers are also hoping that schools see the impact of the program and how it might be used in their own classrooms. They believe that teachers will be interested in helping to devise quests that will promote skills that will help them in fall classrooms.
The overall goal, says Rama, is "to teach kids how to be lifelong learners and pursue what interests them. It models how you can go about pursuing your interests and go through your own quests in your mind, and it may even lead to kids being interested in certain careers."
Kids can start their game by picking up a Questyinz game card at their local library.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Kristin Rama, Allegheny County Library Association

A first for Pittsburgh: The Mom Con

Lawyer Natalie Kovacic attended a conference for women entrepreneurs last fall, hoping to improve her own business as a financial advisor and estate planner.
Then she realized the conference she really wanted to attend: one for moms.
That's why the Lawrenceville resident is organizing Pittsburgh's first Mom Con for May 23 in Greentree.
"There are so many conferences held for women and for women entrepreneurs," she says. "A lot of us work for ourselves or we work [outside the home] but they don't talk about the other issues: How do I figure out how to be a good mom for my kids but still pursue my own passions and my goals for my life?
"Being a mom who works, there are two things that I struggled with, that I thought other women would benefit from having a conference about," she adds. First came the question of how to balance work, husband and kids. Second, as a young mom, she felt isolated. She was just weeks beyond passing the Pennsylvania bar exam at 23 when she and her husband discovered she was pregnant with their son.
"I didn't know any moms in Pittsburgh who had kids, nor did I know of any of the resources that were available," she says. "I had to figure it out on my own."
The Mom Con intends to help with both issues. Among the sessions are:
  • Going Beyond “Balance”: Creating the Life You Want by national commentator and life coach Jenn Lee.
  • Resilience for Moms and Kids: Raising People We Can Respect and Admire Without Losing Our Minds by local family physician Deborah Gilboa, whose Ask Doctor G blog has been featured in Kidsburgh.
  • From Superwoman to SuperYOU! by Janelle Buchheit, author of Lunch Box Lessons: Snack Size Skills for Mind, Body and Soul.
  • Junk Foods & Moods for the Busy Mom by Lindsey Smith, known as the "food mood girl."
  • Owning Your Story by Jessica Strong, founder of Strong Trainings consultants, who often speaks about behavioral health.
In addition, there will be a parenting roundtable, networking and other events, including massages and color and image consultations during lunch.
The Mom Con will also connect attendees by geographic area, so neighboring moms can get together later.
"I would encourage moms to take the day for themselves and take time to regroup," Kovacic says. "I don't think enough moms do that."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Natalie Kovacic, The Mom Con

International travel dreams come true for kids via World Affairs Council

The World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh will once again be sending a dozen local high-school juniors to as many countries on immersive trips that are "hugely transformative – it's an experience that transforms their experience of the world," says Annie M. Prucey, the Council's vice president and director of education programs.
The Global Travel Scholarship Program, in its 10th year, chose student from among 74 teacher-nominated applicants students who best demonstrated a passion for travelling and learning about the world, as well as maturity, leadership ability, school achievement and a need for the program.
"We want to make this opportunity available to students who wouldn't have the opportunity to go abroad," says Prucey.
Students from Pittsburgh Perry, Carrick and Brashear high schools, Pittsburgh Sci Tech Academy, and Penn Hills, South Side Area, McKeesport, Cornell and Ringgold high schools, as well as Winchester Thurston and Sewickley Academy, were chosen for three- to five-week trips this summer to Spain, Japan, Argentina, Botswana, Korea, China, South Africa, Morocco, Tanzania, Peru, Costa Rica and Italy. The program is devised by The Experiment in International Living, a program of World Learning.
The World Affairs Council provides pre-departure orientation and leadership training as well as the scholarship, which pays for everything but incidental student costs, such as souvenirs.
Prucey labels the trips "a total immersion," in which students stay with a family in their country, often performing community service, taking language training and completing projects in the arts or the environment. The idea, she says, is for the travelers to become part of the community, learning how to interact with the rest of the world – how to cross ethnic, linguistic and other boundaries outside, and later inside, the United States. "They really become close and it creates a lifelong connection to that part of the world."
Traveling with two adult group leaders trained to facilitate the experience and other American high school kids, the Pittsburgh students also bond with peers from all over the country.
Prucey has seen program participants become more competitive for college entry and gain more appreciation for what they have in this country, because of the lack of resources they often encounter in other places.
"But they are surprised by how much we have in common with people from other countries," she says. "I have seen tremendous growth, a lot more independence and I have seen them set their sights higher."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Annie M. Prucey, World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh

Catching kids early may inspire climate change action, careers

Doctoral students in Carnegie Mellon University's department of engineering and public policy are giving back to the community – and aiming to teach climate change and inspire science careers – through SUCCEED, a free summer camp.
SUCCEED (SUmmer Center for Climate, Energy and Environmental Decision-making) is a five-day program at CMU for 9th grade students, this year run by doctoral students Paul Welle and Frauke Hoss.
"An army of Ph.D. students," says Welle, will give students a taste of their research pursuits, but the campers will also undertake many hands-on activities and field trips. They will visit coal-fired and nuclear power plants; the Carnegie Museum of Natural History; CMU's electric vehicle lab; and CMU's intelligent workspace, or "the office room of the future," as Welle labels it, with computers controlling the lights, temperature and other aspects to make it ultra-efficient.
They'll conduct a variety of experiments as well, including building wind turbines of different designs to see which is the most efficient and which might be a source of better energy systems in the future. "We don't want to bring them here just to give them more school," Welle says.
Beyond learning about climate change, he adds, "we hope the kids get to see what science is really like [and] to see what this type of science is. We really want to introduce them to what it would be like to have a science-related career. Hopefully they'll be excited. They're young enough where they're still making up their minds. Hopefully we'll be able to help them make a decision."
Applications, due June 1, are available here.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Paul Welle, SUCCEED

Youth leaders learn city government first hand, without getting elected

It's too late to enter the mayoral primaries, but kids can get inspired to pursue other civic service by enrolling in this summer's Youth Civic Leadership program created by the Office of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and part of the servePGH initiative.
"It's a good chance for youth interested in making a difference, particularly in the public sector," says Rebecca Delphia, chief service officer in the mayor's office. Kids participating in the free six-session program, which meets two times a week for three weeks, get to do everything from exploring the training facility for the city's emergency personnel to seeing the drinking water treatment process of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) and meeting officials of the city planning department to see what tools they use in their work. The program culminates with a service project that each kid designs and executes him or herself.
It has its origins in the city's Civic Leaders Academy for adults, created several years ago. As a result of this youth version, says Delphia, there has been a real interest among the participants in learning about city careers and eventually seeking a post in city government.
Last summer, one participant learned about mini-grants for neighborhood projects available through the city's Love Your Block program. So he mobilized the sports teams and others in his school – Pittsburgh Obama – and partnered with the Save Race Street Committee in Homewood to transform two vacant lots into green spaces at Race and Collier streets. Another participant used his service project to partner with Zone 6 police in the West End for a playground revitalization, while another partnered with PWSA on storm drain stenciling, warning potential dumpers that each sewer drains to a river. One program graduate even joined the mayor's youth council.
Applicants must be 14-18 years old -- either entering 9th grade this fall or graduating at the end of the current school year. Application deadline is June 3; apply here
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Rebecca Delphia, Office of the Mayor

All-new theater, plus new luminaria creation: it's all at International kids' fest

What better description can you give about a kids' show than this: "The performers are wildly talented and the show is a huge mess: It ends in a grand messy finale, totally safe but fun."
So says Pam Lieberman, who heads the Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival, about just one of the performances slated for this year's fest on May 15 through 19 at the University of Pittsburgh theaters and Schenley Plaza in Oakland.
None of the artists is a repeat from last year except Alan Parkinson and his Architects of Air, who will be building another luminarium. This time "Exxopolis" will be half a soccer field big and as tall as a three-story house, with colorful stained-glass effects throughout.
Among the artists this year from the U.S., Australia, Russia, Ireland and the UK are
Charlotte Blake Alston, a teller of interactive, participatory "African Pourquoi Tales," and the clowns who make up "Aga-Boom," who have performed with Cirque du Soleil, Ringling Brothers and the Moscow Circus and make all that mess mentioned above.

The "Dinosaur Petting Zoo" by Erth Visual & Physical Inc. of Australia in the Bellefield Hall Auditorium brings the Mesozoic alive with large-scale puppetry. "The dinosaurs look pretty darn real and they just come to life" and respond to individual encounters with audience members, says Lieberman. The UK's "Egg and Spoon," in Pitt's Studio Theatre, takes kids 5 and under through the seasons with "peek-a-boo puddles, fluffy snowflakes, blowing leaves, bursting cherry blossoms, a birdie egg that just might hatch and other splendiferous surprises," as the Festival describes it. Lieberman calls it a very intimate show and "a great way to introduce children to the theater. It is very lovely and creative and really sparks their interest."
For "The Girl Who Forgot to Sing Badly" from Ireland, in the Charity Randall Theatre, Louis Lovett tells the adventure of a girl who cannot sing but still sings loudly while the audience learns about "love, loss, [and] the reassurance of goats," in the Festival's description.
Also new this year are extended hours on Friday for after-school time until 6 p.m., and early evening performances, as well as free international film shorts created for 5- to 8-year-old kids, coming to Pittsburgh for the first time via the New York Children's Film Festival, plus free activities and performances in Schenley Plaza.
"The heart of the festival is the theater performances," says Lieberman. "The goal is to see as much theater as you can. It's the discussions that come out of it that are so valuable and spark creativity and imagination."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Pam Lieberman, Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival

Matchmaking between nonprofits and board hopefuls, and training, are Boardswork's missions

Nonprofits need training on how to find and use their boards wisely – and potential board members need training on how even to get started working on a board.
That's why BoardsWork!, a program of the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University, is collaborating with the Forbes Funds to bring together 10 nonprofit organizations and potential board members for customized training in the process.
"You hear all the time from executive directors and board chairs – they're always looking to grow their boards," says Lulu Orr, program director of BoardsWork! "It is really difficult to find board members who not only want to hold a board seat but have the knowledge for what is entailed in sitting on a board.
"It's a learning curve on both sides," she adds. "We hear a lot of frustration from people serving on boards who say they wish the board meetings were more effective, and how they use board members' skills and talents.
"In this region, there are approximately 6,000 nonprofits. If an average board is 10 people, 60,000 people are needed to fill all those seats. It's a great opportunity for the whole sector."
The nonprofits taking part will first meet to discuss their common issues, since many such organizations haven't had opportunities to learn how common their problems are. Board chairs, who work as volunteers, don't necessarily know other board chairs with whom to exchange information, she says.
Each nonprofit will then take part in a custom board retreat focusing on whatever issues are most pressing for the organization. Next, they'll be linked to one or two new board members from a pool of executives chosen by Boardswork! among more than 150 executives from such businesses such as Alcoa, American Eagle Outfitters, Bayer, Huntington Bank and PNC. They all received special Boardswork! training on financial oversight, fundraising and nonprofit planning.
"There's great interest in serving on boards," notes Orr. "But a lot of people don't know how to go about it. What's been wonderful to see is how many of these business people want to serve on a board but had no idea how to do it."
The chosen nonprofits are Allegheny Family Network, Blind and Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh, Mainstay Life Service, New Hazlett Center for the Performing Arts, Pulse, South Hills Interfaith Ministries, Northside Christian Health Center, Shady Lane School, Spina Bifida Association and Just Harvest Education Fund.
"We were looking for organizations who demonstrated that they really need more direction and more time to be spent with their boards," says Orr. "It's not that these organizations aren't functioning well … but we looked for, where are their holes? Where can they benefit from Boardswork!'s training, and who can benefit from coming together with the other nonprofits?"
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Lulu Orr, program director of BoardsWork!

You know you have a story to tell; learn how to write it

Creative Nonfiction magazine hosts only one conference in the country about learning to tell stories in the most effective way, and it's held right here in the birthplace of the publication.
"It's a great chance to hear some of the best writers in the region talk about the genre," says Anjali Sachdeva, the magazine's director of online education. "A lot of people don't even know what creative nonfiction is. If you're that kind of a person, it's a great way to learn about it and jump in."
"Creative nonfiction," of course, adds a personal perspective and voice to factual stories, taking them beyond daily newspaper-style accounts; it may even include elements of fiction and poetry.
The Best of Creative Nonfiction Conference, held May 25-26 in downtown's Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Arts Education Center, has talks and workshops that focus on writing memoirs, magazine articles, personal essays and other pieces, touching on the latest marketplaces, motivational tools and ways to perfect your work. The presenters include Sachdeva, who also teaches at the University of Pittsburgh; magazine founder Lee Gutkind; Carnegie Mellon University professor and memoirist Jane Bernstein; Theresa Brown, author of Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life, and Everything in Between; Creative Nonfiction Managing Editor Hattie Fletcher; and Leslie Rubinkowski, author of Impersonating Elvis.
The conference will include sessions on "Why True Stories Matter," "Overcoming Writer’s Block," "The Literary Landscape," "Why Memoir, Why Not?" and "Polishing Your Prose." Overall, the conference will focus on "how you create a narrative that makes a reader want to keep reading," Sachdeva says.
"There are a lot of interesting questions right now about how honest or how fictional you need to be," she notes. One camp among creative nonfiction writers is intensely devoted to fact, frowning on pieces that take the reader inside someone's head (other than the author's own cranium) or reconstruct scenes that no one alive could have witnessed. Other such writers live at nonfiction's borders with fiction, producing fictionalized memoirs, or combining poetry and personal essays.
What makes the best creative nonfiction? "It has a narrative that quickly grabs our attention … and that is surprising in some way, either because of the way it is written or the story it is telling," says Sachdeva. "The unifying factor is its basis in a good story."
Register here for the conference; using the code CNFPOP during registration will get you 10 percent off the registration cost through May 17.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Anjali Sachdeva, Creative Nonfiction

Youth Invasion at the Warhol kicks off Hive Days of Summer

Hoping to create a buzz about the new Hive Learning Network, the Sprout Fund is kicking off the Hive Days of Summer at the Warhol Youth Invasion on May 3.
The Hive Learning Network in Pittsburgh, launched recently, provides funding, connections and support for groups with ideas for creating new learning and creativity opportunities for teens. Hive Days of Summer represents a summer-long campaign of partnerships with local groups that already have such programs, while the Hive has already accepted its first round of proposals for new programs to roll out later this summer and fall.
At the Warhol Youth Invasion at the Warhol Museum, more than 350 teens will be presenting a night of art, performance, music, dance, fashion and hands-on learning and creativity. The activities include: silkscreen printing and collage in the Warhol Studio; performances by Hip Hop on L.O.C.K.; the Internet Petting Zoo created by Assemble and teen committee members; a fashion show featuring designs by youth participants; LED jewelry and textile design by Invent-abling; and a dance party featuring youth DJs.
Through August 3, the Hive Days of Summer will then coordinate more than 20 activities, such as camps and workshops, with the aim of making summer learning more mobile, digital, collaborative, creative and connected, says Ryan Coon, Sprout program officer. It is "a way to blanket our city with these events so that people get familiar with the Hive," he says, and "a way to look at summer learning programs in a different way."
Other partners for Hive Days of Summer include the Labs@CLP (Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh) where teens will be offered workshops and other activities centered on Web and media making, Hip Hop on L.O.C.K. for their summer music and leadership workshops, Pittsburgh International Children's Festival and others.
"We'll be holding the door open a bit for opportunities if people want to join the campaign," he adds. The Days of Summer will end this August with a Hive pop-up event organized by the Sprout Fund to bring together all the partner organizations and youth who have been involved so far.
"It's just the beginning," Coon says, with Sprout accepting funding requests in June and August. "This is a running start to kicking off the programming all year long."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Ryan Coon, The Sprout Fund

SiX Funding: Mixing Latino and African cultures for AfricAmericas

"This is a celebration of our common music, heritage and history, because there have been links throughout time," says Pamela Pennywell about the new, week-long AfricAmericas festival of culture and the arts at the intersection of Africa and Latin America, May 6-11. "We want to make it clear to everyone that we are connected in so many ways and we find it easiest to identify those links when we do it through the arts."
Pennywell is development and events manager for the Young Men and Women’s African Heritage Association (YMWAHA), which is collaborating with Coro Latinoamericano-Pittsburgh (COROLA), the Latino choir, to offer film screenings, art exhibitions and workshops in Oakland and the Northside.
The event is supported in part by the Social Innovation Exchange (SiX), an initiative of The Pittsburgh Foundation led by Pop City and The Sprout Fund, after a SiX gathering last October resulted in Sprout's Fostering Multicultural Collaboration Initiatives to fund projects that create new joint community programs between diverse cultural groups.
Kenya Dworkin, executive director of COROLA, is Africamericas' principle organizer. She points out that Latinos are the fastest growing minority in America, but African Americans are still the largest minority. "These are communities who don't understand each other and are suspicious of each other," Dworkin says. For one, African Americans are applying U.S. racial categories to Latinos that Latinos don't relate to. But behind the confusion are cultural associations that connect the two groups in many ways. "The bridges we're building are through the culture and the arts," she says.
In fact, the more Pennywell learned about the links between the cultures, and the wide diversity among Latinos, she says, the more she "thought it was exciting and something I wanted to bring back to our youth.
"Our young people need to clearly understand the kinds of advantages they have here," she adds, "because it's not something everyone has." Indeed, AfricAmericas will have a special emphasis on the state of Africans in Cuba, opening with “Crossing Havana,” a photography exhibit exploring black life in Havana. So-called "Afro-Cubans," Pennywell says, "are going through what we went through 100 years ago with 'mulattos': if you have one drop of African blood in you …" you are subject to prejudice in housing, employment and education.
Several of the films document what happened to members of the Independent Party of Color in Cuba 100 years ago, or follow Cuban residents to illustrate their challenges. Others draw a portrait of English-speaking West African immigrants in Cuba and the African influences on two Latin American musical genres. There will be four workshops on the steel pan drum, African-Latin dance, African-Latin percussion and African-Cuban arts, music and dance (in Spanish). A fifth workshop features a panel from the international literary arts organization City of Asylum on civil rights in Cuba.
AfricAmericas is also supported by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Pennsylvania Council on the Humanities and many departments at the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and Robert Morris University. The events, held at YMWAHA, the University Center at CMU, the Frick Fine Arts Building auditorium at Pitt and at City of Asylum, are all free, but reservations are required for the latter event on May 8 and the workshops on May 11.
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Pamela Pennywell, YMWAHA; Kenya Dworkin, COROLA; Sandra Hartkopf, Sprout

Nonprofit Summit: all new presenters, always a winner for local nonprofit execs

In the nonprofit world, says Forbes Funds President Kate Dewey, "things are changing so quickly, so how do you begin to manage through the creation of different scenarios so you can be nimble and proactive?"
That's why Forbes is one of two hosting organizations for the May 23rd Nonprofit Summit, along with the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership. The biennial event, at the Wyndham Grand Hotel, usually attracts more than 1,000 local executive directors, senior managers and board members from small and large nonprofits that deal with human services, the arts and community development. Keynote speaker this year on the topic of "Sustainability: Aligning Around a Viable Business Model" will be Jeanne Bell, CEO of CompassPoint Nonprofit Services in San Francisco.
One of the major themes of the Summit this year, says Dewey, will be "thinking about the disruptive – and I don't mean this as a negative – forces in the environment that will impact nonprofits in the next few years and how they will build cultures and strategies to manage that change. It's really thinking about what is new for the organization, how you set the filter for your organization and decide what's noise and what's important."
Workshop sessions will also address ongoing issues in the nonprofit world, including leadership development, funding trends, technology, community building, impact measurement and financial management.
All the presenters are new this year, and "they are all nationally recognized leaders and resources," Dewey says.
The luncheon will feature two awards; the first, to John Lovelace, recognizes him as an individual who exemplifies community leadership. Lovelace has been president of the nonprofit managed care organization UPMC for You since 2007. It offers coverage to eligible Medical Assistance and Medicare Advantage Special Needs recipients in 40 Pennsylvania counties.
"He has spent his whole life working to make the community better," says Dewey, including service on many boards. "People come to him to learn about where funding is headed." She also praises "all the work he does off the clock, that he doesn't have to do, but he does."
In addition that afternoon the Wishart Award for Nonprofit Excellence will be given to one nonprofit exemplifying best practices and management excellence. The winner will be announced among the three finalists: Jewish Family and Children's Services, Family Links and Community Human Services.
Overall, says Dewey, the Summit represents "an opportunity for organizations to connect with one another and to hear about the emerging thinking in the field."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Kate Dewey, Forbes Funds

Screenwriting contest adds to high-school short fiction, poetry competition from Carnegie Library

Leah Durand is excited about what she'll be able to read in this year's Ralph Munn Creative Writing Contest for grades 9 through 12 at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
"Last year there were these amazing short stories that were well developed," says Durand, the contest chair who works at the Library's downtown branch. "The scenes were well developed and the characters were well developed, and you were really wondering what would happen next."
And, she adds, "What might this person come up with next year?"
May 1 is the deadline for entries in this anonymously judged competition, which is in its fifth year and was named for the library system’s director from 1928 through 1964. The categories this year are short prose, poetry and screenwriting; first prize in each category is $250 and second is $100. Entrants will be invited to a red carpet event on Aug 1, at which the winners in each category will be announced. Their work and selected works of other contestants will be published in the 2013 Ralph Munn Creative Writing Anthology, which will be given to the published teens and placed in all area libraries.
Some of the rules are new this year, says Durand. Entrants can submit only one work per category this year – two were allowed last year – and the teens themselves must submit their work. Previously, teachers could enter for their students.
Screenwriting is a new category this year, replacing nonfiction and graphic novels, which had been contest categories in previous years. The libraries are still offering a few writing workshops in April to help teens prepare for the contest.
Durand says she is happy if this contest introduces them to the process of writing: "It's just nice to read all the entries and see kids excited about writing. The hope is that they will work on their writing skills and that they're being supported."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Leah Durand, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

'Waterplay' at Children's Museum gets fun revamp, keeps serious purpose

Museum exhibits have a life expectancy of five to 10 years, says Anne Fullenkamp, associate director of museum experiences at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, and their Waterplay exhibit was "well-loved" enough to warrant a revamp. A new Waterplay opens on April 27 with nearly 20 fresh hands-on components.
"We looked at this as an opportunity to rethink the concept of the exhibit," Fullenkamp explains.
"We wanted people to be aware of how much water they use. Once you use your water it's gone. It's not just this magic stuff that comes out of the faucet."
Making that concept clear for kids, she adds, is particularly important here, since Pittsburgh seems to be surrounded by water's endless flow.
When Waterplay was originally installed with the museum's expansion in 2004, the room contained standing basins of water in the center. Now kids will have to work to get the water into a waterwheel that feeds the rest of the room's exhibits. They'll need to use foot or hand pumps as well as buckets to get the water elsewhere in the room.
"It is a big change from what people are used to," Fullenkamp says. "But we've tried to create different zones where people really can get wet, and other options where they can do quieter activities" – and drier ones.
The waterwheel looks like wheels that can be seen in many an old farm or pond, but the water actually flows out of its central hub and, when kids pump it, the water returns there. Then it will flow into the beginning of the channel system that goes around the room, in which kids can float items, and ends at the spot where kids can build dams.
Other parts of the new exhibit will foster additional experimentation. A five-foot diameter table with shaved ice will encourage kids to mold the frozen water into sculptures and see how the LED lights embedded in the table pass through water in this form. A water vortex, resembling a drain, will constantly flow in a two-foot tall clear cylinder, into which kids can place objects to see how the objects react; they can also plug the bottom of the vortex to see how the water accumulates. A water wall, six feet long and four feet high, will have moveable magnets impeding the otherwise constant flow in different ways.
In revising the Waterplay exhibit, the museum also wanted to make the room more changeable, including the artwork inside of it. Waterplay will now feature the Rain Meander by Pennsylvania artist Stacy Levy. It is a 14-foot long snake-like shallow trough, eight feet off the ground and eight inches in diameter, with a hole every two inches to make it rain beneath. While this is a permanent part of the exhibit, other art will change throughout the year. The first such display will be 19 glass and ceramic insects by Joan Danzinger, viewable until November. From one to six feet long, they will be scattered along the Waterplay room's 16-foot high walls.
"We really hope that all of the kids will look at water differently and will appreciate how water is used," Fullenkamp says. "We're creating an experience where kids can play, but we really want to start conversations  … about how important water is in our lives. We're really excited to ask the visitors to be the active participants, the instigators, of a lot of the exhibits."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Anne Fullenkamp, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh

What do kids bring to the table for solving childhood hunger?

Holly McGraw-Turkovic has spent April visiting local schools to teach kids about childhood hunger. As director of youth programs at Pittsburgh Cares, she has been using the national program called What Will You Bring to the Table? to teach them about the food problems they can see around them and those that may be invisible.
"They learn that when people depend on food banks they don't get the things we take for granted," she says. She has already taken the program to South Allegheny Middle School, Woodland Hills Junior High and West Mifflin Area Middle School, and is slated to bring it next to Propel Braddock Hills High School and Academy Charter School.
Participating kids experience educational games that illustrate how they can their time, talents and money toward the elimination of this problem. Some of the activities are designed to create empathy and illustrate the unequal distribution of wealth in the world, such as one in which one group is given a large bowl overflowing with snacks, another group is given just enough snacks for each person to enjoy a single choice and a third group is not given enough even for that.
The kids also hear guest speakers from the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, then construct and paint a specially provided picnic table that will serve as a permanent location for, and reminder of, the school's anti-hunger project -- the last step in the program. One group's project is a "Birthday in a bag" drive, creating food-bank packages that contain cake mix and other supplies to help people celebrate family members' special occasions. Another group created "Pie a teacher to feed a child": For the donation of a canned good or a dollar, kids in their school will get to hit a teacher with a pie. Another school's "Can the principal" aims to fill their principal's office with canned goods to donate to their local food pantry, while a fourth group has simply set their collection goal at 1,000 pounds of food for a food bank.
McGraw-Turkovic says the program has been effective in bringing the issue of childhood hunger to the fore for these school children. "The kids describe experiences with friends and neighbors who are experiencing hunger," she says, "so they are definitely taking it personally and they are definitely taking it seriously."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Holly McGraw-Turkovic, Pittsburgh Cares

Athena Award nominations kickoff with panel on advancing women's leadership

"We're really excited about leveraging the Athena Awards to elevate the discussion of women and leadership in our region," says Beth Marcello, chair of the event's host committee and director of women’s business development at PNC.
The Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Award, to be given on Sept. 30 this year, recognizes not only established women who are leaders, but through the ATHENA Young Professional Award honors an emerging leader age 35 or younger. While it's true that more American CEOS are female than ever, just 18 women – less than four percent – head Fortune 500 companies. So instead of simply calling for nominations, as Athena has done in the past, organizers are holding a special April 25 panel discussion and breakfast to kick off the nominating process this year, which ends June 28.
"Women in Leadership: The Male Point of View" features Robert Krizner (managing partner at KPMG), Daniel Roderick (president and CEO of Westinghouse Electric Company) and John Barbour (CEO, managing director and chairman of the board of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney). Tickets may be purchased for $25 here before April 22. The panel will be moderated by Bill Flanagan, Allegheny Conference executive vice president for corporate relations and host of "Our Region's Business" on WPXI.
"We wanted a strong diversity in terms of age and experience and men who have opinions and a story to share," says Marcello of the panelists. "These are all companies that are advancing women's leadership. These men are leaders in our community. Other leaders in the community in general value what they say." Thus, participants will have the chance for "a real program that explores women's leadership in our region, to talk about their perspectives, what their companies are doing and what their challenges are for our region."

To those who question why a male perspective is needed -- don't men always chime in, even if no one asks them? -- "hopefully we're going to get the views of the progressive men," Marcello says. "From a corporate perspective, women are only going to advance when men and women work together.
"We're trying to reach as many people as possible to stimulate the discussion and to get people thinking about the women in leadership in their companies who should be nominated for an Athena Award," she adds. "Hopefully the pool of our Athena nominees will really reflect the quality of who we have here."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Beth Marcello, The Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Award

How do we reach fathers for greater school, home involvement?

What began for Anwan Wesley with the creation of Fatherhood magazine in Pittsburgh in 2006 for young and expecting urban fathers has evolved into a nonprofit called the Street Ministry Institute, reaching an increasing number of fathers and their kids in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas.
"We're trying to find innovative ways to get these men involved and stay involved," says Wesley, of East Liberty. "There are stereotypes of how fathers should be, and some of the men shy away from them, thinking it will make them look weak. A lot of these guys were in need of encouragement. That's what the magazine was always for -- to open people up."
Many of Wesley's Institute efforts use sports as the both the draw and the model for the father/son relationship. "When the men see their kids excelling at athletics, they want to be a part of it," he says. "That's a bridge they can cross. Then we try to transfer that into the schools."
Fathers and sons can join in his Steel City Thunder basketball teams for 3rd and 4th graders, 5th and 6th graders and 7th and 8th graders, as well as NFL Youth Flag Football for 2nd-12th grades and a baseball program as well. The fathers and team coaches also get involved in their children's school at the same time -- as a school coach should, he says.
Club D.A.D. (Doing it All Day) in the schools uses sports to encourage academic achievement. "My big thing is being accountable for what you learn -- because when game day comes you're going to have to [use] it," Wesley says.

"The same accountability we transfer over to schools," with fathers visiting classrooms or participating in parent-teacher conferences. "The presence of the father in the classroom is going to make the difference," because he can act as a kind of classroom coach. "If I show up in school and expect you to be doing this and this and you're not doing it, there are going to be consequences. Kids respond like they do on the basketball court -- but at the end of the day, they see their value rise, because their teachers are sending home good reports."
The Institute is also working with Homewood Renaissance Association on a sports-themed STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program, teaching sports-themed STEM academics at the African American Music Institute and the YMCA in Homewood. "We're trying to open our kids' eyes to other opportunities around sports," he explains, such as being a sports lawyer, doctor, trainer or agent.
The Institute also has an arts initiative and donates socks each December to a nursing home in Homewood. On Father's Day, June 16, it will hold its largest annual program, a Father's Day Cookout at Mellon for the seventh year.
"There are other programs we will unveil in the coming months to rebuild the relationship between the child and the father," Wesley says. "We can't be everything to the kids if the parents are acting [badly]. There's a lot of broken homes. The only way to fix that is to get to the common ground -- the kid and his best interest."
He also hopes the cookout will be the beginning of his own push against violence in the community. "There's been too much gun violence," he says. "The violence [prevention], it starts with us. If we're not there, that's when violence and chaos consume the family. If you're quiet, it's like you're being held hostage by your own people."
In the end, it's Wesley's three sons who keep him dedicated to this cause, he says. "I see a lot of potential in them. I know their potential won't be realized if I don't do what I've got to do and make a path for them. Knowing that they don't know how great they are makes me go harder.
"I've got a daughter on the way," he adds, "and I believe the Lord is going to take me to another level."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Anwan Wesley, Street Ministry Institute

Paddle Without Pollution: Combining water fun and water cleanup

David Rohm was kayaking with his wife Melissa on the Monongahela River two years ago, as they'd done for a dozen years, when they finished their trip at the South Side boat launch at the end of 18th Street. David glanced at the water.
"Oh my God, this is like a third-world country," he recalls saying as he noticed all the debris in the river there.
"We should do a cleanup here," Melissa replied.
Several weeks later, David says, he simply announced to Melissa: "'We're a new volunteer organization called Paddle Without Pollution and we're going to have a bunch of volunteers.' And that's how we were born. I just wanted to do more and give back."
Now Paddle Without Pollution -- he's director of special operations, she's the executive director -- targets rivers, lakes, streams, creeks, wetlands, even oceans, from here to the Atlantic Coast and up to Erie for cleanup days. From April through September, they have events scheduled that involve water excursions and cleanup projects everywhere from Chartiers Creek and Pittsburgh's three rivers to Slippery Rock Creek, the Kiski River in Leechburg, Ten Mile Creek in Marianna and the Erie Bluffs and Presque Isle State Parks.
"We have these quality, quality people who work all day and have fun doing it," David says. "Our vision is to combine a fun activity" with their central mission of aiding the environment. The group's specialty is using their watercraft to gain access to the shallows and haul the debris ashore -- from 80- to 90-pound truck tires to small material that accumulates around trees -- causing very little environmental impact of their own in the process.
"Most of the stuff is coming from cars" with access to remote waterside areas, he notes. "It's not all urban areas or all remote rural areas. It's pretty much across the board."
The group tries to recycle almost everything it removes; local municipalities seem happy to haul away the debris, he says, while several tire companies and scrap yards pitch in as well. Sometimes the group even leaves part of their volunteer crew on land to do the sorting.
"I find a lot of clothing, underwear and bras," he says. "I don't know where they come from." Perhaps the group's most interesting find was a three-foot alligator on Chartiers Creek. The creature was a bit out of its element in the chilly waters and somewhat dormant when picked up, but not so dormant after David warmed him in a boat. The Fish and Boat Commission removed the gator to a safer place.
The group also undertakes summer and after-school youth paddling education as well as pollution prevention and education programs. Next year, they plan to branch west to the Sandusky and Cleveland areas in Ohio for cleanups. Eventually, he says, they hope to go national.
"We're inspired by what happens afterwards, when the water channel is clear," he says. "If you have the skills, why wouldn't you do something to help?"
Do Good:
Looking for even more ways to clean area waters? Find other resources here at Pittsburgh Green Story.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: David Rohm, Paddle Without Pollution

Cooking School heats up as healthy school cafeteria effort

When famed chef Jamie Oliver came to Pittsburgh last fall to start his 10,000 Tables program, aimed at getting more families to enjoy the benefits of home-cooked, television-free meals, Bobby Fry, one of the creators of Bar Marco in the Strip, asked him what local business owners and chefs could do.
"Your role is to inspire and empower people," Oliver answered, as Fry recalls.
"I likened it to the analogy of young musicians inspired by rock stars and taught by their music teachers," Fry says. So he decided: "Somebody in the community had to be supporting schools and school cafeterias."
Fry gathered other local organizations and teamed with Kelsey Weisgerber, food service director at the Environmental Charter School, to start the Cooking School movement. Their goals: "Find a group of kids, give them the tools, knowledge and experience and let them have higher standards for food, and that will change the system" toward healthier school lunches.
The group first approached Pittsburgh Obama 6-12. Fry knew the school had its own kitchen, but he found a dormant home-economics classroom. The group cleaned it, bought each student his or her own carving knife, sharpener and cutting board and brought in 120 cookbooks from Bar Marco's kitchen for them to choose among.
Lots of kids picked breakfast cookbooks, Fry says. "We realized breakfast is a problem for lots of these kids," who have to leave home too early to get it and pass nowhere along the way even worth shopping for breakfast foods.
Fry has been inspired by the level of interest in healthy eating that he found at the school. "I thought I'd have to go in and get the kids excited about cooking. Same with the administration. They were already really on board. Everybody is ready to change school lunches."
"We've got to get them skills here that will get them a job," he adds about the Cooking School effort. "For working in a professional kitchen, all you need to start are the proper cutting skills" -- but those are the hardest skills to master, too.
Now the Cooking School teaches at the Obama school every Tuesday afternoon and brings a new chef every week. The program is being aided by Andrew T. Stephen, assistant professor of business administration and Katz Fellow in Marketing in Pitt's Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, whose MBA students are preparing a video promoting it. Their early work is viewable here. Kids from other schools can submit proposals for the Cooking School to teach elsewhere. If applicant schools don't have a kitchen, perhaps the program will try to raise money to install one, Fry says.
You can help the Cooking School raise funds for cooking utensils and local produce through crowdrise and a current Facebook fundraiser.
Do Good:
Looking for additional ways to find out about local, healthier eating and bring the movement to your community. Check out the programs of Farm to Table Pittsburgh.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Bobby Fry, The Cooking School

Six poets, one van, many miles, perhaps even some rhyming …

You could think of Line Assembly as a band without roadies, amps or indeed music -- just lyrics. Or lyricism.
Member Zachary Harris, for one, hopes the group won't have to sleep in the van.
Line Assembly is six former Carnegie Mellon University classmates who are about to spent July touring the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and New England, offering poetry readings and poetry programs to libraries, reading series and other spots that will have them. Harris's fellow student Ben Pelhan started the group.
"We had all attended Carnegie Mellon together and started writing together," from 2005-2007, says Harris, who now teaches poetry at the Pittsburgh School for the Creative and Performing Arts 6-12 (CAPA) downtown. "We all sort of scattered everywhere, and Ben wanted to bring us all back together because it seemed to work well when we were undergraduates."
So the poetry tour evolved, with the goal of "supporting poetry and wanting people to engage with poetry."
They called themselves the "Pittsburghists" at first but, Harris says, "we were looking for a name that would signify not only what we were trying to do, but … with many of our bookings through the rust belt area, we were casting about for names that reflected Pittsburgh." So they decided on a reversal of "assembly line":  "something that would reflect where we're going and where we came from."
"We're just going to be this roving poetry vehicle, going from town to town, taking engagements," he muses. "Between the six of us, we have experience with everyone from little kids to old people. The idea is to be responsive to what the libraries need." Concurrently, the group will book venues to read from their own works, "trying to move some books and build an audience."
Besides conducting workshops with a variety of writing exercises, they will try to publicize the need for public arts education funding and the formation of arts communities by performing “People Against Poetry,” acting out the roles of anti-poetry advocates.??
So what's the demand for poetry out there? "One of the things we're trying to illustrate is that there is a desire for poetry programming, and that people have a desire for poetry in their lives," he says. "We're confident that this exists, and we're also counting on the project to reveal it."
Since their Kickstarter campaign began, they've gotten "pretty overwhelming and kind of surprising" responses from people and organizations who want to book them, he adds, from Lancaster, Penn., to New York City.
The other members of the group are Adam Atkinson, Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, Anne Marie Rooney and S.E. Smith.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Zacchary Harris, Line Assembly

Family House Gifting Gala supports Family Assistance Fund's expanding needs

Lisa Kahle, development coordinator for Family House, hopes April 13's Gifting Gala "ensures that we never have to turn any guests away due to their inability to pay."
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Family House, which houses patients and their families receiving local medical treatment when they need, but can't afford, to pay for hotels during a planned medical treatment or emergency. The Gifting Gala will benefit the organization's Family Assistance Fund, which aids families with the cost of stays.
"With the recession, the need more than tripled over the past four years, and this is our only fundraiser dedicated to the Family Assistance Fund," Kahle says. "We hope to raise $120,000."
About 5,000 of the 14,000 families using Family House's four locations each year require help from the Family Assistance Fund. The fund also provides a meal program at Family Houses, through which families can receive staple items or gift cards for grocery shopping or eating in restaurants. In addition, Family House offers transportation to and from hospitals and connections to local medical providers who offer their services to guests, including Pitt's School of Dental Medicine clinic.
"A lot of our guests arrive unexpectedly in the middle of the night, coming from the hospitals," Kahle explains. "Increasingly, we're seeing a lot more trauma patients coming from Ohio and West Virginia. They're showing up without any more clothing. Some of them didn't get a chance to get their glasses from home."
The black-tie Gala -- with 320 people expected for cocktails, dinner and entertainment by the Studio-E Band and WTAE's Michelle Wright emceeing -- is the kickoff event for anniversary programming that runs all year.
"As long as the gala seems to keep growing, hopefully that will help the Family House to be prepared," concludes Kahle.
Sponsored by UPMC and UPMC Health Plan, the Gifting Gala is co-chaired by Laura and D.J. Miller and Holly and Jared Hoff. Reservations are available here.
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Lisa Kahle, Family House and Laura Miller, UPMC Health Plan

NYC cancer-prevention program relocates HQ to Pittsburgh

As a medical student in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1997, Miriam Cremer traveled to Madison's sister city, a small town in El Salvador, as part of her education. There, Cremer met a woman in her late 20s who soon died of cervical cancer. Not only was there no cervical-cancer treatment available for this woman in El Salvador, there were no PAP smears to test any other women and no HPV vaccinations to prevent the disease.
"They didn't have anything available," she recalls. "It's the leading cancer killer of women in El Salvador. I was appalled that women could die of this very treatable disease."
In fact, it's the fourth leading cause of mortality for women aged 15-64 in El Salvador; worldwide, a woman dies of cervical cancer every two minutes and it's the top cause of cancer deaths in the developing world.
In the U.S., doctors can detect the disease up to two decades early by spotting pre-cancerous lesions, and it has an effective treatment. The HPV vaccine is also preventing new cases here.
Even if PAP smears were available in El Salvador, their effectiveness would depend on the ability of the women to be seen multiple times by caregivers to take the test, receive the results and follow up with needed treatments. And HPV vaccines are too costly.
So when Miriam Cremer began practicing medicine in New York City, she founded Basic Health International (BHI), which has been working with the Ministry of Health in El Salvador since 2003 to create a countrywide cervical-cancer program that will screen and treat 30,000 women in three years. In the past seven years, BHI has trained more than 100 clinicians in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Haiti, providing free screenings to almost 8,000 women.
After becoming an assistant professor in the Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC's department of obstetrics/gynecology, Cremer moved BHI here. "I was very young and naïve in my career when I started all this," she says. "It's been my life's cause."
At first, BHI trained El Salvadoran health-care providers to administer a low-cost cervical cancer test involving vinegar to detect symptoms internally, then to provide an inexpensive treatment. But that PAP alternative was creating too many false positive test results and causing overtreatment.
Now a new low-cost HPV screening method is available, so for the last year and a half BHI has focused on implementing this screening method.
Cremer also takes medical students on her trips to El Salvador. Hiking out to villages to screen women, the students found that "they're doing their exams on people's beds and on tables in schools." So they designed and constructed a portable exam bed that can be folded and worn as a backpack. At first, they used bicycle tires, but now they have created a sturdier model and plan to mass produce them.
Cremer, of Pt. Breeze, says her organization is always looking for volunteers and fundraising help (email here.) Look for a new documentary about BHI in May on Al Jazeera-English.
Do Good:
Looking for an additional way to help women's health? Let them know about Be Well Pittsburgh, a resource for women without insurance.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Miriam Cremer, Basic Health International

Don't debate -- see the mayoral candidates do it and decide for yourself

Spent the last few weeks hearing about "Lamb" and "Wheatley" and figured people were talking about food? Believe "Peduto" is just a sound that makes "Boy Mayor" Luke Ravenstahl laugh in Post-Gazette editorial cartoons?

Then at least one of these Democratic mayoral candidate debates and forums is designed just for you. Here's a handy guide to events involving Jake Wheatley, Bill Peduto, A.J. Richardson and Jack Wagner:
  • April 6: A debate for mayoral and Pittsburgh School Board District 1 candidates will take place at Pittsburgh Obama school (515 North Highland Avenue, East Liberty) at 1 p.m. The event is presented by the African American Leadership Association and seven other groups. The AALA is inviting people to "like" them on Facebook or follow their Twitter account (@AALApgh, #race4pgh) and post questions to either source for use during the free debate.

  • April 10: The Executive Women's Council of Greater Pittsburgh will hold a mayoral forum on "political issues relating to women business owners and executives, as well as issues affecting the economic stability of our region." Rebecca Harris, director of Chatham University's Center for Women's Entrepreneurship, is moderating the event, which will be held 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the River's Club, One Oxford Center, downtown. The cost is $40 for Council members and $65 for others. See their website for details. 

  • April 17: South Side Community Council will hold their free "Mayoral Q&A" beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Brashear Association, 2005 Sarah Street.
  • April 18: Billed as "an in-depth conversation … about the status of women in Pittsburgh and [candidates'] plans to support and improve issues that affect women in our community," this free event is sponsored by Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates & PAC. It will be held 7-9 p.m. in the Welker Room of James Laughlin Music Hall at Chatham University.
  • April 30: Pittsburgh Social Exchange will host their debate 6-9 p.m. at the Renaissance Hotel, downtown, moderated by Bill Flanagan, executive vice president and chief public affairs officer for The Allegheny Conference on Community Development. The evening includes a reception afterwards. Tickets are $10 for members and $40 for non-members (click here). 
  • May 8: The Design Center is hosting a free mayoral candidates' forum on design, planning and public policy 6-7:30 pm, followed by a reception, at Point Park University's GRW Auditorium (414 Wood Street, downtown). It will be moderated by Diana A. Bucco, vice president of the Buhl Foundation. RSVP to 412-281-0995 or email here.
Writer: Marty Levine

Assemble for a party (and learn about biodiversity while you're at it)

Just as with any party, you're invited to drop by or stay for the entire Biodiversity Learning Party at Assemble in Garfield on April 10, 4:30-7:30 p.m.
Unlike most parties, however, you'll likely come away with less gossip but more brain cells, and it's an evening for all ages.
"It's almost like a science fair," says Assemble founder Nina Marie Barbuto, "where we have different experts presenting their expertise and offering hands-on activities."
These experts include everyone from college students talking about their academic concentrations to representatives of local companies and "straight-up geeks whose expertise has nothing to do with their jobs," Barbuto says. The biodiversity party will feature presenters from the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Tree Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh biology department. Also manning and womanning tables at the event will be reps from Digital Dream Labs, which teaches computer programming to children by using play to link physical and digital spaces, and Tara Rockaway and Heather Mallak, whose Digital Salad mixes art, tech, and education about farming to create educational experiences that are both interactive and edible.
Learning party themes this year have been mapping and music/sound, and future ones will be centered on robots and energy.
"It's our goal to provide access to knowledge" -- and to make it "attainable and digestible," Barbuto says. "It should be real fun, and we always have free healthy snacks."
Her hopes for the party, she says, "start with just having the word 'biodiversity' as part of your vocabulary and seeing how this affects the world around you." Ideally, she adds, the younger attendees will emerge thinking, "I'm interested in nutrition but I never knew this had to do with biodiversity," or "Maybe I can be a scientist."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Nina Marie Barbuto, Assemble

"Small Talks," big substance for public at children's museum conference

The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh is hosting 1,000 international visitors for a kids' museum conference April 30-May 2, but their program presents a great opportunity for educators and other Pittsburghers to hear what museum officials are calling "a day of inspiration and innovation, peppered with artists, musicians and big thinkers."
The conference, InterActivity 2013: Reimagining Children's Museums, at the Wyndham Grand Hotel downtown, starts with a day of "Small Talks," 18-minute presentations from performers and pioneers in the education and electronic media fields that "is going to be a really fast-paced day … to spark ideas and make meaningful conversations about what these artists and thought leaders are doing," says Jessica Bowser, lead liaison for the Museum's host committee.
Among the day's speakers will be Frans Johansson, author of The Medici Effect, which posits that most of the big ideas are already out there, and it's how you combine them that matters, plus The Click Moment, about taking advantage of opportunities in the business world. On the list of local presenters is Luis von Ahn, the crowdsourcing expert who invented the CAPTCHA, which prevents a lot of spam today. "He also is trying to help figure out how big groups of people can narrow down their ideas," says Bowser.
Also appearing will be Vanessa German of Homewood's Love Front Porch neighborhood art project; Rory Cooper, Distinguished Professor and scientist at the University of Pittsburgh and co-director of the Quality of Life Technology Center Testbed Systems, who works to improve assistive technologies for those with disabilities; Maria Rosario Jackson, senior advisor to the Arts and Culture Program at The Kresge Foundation; Shane J. Lopez, the world’s leading researcher on hope and author of Making Hope Happen; and more.
Through April 10, local educators can purchase a ticket to the day of "Small Talks" for nearly half price, or purchase the day of more traditional conference sessions on May 1 at a discount as well, and receive credit hours for that latter date. Those purchasing one-day tickets can also add a ticket to hear keynote speaker Eric Carle, author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other books.
The day of "Small Talks" may also be purchased individually by other members of the public.
"It will be very fun to host our peers from across the country and the world," says Bowser of the conference. Children's Museum of Pittsburgh officials will be particularly interested to see how other museums have adapted their innovative MakeShop space, which has increased museum visitor numbers and how long they stay.
"One of the questions we're trying to answer is, what will it be like to experience a children's museum in the [rest of] the 21st century?" Bowser says. "Is there going to be more virtual experiences wth technology? We need to make sure we're building an environment that is fun and educational and culturally stimulating."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jessica Bowser, Children's Museum of Pittsburgh

If your kid is sick of (or at) school, it may just be the building

"Asthma hospitalizations triple when schools start up again in the fall," reports Andrew Ellsworth of the new Healthy Schools Collaboration; that's partly due to paints, sealants, duct work and other maintenance performed over the summer and still leaking fumes and other materials into the air.
"If we can do something to minimize that impact and not see that bump in the fall," says Ellsworth, the Collaboration will be doing its job.
The program, funded by The Heinz Endowments, will help school districts institute new cleaning and maintenance practices, teaming and training teachers, staff, kids and the community to become educated on the issue and providing some materials and expert advice.
The pilot effort targets the McKeesport Area and Allegheny Valley school districts. "We wanted to serve districts that had fewer resources," Ellsworth explains. "They are the ones who tend to have more challenges with environmental health issues," thanks to a shrinking student population and tax base that does not allow for some of the needed building renovation and maintenance to avoid health risks like moisture and mold.
McKeesport, for instance, as a former mill town was a "booming metropolis, in a sense, prior to the collapse of the steel industry," he says, so the city has to manage lots of infrastructure. Allegheny Valley encompasses Springdale and Cheswick, which still have major manufacturing. "They are home to a number of facilities, including a coal-fired power plant that is literally next to the high school … and another power plant up the river," Ellsworth point out. "And those are a factor for student health issues."
Healthy Schools Collaboration will help each district identify what can be done with a low investment, such as:
  • Substituting green housekeeping products for the myriad chemical floor cleaners, hand soaps and disinfectants schools employ. "They can have a large impact, because there is such a large quantity of them applied daily," he says.
  • Creating better chemical maintenance to prevent potential spills and to keep students from getting access to the supplies.
  • Reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides in the building and substituting less toxic substances.
  • Preventing vehicle exhaust from coming into school buildings and reducing the idling of diesel buses outside the school as children exit schools at the end of the day.
All of this may have a negligible increase in initial costs for a district but will reduce the amount of supplies they need to buy, those shrinking their costs overall.
The initial phase of the Collaboration will last through the end of this school year. "We're really excited that these schools have stepped forward to tackle these issues," concludes Ellsworth. "We want them to be able to implement policies for how they're going to create a safer and healthier environment."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Andrew Ellsworth of the new Healthy Schools Collaboration

Hey kids: 'It's an Antiques Roadshow for your own ideas and inventions'

If your kids want to know what their invention (or just their idea) could become, or want to know how to invent something, get ideas how to proceed or what materials to try -- the April 6 Invention Convention from WQED is their ticket. And it's free.
WQED is teaming with Inventionland in Blawnox and WGBH in Boston's Design Squad Nation program to create what QED Executive Director of Educational Partnerships Jennifer Stancil calls "a new gem in Pittsburgh.
"Kids in fifth through eighth grades will have a day where they will be able to bring in an invention for one of Inventionland's team to comment on and coach them on what that could become," she adds. "It's an Antiques Roadshow for their own ideas and inventions. If they don't bring inventions there will be all kinds of fun things to play with and do." Held at Inventionland, the day will feature invention stations, invention challenges and displays that demonstrate to kids how the world has been changed by inventions.
Whether kids want to invent a new game, sport, toy or helpful object, the Invention Convention website contains resources to help them along, including a questionnaire ("What is it that I really want to make?") and a challenges to help them use found objects for inventions.
Sign up now, Stancil urges, in the morning or afternoon time slot, because the spaces are filling up fast.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jennifer Stancil, WQED

Kids' environmental ideas compete for $2,500 prizes via New Voices of Youth/Breathe Project

For the past two years, New Voices of Youth has helped local young people get their ideas heard on issues important to them. Now this Pittsburgh Foundation program is teaming with the Heinz Endowment's Breathe Project to encourage young people to create new clean air-related science, art, performance or service projects that will encourage their peers to make a change in this area. They may also submit ideas for projects that raise awareness about Pittsburgh's air-quality problems or that improve the air quality. They can even submit projects that they have already begun at school.
The Web-based contest is open to students in grades 7-12. Submissions become eligible to receive grant funds of up to $2,500.
"Our air quality is among the worst for cities in the United States," says Marily Nixon, Breathe Project coordinator, "especially for particulate matter," as well as ozone levels and levels of toxics. "People who have been living in Pittsburgh for a long time remember when Pittsburgh was the Smoky City. Unfortunately, we still aren't at a level where the air is healthy to breath for all of us all the time." And these remaining forms of troubling pollution are relatively invisible to the naked eye, so unlike the sooty air of mid-century, "it is out of sight and out of mind," she says. "We believe healthy air goes along with a healthy economy where people want to be raising their kids."
What sorts of projects might be funded? Nixon points to youth-led efforts to give informational "tickets" to idling trucks about the pollution they create, and a flash mob last summer in Market Square whose participatns suddenly pretended to have breathing difficulties, then delivered a clean-air message to the lunch-time crowd.
"We do want to convey that the sky is really the limit," she adds. "Students could submit a song they wrote relating to air quality. They could submit a photo essay that captures an aspect of air quality or its effect on people. They could come up with a clean-air walking tour of Pittsburgh or a clean-air program to implement in their school. They could propose a science project that would help develop information about air pollution in their neighborhood. We really hope students will use their limitless creativity to propose projects that will speak to other students, and the community at large, about what clean air means to them."
Breathe and New Voices will work to partner students with adult mentors, which might include representaties of a nonprofit focused on clean air issues, to help them undertake their project. A Student Advisory Council will judge the contest and suggest their own ideas for projects.
"We hope to see fresh ideas, excitement, creativity and imagination coming from the students, because they are affected by this pollution and they are going to be living with the air for a long time," Nixon concludes. "They can take a new leadership role, advocating for change and creating change in this area."
The deadline for submissions has been extended to May 8.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Marily Nixon, The Breath Project

Form a band, write songs, perform in one week: Girls Rock! hits Burgh kids this summer

"I don't think young girls are encouraged to form a rock band as boys are," says Angela Stich. "Even when I wanted to play an instrument, my mom bought me a flute!"
Thanks to Stich, local girls starting this summer will have Girls Rock! Pittsburgh, a weeklong day camp to help them form bands, write songs and learn to play an instrument -- maybe even in that order.
Stich is co-directing the effort with Hannah Shaw, who has run a rock and roll camp for girls in North Carolina for the past several years that attracted more than 200 participants and now includes a school-year program. The first Pittsburgh camp for girls ages 8-16 will take place Aug. 5-9 at Shadyside's The Ellis School, with a performance showcase Aug. 9 at The Roboto Project in Friendship.
"I'm eager to see what kind of material 8-year-old girls will come up with," Stich says of the music-writing efforts, which will be one of the camp's main emphases. "I'm pretty excited about that. Some of them might not have the inhibitions others have to write whatever they want."
As for learning to play an instrument in one week: "It's something some of the parents have trouble grasping," she admits. "Some [girls] might just learn a few chords and write music that way." Others may learn to play a single song confidently after their camp experience. For those who already play a rock-band-worthy instrument, the week may offer them new licks and riffs. "We're trying to get away from an emphasis on expertise, or having to have formal, conservatory-type lessons. Maybe they'll leave camp wanting to learn that way, but that's not what our emphasis is on."
Girls Rock! is partnering with the youth staff of the Andy Warhol Museum on some art projects -- perhaps band t-shirt and button designs, Stich says. The week also includes workshops on zine making, deejaying and self-defense. The camp is seeking local volunteer musicians, artists, activists and mentors to participate.
The idea is apparently popular; the original group of 20 campers is already expanding to 30, due to demand, Stich reports.
Seeing girls in a band, "can be a very empowering experience for girls in the audience alone," not to mention the campers, she concludes. The girls in their new bands stand to gain self-confidence, and learn how to work on a team. Increasing the visibility of girls in the arts is another goal, she says, along with "creating an increased community for girls in music. There's always room for making those spaces safe for girls."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Angela Stich, Girls Rock! Pittsburgh

Formula One racing for high schoolers -- locals have chance at world championship

"They call this the pinewood derby on steroids," says Ken Francis: miniature Formula One racing cars designed by local high-school and middle-school students to speed down quarter-mile tracks. The regional leg of this annual contest was held here earlier this month, and now several local school teams are headed to the world championship later this year: South Park High School and Pine Richland High School.
Sponsored by the engineering society SAE International, where Francis is the program developer of this F1 in Schools Challenge and other educational competitions, the contest gives kids the chance to design, make, test and race these specialty vehicles, not to mention creating a business plan, manufacturing the car and marketing it.
Each team receives a balsa wood blank -- less than 9 inches long -- four wheels and steel axles, sandpaper, screw eyes and washers (so the car can be guided down the track by a filament). The wood is pre-drilled to receive a single CO2 cartridge, but designing the car itself, complete with wings in front and back, puts kids through the full engineering process. They use 3D Computer-Assisted Design software, test their design's aerodynamics in a Virtual Reality Wind Tunnel using Computational Fluid Dynamics software, then use 3D Computer-Aided Manufacture software to find the best machining strategy to make the car with a Computer Numerical Controlled router. The cars are also tested using real wind and smoke tunnels.
The teams then compile 20-page portfolios of their research and testing and must turn this into five-minute presentations, complete an engineering innovation interview and create a pit display about their marketing plans. Each team is judged on their car's safety, aerodynamics, engineering, aesthetics, quality and manufacturing, plus the team's race times, pit display, portfolio and verbal presentation.
The world championship event is tied to a real Formula One race. In past years, it has been in held Abu Dhabi, Malaysia and Singapore; this year it's planned for Austin, Texas.
"We just think it's the perfect symbiotic relationship going down the road for SAE," says Francis of their association with F1 in Schools. He also oversees two other programs for SAE: The World in Motion, a K-8 engineering program, and their collegiate design program.
"What you find" in students who participate in the F1 races, he adds, "is that this ignites their passions … When you hear their verbal presentations, you hear kids say, 'I was going to be an accountant, but after I got done with this I wanted to be an engineer.' We just want them to keep pursuing their dreams and realize that science, technology, engineering and math are good ways to do it."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Ken Francis, SAE International

Want fresh fruits out of season? Learn canning, preserving, other local food help at Farm to Table

Would you like fresh local produce delivered to your workplace? How about a mid-winter dose of fresh tomatoes or homemade peach jam right from your own shelves?
The annual Farm to Table Conference March 22-23 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, with this year's theme of “Do It Yourself,” features demonstrations, speakers, samples and more than 65 exhibitors offering hands-on cooking demos, gardening tips and nutrition, health and wellness information.
The event is all about "treading more lightly on the earth and being more self-sufficient," says Erin Hart, director of health benefit services for American HealthCare Group, which runs the event. Local farms, restaurants, breweries, wineries, and personal chefs are attending the food-tasting event, while speakers will take on such topics as "Herbal Soap Making," "Fermentation 101," "Fresh Eggs Daily from your Backyard Chicken Flock," "Mycelium Mayhem: Mushrooms for Hobby, Income and Companion Planting," "Applying Farm to Table to Your Health," and "Food as Medicine: The Power of Food to Heal."
"It seems like people are getting more and more interested in canning and preserving" and other ways of providing themselves with food that's fresh and local instead of picked in Peru six months ago, says Hart. And Pittsburgh is getting more programs such as community gardens, schools bringing farm-to-table principles into their cafes and workplaces that are implementing Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) drop sites. CSAs are farms to which you can buy a kind of subscription for a certain amount and variety of produce when it is harvested. Having drop sites in industrial parks and office complexes is "making it easier for community members to buy local and source local," Hart notes. For instance, the Penn Corner Farm Alliance goes to Westinghouse's Cranberry office lobby once a week to sell CSA subscriptions and make deliveries to employees.
"Seven years ago, when we started doing this, people had never heard of CSAs," she adds. Now Farm to Table "is a way to get to the masses of people, where public health might be impacted. Every year it grows pretty significantly," from 3,000 people last year to -- she expects -- 3,500 this year.
Teachers can get complementary registration and Act 48 credits, and those using the state's WIC benefit can get free admission as well. For tickets, visit Showclix.com and search “Farm to Table."
Do Good:
Want to know more and connect with CSAs? Come to the CSA Fair at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh on March 16. Get more information here.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Erin Hart, American HealthCare Group

Get your kid's school to sign up for free school supplies

The Education Partnership's three-year effort to give school supplies to schools where students lack even the basics is more necessary than ever.
"We're seeing kids coming to school with nothing," says the Partnership's Program Manager Andrea Zimmer, who oversees the free school-supply application process. "It's really setting them apart from their peers [socially] and putting them at a disadvantage compared to their peers."
From pens, pencils, glue sticks and notebooks and to reams of copy paper, the free-supply list is large, and it can be replenished once during the year. At schools' requests, the Partnership has also supplied such things as tee shirts, granola bars (with the help of General Mills and Giant Eagle) and incentive items for students, such as art supplies.
"At the end of this year's program, we'll have distributed 150,000 pencils," notes Zimmer. "I think that shows both the impact of this program and the need in the schools."
Applications for the 2013-14 school year are now available here. Schools in Allegheny and four surrounding counties -- Beaver, Butler, Washington, Westmoreland -- are eligible if at least 70 percent of their students receive a free or reduced-price lunch. That covers 100 schools in the five-county region, Zimmer says. Previous recipients are still eligible, but they must apply again. The deadline is midnight on March 22.
The Partnership will notify 20 selected schools in June and distribute the student supplies during an in-school distribution event in December.
"If a student's parent cannot afford to provide a lunch, it's unlikely that they will be able to provide all the school supplies that are necessary," Zimmer adds. Teachers on average spend $1,200 a year to supply their own classrooms and students, but that's an unsustainable situation. "We're trying to step in there and fill in that gap. And we're hearing very great results."  Children can concentrate on schoolwork without wondering how they can correct their notes or a test answer without an eraser, she says.
She urges schools that aren't familiar with the program to stop in to the Partnership office to learn more, or to call her at 412-922-6500. The group accepts donations, too, she adds.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Andrea Zimmer, The Education Partnership

Home run: Baseball group wins SVP Fast Pitch; many other groups get help, prizes

At 22 years old, just eight months out of Duquesne University, Maura Rodgers may be the youngest applicant to give a pitch to the Social Venture Partners-Pittsburgh (SVP) and win their annual Fast Pitch event, which coaches area nonprofits on telling their story effectively and rewards the best ones.
But the pitchers whom Rodgers helps in her own nonprofit are younger still, and even more impressive, she believes.
Rodgers is the executive director and only employee of The Miracle League of the South Hills, which runs baseball leagues that pair mainly kids (but also adults) with disabilities and their peers without disabilities. The kids without disabilities may run or hit for their baseball buddies, or they may just cheer them on. But both groups learn important lessons while having fun and making friends.
"What's innovative about the Miracle League is that we're giving kids with special needs the chance to become teachers and teach their peers about falling down and getting back up again… The Miracle League is changing our social fabric."
Her $20,000-prize winning message, she says, was not about why her group needs the money but about what the Miracle League is doing for the community and how the community can get involved.
After just a year and a half in existence, the South Hills League (there are two others in Pittsburgh) has 150 kids as young as age five on their Upper St. Clair field, and they are always looking for more players and buddies. "We're still growing and learning and SVP was certainly invaluable in that process."
The SVP gave all competing nonprofits seven weeks of coaching about everything from fundraising to sharing their story with a larger audience. "Very often it's hard to see what is appealing about your message," says Rodgers, "and what really connects with people in your community, because you're so close to your organization."
Indeed, says Elizabeth Visnic, director of SVP-Pittsburgh, the seven weeks of training is more important in the end than the prizes. The money and the time are investments by SVP's partners, working toward the group's goal of "growing philanthropists and strengthening nonprofits. Our focus on capacity building for the nonprofits was a step deeper" this year. The coaches, she says, helped the presenters become "incredibly inventive and articulate."
Nonetheless, the money certainly helps. Winners were chosen based on the innovation of their programs, their programs' impact or potential impact and their presentations' effectiveness. "This year it was anybody's to take," Visnic says of the first-place award. "Everybody was amazing."
SVP offered more prizes this year, including second place to Strong Women Strong Girls, the Coaches’ Prize to The Saxifrage School, and the SVP Kids Prize to Camp COPES. The SVP Kids are SVP partners' children who are learning about philanthropy as well; the prize, given for the first time year, came from money Kids' group graduates pooled by themselves. Finalists Beverly’s Birthdays and Catholic Charities Free Health Care Center also $500 prizes. Additional capacity prizes were awarded from the three judges and their organizations,including Pop City.
SVP gained three new partners through the event as well, who immediately gave $1,000 prizes of their own.
The Miracle League's award money, Rodgers says, will help them build a playground next to their field. It will contain adaptive features devised from working with special-needs professionals, parents and kids. "It's a place designed for development and growth and interaction with all children," she says. "Hopefully it will be unlike anything anyone in our area has seen before."
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Maura Rodgers; Elizabeth Visnic, Social Venture Partners-Pittsburgh 

Hall of Fail? All part of new digital media works-in-progress site

Thanks to a Carnegie Mellon University team, local and international digital-media learning (DML) designers will have a newly valuable web home for seeking community input on their projects -- and for failing usefully. The revamped site will debut in mid-March.
"There are really amazing things happening in different spaces that don't seem to be connected together," says Anna Roberts, director of the team behind the redone Working Examples, a website dedicated to bringing together DML designers before their designs are done, or even conceived. "A work in progress is messy, but sharing them with others is how we move our work forward."
For scientists, "working examples" are ideas they think are good but that they want to put in front of their colleagues for critique. Drew Davidson, acting director of CMU's Entertainment Technology Center, and James Paul Gee, a literacy studies professor at Arizona State University, created the site to bring the working examples idea to creatives in the DML field. Roberts' team was hired a year ago "to build something that would really address how [users] would interact with one another," she says.
Site users will be able to explore others' work, build new collaborations and have a larger impact on how technology is being implemented in education. Roberts also hopes that designers, who are trying to meld play and the work of learning, will have a fun, playful experience of their own on the Working Examples site.
Once a user has logged in, the site will feature content based on how the individual user has tagged him or herself and the people they are following. Users can share comments within a blog-like feature, as well as upload new items, including projects at various stages. Seed, Sprout and Bloom sections are designed to help users refine how they are thinking about their projects, providing a series of probing questions: What challenges and goals do you have? How is the project evolving? What surprises have you encountered? How successful has a finished project been, and what ought to be changed?
Users can also form public or private groups, with their own workspaces and the ability to comment more easily on work changes and collaborate more readily. Users' profiles will elicit deeper information about their expertise and interests, and allow fellow users to rate the helpfulness of their collected comments.
The site also contains news and job postings as well as a Hall of Fail, modeled after the Hall of Failure at DML's annual Games, Learning and Society conference.
"We're big believers in the fact that our missteps and 'failures' are big places to learn from each other," says Roberts.
The site will even be useful for people not directly involved in DML design, she says. Educators and other users of DML should "make a profile and come on and comment on people's projects. We're interested in getting a lot of voices who have opportunities to think about how it might be used in a classroom."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Anna Roberts, Working Examples

BMe from WQED, where black men and boys tell their own stories

WQED has begun a concerted effort to collect hundreds of stories of African-American men and boys talking about what they do to make a difference in their communities.
Thanks to a $390,000 grant from The Heinz Endowments, the media company is partnering with Black Male Engagement (BMe), which has already piloted this story-collection project in Philadelphia, Detroit and Baltimore.
The idea behind the project, says Darryl Ford Williams, WQED's vice president of content, is to hear in particular from black men who are involved in community service, as well as those who are doing things "on a smaller scale. Is there one person in the community, one kid on the street you're helping keep up with their homework?" Do their activities as a father, coach, Sunday School teacher or neighbor change their community or the lives of one person in a notable way?
Such positive activities are "never reflected in the media," Williams says, which mostly features African-American men when they are involved in crime, sports or entertainment. BMe will embody "the idea of improving the self-image in the African-American community and the way in the larger community we know, accept and relate to each other."
BME will continue the effort begun by WQED and the Endowments last year with its “African American Men and Boys: Portrayal and Perception” initiative, which included a televised town-hall meeting and four documentaries portraying African-American entrepreneurship, musical forms and media images.
The BMe project will also result in documentaries and a town-hall discussion this spring. Participants can upload their stories through BMe's online portal. WQED will also send out street teams to collect stories and hold BMe Days at local barbershops, churches and community organizations. Each story, 1-4 minutes long, will be collected on video, capturing each person's experience serving their community and their hopes are for its future.
"Ultimately, the goal is to connect people here in Pittsburgh with people in other BMe cities," Williams says. "How can they connect what they are doing in the community with what people are doing in Detroit? We hope to leverage the power of numbers."
Do Good:
Looking for additional places to aid the local African-American community? Connect with PACE: The Program to Aid Citizen Enterprise.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Darryl Ford Williams, WQED

Teacher development, healthy eating app, more coming from Early Learning Environment

A year after the Early Learning Environment website debuted from the Fred Rogers Center, it is poised to grow with new activities, directions and apps.
The Rogers Center and the "ELE" focus on children's media for kids through five years old, and digital media-based learning in particular. Too often in years past, notes Michael Robb, the Center's director of education and research, parents and other caregivers had thought of such media as mere babysitters.
"We try to encourage caregivers of young children to think about digital media learning more like they'd think of books … [and] think of digital media as a word-rich experience," Robb says. "That's time you spend having a conversation with your child and having fun with your child. The more language children in the early years hear and are exposed to, it has pretty substantial impact on their early literacy and school success."
The ELE offers caregivers multiple fun learning activities for kids: some best for home use, others for the classroom; some for adults to lead or teach, others for kids to undertake on their own. About 40,000 visitors from all 50 states and around the world have used the free site, while its 1,200 registered users are able to post and comment on the site and create their own curated sets of activities to send to fellow caregivers or fellow moms and dads.
Among the most popular activities are several Rogers Center-designed game apps -- Alien Assignment, Everyday Grooves and Home Superhero -- as well as finger-play videos by Reading is Fundamental and nursery rhyme videos by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, called Rhyme Time. Since debuting, the site has added new literacy-boosting activities that also focus on health-science topics.
"We're always looking to increase the number of quality offerings," says Robb.
Set to be released officially next week is a new app. Go NiNi, in which kids can help NiNi eat the right foods in the right quantities to run, play and maintain her active and healthy life. Kids will steer Nini toward Go Foods (those recommended for everyday eating) but not as many Slow Foods (those to eat in moderation) and the fewest Whoa Foods (all that junk we love to consume).
Next, Robb reports, ELE hopes to put in place more activities based on STEAM topics (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics), and more Spanish-language content. In the near future, the ELE will be starting professional development activities in the region for teachers as well as family and other childcare providers around digital media technology.
Do Good:
Searching for more ways to help kids learn? Get involved with the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Michael Robb, the Fred Rogers Center

Digital cosmos, tissue engineering, nanotech, CSI for bugs: SciTechDays at Science Center

There's still room for teachers to sign up their classes for the March SciTechDays at the Carnegie Science Center -- or for educators to explore them with the chance to sign up for November's versions.
Aimed at middle- and high-school kids, the SciTechDays are focused on "getting kids excited about all these different careers in STEM," says Linda Ortenzo, director of STEM Programs (science, technology, engineering and math). "The whole idea behind it is to connect students with STEM professionals in a real fun and productive way."
Universities and companies from FedEx Ground to PPG, U.S. Steel, Chevron, Consol and others set up hands-on activities in biotechnology, nanotechnology, robotics, advanced materials and other areas that relate to possible careers in the Pittsburgh area. There are always 2,000 unfilled STEM-related jobs across this region, Ortenzo says, because kids aren't aware of what sort of schooling they need to prepare for STEM careers.
Kids who come to SciTechDays, she says, will be able to answer the questions: "'What's it take to work in robotics? What's it take to be a biotechnologist? How cool is it to be in tissue engineering and what does it take to do that?' It's a very exciting and energizing time for everybody, the kids and the teachers."
Each day offers a variety of sessions for the teachers to assign their kids, including a "new frontier" presentation for gifted and advanced students. The next middle-school days, March 5-6, and the next high-school days, March 7-8, feature sessions on "Creating the Digital Cosmos," "CSI Bugs, Bodies ...and Bananas?" "If a Salamander Can Grow New Limbs, Why Can’t People? Tissue Engineering Workshop" and others.
March 9 is a SciTechDay open to public, on the theme Math+Science=Success, with programs applicable to the full grade range of K-12.
Teachers wishing to register their classes should call 412-237-3400, extension 7.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Linda Ortenzo, SciTechDays

Tour Your Future gives girls glimpses of STEM careers -- and hands-on experience

On Feb. 23 at AE Works, the East End design and building firm, a group of Pittsburgh girls ages 10-14 spent a day off from school touring the business, questioning women architects and engineers about their work and trying some hands-on tasks relevant to these careers.
It was all part of Tour Your Future, just one aspect of the Carnegie Science Center program called Can*Teen Career Exploration.
The program, says Nina Marie Barbuto, who runs the Girls' Math+Science Partnership in the Center, "is a lot of DIY science and making science relevant to kids."
Created in 2010, Can*Teen is now undergoing an expansion of its reach and efforts, allowing young girls (and boys online) to explore careers related to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in a variety of ways. Can*Teen centers on a series of STEM-focused challenges, which teach girls how to isolate and extract DNA from a piece of spinach, make their own camera, create a water filtration device, discover the science behind how magic markers work, and make bones less breakable -- by making them more bendable..
Barbuto's team is in the midst of sending interactive Can*Teen CDs to 2,500 middle-school librarians from here to Guam who have discovered Can*Teen, thanks to assistance from Motorola and the American Library Association. Can*Teen also has summer camps at the Science Center called "Livin' It," on June 24-28 and July 15-19 for girls 13-14 and on July 8-12 for girls 8-10, with each day lasting 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
For kids who want to try the Can*Teen challenges at home, instructions are available on the program's Website. The program is also developing a social media app for girls can contact selected women mentors at other times.
The next Tour Your Future date is March 2, when participants will meet the Girls of Steel, a robot designing and building team at CMU composed of 24 girls from 12 different schools. Future dates, scheduled through April 27, include days at TruFit Solutions, Alcosan, ModCloth, FutureDerm, Duquesne University, Carnegie Mellon University, Westinghouse and GASP (Group Against Smog and Pollution).
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Nina Marie Barbuto, Can*Teen

Chuck Cooper legacy: from NBA star to grad student to scholarships

When Duquesne University basketball player Chuck Cooper Jr., the first African American drafted into the NBA, emerged from his six-year professional career in 1956, he had a tough time finding good work, says Chuck Cooper Foundation Chairman of the Board Zak Thomas. Advice he received to attend graduate school was the key, Thomas says.

After Cooper earned his master’s degree in social work from the University of Minnesota in 1961, he began a life of public service:  first as parks and recreation director for the City of Pittsburgh, then with PNC as the urban affairs officer, leading affirmative action and community development programs.
That's why the Cooper Foundation just awarded its first graduate scholarships to five individuals to study locally and get ahead. Thomas says he is surprised "just how low the numbers have been and continue to be at the graduate level for diversity students" --  six percent in the 1960s and just 11 percent today.
The foundation at first was going to award a single scholarship based on the applicants' academic excellence and community work.
Unable to decide among the excellent candidates, the foundation increased its awards to five, including a $5,000 scholarship from PNC Bank to Rufus Burnett, Jr. to attend the McAnulty Graduate School of Liberal Arts at Duquesne University. Burnett intends to use his graduate degree to prepare minority youth for meaningful careers in in social science and the humanities. Previously, he did humanitarian work in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina and ran an afterschool program for minority students.
The other scholarship winners, all of whom will study at Duquesne, are:
  • Juel Smith, $3,000 to study in the School of Education: Smith, already a working scientist, now hopes to help minority studies pursue the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines;
  • Florence St. Jean, $1,000 to study in the School of Education: St. Jean has performed humanitarian work in Haiti and following Superstorm Sandy and wants to lead and teach counseling with emphasis on the disenfranchised;
  • Michelle Outcalt, $1,000 to study in the School of Leadership and Professional Advancement: Outcalt is a determined single mother whose daughter will also be attending college in the fall;
  • Candice Aston, $1,000 to pursue a Ph.D. in philosophy: Aston, the first member of her family to attend college, hopes to start a non-profit organization to assist single mothers pursuing their education.
The foundation's hope, says Thomas, is to expand the scholarships in future years to students across the nation.
"The one commitment that they've all made -- and that's why we chose them," he concludes, "is giving back to the community. The scholarships we're giving today will be returned many times in the future by the acts of these people."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Zak Thomas, Chuck Cooper Foundation

Urge to get active? Hook up with the nonprofit looking for you at Service Summit

"We believe that there's never a reason to be bored in Pittsburgh," says Pittsburgh Service Summit organizer Tom Baker. The fourth annual Summit, to be held Feb. 26 at Carlow University "is a way for those in attendance to get activated and find out there are things to do." It's a kind of activity fair for young professionals, college students and community leaders to learn about community organizations offering service opportunities.
This year's Summit, run by Baker's local non-profit organization, Get Involved! Inc., will feature speakers Ian Rosenberger, CBS Survivor contestant and founder of an international humanitarian relief organization; Saleem Ghubril, head of the Pittsburgh Promise college scholarship fund; Kevin Kearns, professor of public and nonprofit management in Pitt's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and director of the Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership; and WTAE-TV news anchor Sally Wiggin.
After joining past conferences, Baker says, attendees have reported that they've successfully connected with a new organization to which they could lend their talents as a volunteer. Organizations working the fair, he says, have even met and acquired new board members to help them out. "That's truly what we love to hear," he adds.
Baker recalls the moments that inspired him to become active as a volunteer. When he was about six years old, "I would literally follow my dad around to events" his father was attending as a Pittsburgh Public Schools teacher and children's author. When Baker's father died, when Baker was 12, his mother continued to encourage his activism, which took root when he attended Millersville University. But after college, Baker noticed that many fellow students lost interest in serving their communities.
"Our generation has to do more to step up and be active," he says. He's hoping the Summit continues to connect people with new organizations and new causes. "We're hoping to see 300 to 400 people there. It's a one-stop shop."
The summit will also honor many individuals with awards for their work locally, including:
  • Get Involved! Male and Female Emerging Leaders (Frank Macinsky and Jessica Brubach);
  • Dr. Tom Baker Community Leader Award (Vivian Lee Croft);
  • Patty Verotsko Award for Child Advocacy (Bill Isler);
  • Get Involved! Man and Woman of the Year (Bill Strickland and Mary Hines); and
  • 2013 Western Pennsylvania Rising Stars, for professionals 21-30 active in charitable service: (Matthew Arch, Branden Ballard, Olivia Benson, Mark Bezilla, Brandon Blache-Cohen, Joseph Breems, Gina Carl, Chris Cavendish, Annie Clough, Jeremy Edge, Dennis Hazenstab, Carrie Hucker, Emily Kolek, LaTrenda Leonard, Lauren Mahoney-Yohman, Mary Parker, Robin Rectenwald, Jordan Shoup, Stephanie Sikora, Mahogany Thaxton, Frank Tigano, and Abby Sadowsky Bolton.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Tom Baker, Get Involved!

Bodiography creates ballet depicting kids' journeys from grief through Highmark Caring Place

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet has devised dances about heart transplants and other medical issues, but it's probably never tackled such a tough one, says Terese Vorsheck, director of the Highmark Caring Place: kids' grief for lost parents.
"People don't understand the impact of death on children," says Vorscheck. "People need support to go through the process, and the Caring Place is here if they need that extra support," offering children, as well as adolescents and their families, peer grief-support services in two local offices. Bodiography artistic director and choreographer Maria Caruso, she adds, "was just very inspired by what she saw in our work with children."
Caruso and the dancers worked directly with children at the Caring Place to tell nine of their stories in a new dance called Whispers of Light: A Story of Hope. "The dancers have been so warm with the kids, helping them understand that whatever way they express their feelings is okay," Vorsheck says. "It seems to have been a process that allowed the kids in a very unique way to express their grief."
The dancers have incorporated into their dancing some of the physical movements that they observed in or discussed with the children, such as the pacing one child said he did to cope with his anxiety and grief.
The ballet begins with the children on stage together, then shows the increasing isolation of those going through grief. The performance ends with the dancers' take on one of the therapeutic activities from the Caring Place, depicting the journey that lets each child "end up in a place that is much more hopeful," Vorsheck says.
Hunter Steinitz, 18, is a Caring Place participant who helped formulate the show. “As we work together in this ballet, I can see myself in the dancers,” she says. “We’re all piecing this show together, like we here at the Caring Place are piecing our own lives back together. Just like a ballet can’t be done by one person, you can’t heal all by yourself either.”
Tickets for the show and the VIP reception may be purchased here.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Terese Vorsheck, Highmark Caring Place

Apply now: KaBOOM! putting 10 playgrounds here, thanks to Heinz gift

Sally Dorman has a message for community groups in Pittsburgh: "If they're ever going to apply for a KaBOOM! playground, this is the time. This is really an unprecedented investment by KaBOOM! and its funding partner."
The funding partner is the Heinz Endowments, which gave $800,000 to KaBOOM!, the national play-promoting organization, to help local groups build 10 playgrounds in the area in 2013-14. KaBOOM! has built more than 2200 playgrounds in its history. But, says Dorman, associate community outreach coordinator of KaBOOM!, "we usually only build one playground every two years in Pittsburgh. This opportunity is very rare, and we're very excited about it." In fact, she says, if more organizations apply and qualify for playgrounds, KaBOOM! will work with the Pittsburgh groups to find other funding partners, with a goal of 20 playgrounds total across this year and next.
"We're looking for groups that have a strong emphasis on community," she adds, since KaBOOM! works with each group to solicit community input for playground designs. It also help communities with tools and models for raising the $8,500 investment required. This encourages community groups to take ownership of their new playgrounds and to maintain them. The process is also designed to increase the number of active volunteers for future community work.
Applicants need to own or lease 2,500 square feet of -- ideally -- flat, grassy, clean space, which is a premium in our hilly neighborhoods. And chosen groups must invite their community to build the playground all in one day, using hand tools, in a process demonstrated here.
"The community will love that playground, because they put their own effort into it," Dorman says.
"It's an essential part of the project to keep the people invested in the community," adds KaBOOM! Communications Coordinator Alyssa Ross.
The Endowments are looking for applicants whose playgrounds are open to as many people as possible, Dorman says, with public-friendly design features such as benches, small stages, gardens or other elements. On April 13, Homewood Children's Village will build the first Heinz-funded playground.
KaBOOM! is accepting rolling applications now, but encourages groups to apply as soon as possible. As Ross points out, cities like Pittsburgh are fighting the national "play deficit." She cites statistics that show just 41 percent of kids have access to a community playground, while physical play leaves kids healthier, doing better in school and acting better as adults.
Concludes Ross: "We hope this inspires a lot of people to become involved in the play movement."
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Sally Dorman and Alyssa Ross, KaBOOM!

MacArthur's half million-dollar grant helps Sprout create educational Hive

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation came to Pittsburgh on Feb. 8 to deliver half a million dollars to the Sprout Fund to create a new, experimental "Hive" network of educational resources for tweens and teens -- and to deliver the message that Pittsburgh is already a model for the nation.
"You guys are already networked," said Jennifer Humke, MacArthur program officer, "and that's exactly why MacArthur is investing in Pittsburgh. We see Pittsburgh as an ideal example for growing connected-learning systems ... We're going to be looking to you to help develop the tools and evidence to keep this movement going."
The Pittsburgh Hive Learning Network won't have specific programs or a focus dictated by MacArthur; nor will it have a physical space. Instead, it will bring together schools and after-school programs, museums and child-focused agencies, well-established organizations and young researchers to encourage fresh partnerships and new ways of serving kids 11 and older. The intention is to encourage innovative ideas and collaborations by linking local people who may never have worked together or even met before -- but certainly ought to -- and to provide funding to get projects started.
"We're really looking forward to seeing good projects for tweens and teens, specifically around digital media, making, and STEAM [science, technology, engineering, the arts and math] learning," said Ryan Coon, spokesperson for Sprout's Spark Program, after the announcement. Spark administers Pittsburgh's Kids+Creativity Network -- a kind of Hive for younger kids that was established three years ago.
"It's more of a support structure to bring the many disparate organizations that are doing or thinking of bringing about programs for teens and tweens into a cooperative network," said Coon of the Hive. "It's like Kids+Creativity writ large."
The Hive will roll out through this spring. On Feb. 22, the Hive will hold a funding workshop to describe projects that will qualify for funding -- projects similar in size and focus to those Spark now funds, at the intersection of digital media, the arts and education, Coon said. The first application deadline will be in April, with another round of funding slated for the summer. The Hive will officially launch in May.
The only other Hives in the nation are in New York City and Chicago. "What MacArthur saw in Pittsburgh was a region that was already behaving in multidisciplinary, cross-sector ways," Coon added. "We're really pleased to be recognized. It was a lot of people working hard for the last five years." In particular, Humke credited Sprout Executive Director Cathy Lewis Long and Deputy Director Matt Hannigan, as well as Grable Foundation Executive Director Gregg Behr.
Behr and the Benedum Foundation's Vice President James Denova introduced the Kids+Creativity Network to 400 people gathered at Carnegie Mellon University and paved the way for the Hive announcement. Denova noted that creating "a renaissance of wonder" for young people in our region "demands fresh thinking on our part to prepare them for futures we can't yet imagine."
Concluded Sprout's Cathy Lewis Long: "A robust learning ecosystem is developing in the Pittsburgh area … and we're propelling ourselves into a national conversation."
Writer: Marty Levine

Nominate youth for Jefferson Service Challenge awards now

"We're looking for young people who are already involved in a meaningful community project to honor them for their work," says Rebecca Farabaugh, Pittsburgh Regional Coordinator for the Jefferson Awards for Public Service, which is accepting nominations for its third annual Youth Service Challenge. "There are so many young people in our region especially, with so much energy, doing such good work, that we want to encourage them."
Jefferson's Youth Service Challenge is looking for young people ages 5-25 to nominate themselves (or to be nominated by others) and be honored for their service-project work. The entry deadline April 30. Local winners in nine categories (animal rights; community building and citizenship; education and literacy; elder care; environment and sustainability; health and wellness; hunger, homelessness and poverty; peace and justice; and service to youth) will compete in a national competition.
Farabaugh says the awards have encouraged further youth activism and success in the area. Alexis Werner, for instance, won first place in the Pittsburgh regional Youth Service Challenge in 2011. She was honored for creating Seeds of Hope, which planted "victory gardens" throughout the region to engage area youth and the local community about the difficulties of veterans transitioning back to civilian life, and to create baskets to deliver to local veterans and their families. She was inspired by the many deployments her mother and stepfather, both servicemembers, had undertaken, and the severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with which her stepfather was diagnosed.

With fellow Shaler Area High School students, Alexis delivered 75 baskets of produce to veterans, planted and cared for 10 victory gardens and raised $200. Since then, she has had a chance to work with Jefferson Awards founder Sam Beard and the Awards' GlobeChangers program to bring Seeds of Hope to 20 states, and has raised more than $15,000.
Another local winner, Bobby Catley, then a senior at Hopewell High School in Aliquippa, saw the need for people to understand the new food pyramid nutrition guidelines, so he raised money to organize and host an event for 1,500, complete with cooking demonstrations, healthy food samples and other informational components. "He is the only local person who has won at the national level to date," says Farabaugh.
Jefferson also provides winners with some tools to grow their projects and gain them attention, from press-release templates and social-media strategy tips to hints for finding new funding and other ways to increase their impact.
"I'm really excited to hear a lot of the stories that are coming out of Pittsburgh," says Farabaugh about the many entries she receives. "This is all a really great opportunity for us to share those stories and get Pittsburgh on the national stage."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Rebecca Farabaugh, Pittsburgh Regional Coordinator for the Jefferson Awards for Public Service

It's a beautiful blog in the neighborhood

The Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media has started a blog "to expand the dialogue on the potential of digital media to support early learning and development," as the first entry notes.
"The blog is the next step in work that we've been doing for more than three years," says the Rogers Center's Executive Director Rita Catalano: trying to provide guidance to parents and media creators, educators and researchers, about what represents quality children's media and what is best for them.
The Rogers Center had already created a "Framework for Quality" to spur the dialog, but Catalano hopes the blog will "promote some new thinking" on the subject.
Among the regulars will be two Rogers Center Fellows Daniel Anderson, a professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, who researches the effects of adult background television on infants and toddlers, and Alice Wilder, chief content officer at Speakaboos, a children's website that encourages reading and literacy.

Beginning next week, Wilder and Carla E. Fisher, the founder, game designer and researcher at No Crusts Interactive, will present videos showing kids and adults using media products to an expert panel for comment. "It's meant to model how people think about quality when people use an app or other digital media product," Catalano says.  
Guest bloggers will vary from week to week. One of the early entries was by Lisa Guernsey, director of the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation, and Michael H. Levine, executive director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, about their new report from the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Ellen Galinsky, president of Families and Work Institute and author of Mind in the Making, will write about the potential of media to help with child development.
Child is still hoping to get more public commentary, "but we've seen people sharing it on their social media, so I'm hopeful this means we will continue to build an audience for it."

Do Good:
Looking for an additional way to join the conversation about kids and learning? Join the conversation at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh here.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Rita Catalano, Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media

New teacher tech playground and idea generator: AIU's transformED

Teachers need a place to learn through playing and exploring, just like their students -- and a place to exchange ideas outside their classrooms and even their districts.
That's the theory behind a new space dubbed "transformED" at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit's central office in Homestead. The AIU provides specialized education services to 42 districts and their 119,300 students, and its transformED is a new spot where "teachers will have the opportunity to come and play and utilize whatever form of technology will help them take ideas back to the classroom," says Jennifer Beagan, senior program director for teaching and learning.
TransformED, opening Feb. 6, is part of the AIU's Center for Creativity, which was designed "to create a go-to place for teachers, where they can really come and learn how you integrate creativity across disciplines," says Rosanne Javorsky, assistant executive director for teaching and learning.
For this kind of professional development, says Javorsky, "teachers wanted a physical space different from our traditional spaces in school. And they wanted some professional support that was really more hands-on discovery education" of the variety that works so well for their students. "We believe there is no space like this dedicated to teachers in the country" -- and certainly there is none like it in the region, she adds.
Inside its bright red walls, transformED is set up to allow multiple activities at the same time. Explains Javorsky: "The space is designed for interaction and for people to feel comfortable. It has a coffee-shop feel."
The opening coincides with national Digital Learning Day, and will offer demonstrations representing workshops and other sessions that teachers can enjoy at transformED. Educators will be able to gain experience with a 3D printer and the interactive-video software Scratch. Hummingbird Robots will help teachers assist their students in robot design and provide technical skills applicable to teaching multiple classroom subjects. A Gigapan camera, which takes 3,000 photos and stitches them together for panoramic views, will aid both science and art teachers.
Some of transformED's features will also be decidedly low tech, such as an area dedicated to design thinking -- a kind of strategic planning method that helps with idea generation.
Javorsky says the AIU has been concerned that, with the emphasis on test preparation in schools, "'drill and kill' is really taking the motivation out of learning." She hopes the new "TransformED is an opportunity for teachers to learn from each other."
TransformED was funded by a $218,000 grant from the Grable Foundation.
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Jennifer Beagan, Rosanne Javorsky, Sarah McCluan, Allegheny Intermediate Unit

Teens on the Eco Scene raises awareness on enviro risks, products

"Teens on average use 17 personal care products a day," everything from soap to body sprays, says Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, head of the local Women for a Healthy Environment (WHE). Each has a multitude of chemicals that go on and into the skin, including some that are harmful, such as mercury and formaldehyde.
On Feb. 10, WHE is launching a new program called Teens on the Eco Scene. Its aim is to make teens more aware of the environmental risks and reduce the amount of toxins in the materials they encounter everyday at school, home and work. The program, funded by the Grable Foundation, is also intended to motivate teens to take action to improve the health of their communities.
"There is an opportunity to increase knowledge that changes behaviors," says Naccarati-Chapkis, "and we are establishing healthy behaviors that will benefit them for life."
WHE has been working with youth for several years, both through the Food City Fellows summer work-study program that revitalizes vacant lots and plants gardens to teach about healthy, local food, and through their cosmetology curriculum for Pittsburgh Public Schools students.
Teens on the Eco Scene's opening event at Hard Rock Café at Station Square will offer interactive stations where participants can make their own natural lip gloss, cologne and deodorant, taste test organic versus processed foods and recycle their electronics while getting a sneak peek at the Scene's full program. Starting out as an after-school activity but eventually expanding into the school day, Scene will create eco-challenges and other contests that, for instance, may involve surveying the cleaning products and cafeteria lunches in students' schools to see how healthy and safe they are.
"This will be very interactive," she says. "There are a lot of opportunities. We'll be responding to [students'] ideas over the next few months."
Do Good:
Want an additional way to clean up the community? Volunteer with Allegheny CleanWays, which removes illegal dumping sites from our rivers.
Writer: Marty Levine (forgood@popcitymedia.com)
Source: Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, Women for a Healthy Environment

Becoming aid worker takes more than volunteering: rare LaRoche class preps way

La Roche College Associate Prof. Jeff Ritter has learned a lot in his travels, exploring international aid projects. He has discovered that working effectively to help during humanitarian crises, such as droughts or other natural disasters, takes more than a willingness to step up.
"'We get a thousand letters every time we need a volunteer,'" he says an International Committee of the Red Cross official once told him, "'and I look at them and we won't take any of them … We need someone who understands what they are doing, what they are stepping into. We'd rather have someone who has run a small business or has volunteered at a soup kitchen than someone who has a master's in development.'
Workers on such projects need to exercise cultural sensitivity, Ritter adds. International aid programs now emphasize "restoring and improving livelihoods, not just giving food, water and shelter. There's even emergency education now" when schools are shut down. "If kids miss a year of education they will never catch up."
To provide proper training on the latest needs and methods in the aid field, Ritter has launched and is co-directing a new summer course open to the public, "Global Development and Humanitarian Aid Training," set for June 30-July 13.
The need for humanitarian workers never seems to go away, which has made international disaster relief into a career. "Humanitarian aid is a huge field and it's growing every year, and there's a high attrition rate," Ritter notes. But, he adds, it is fascinating work, taking place everywhere from refugee camps to offices, involving many types of training: logistics, database, health, law, advocacy and more.
"There's not many opportunities to get training in the United States in this field," Ritter notes. Harvard's program, for instance, is open only to Harvard students and those of a few surrounding institutions. Ritter himself took such a course offered by RedR, an international disaster relief aid and training group in England that will send a representative here to teach part of La Roche's course.
Other teachers are local: Andy Pugh, country director of Oxfam International in Haiti and an adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh; Terry Jeggle, an international expert on disaster management and mitigation; and Jason O'Connor, who has been doing work in the Sudan as a security specialist. Lessons will involve classroom work and simulations about everything from the legal framework of emergency aid to water and hygiene needs and planning for volcanoes and earthquakes.
"It's not a guaranteed entry into the field, but it's a good start," Ritter says. He has already received an inquiry from Food for the Hungry in England, asking for recommendations among course graduates. "We're really looking for adventurous people."
Course applicants with an undergraduate degree are preferred, Ritter says, and March 15 is the deadline for registering at a discount price. The course can be taken for undergraduate or graduate college credit. Those interested should check the course website for a webinar that will include a live chat for questions.
Do Good:
Some basic work in disaster relief still takes volunteers: Connect with Amizade, which has upcoming service-learning courses in Nicaragua, Tanzania and Trinidad & Tobago, here.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jeff Ritter, La Roche College

ASSET brings statewide STEM expertise to free conference here

ASSET STEM Education, the South Side nonprofit that has helped school districts across the state implement hands-on curricula for science, technology, engineering and math learning, is holding its first, free STEM conference downtown on Feb. 18. Its aim, says ASSET Executive Director Cynthia Pulkowski, "is really to help people identify where their school districts are on the STEM continuum and decide where they want to go to. They'll be able to discover resources and practices to improve the STEM education at their schools."
With 75 school districts and universities already signed up -- not to mention representatives from nonprofit agencies, businesses, state government and elsewhere -- there's not much room left to register for spots, she says.
ASSET is teaming with the Norwin School District to bring the conference to the Convention Center, featuring keynote speakers David Burns, director of STEM innovation networks for the Columbus, Ohio R & D company Battelle and Dewayne Rideout, vice president of human resources for All-Clad Metalcrafters in Canonsburg. Burns will offer a national perspective on STEM education, while Rideoout will speak about teaming with several school districts' students to work on new products for the company.
Among the 22 breakout sessions are:
  • Charting Your Course to a Successful STEM School/Program, with four ASSET officials describing the best practices of a model STEM program using a national rubric;
  • Several sessions focusing on STEAM, which incorporates the arts into STEM, with representatives from Propel Schools and the Pine-Richland School District;
  • Next Generation Science Standards and STEM, led by representatives of the Math and Science Collaborative at Allegheny Intermediate Unit; and
  • Supporting STEM Education through Common Core, focusing on new, more rigorous state standards now being required of students.
"Teachers need to identify where the possibilities lie for their students in careers," says Pulkowski. To help, ASSET is also creating a STEM career database for schools to investigate possibilities for internships, mentoring programs and classroom visitors.
Conference-goers, she says, "will walk away with pieces they can go ahead and apply in their schools. I hope they can say, 'OK, I have a place to start.' I just want them to have some actual resources and some good planning."
Do Good:
Looking for additional ways to help local education? Contribute to the work of The Education Partnership in supplying classrooms with needed materials.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Cynthia Pulkowski, ASSET STEM Education

And the survey says: women still make 74 cents for every dollar men earn at nonprofits

After accumulating 10 years of data about wages and benefits in local nonprofits, Peggy Outon would like to know "why in the social-justice sector we are seeing larger pay gaps than the one that prompted President Obama to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Act."
The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was designed to close the wage gap between men and women working in businesses nationally. While in 2002, women working for Pittsburgh-area nonprofits made 67 cents for every dollar men made. In 2012 they make only 74 cents on the dollar -- an improvement of just seven cents in a decade. Outon, as executive director of the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University, which conducts the survey, notes that "there is a true pay equity issue in southwestern Pennsylvania, and it extends not just to the senior management of these organizations but all through the organizations. Over time, the survey has served sort of like a canary in a coalmine."
The Bayer Center is now working with Eden Hall Foundation and Bayer USA Foundation to do deeper research on hundreds of IRS nonprofit forms, checking on the pay gap in all such local organizations, since participation in the survey is voluntary and doesn't cover all groups. Following this research, she reports, "the wage and benefits survey results have been validated."
Their big project is called 74 percent, because women make up nearly 74 percent of the nonprofit workforce. Thus, of 300,000 nonprofit employees, 225,000 are women. "Very few are being paid excessively, so we have concern for men's lives in this as well," Outon says. Organizations must ask themselves, "'Are people being treated fairly in your organization? How do you know you are paying the right salary?' All too often, salary-setting at nonprofits has appeared out of the air."
Other findings of the survey include: Sixty-four percent of nonprofit leaders are women and 36 percent are men. Among total employees, 73 percent are women and 27 percent are men. And the amount of health-care premiums paid by organizations has dropped from 59 percent in 2002 to 37 percent today.
The survey, Outon adds, will also let nonprofits benchmark their leaders' salaries against other groups, as the IRS has been requiring for the past several years.
"I am under no illusion that there is a pot of money out there waiting to rain down on the people who work in the nonprofit sector," she says. However, she concludes, "more equity" is needed among the organizations that most often push for equity in other areas of life.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Peggy Outon, Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management

Girl Scouts pick eight 'Women of Distinction' and honor outstanding girls

The Girl Scouts have been growing women of distinction for 101 years, and the troops of Western Pennsylvania will continue to present their Women of Distinction Awards for the 17th year on March 13.
"Often they turned out to have been Girl Scouts in the past," notes Allison Burns, coordinator for the event, which also honors two outstanding current Scouts and a local corporation that has been teaming with the scouts to do good locally.
Past adult honorees have included philanthropists and political figures Elsie Hillman and Teresa Heinz Kerry. This year's awards in eight categories include:
  • In Arts: Sarah Tambucci of the Arts Education Collaborative
  • In Business: Karen Larrimer of PNC Bank
  • In the Community: Anne Lewis of Oxford Development
  • In Education: Phyllis Comer, State Commissioner for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
  • In Government: Judge Donna Jo McDaniel of the Allegheny Country Court of Common Pleas
  • In Health Care: Tami Minnier of the UPMC Center for Quality Improvement and Innovation
  • In Law: Margaret Joy of McCarthy McDonald Schulberg & Joy
  • In Technology: Diane Watson of Bayer
The awards, says Burns, "show that we inspire girls to discover whatever they want to do and to find their voice."
The Girl Scout Humanitarian Award will go to Tiffany Trunk, a student at Peters Township High School, who is working toward her Gold Award, the equivalent of the Boy Scout's Eagle rank. She does restoration work at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, is being trained as a voluntary first responder, does fundraising for veterans' causes locally and also volunteers at a local library.
The Girl Scout of Distinction awardee this year is Jocelyn Perry of West Allegheny High School, who created a summer day camp for kids of working mothers by partnering with a local parks department and gathering donated supplies. She also created a middle-school girls' workshop, teaching that self-esteem is not centered on a girl's looks.
"She' such a hard-working and compassionate girl," says Burns. "She's really a role model to younger girls in teaching them self-confidence."

The Corporation of Distinction this year is PPG Industries, which created the PPG Science of Color program and patch for the Scouts. It teaches color theory, design, chromatography and pH’s effect on color, as well as corporate accountability for the environment and ways to make companies greener. It also encourages participants to explore careers in color. "We want to close that gap for women in the sciences," says Burns, "where traditionally these are fields where positions are not held by women."
Eden Hall Foundation is the presenting sponsor for this fundraising event, and the honorary chair is Agnus Berenato, head coach of the University of Pittsburgh women’s basketball team.
Do Good:
Searching for more ways to help local girls? Strong Women, Strong Girls trains girls for leadership positions.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Allison Burns, Girls Scouts Western Pennsylvania

Nonprofits grab LunaMetrics' free SEO training, but spots remain

"We've been working to increase our online presence, particularly through social media and our blogs," says Angela Garcia, executive director of Global Links, a Lawrenceville nonprofit that collects surplus medical supplies from U.S. hospitals and provides them to other countries in need, particularly following natural disasters.
One of the techniques they have been examining for gaining notice on the Internet is SEO -- search engine optimization, which involves understanding how Google and other search engines work so that searchers can find your Website and thus your services.
"As a niche industry, we're trying to get more market share, to get more hospitals to work with us," Garcia says. "If people can't find us easily throughout the country, that will impact our growth, and we will lose our opportunities to build relationships," especially at crucial times when they are trying to target their supplies to a particular disaster on the ground.
"I kept asking: How do you do this? How do you find a class to teach you SEO? We didn't question that we needed to do it" -- just whether they could afford it.
Enter LunaMetrics, the South Side social media and Internet experts. They're offering a free training program to local nonprofits (and for students looking for this skill that is highly desired by online-focused employers).
According to Andrew Garberson, the company's SEO coordinator, CTAC Pittsburgh, Amizade, The Homeless Fund, Global Solutions Pittsburgh and The Education Partnership are joining Global Links for the first class -- but there are three spots for organizations still open. Training starts in mid-February.
SEO, says Garcia, "is not something that's really taught -- you learn it hands on." She is gratified that LunaMetrics is providing the training to nonprofits. "This is very community-minded of the company," she says, "and very hands-on."
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Angela Garcia, Global Links; Andrew Garberson, LunaMetrics

Artists respond to gun control need with free drama and readings

"Last summer, after the Aurora shooting" -- the Colorado theater massacre during the debut of The Dark Knight Rises -- "I was so angry I just had to write a piece about guns," says Kyle Bostian.
Bostian heads Pittsburgh PACT (Public Action Communitarian Theatre) and in just the past week has lined up a multitude of local monologists, singers, comedians, filmmakers, writers and activists to present what he terms a "community arts action" to coincide with the March on Washington for Gun Control on Jan. 26. The free local event, which includes a reading of part of Bostian's Aurora play, "Irony in the Second Degree," takes place at Bricolage.
Pittsburgh artists reading, performing or showing parts of their work include essayist Tammy Ryan, playwright Tameka Cage Conley, documentary filmmaker Chris Ivey, stand-up comedians John McIntire and Gab Bonesso (who also will appear as part of her musical duo Josh and Gab, with Josh Verbanets), and singer/songwriter Dave Bielewicz.
A similar "theater action" will be held in Washington, D.C. the same day (created by New York's NoPassport, from which Bostian drew his inspiration. The two events will share presentations, giving Pittsburgh a glimpse of artists in action from across the country (New York, Albuquerque, and Los Angeles) and the world (Wales and Australia).
As with all PACT events, an audience discussion will follow.
"It just all came together because a group of passionate people decided this was the moment," Bostian says. "A lot of us have a lot of strong feelings about gun violence and this gives us the opportunity to have catharsis. Also, I would hope that it will stir up conversation and get people out there doing things in their community."
To register, email here with your full name and the number of seats requested, or go online here.
Do Good:
Connect with other groups co-sponsoring the event and active on the issue: CeaseFirePA and One Pittsburgh, who will also have representatives at the event.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Kyle Bostian, Pittsburgh PACT

Recycled pets get help from recycled cans

Recycled pets -- well, dogs and cats awaiting adoption in the Animal Rescue League's shelter in Homewood -- are getting a boost from a program designed to increase recycling of items that apparently are low on people's recycling priorities: pet food cans.
We're great at recycling beverage cans, filling our blue bags with 65 percent of what we drink, according to Dave Mazza, regional director of the Pennsylvania Resources Council, which is working with Alcoa Foundation on this project. But we're not so good at recycling those messier pet food cans, he reports -- we only turn back a fifth of them for reuse.
To encourage better recycling, the Council's Cans for Pets campaign, through Alcoa, is donating five cents for every can turned in to the League's shelter, its wildlife center in Verona, the Council's South Side office and Banksville's The Dog Stop. The campaign has reached 6,500 cans toward its 20,000-can goal.
Mazza, a former municipal recycling manager, isn't entirely sure why pet cans pose more of a recycling problem for people. Unlike plastics, metal cans don't bear the recycling triangle and numbers that for a long time made people question whether particular jugs or jars were appropriate for recycling at all. It may be that we're simply reluctant to deal with the mess. An empty soda pop can is easy to rinse out. An empty can of Alpo? Not so much.
The Council has been working with Alcoa for years to boost aluminum-recycling rates, even instituting a recycling effort at Steelers tailgates. "Now we're starting to look at some of the items that are not recycled as often," Mazza says. "The thing about people, and animals as well, is that we're creatures of habit. The goal is to get people used to recycling their empty pet food cans."
Do Good:
Not sure where to recycle other items? Construction Junction has a guide and takes many hard-to-recycle items.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Dave Mazza, Pennsylvania Resources Council

Got a middle-school Mozart or junior-high Callas in the house? Enter the WQED contest

If you've ever sat in a half-empty school auditorium for your kid's band or choir concert, you know that kids playing classical music aren't getting the love their football-playing classmates are receiving.
"Kids who participate in sports get the adulation of their peers all the time," says Joanna Marie, managing director of classical-music radio's WQED-FM, "whereas kids who study instruments and vocal arts don't get that."
That's one of the reasons WQED-FM is reviving its Musical Kids contest to offer recognition and encouragement for young instrumentalists and vocalists. The station is now accepting performance recordings through Feb. 22 to pick a first round of finalists. The finalists will then be invited to make professional video recordings to be posted on the WQED website, where the public will vote for one winner from March 18 through April 10. A panel of judges among local classical music performers and teachers will pick five more winners, and all will perform live on the station's “Performance in Pittsburgh” on May 3 and receive a plaque and prizes at an event at their school.
Reduced school funding for the arts "is another reason we want to step in and help fill the void," Marie says. "It is something we really believe in." Presenting part of the award at each kid's school is a purposeful strategy "so they can show their peers how well they are doing," she adds. The station hopes, she says, to offer the winners "recognition and a great sense of accomplishment and fun."
The contest last ran in the 1990s, in a different form, and has received a grant from the Snee-Reinhardt Charitable Foundation to be revived.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Joanna Marie, WQED-FM

iPads, babies and free apps: winning therapy from the Early Learning Institute

It's hard to imagine an eight-month-old baby doing more than drooling and banging on an iPad, but The Early Learning Institute has discovered that kids this young can benefit from app-based therapies -- and so can their parents.
The Institute got a grant from the Verizon Foundation to buy 10 iPads to pilot a study of occupational, physical, speech and developmental therapies used with the 1,100 kids in their Early Intervention Program, which treats children experiencing developmental delays from birth to three in Allegheny and Washington counties. The idea is to help them achieve normal developmental milestones.
As a result, says Kara Rutowski, executive director of The Early Learning Institute, the kids have increased their vocabularies, learned to take turns, improved their balance, learned to make good decisions, increased their attention spans and expanded their abilities to express and understand language.
They've also to follow directions, match items, answer yes or no questions and identify family members, objects, colors and pictures. The eight-month-old is learning fine motor skills, to improve grasping and the use one finger at a time and other skills that will prepare this child to write, color, cut and perform other pre-school tasks.
The program uses mostly free apps so that each child's parents can use them at home to reinforce a kid's goals. Parents can also take their own smart phone or iPad in to the Institute between sessions to practice with the therapists. In addition, the Institute uses iPad learning for babies and toddlers in its socialization group, the Social Butterflies program.
"It's never too early to work on these skills," Rutowski says. "The beauty of it is, children are having fun. They don't realize they are working while they are using these things."
Do Good:
Searching for additional ways to help kids with special learning needs? Volunteer at the Children's Institute.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Kara Rutowski, The Early Learning Institute

Make Martin Luther King Day a true service day with this guide

Many nonprofits are offering service opportunities and celebrations for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 21. Here's a brief guide to just some of the available activities:
  • East Liberty's Union Project is holding a free community meal and meeting "about Dr. King's dream, how we pursue it, and how we are living it today." This year's location is Eastminster Presbyterian Church, 250 N. Highland Avenue, 4-7 p.m., sponsored by the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development.
  • Pittsburgh Cares and PUMP are collaborating on Volunteer Speed Dating to match those 21 or older with local nonprofits that can really use volunteers' skills, time and know-how. The event will take place on Jan. 16, 6-8 p.m. at the Pittsburgh Public Market in the Strip District; free pre-registration is recommended, because it's $5 at the door.
  • Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and Habitat for Humanity are asking you to volunteer at the food bank in honor of King and of President Barack Obama's inauguration that day. Register here to participate.
  • The Student Conservation Association and Venture Outdoors are partnering for a free Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the Park from 1-4 p.m. on MLK Day in Schenley Park, featuring refreshments, ice skating, snowshoeing, arts and crafts  and more.
  • Carnegie Mellon University has a day of festivities and forums. It begins with a School of Drama tribute at 12:30 p.m. and includes programs by the Arts Greenhouse and the Children's School, a campus "Big Questions" interactive session on "What are you doing for others?" and a keynote address and reception featuring Binta Brown -- described as a "political advisor, humanitarian, award-winning corporate attorney and World Economic Forum global leader" -- at 5 p.m. in the Rangos Ballroom of the University Center.
  • The University of Pittsburgh's week of celebration, called "Becoming a Just Community," begins with an interfaith service full of music, dance and spoken-word performances by students from Pitt and elsewhere on Jan. 18, 7-8 p.m. at the Heinz Memorial Chapel. Included in the week are service projects for Pitt students on MLK Day, a social-justice symposium about faith and spirituality on campus and a lecture by famed activist Angela Davis, now a University of California at Santa Cruz Distinguished Professor Emerita (both on Jan. 24).
Writer: Marty Levine

Kids' video contest, Take a Shot, adds prizes for 'The People Speak,' other themes

The "Take a Shot" kids' video contest is still about "how kids can change the world and how Pittsburgh can change the world," says Carl Kurlander, president of Steeltown Entertainment, which started the contest three years ago.
Inspired by, and originally focused on, Jonas Salk's pioneering polio vaccine work here, the contest now has several new themes for video entries -- including the environment, nonviolence and "The People Speak" -- and $10,000 in prizes.
"The People Speak" theme stems from the Steeltown-sponsored event last May in which actors Matt Damon, Frances McDormand and John Krasinski (in town to film the just-released "Promised Land") and local activists read here from the work of Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States and subject of "The People Speak" documentary. Take a Shot is now partnering with Voices of a People's History, founded by Zinn and others, to bring to life the stories of lesser-known movements and people instrumental in the country's history. Voices is also providing Take a Shot with curriculum materials to help teachers encourage their students to participate. "That's really important to us," says Kurlander. "We've really been inspired by how teachers have used this in their classrooms."
On Jan. 19, this year's Take a Shot contest will launch with a free showing of "The People Speak," which features Morgan Freeman, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Pink, Eddie Vedder and others. "We'll use that kickoff to inspire kids to make videos on how you make change in your community," Kurlander says. On Feb. 24, before that evening's Oscar broadcast, Take a Shot will hold a filmmaking workshop at the Senator John Heinz History Center.
Last year's contest category, "Pittsburgh Innovation," and the original "Polio: Then and Now" category remain as prizes as well.
The contest entry deadline is May 1, after which the judges, who are still being chosen, will take two weeks to view the films and the public will have a 10-day online voting period to decide on two $1,000 prizes for middle-school and high-school films. On May 18, a film fest at the History Center will announce and screen the winners and highlights from other films.
Writer: Marty Levine 
Source: Carl Kurlander and Rachel Shepherd, Steeltown Entertainment

Why aren't anti-bullying programs working for all kids? First Safe Schools Summit seeks answer

Betty Hill has been puzzled when local schools and foundations report that their anti-bullying programs are working, yet she still hears so often from LGBT students that they're being bullied.
"There's something wrong here," says Hill, director of Persad, which runs many programs for LGBT youth. "There's a disconnect that [schools] are not seeing. We want to get people involved and we want to get solutions. We can't just leave behind this whole group of LGBT kids who are not benefitting" from local anti-bullying efforts.
That's why Persad is teaming with local chapters of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) and other organizations to hold a Safe Schools Summit -- the first of a three-part effort to bring local resources to bear on this continuing problem. The summit will be held in the Lexus Club at PNC Park on Jan. 16.
Nationally, GLSEN has been studying the school climate for LGBT kids for two decades. Their latest survey from 2011, just released, found that 90 percent of LGBT students say they have been verbally harassed, 39 percent physically harassed and 18 percent assaulted in the previous year due to their sexual orientation. Sixty percent report that they feel unsafe in school.
Bringing local experts on LGBT issues together with educators will attempt to bridge the gap between general anti-bullying approaches and the needs of LGBT youth. Part of the effort will include conducting the first comprehensive research on the local school climate.
The summit will feature national speakers from the Trevor Project (an LGBT youth suicide-prevention hotline), GLSEN, and PFLAG, as well as local school bullying research findings presented by Laura Crothers and Jered Kolbert of Duquesne University.
Apparently, says Hill, "kids do not label the negative things done against gay kids as bullying. So they don't use their anti-bullying skills because they don't see the anti-gay things as bullying." Finding out why this goes on, and what to do about it, is the goal of the Summit, whose third part she expects to be later this year. It will include a series of a focus groups with area students, parents, educators, and LGBT community-service groups to discuss local research and ways to proceed from here.
Do Good:
Looking for another way to help LGBT youth? Volunteer at the local Gay and Lesbian Community Center.
Writer: Marty Levine 
Source: Betty Hill, Persad

Summit Against Racism marks 15 years of the Black and White Reunion

Ending racism, police misconduct and racial profiling and promoting voting rights and equality in the workplace are the lofty goals of the Black and White Reunion's annual Summit Against Racism, which will hold its 15th gathering Jan. 26 at East Liberty Presbyterian Church.
Bob Maddock, one of the organizers, is philosophical about the need still to work toward such goals, a decade and a half after the group began in response to the deadly encounter of black motorist Jonny Gammage with local police.
"What can I say about relationships" with police, he offers. "They're certainly not as good as they could be. We are some of the people putting pressure on the police to be more open." Group members have been trying to view Pittsburgh's police contract to determine what barriers to openness remain in the agreement, for instance, and have filed a pending Freedom of Information Act to try to retrieve it.
Other groups will speak about election protection and national attempts to disenfranchise African Americans and other voters. "That's really going to be a continuing issue," Maddock believes. Representatives from Decarcerate PA will press for an end to prison-building in the state, while WWHAT'S UP Pittsburgh (Whites Working and Hoping to Abolish Total Supremacy, Undermining Privilege) will discuss racism in the workplace.
Gentrification of neighborhoods will be the subject of Carl Redwood, Hill District organizer, and others. The event also features remarks by founder Tim Stevens and a brief documentary on long-time civil rights activist Sarah B. Campbell. The Summit awards a Jonny Gammage Memorial Scholarship each year.
Do Good:
Want to find other ways to get active on these issues locally? Connect with the Black Political Empowerment Project.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Bob Maddock, Black and White Reunion

Keeping young people's career dreams alive is motive of Healthy Artists' focus on health-care access

The United States is the only industrialized nation not to offer some form of healthcare to its citizens, points out Julie Sokolow, local documentary filmmaker and founder of the arts and social-justice organization Healthy Artists. "Why aren't more people engaged with this?" she asks. Why aren't more people demanding that this country catch up with the rest of the world?
Perhaps people need a little extra inspiration -- and maybe young people can lead the way, Sokolow posits. That's where Healthy Artists comes in.
On Jan. 4, 2013, at Modern Formations Gallery, Healthy Artists will open “The Healthy Artists Movie Poster Exhibition,” a month-long show of art urging young people to become as involved in the health-care issue as they were in presidential politics when Barack Obama originally ran. In conceiving the exhibition, Sokolow's thoughts turned to the power of the now-iconic blue-and-red "Hope" poster of Obama created by Shepard Fairey for 2008. For the Jan. 4 event, Healthy Artists has gotten 15 local professional artists and five student artists each to create a movie-style poster around the group's original effort, a documentary film series on artists discussing their work and their difficulties with health care.
As Sokolow points out, these young creatives are in an age bracket -- 19 to 29 -- who make up 30 percent of this country's 49 million uninsured. "Artists are just a metaphor for anyone who has a dream they want to accomplish," she says. "Anyone with a dream can relate to that." But instead of gathering terrible stories of medical bankruptcy and untreated illness, Healthy Artists "is highlighting how having health care would liberate so many people. It's about making life easier for people and people not feeling shackled to jobs because they need the healthcare the job provides. If we're the greatest country on earth, we should be investing in our citizens as the other countries are.
"We want people to recognize that it's to their benefit to get involved, that they can use their talents to get involved," she adds. "We want to create new ways to be an activist."
Healthy Artists is teaming with Be Well! Pittsburgh -- which earlier got a Sprout Fund grant to compile health-care options for the uninsured -- and Original Magazine to help publicize the issue. Healthy Artists -- itself the recipient of a Sprout Fund grant -- will also team with Healthcare 4All-PA to present the latter's study on Jan. 4 concerning how a single-payer healthcare plan would benefit Pennsylvania. An effort to create a single-payer healthcare is currently underway in Vermont. After the exhibition and the other work of Healthy Artists and its collaborators, Sokolow hopes another city will be inspired by Pittsburgh.
More information on the exhibition's opening night (which includes free food, drink and music from the Harlan Twins), as well as on the exhibition's artists and judges, is available at the Healthy Artists website.
Do Good:
Looking for additional ways to help with the healthcare issue? Volunteer with Healthcare 4All-PA by clicking here.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Julie Sokolow, Healthy Artists

Create a 'beloved community' after MLK; enter the Girls Coalition girls' essay contest

The Girls Coalition of Southwestern Pennsylvania is hoping to inspire girls with a new contest based on the principles that Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. espoused -- and to inspire girls' ideas beyond the only thing they probably know about King: his "I have a dream" speech.
The newly announced Martin Luther King, Jr. Essay Contest for girls in grades 6-12 is intended "to bring girls' voices into the work we are doing," says Coalition Program Director Heather Mediate, "helping them bring their ideas to the table so they can change the world themselves."
Girls can write, or make a brief video, that answers the question, "How can I change the world?" or "How am I a leader for justice, equality, and fairness for all people in my community and beyond?" or "What does it mean to be part of the 'beloved community?'" which references a less-famous quote of King's:  "Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives."
"We wanted to bring to the table some of the other tenets of his philosophy," says Mediate of King. "'Beloved community' was about creating an all-inclusive society where we could eliminate evils together. When we work together, we can come up with solutions."
While the essays and videos alone may not change the world, the effort is intended to show girls that "we can accomplish great things in nonviolent ways," she adds. "Martin Luther King was someone who strongly believed things could change, and that they should change, and he strongly committed his life to seeing that they did change."
Essays of 300-500 words, or two- to three-minute videos, are due Jan. 4, 2013 at 5 p.m. Email here or see the Coalition website for details. Winners from three categories (grades 6-8, grades 9 and 10, and grades 11 and 12) will be judged by representatives of the YWCA, UPMC Center for Inclusion, Women for a Healthy Environment, Girl Scouts and other organizations that share the Coalition's emphasis on aiding the lives of girls. Finalists and winners will be announced Jan. 15, 2013 and selected essays and videos will be presented at the Union Project's annual Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration on Jan. 21. 
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Heather Mediate, Girls Coalition Southwestern Pennsylvania

Memorializing the homeless and creating future access to health care: Operation Safety Net

Operation Safety Net helped make certain there wasn't a single death among Pittsburgh's homeless this year caused by illness or cold weather. But that won't make the annual vigil for the homeless -- the seven lost in 2012 through accident or other causes -- any less solemn when it is held on Dec. 21.
That's National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day -- the longest night of the year -- and Pittsburgh will be among more than 150 U.S. cities to hold a similar observance. Members of Operation Safety Net, which is part of the Pittsburgh Mercy Health System and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, invites attendees to donate new hats, gloves and socks for the Severe Weather Emergency Shelter, which opens when the temperature drops below 25 degrees or there is extreme snow or sleet.
The main cause of death among the homeless, says Stephanie Chiappini, program manager for Operation Safety Net, is accidents involving the train tracks, rivers and roads near which they live. Chiappini is just glad her organization has been able to connect homeless people to healthcare, housing and other services throughout the year. "If we could get everyone off the street, that would be ideal," she says. "That's what we're working towards."
However, some of those with the most severe mental illness say they cannot handle living anywhere else. Nor are there many shelters for those with active substance abuse problems. Operation Safety Net has succeeded in getting 33 among the latter group off the streets and into their Trail Lane Apartments on the South Side, near the 10th Street Bridge. The apartments have what Chiappini calls "a low-demand philosophy," accepting those still addicted to drugs if they do not use the substances on apartment property or threaten the safety of others there.
"We were able to engage people directly from the camps and get them into primary health care," she reports -- in particular, behavioral and other integrated mental and physical health services via Pittsburgh Mercy Family Health Center, where they are served by Dr. Jim Withers, founder of Operation Safety Net. "People on the street are comfortable with him," she explains; Dr. J. Todd Wahrenberger, medical director of the practice, and Physician Assistant Linda Von Bloch are also serving homeless patients there. Such integrated services have become a best practice being adopted across the nation.
The vigil will be held from 7 to 8 p.m. at Grant Street and Fort Pitt Boulevard, where, underneath the highway overpass, bronze plaques on a memorial wall commemorate the 125 other homeless people whose lives have been memorialized by the organization since 1991.
Do Good:
Looking for additional ways to help the homeless? Aid Three Rivers Youth, which runs a homeless outreach center, by clicking here.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Stephanie Chiappini, Operation Safety Net

CreativeMornings debuts here: Inspiring gatherings for creative types

Another worldwide movement is coming to Pittsburgh, making us one of only 40 cities from here to Auckland, Singapore, Cape Town and beyond to hold CreativeMornings: A new, free, monthly breakfast lecture series aimed at the creative person in all of us. Started by a designer in Brooklyn in 2008 and flourishing originally in Web design firms, today CreativeMornings is billed as a "global breakfast lecture series for creative types," It's meant to be a casual morning gathering and a day-beginning booster, fostering even more of a creative community here in the process.
CreativeMornings/Pittsburgh is opening on Dec. 14 from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at the Andy Warhol Museum with a talk by Nina Marie Barbuto from Garfield's hands-on art venue Assemble. Barbuto will teach the first attendees about "Making Learning a Party," modeled on the learning parties Assemble holds. Auckland's last lecture featured an origami artist; in Berlin, it was the inventor of the world's smallest wearable camera. Sao Paolo's most recent presentation was by Casey Caplowe, the founder of Good magazine. The idea is to encourage life-long learning for creative types.

CreativeMornings/Pittsburgh is run by Kate Stoltzfus (digital strategist for Plumb Media, one of the leaders at Propelle for women entrepreneurs and editor/cofounder of Yinzpiration.com) and a volunteer team that includes Dustin Stiver and Carley Kapcin of the Sprout Fund. Stoltzfus worked with Sprout to bring CreativeMornings here.
"We just thought it was a great thing for the city to have," Stoltzfus says. "There really isn't something consistent that brings creative people together in the same way in Pittsburgh."

While all 120 spaces for the first CreativeMornings/Pittsburgh event are booked, there is a waiting list available for Dec. 14 and an email list for you to subscribe to future notices so you can reserve a spot for January's lecture, coffee and breakfast. The theme, chosen by CreativeMornings headquarters, will be "Happiness."
"I was happy to bring another opportunity to Pittsburgh," concludes Stoltzfus. "It's really for anybody who is looking to be inspired by different creative concepts."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Kate Stoltzfus, CreativeMornings/Pittsburgh

Early chance to serve as Santa (or late chance to help Chanuka): Your guide to area toy drives

Today is the deadline for one local toy drive -- hurry to contribute so that kids everywhere can have a wonderful holiday. There are also many donation drives you can still help up until two days before Christmas Eve. Here is a handy guide:
  • The Port Authority of Allegheny County, Q92.9 FM and the U.S. Marine Corps are holding their annual Toys for Tots drive on Dec. 14 from 5:30 to 9 a.m. on the mezzanine level of the Steel Plaza T Station (near Sixth Avenue and Grant Street downtown). They're collecting new, unwrapped toys and cash.

  • The Marines' Toys For Tots effort is also the beneficiary of the Master Builders’ Association annual drive Attend their gathering Dec. 12 at 6 p.m. at the Hard Rock Café in Station Square, run by the Association's Young Constructors Committee for the construction industry -- a toy is your ticket.
  • The Northside Institutional Church is gathering toy donations for their annual Christmas Store for needy families. They'll accept your toys on site at 302 West North Avenue on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Tuesdays from 1 to 9 p.m. Contact Stacy Webb here.
  • Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC is always looking for toys for its Child Life and Volunteer Services Departments. Call 412-692-5022 or donate at the Welcome Center in the main lobby from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily, and see their website for giving guidelines and most-needed items.
  • If you're attending the Toonseum's Island of Misfit Toons Christmas Party Dec. 14 from 7:30-10:30 p.m. in its Lou Scheimer Gallery downtown, a new or only slightly used toy will get you half off the $10 admission and benefit the Play It Forward Pittsburgh toy drive.
Writer: Marty Levine

Jeremiah's Place closer to opening as crisis nursery, sets 'Art of Love' fundraiser

Pittsburgh's first crisis nursery, Jeremiah's Place, is on track to open in 2013 as a way for families with the youngest children to find relief when their lives give them with nowhere else to turn.
Jeremiah's Place, which is still looking for a home, will offer respite care for kids up to 6 years old. Parents may drop off children without notice to relieve the severe stresses life gives to too many families: homelessness, job loss, or merely a single night when the mother is too ill, or delivering another child, and has nowhere safe and trustworthy to leave her other children.
"We have made some great strides," reports spokesperson Eileen Sharbaugh, part of the 22-person team organizing this effort, founded by Dr. Lynne Williams of East Liberty Family Health Care Center and Dr. Tammy Murdock of the Family Life Fund of the Children’s Hospital Foundation. Team members have met with other local nonprofits that work with children and parents, gathering more support, as well as county officials in the County's Office of Children, Youth and Families and area foundations.
All have been encouraging to their effort, Sharbaugh says, which is designed to take away one of the major risk factors for child abuse: "Parents really are trying to do their very best but sometimes the odds are so far against them. We're offering them something that is truly preventative. When the parent thinks they are about to lose it, there is somebody who will be there, in a very nonjudgmental way, to relieve their stress."
At the suggestion of the Forbes Foundation, the group has shifted their focus from buying a potential location to teaming with other local nonprofits with a similar clientele, where Jeremiah's Place could rent space for a pilot program of 18 to 24 months. In the meantime, they are conducting a public awareness campaign and holding initial fundraisers. The first has been dubbed "The Art of Love!"?
Set for 5:30 to 9 p.m. on Dec. 13 at the Pittsburgh Public Market (on Smallman between 16th and 17th streets in the Strip), it will offer art for sale that counters the negative images children are exposed to every day. Twenty-seven pieces by 24 artists -- weavings, photos, oils, acrylics, jewelry and others -- valued at $20-300 will be on sale, along with raffle items. As a bonus, some of the regular Public Market booths will stay open for the event.
For National Child Abuse Awareness Month next April, Jeremiah's Place has already scheduled a 5K run through North Park on April 27, 2013.
Do Good:
Looking for even more ways to help parents and kids? Aid them through the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh or UPMC’s Re:solve Crisis Network.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Eileen Sharbaugh, Jeremiah's Place

Heinz picks Hazelwood: Endowments give Center of Life $1.35 million for 1st 'place-based' effort

A new place-based initiative has the Heinz Endowments focusing millions of dollars and years of effort on single neighborhoods -- and Hazelwood is their first choice.
"Every time you walk down a new block in Hazelwood you find a new group doing something for somebody else," says Heinz Endowments President Robert Vagt. "It's just a remarkable neighborhood. When we decided to do place-based grant making, we knew we wanted to work in a neighborhood that had clear needs and active and helpful resources. Hazelwood believes that positive change is going to take place -- that it's possible."
Although the Endowments have given recent gifts to fund the Almono Bike Trail along the neighborhood's former LTV steel mill site, as well as smaller gifts in the past to Hazelwood's Center of Life, this $1.35 million, three-year grant to the Center is part of $2.3 million aimed at revitalizing the neighborhood as a more concerted effort.
"This is intended as a grant to help them continue the good work they are already doing, but to have the financial capacity to do it on a much larger scale," says Vagt.
That's exactly what the Center's leader, Pastor Tim Smith, hopes.
"For the Center of Life, it will allow us to do more of what we're doing," Smith says. "We had a demand to do more but we weren't able to bring on the kind of staff we need. The programs were bigger than the organization and we needed to catch up."
Center of Life currently runs the music and arts KRUNK Movement (Kreating Realistic Urban New-school Knowledge) program that uses jazz and hip hop to teach music writing, performing and business skills; the Center of Life Jazz Band, which earned first place in the 2012 Monterey Jazz Festival emerging artist competition; Fusion, with Duquesne University, providing tutoring and homework assistance to students and parents; and a basketball program.
Smith hopes to add back several programs the Center once ran, such as a financial literacy class with Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh and NeighborWorks, and Hazelwood Handyman classes. The Center is now looking to expand its space as well. "We'll open the doors to a lot more," Smith says.
Indeed, the grant's purpose is also to help the Center team with new partners and gain other funding. "We expect there will be new programs as the result of this increased capacity," says Vagt.
The Endowments are still looking at which neighborhood to focus on next. "The most important thing is that there are times when the foundation has an idea that we carry to a place," Vagt concludes. "The biggest difference about this is, we are working with the community to determine what the community wants as its future. That is something that is very different for us."
Do Good:
Want to get involved in Hazelwood in other ways? Help feed hazelwood residents through Fishes and Loaves at St. Stephen Catholic Church.

Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Tim Smith, Center of Life; Robert Vagt, Heinz Endowments

$8 million Achieva campaign begins to improve lives of people with disabilities

The needs are greater than ever for local residents with disabilities, says Achieva President and CEO Marsha Blanco. "There are really some pressing needs," she says. "While we of course have had a great deal of government funding coming in, government tends to fund very traditional things. Achieva believes in innovation and we do not believe that models that were current 25 years ago are the way to do things today."
That's why the 62-year-old organization, southwestern Pennsylvania’s largest comprehensive service provider for people with disabilities and their families, has announced a new $8 million capital campaign called Innovation in Support of People with Disabilities -- their largest campaign ever.
"Pennsylvania has lengthy waiting lists for services," Blanco adds. "In fact, it is a national problem." Those with Medicaid waivers can get support from state and federal programs, she explains, but those on the long waiting list for such waivers receive very little support. Many families of those with disabilities, however, are able to provide some level of assistance themselves. Combined with government funding, this may let their adult son or daughter become more independent -- perhaps leaving home for the first time.
Among the service additions Achieva hopes to institute are 118 new living spaces for those with disabilities. Blanco says money raised by the capital campaign, combined with continued family assistance, will create new living arrangements in rented apartments or family homes, while Achieva will also help provide staffing and other aids to make this possible.
Achieva also hopes to expand the number of employees with disabilities at its pallet-manufacturing plant in Bridgeville, where currently those with and without disabilities work side by side to serve about 90 customers. The organization wishes also to expand the reach of the Achieva Trust, which manages $62 million for more than 2,000 individuals with disabilities. Funds placed in the Trust do not count as official assets of contributors -- assets that otherwise might disqualify potential Medicaid funding recipients.
A final goal of the capital campaign is to give Achieva better energy efficiency in its 100-plus homes and other facilities in Allegheny County, reducing its costs and making Achieva an even better neighbor.
It is a three-year campaign, Blanco says, "but we believe we will actually be able to wrap up the campaign earlier than that." Among contributions already secured for the campaign are $1 million from the PNC Foundation, $750,000 from the Edith L. Trees Charitable Foundation and $475,000 from the Heinz Endowments.
"The community is just showing strong, strong support for the campaign," she reports. "We feel blessed."
Do Good:
Looking for more ways to help those with disabilities locally? Contact Allegheny County's Disability Connection.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Marsha Blanco, Achieva

Handmade Arcade set for Dec. 8 with more vendors, expanded hands-on area, live music and more

Handmade Arcade continues to be a premier, free, once-a-year venue for a unique shopping experience -- and a uniquely powerful place to learn how creative Pittsburgh can be.
This year has more vendors, live music for the first time and an expanded maker area, called Hands-on Handmade.  "The goal is to partner with local organizations to bring in their expertise to show that Pittsburgh is a very vibrant city with a love of making, all year round," says Handmade co-organizer Jessica Manack, who is also a vendor of handmade buttons at the show (as Miss Chief Productions). The Hands-on section lets people learn new art and craft skills and "appreciate the joy of making things and the people who make things," Manack says.
Among the new organizations at Hands-on this year are Healthy Artists and Carnegie Library's Zine Collection, which will be teaming to host a zine-making workshop. Knit the Bridge, by The Fiberarts Guild Of Pittsburgh and Fiber Art International 2013, will help you be a part of their yarn bomb project -- knitting squares to form a larger, bridge-adorning creation.
Pittsburgh-based online fashion company ModCloth will also be there. "It's one of the great examples of Pittsburgh entrepreneurs," says Manack, since ModCloth is a long-time local independent business that has made good, with a San Francisco office and hundreds of employees. "It's the kind of thing we've tried to foster with all the Handmade Arcades, the kind of thing we want to show off. Events like Handmade Arcade are one day, but they really have a ripple effect."
Indeed, Manack points to some vendors who have moved to Pittsburgh after discovering that Handmade Arcade was part of a vibrant maker scene. And the Arcade, although it's not a trade show, is also a place for companies to scout for new lines of merchandise. Redraven Studios, which does ceramic jewelry, has now had a limited-edition line of necklaces in Anthropologie. Overdue Industries, from Philadelphia, has gotten wholesale orders for its journals from Kards Unlimited.
The Arcade this year will also feature new tote bags from local strawberryluna, "one of our superstar vendors -- someone who has really grown her product and prints and is nationally well known," Manack says. "People like her support Handmade Arcade as much as Handmade Arcade supports her."
The Dec. 8 Arcade at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center's Hall C has more than 150 vendors offering jewelry, posters, prints, clothing, artwork, t-shirts, stationery, paper craft, accessories, housewares, children’s clothing, bath and body items, toys, music, zines, multimedia and what it terms "geekery." "Early Birdie" passes for $15 let shoppers in an hour before the opening bell. Live music will be provided by Instead of Sleeping, and DJ sets will be performed by David Pohl, J. Malls & Michael Seamans, Bad Seed and The Garment District.
Manack has been with the Arcade from the beginning, when it was founded by Gloria Forouzan. "One of the critical goals was to show off Pittsburgh," she says. "I'd like to think we're making it possible for creatives to live and thrive here."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jessica Manack, Handmade Arcade

Who will you nominate as 'values-based leaders' for Coro MLK Awards?

"We want to build a community that works for everybody, that has a high quality of life for everybody -- that's the vision of Coro," says Greg Crowley, president and CEO of the Coro Center for Civic Leadership on the South Side.
That's why Coro, which fosters civic engagement in young people, is seeking nominations for its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Awards. Names can be submitted through Dec. 7 for the Distinguished Leadership Award and the Organizational Leadership Award, given to those who practice what Coro labels "values-based leadership in the service of a more inclusive democracy."
"Our whole mission is wrapped up with values leadership," says Crowley. "It's important for people to be aware of what matters to them and what drives them. It's about challenging people to a higher calling to put their talent to work to strengthen the community." MLK, of course, is an exemplar of values leadership, he adds.
Another mission of Coro is to engage people who historically haven't had a strong voice in affecting the future of their own communities. Coro's Teen Bloc, for instance, brings together high-school students to discuss -- and, ideally, affect -- the quality and future of their own education.
Speaking at the Jan. 18, 2013 awards event at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture will be Kare Anderson, an Emmy-winning former journalist and author of Walk Your Talk, Getting What You Want, Resolving Conflict Sooner and Moving From Me to We. "She's a person who has really done a lot of work to help people to become more effective in accomplishing their goals in life and in meeting their higher purpose," says Crowley. She is also an alumna of the Coro Center in San Francisco -- the first time a Coro alum will be speaking at the MLK event.
Past winners of the individual award have included David Shapira, head of Giant Eagle, and former City Councilman Doug Shields, while groups from PNC Financial Services to The Union Project have won previous organizational awards. Another award, chosen by Coro, will be given to an alumnus of the group.
Says Crowley: "We really see this as a networking opportunity for like-minded people who want to learn about themselves and strengthen their ability to be their best."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Greg Crowley, Coro Center for Civic Leadership

A former Steeler, a PSU standout -- 14 men are first-time honorees for Women and Girls Foundation

And now for something completely different: The Women and Girls Foundation for the first time is giving their annual awards exclusively to men.
While every year for the past seven years the foundation has been celebrating women in a different sector of society, CEO Heather Arnet says the group has long been discussing a way to reward the good works of their male allies. The awards ceremony -- "Celebrating woMEN!" -- will take place on Dec. 1 at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture. The honorees are:

  • Jim Abraham, Law Office of James E. Abraham LLC
  • Gregg Dietz, University of Pittsburgh and Shaler Area High School
  • Tanner Fitzgerald, Pennsylvania State University student
  • Rep. Dan Frankel, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
  • Dr. Freddie Fu, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine
  • William Gay, formerly of the Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Michael Aaron Glass, Dress for Success Pittsburgh
  • George Greer, The Eden Hall Foundation and H.J. Heinz Company
  • Andrew Hoover, American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania
  • George Kantor, Carnegie Mellon University and Girls of Steel
  • Maxwell King, Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media
  • Lou Rood, Belle Vernon Area School District and Pittsburgh Passion
  • Hon. Gene Strassburger, Superior Court of Pennsylvania

Freddie Fu, for instance, is being recognized for bringing an unusual number of women into the sports medicine field in Pittsburgh. "Freddie has really broken down so many barriers for women in that field," says Arnet, calling the Steelers "singular in the NFL" for having physicians, therapists and others on their training, therapy and treatment teams. And while the national average is five-percent female faculty and residents in academic orthopedic surgery departments, the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, which Fu chairs, has 19 percent female faculty and 29 percent female residents.
Tanner Fitzgerald (son of County Executive Rich Fitzgerald) was one of the more surprising nominees, says Arnet, since he is still a Penn State undergraduate. He is president of Men Against Violence, which addresses the sexual assault of women, on PSU's main campus, and has worked at the Center For Women Students there. He also helped bring ”Walk-A-Mile in Her Shoes: The International Men’s March To Stop Rape, Sexual Assault, and Gender Violence” to Penn State. "We all know way too much about the culture of athletics here," says Arnet. "We'd like to see even more college-age men taking leadership roles."
Jim Abraham, who works with Planned Parenthood and the Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania, was also chosen for an award -- recognition of how important women's health issues remain, especially with family planning becoming such a subject of contention during the recent election. And former Steeler William Gay was chosen for his continued commitment to helping the Women’s Center and Shelter here. When Gay was 8, his mother died as a result of domestic violence, which has been his inspiration ever since. "There are way too many stories like his and he is really a brave and compassionate person," says Arnet.
A special honor is being given to Dr. Gary Cuccia, whose teenage daughter, Demi Brae Cuccia, was killed by her boyfriend in 2007. Cuccia has created protocols for teachers and administrators to learn the warning signs of escalating domestic violence situation, so they are able to take action. He also speaks at numerous school assemblies to educate teens on preventing future tragedies.
It was difficult picking these honorees among the 47 nominations, Arnet says. The Women and Girls Foundation has therefore created a book with all nominees' stories, which is available for purchase by contacting the foundation.
Says Arnet: "We hope everyone can be inspired by their stories."
Do Good:
Want another way to help women and girls? Get involved with the Women's Law Project -- a cause the Women & Girls Foundation is involved with too. They're looking for volunteers here.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Heather Arnet, The Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania

Seventy-five years of serving immigrants, seniors, kids at Jewish Family and Children's Service

Jewish Family & Children's Service has been helping the Pittsburgh community for 75 years now, and the need for their many nonsectarian services has only gotten stronger in recent years.
"We're finding more people in need of direct assistance" today, from food and shelter to help paying utility bills, says President and CEO Aryeh Sherman. "And we're seeing more people struggling more, even though our employment rate is better than some areas. We have an aging population, so there is really a need to expand services."
Among the 8,200 the Service helps each year are refugees from Bhutan, who have been evicted from Nepal in its dispute with China. Pittsburgh, perhaps surprisingly, is one of the main cities where Bhutanese have been settling, at the rate of 500 a year.
"One of our goals is to help diversify the workforce in our region, especially by supporting immigration," says Sherman, whose agency began by helping to resettle Jewish refugees from the Holocaust and later brought immigrants from the former U.S.S.R. here. "It is our contribution toward diversifying our community. In a few years, it might be a new population."
Another major focus of the Service is serving the city's seniors. "Our goal is to help the elderly live independently and safely in their own homes or in the least restrictive environment possible," Sherman says. Their efforts are having a measurable effect. While seniors receiving Service help average 26 emergency-room visits per 100 clients each year, that's just half the national average, he says. And their clients' rate of hospital stays -- also 26 per 100 seniors per year -- is below the national average of 34 per 100. Only 2 percent of Service clients are admitted to skilled nursing facilities each year, versus nine percent of Medicare recipients in the U.S.
Some of the Service's other programs help to feed local residents through the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry, which distributes 240,000 pounds of food a year, and assist with adoption and foster care for 260 children and families each year. The newest program serves the growing population of job seekers through Work Able, which provides job placement and job readiness services.
Sherman knows that Jewish Family & Children's Service needs to reach out to southwestern Pennsylvania if it will be able to reach all who need its help in the future. Concludes Sherman: "We have to be more and more mobile and out in the community."
Do Good:
Want another way to help seniors? The Jewish Agency on Aging partners with the Jewish Family & Children's Service and is looking for volunteers here.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Aryeh Sherman, Jewish Family & Children's Service

Pittsburgh girl is finalist in world kids' video contest

When Dawnell Davis-White was filming her one-minute video Future Newscaster as part of a Children's Museum of Pittsburgh video workshop this past summer, no one knew she would end up in the hospital that night. But it didn't stop her from completing her video.
Dawnell has sickle cell anemia, says JuWanda Thurmond, the Children's Museum's youth program manager, and she shouldn't overheat. On one particular workshop day in July, says Thurmond, "she filmed all morning long -- we had a great day." But Dawnell hid from everyone that she had not been feeling well all day, Thurmond says. "She hadn't wanted to tell us -- she was having such a good time."
So Dawnell's videographer -- the kids worked in pairs -- went to the hospital to help her add audio. And now Dawnell's video is a finalist in the "oneminutesjr" video contest created by the One Minutes Foundation and UNICEF. Dawnell and her mother will be headed for Amsterdam for the Nov. 24 prize announcement, flying with funds the Museum secured in a grant.
Dawnell was one of 14 kids who attended the fourth annual summer video workshop at the Museum put on by two videographers from New York and two from Amsterdam, sponsored by UNICEF and One Minutes. It teaches the kids, from 13 to 17 years old, how to capture subjects and bring them to life, and how to add sound and special effects. Although One Minutes does such workshops all over the world, Pittsburgh and New York City are the only two U.S. locations. All the Pittsburgh videos can be seen on YouTube.
This year's theme was "Who am I?" which the kids story-boarded and then filmed. One acted as videographer and producer while another was the director for each video.
Concludes Thurmond: "We just feel that, because we deal with a lot of at-risk youth, there was an opportunity to do something different and something they might not do otherwise. It made for a rich experience."
Writer: Marty Levine

Hive Pittsburgh -- get details and help finalize this tween/teen program at Kids+Creativity Assembly

Spark's Kids+Creativity Network is ready to gather the troops, review its recent accomplishments and introduce new plans for growth -- including an attempt to establish only the third Hive program in the country, after New York and Chicago.
The Assembly will be Nov. 30, from 2 to 4 p.m. at The Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, and you can register here.
Spark, a program of The Sprout Fund, brings together and funds learning-program creation at the intersection of technology, media and the arts. Hive, says Spark spokesperson Ryan Coon, is developing into a national collection of regional learning networks supported by the MacArthur and Mozilla foundations. "It's a lot like Spark, in that it creates a supportive structure for different organizations working together" to create new learning opportunities for kids, Coon explains. Hives usually have the city's larger, more prominent kid-focused groups as members, such as libraries and museums, as members, as well as smaller organizations and individual researchers.
If Hive arrives, it will offer everything from new funding opportunities to fresh ways to spread the word about new learning ideas, focusing on middle- and high-school-age students and allowing Spark to go back to focusing on children ages 10 and below. The Hive would also likely attract new funding to the region.
Besides gathering member ideas for the Hive, the Kids+Creativity Network Assembly will feature other working sessions on future activities, including one that covers Connected Learning -- the idea that the three areas of children's lives (their social lives, their personal interests and their academics) connect and shouldn't be separated. In fact, says Coon, "Connected Learning is a way of creating an environment where kids are learning anywhere, anytime," and it is also one focus of the Hive.
Other talks at the event include speakers from the Museum's MAKEShop and from the Science Learning Activation Lab at the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research and Development Center.
The Assembly, concludes Coon, will create "recognition among the members of the Kids+Creativity Network of all we've accomplished over the past year and will reenergize the network as we begin to launch new activities in 2013."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Ryan Coon, Spark

'Rough year' for city students, reports A+ Schools, but bright spots remain

"It was a rough year," acknowledges Carey Harris, head of A+ Schools, about their eighth annual assessment of Pittsburgh Public Schools' status. "After six years of progress, we took a step back on almost every indicator we look at."
The report, on the 2011-12 school year, shows that:
  • District enrollment fell by 1,052 to 24,918 students
  • The graduation rate fell from 70 percent to 68.5 percent
  • The percentage of seniors who earned the 2.5 or higher GPA necessary to qualify for the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship fell 1 percent to 58 percent, with 39 percent of black students qualifying (a drop of 4 percent) and 77 percent of white students qualifying (the same rate as the previous year)
Linda Lane, PPS superintendent, announced at the report's release that, for 2012-13, enrollment has stabilized -- even seeing an uptick in kindergartens -- and the district is retaining more students for graduation. And, as Harris points out, "this challenge is shared by public schools across the state," which in general experienced some of the same declines.
But most concerning for Harris is a drop in the district's ability to close the achievement gap between black and white students after three years of improvement. The gap increased 1.3 percent to 31.9 percent in reading and 3.6 percent to 30.9 percent in math --the largest the gap seen in four years.
"There's a lot of anxiety about what's happening that contributes to this," she says, with school closings and massive teacher layoffs among them. A+ Schools is offering parents and school officials the chance to request a workshop about particular schools -- and a chance for community members to volunteer to be a part of A+'s new effort for 2012-13: interviewing every district school principal. (Sign up to volunteer here.)
"We're still better off than we were six years ago," Harris says, with the district's 6-8th grade and 11th-grade reading at higher levels than the state, a 1-percent increase in the number of students enrolled in one or more AP courses and a greater percentage of district schools with little or no achievement gap in reading.
"We know it can be done and that schools right here in the district are doing it," she adds. "We need to provide kids with all the supports they need to reach the standards."
Become a volunteer for the future of Pittsburgh schools with Communities in Schools.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Carey Harris, A+ Schools

Public Allies RISE ChangeMaker Awards honor North Hills group, UPMC leader, alumna

The great thing about the annual Public Allies RISE ChangeMaker Awards is that the winners are chosen by the community, says Misti McKeehen, site director of Public Allies Pittsburgh. During two weeks of voting last month, she says, "the community was able to go in and select who they felt was really making change."
Winners announced at the annual ceremony on Nov. 13 were:
  • Organizational RISE ChangeMaker: North Hills Community Outreach, whose programs include a pair of food pantries that annually distribute 4,500 pounds of vegetables from their organic garden, utility and emergency financial assistance, employment services, legal consultations, college scholarships for older students, services for seniors and others. In 2011, 1,314 volunteers (including 365 young people) contributed 44,507 hours of service to NHCO.
  • Individual RISE ChangeMaker: Matt Arch, who is program manager for regional community initiatives at the UPMC Center for Inclusion. He is also very active in the community as a member of the board of directors of the Delta Foundation, Addison Behavioral Care and the Advisory Committee for Equality Pennsylvania.
  • Alumni RISE ChangeMaker: LaTrenda Leonard, a member of the 2009-2010 class of Public Allies Pittsburgh who has been a student coordinator for the University of Pittsburgh's Investing Now program, community youth organizer for Focus on Renewal, and on the board of directors for the McKees Rocks Community Development Corporation.
The awards ceremony included a keynote address by John Fetterman, mayor of Braddock, outlining how Public Allies' core values inspired work in Braddock and beyond.
McKeehen sees the awards as a way for the winners to draw more attention to their good community works -- and a push for others to aspire to similar notice.
"We're working on getting young people engaged in community leadership," she notes, adding that Public Allies plans to continue to work with the awardees on creating and furthering service projects in the area. Public Allies' main program in Pittsburgh places young people, mostly 18-30, in a 10-month apprenticeship with local nonprofits through AmeriCorps, partnering with Coro Pittsburgh.
"Change, not charity" is the motto, and working with young people is one of the hallmarks, of the Three Rivers Community Foundation. Get involved here.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Misti McKeehen, Public Allies Pittsburgh

Sundance award-winning "The Invisible War" documentary presented by Public Source

 "The Invisible War," a Sundance Film Festival award-winning documentary is a powerful film about women in the military who have been raped or assaulted by fellow soldiers. It will be shown for the first time in Pittsburgh on November 29th when Public Source hosts a free event at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.
The film will be followed by a panel discussion on a range of veterans' issues. On the panel are: Jessica Kenyon, a U.S. Army veteran who is currently a victim advocate; Jackie Shellaby, a clinical social worker who runs the Homeless Veterans Day Program at Veterans Place, and Dr. Katie McCorkle, founder of the Balanced Heart Healing Center in Mars, Pa.

"We feel this event is an important followup to the stories we've published with our partners about returning veterans, including reports about slow disability payments, jobs and PTSD," said Sharon Walsh, editor of PublicSource. "It's also an opportunity for the community to come out and discuss these issues."
The event takes place on Thursday, November 29 at 6:30 p.m. at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Marshall Building - Simmons Hall. Free parking is available on the site.

The free event is part of the PublicSource Coming Home PA series. See all the stories here.

Writer: Pop City staff
Source: Sharon Walsh, PublicSource

Fast Pitch: more money and more coaching for innovative nonprofits on the rise

Director Elizabeth Visnic compares the Pittsburgh Social Venture Partners' (PSVP) annual program, the Social Innovation Fast Pitch, to a business start-up incubator: "We're the Innovation Works of the nonprofit world," she says. "We're on the philanthropic map now as an avenue for Pittsburgh philanthropists to get involved and for innovative nonprofits to have an opportunity to network and have a platform."
The Social Innovation Fast Pitch provides two months of free communication skills training -- teaching nonprofits how to tell their story effectively -- and many networking opportunities. First, however, the nonprofits have to successfully lay out their new and innovative program to the PSVP in an application. Twelve organizations will be chosen for coaching in December, based on the potential impact of their programs for social change. The Fast Pitch culminates in a final public competition and voting, this year set for March 6, 2013, where several prizes, adding up to more than $30,000, will be awarded -- some by the PSVP's investing partners, some by the audience.
"Our pitch events really are ways for our partners to become familiar with what nonprofits are doing," Visnic says. The Fast Pitch event represents a chance for very small start-ups to get noticed, or for existing nonprofits to publicize a new idea, such as North Hills Community Outreach's program, a previous finalist, providing cars to those who need to get to work. As long as the nonprofit operates in Allegheny County, it is eligible to enter. More than 90 nonprofits entered last year, up 50 percent from the previous year.
Visnic expects the prize pool to grow this year as it did last year, when local foundations and individuals added in money as late as the day of the final event.
"It's not like the traditional grant making," she notes. "Everyone has an equal chance. Something innovative and different is going to catch the partners' eyes and has a chance of impacting social change."
The 2013 Fast Pitch application form, available here, is due Nov. 30 at midnight.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Elizabeth Visnic, Pittsburgh Social Venture Partners

Respecting and recording their elders: Black youth create oral histories of black male mentors

"When kids get a chance to ask questions directly to adults, they really take away a lot of wisdom," says Larry Berger, executive director of SLB Radio Productions. "Sometimes it's wisdom the adults don't realize they are providing."
That's one of the reasons behind Crossing Fences, a new SLB-produced oral-history project that paired African-American male youths with African American male adults they saw as role models in three neighborhoods: Homewood, Hazelwood and the Hill District. The resulting interviews, coupled with reflections by some of the kids, debut as free books and CDs on Nov. 15 at several public events downtown and in the three neighborhoods. Special SLB StoryBoxes placed throughout the city also provide audio glimpses of the project.
Thirty-four youth were chosen to take part with the help of groups in each neighborhood: YMCA Lighthouse Project in Homewood, Center of Life in Hazelwood, and the Hill's University Prep at Pittsburgh Milliones 6-12 school. SLB first met with the boys to discuss what makes a role model, then helped bring the parties face to face and edit the interviews this past summer. The resulting materials will be available here on Nov. 15. Each boy also left the experience with a netbook computer for use in the current school year, and to help him continue sharpening his audio-editing skills.
The 36 men interviewed spoke about everything from their community service to parenting and spirituality. Among those participating in Crossing Fences were state Rep. Jake Wheatley, Homewood historian John Brewer, Pittsburgh Police Chief Nathan Harper and City Councilman Robert D. Lavelle.
As some of the adults told Berger later, he says, "'The kids made me really think hard about parts of my life, and I said things I didn't realize I was going to say.'"
The Heinz Endowments' African American Men and Boys Initiative funded the project, and has already committed to funding a second round of interviews, in neighborhoods still to be chosen. Berger is certain that the kids' curiosity will continue to draw out wisdom from the adults.
"There's something kind of special when you're telling your life to someone you haven't met before," Berger says. "You're a little more open. It ends up being a great way to get insight and advice, and to understand the trials the people coming before you might have experienced."
The free public celebrations of the CD and book releases will take place Nov. 15 (August Wilson Center for African American Culture, Downtown); Nov. 17 (Center of Life, Hazelwood); Nov. 19 (Homewood YMCA, Homewood); and Nov. 20 (University Prep at Pittsburgh Milliones, Hill District). Make your reservations here by Nov. 12.
For Good: Get involved with groups that aid some of the neighborhoods where Crossing Fences helps youth, such as the Kingsley Association and the Hill House.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Larry Berger, SLB Radio Productions

A revival for revivals: Jewish Theatre company makes comeback

"Jewish" and "theater" have long gone together, but Tito Braunstein's Jewish Theatre of Pittsburgh has been missing from the local scene for five years.
That changed this summer, when That's Life opened to reviews and attendance that pleased the 83-year-old founding artistic director and producer of the local nonprofit venture -- although he admits "re-launching is more difficult than launching. It could have been better. It could always be better."
Now Driving Miss Daisy is set to open on Nov. 7 and will play on Nov. 8, 10, 13, 14 and 15 at 8 p.m. and for Sunday matinees on Nov. 11 and 18 at 2 p.m. at Rodef Shalom in Oakland.
During the hiatus, Braunstein says, he heard former audience members ask him, "'When are you going to have your next play? We miss your theater.' My wife finally said, 'If you don't start it again, you may be kicking yourself in the pants for the rest of your life.'"
The Jewish Theatre's official mission is to offer theater "that explores ideas of community and humanity from both a Jewish perspective and other perspectives as well."
"We try to be welcoming … but we produce plays that have Jewish character, Jewish perspectives and Jewish life," Braunstein says. Still, he adds, "it's not just for Jewish people -- to the contrary." For Driving Miss Daisy, for instance, Braunstein has been trying to get an audience from local African American churches, since the play is about the relationship between black and Jewish characters.
"There are a lot of our Jewish people who are not well-informed" about Jewish issues, he says. "We want to provide a stage for new ideas and old standards -- plays that have been held in high esteem through the years."
Future seasons depend on how much audience support and financial support the Jewish Theatre receives, of course. As Braunstein says: "I'm willing to give my heart and soul, my passion and life to it."

For Good:
Help the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh aid many causes, locally and nationally, by clicking here.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Tito Braunstein, Jewish Theatre of Pittsburgh

The family that eats together ... could have 10,000 new friends via Jamie Oliver

The benefits for families who eat home-cooked meals together and actually talk to each other, with the television off, are clear. According to the national Let’s Move! Campaign to decrease childhood obesity -- including Let's Move! Pittsburgh -- Americans already eat 31 percent more calories than we did in 1970, including 56 percent more fats and oils and 14 percent more sugars or sweeteners. All that fast food is a big contributor to obesity in kids. Eating home-cooked food together, on the other hand, teaches kids what and how to eat.
The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (you have their cookbook, don't you?) has found 68 scientific studies that showed “the more a family ate together the less children consumed dietary components thought to be harmful to health."
And most home-cooking is simply healthier for you, says Jamie Oliver, famed British chef and television personality. He was in town this month to challenge attendees at the One Young World conference, and the world, to take action on this issue by joining his "Food Revolution." "Inspired by Jamie Oliver," says Liz Fetchin, Let's Move! Pittsburgh created 10,000 Tables, which aims to get 10,000 Pittsburgh families to add one more home-cooked, television-free meal to each week. Fetchin, spokesperson for Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens (whose head, Richard V. Piacentini, directs Let's Move! Pittsburgh), says the group wanted to come up with a reasonable initiative that could be accomplished over the next year.

Other local organizations also joined in. The City of Pittsburgh aims to increase farmers markets, bikeways and trails, and to increase participation in its CityFit Wellness at Work initiative for employees. Whole Foods will work through its school garden grant program, while the Eat'n Park Hospitality Group's LifeSmiles program will continue a $1 million/20,000 volunteer-hour investment in health and wellness initiatives for families. UPMC's Dining Smart program in 2013 will seek to bring healthier meal and vending choices to its more than 50,000 employees and promote it to other employers, and Propel Schools will increase its use of healthy food choices and My Plate Guidelines for its students.
"Most families are eating in front of the TV or are eating separately -- it's because they are so busy," Fetchin allows. Let's Move! hopes this movement to cook at home and eat together will encourage families to enjoy the health benefits more often.
Is the participation of 10,000 families realistic? "We sure hope so," Fetchin says. "We think that it will really catch on. We hope to do a lot of outreach," including to neighborhoods where fresh food is not as readily available. Let's Move! soon will be handing out recipes and shopping lists at Giant Eagles and other locations throughout the area, and will be offering cooking demonstrations there and elsewhere.
Jamie Oliver has not announced plans to come back to Pittsburgh yet, but, says Fetchin, Let's Move! hopes 10,000 Tables will be so successful that Oliver will be inspired to return to celebrate his Food Revolution again in Pittsburgh.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Liz Fetchin, Let's Move! Pittsburgh

Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference showcases the best of the region, broadens audience

Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference (TRETC) has always been about the best ways to teach kids using the latest tech innovations. But this year organizers are aiming to get even more kids and more people outside the teaching profession involved.
Students from Winchester Thurston School and the South Fayette School District will lead pre-conference workshops on app development and the computer language Scratch, while pre-conference keynoter Brian Waniewski, from the Institute of Play in New York City, will talk about its model for learning.
According to TRETC organizer Justin Driscoll of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, last year the conference attracted representatives of 100 school districts, while this year the event hopes to add more attendees from nonprofits and higher education institutions.
"TRETC showcases the best of the region and pulls in national presenters as well," says Norton Gusky, another TRETC organizers, allowing participants to see "what are some of the great things that are happening in our region -- the innovations that at the same time reflect national and global trends." The 2012 conference is set for Nov. 13-14 at The Regional Learning Alliance in Marshall Township.
Collaborations with other local groups will bring to TRETC such new features as the Spark Creativity Zone, highlighting some of the local projects at the intersection of the arts and technology supported by The Sprout Fund's Spark program. Other TRETC collaborative partners include the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, the Senator John Heinz History Center and Carnegie Science Center.

The keynote address by internationally renowned educator Gary Stager, says Gusky, "will force people to think about what it means to integrate technology into education. We need to think about what doesn't work. We need to challenge ourselves, and Gary does that."
Colorado teacher Aaron Sams, who is now living in Pittsburgh, will present his work creating Flipping the Classroom, a movement to have students do homework as part of classroom instruction and save the traditional class activities, such as listening to lectures, for their homework.
TRETC's Digital Playground will include a specially designed MAKEshop from the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. "It will let people play with new technologies," says Gusky, "so people can see this whole world of building, making and tinkering and see what this has to do with learning: How do you engage learners and give them the tools … to make something new?"
He adds that, without existing efforts in Pittsburgh to combine arts, teaching and technology, TRETC would not be possible.
"Part of why this is happening is because of what the Kids + Creativity movement started," Gusky concludes. "Without the Kids + Creativity movement, we wouldn't see the kinds of collaborations we're seeing today."
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Norton Gusky and Justin Driscoll, TRETC

Name that app: Parks navigation tool set for Schenley, Frick, other major green spaces

From Pittsburgh park habitués to people who wouldn't know an Oval from a Blue Slide, everyone wants the same things once they go deeper into city parks and hit the trails: a trail map and the locations of bathrooms and water fountains. They also want a schedule of park activities and some way to report a park issue to authorities, a recent Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy survey found.
So it's high time for a Pittsburgh Parks app, says Conservancy Vice President Mike Sexauer. "There are psychological barriers to people walking on a heavily wooded trail," he notes -- especially in Frick Park, where there are no interior roads. "Once people take a few steps down a trail and can no longer see where they're parked, [they] sometimes need extra reassurance that they can find their way back."
The app is being funded by UPMC Health Plan -- "a natural partner," Sexauer says, given that the app will try to "get more people into the parks for the mental and physical health benefits" -- and designed by Deeplocal for smart phones. It will cover Schenley, Frick, Highland, Riverview and Emerald View parks.
"There is a place for technology in the natural world, especially with the implication that technology can enhance someone's experience in our parks," he says, adding, "we'll put some surprises in." For instance, park officials are currently rating trails for stroller and wheelchair accessibility, and noting natural sites and the best views. They are also planning to use the 311 system to let park-goers email a photo of problem areas.
The app still doesn't have a name, however, so the Conservancy has set up a Facebook page where people can vote for the moniker. Names the Conservancy suggests: PGH UrbanParks, PGH ParkScout, PGH Parks, ParksBurgh, MyPGHParks or PGH Park Pal. Concludes Sexauer: "We're looking for write-in votes …"

Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Mike Sexauer, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

What's 'women's fiction'? It's whatever women write -- and celebrate at growing local fest

"We made a lot of great friendships with other writers," says Women Read/Women Write Book Festival co-founder Gwyn Cready, about last year's event. "I'd say we built a kind of sisterhood among the writers and a lot of the attendees -- but there were a lot of men, too."
Cready and fellow organizer Meredith Mileti have even higher expectations for the second annual free festival, this year to be held Oct. 27 at the Galleria in Mt. Lebanon. More than 35 authors are expected -- mostly women, and mostly local -- for four panels this year. They include: "Fifty Shades of Blush: The Reverberations of Fifty Shades of Grey in Bedrooms, Book Clubs and Mainstream Fiction"; "Hermoine vs Lisbeth: Brains, Brawn and the Modern Heroine"; "Mining Your Life" (about turning our lives into fiction and memoir) and a repeat of last year's very popular "Getting Published, Staying Published."
"Most readers are women," Cready says. "They are the heart and soul of the literary world …"
Although the focus is women's writing, the authors in attendance range across many genres, from memoir and mystery to romance, literary fiction, young adult and children's books, self-help and historical fiction.
"What genres of the book world don't women read?" says Cready. "Maybe military suspense. We're pretty open."
"Women's fiction?" adds Mileti, pondering what defines her own genre. "Often there is an element of romance, but really the focus of the story is the difficulties of the heroine as she faces personal challenges." The Harry Potter vs. Millennium Trilogy panel is intended to assess the place of the heroine in today's fiction.
"We intend to keep on doing this," concludes Cready. "We would love to see it grow and grow and draw more and more authors and more and more attendees from other states."
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Gwyn Cready and Meredith Mileti, Women Read/Women Write Book Festival

Youth philanthropists challenge youth entrepreneurs: start Hill District businesses

"There's a lot of negativity displayed in the media toward the Hill District youth, and I wanted to give Hill District youth a chance to be better than the stereotype," says 17-year-old Dynae Shaw, leader of a group of 12 high-school students who together form the first Youth Philanthropy Initiative (YPI).
YPI participants, ages 13-18, come from the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation’s School 2 Career Program and are looking for young entrepreneurs to support in the Hill, Uptown and West Oakland. The group raised $614 this summer and program co-sponsor McAuley Ministries, part of the Pittsburgh Mercy Health System, matched it 5 to 1.
"When I found out about the money I was really excited," says Shaw, a Garfield resident and senior at Pittsburgh Obama, "because I really wanted to help the Hill District. Youth should be decision makers. We wanted to make sure it was for bettering the Hill District, so we want little projects that can turn into something big." She envisions youth with artistic talent teaching classes in inexpensive or donated spaces, "or a lawn business to make the Hill District look more appealing," she says.
Grants of $500 or $1,000 will be given to applicants, who must attend a two-hour workshop on Oct. 27, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Hill House Association. The workshop, run by Hill-based UrbanInnovation21, will help hopefuls devise their business plans and learn to run a thriving business. Applications will be due on Nov. 19 at 5 p.m. via the POISE Foundation.
YPI members spent the summer getting acquainted with the grant-making process and are learning now how to evaluate applicants' presentations.
"I hope that it will inspire other youth to stand up and follow their dreams," Shaw says about the YPI program. "This will give them not only the chance to do something they haven't been able to do without the money, but to tell them that people care about their community." Shaw hopes YPI will be done again in the future, and that perhaps it will expand to East Liberty and other neighborhoods.
"We're not looking at overnight change," she adds, "but we hope people will look at the businesses and say, 'I can do that.' We hope they will look for other grants or say they can volunteer in their community. We also hope to inspire other businesses and other foundations to give youth a chance."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Dynae Shaw, Youth Philanthropy Initiative

Making 'Newton for Women' for all of us

Back when there wasn't quite as much science to popularize, Francesco Algarotti was the popular science writer of his day -- the 1700s -- and Isaac Newton was the guy whose theories he was intent on making accessible to the masses. His book, despite its title -- Newtonianism for Ladies -- wasn't just for women either.
"He wanted women to be a part of the [readership], but the intent was to make a book that was accessible to a wide, regular audience," says James Lennox, professor in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh. In fact, Lennox says, that's also the intent of a new lecture series and publishing endeavor about to be undertaken with help from a $600,000 grant from the A.W. Mellon Foundation.
Lennox and the department's fellow faculty are ranked fifth in the U.S. by the prestigious Philosophical Gourmet report, tied with Harvard and right behind NYU, Rutgers, Princeton and Michigan. The Mellon grant is intended to help Pitt bring greater attention to its strongest academic offerings. It will fund fellowships in the department and Pitt's World History Center, in addition to the new lecture series chronicling how Algarotti popularized Newton's theories, which will be the basis for new University of Pittsburgh Press publications. Paula Findlen, a professor of Italian history at Stanford, will give the first three free lectures Oct. 22-25.
Algarotti's era, Lennox says, "was only 100 years or so after people were becoming educated enough that scientific [books] were written in the vernacular rather than Latin," which had reached only the elite. And although his department's focus may sound daunting to some, the department's undergrad courses regularly pack them in, Lennox reports. Thus, echoing Algarotti's hopes, he says, what the department desires for these and future lectures in the series is to reach the widest possible audience.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: James Lennox, University of Pittsburgh Department of History and Philosophy of Science

Young reporters give view of One Young World like no other

One Young World has concluded, but the impact will be felt for a long time -- not only by the local delegates but by the local youth reporters who covered the gathering at Pittsburgh Youth Media. As previously reported by Pop City, the  Pittsburgh Youth Media project recruited 32 local high-schoolers from 26 districts to cover the One Young World Summit and to give a youth perspective to other future events in Pittsburgh.
Following a boot-camp training on journalism earlier this month, the students converged on the summit, meeting in their own press room at the David L Lawrence Convention Center. For four days they reported on a range of stories, from speakers such as Bob Geldof and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey to the 50 breakout sessions held through Pittsburgh for the 1300 delegates attending from around the world.
Want to know what One Young World was like from a young person's perspective? The more than 80 stories at Pittsburgh Youth Media tell the tale from a multitude of angles:
An Experience of a Lifetime by Prem Rajgopal, Grade 12, Fox Chapel Area High School.
Inspired Delegates Have Hopes For Future Conference, by Sophie Belch, Junior, Riverview High School.
Nutrition and Education in Schools, by LaTionna Russell, Pittsburgh Obama 6-12.
Youth Summit Delegates Propose Behavior Changes, by Daly Trimble, Freshman, Fox Chapel Area High School.
An Apple for an Angel, by Brana' Hill, Senior, Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12 and Kendre Blue, Junior, Pittsburgh Milliones University Preparatory School.
Best of 2012 Summit, by Elianna Paljug, 10th Grade, Fox Chapel Area High School.
Successful Failures: Geldof Shares His Vision at One Young World Summit; article by Megan Fair, Senior, Hempfield High School; photo by Christian Snyder, Sophomore, Riverview Junior/Senior High School.
Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, by LaTionna Russell, Pittsburgh Obama 6-12.
Op-Ed: Lessons Learned on the Roberto Clemente Bridge: One Young World Bridge Party, by Lily Zhang, Senior, North Allegheny.
Opening Ceremony Electrifies the One Young World Summit, by Lily Zhang, Senior, North Allegheny High School. 

Writer: Marty Levine

Want to save $100,000? Make smart college plans in high school with MAPS

"We have kids who graduate from high school with no plans," says Mary Kay Babyak, director of initiatives for The Consortium for Public Education in McKeesport. "They wake up the day after graduation with no idea what they are going to do," or with incomplete, or completely unrealistic, plans. "We found that a lot of kids didn't know that their grades counted. They'd get to junior/senior years and they hadn't taken the right courses. And they hadn't had adult support along the way."
Getting a C- in science in your junior year is bad enough if you're a kid hoping for a career in medicine, she notes. Rather than thinking, at that point, "What else can I do with my life?" wouldn't it be better if, as a freshman, this student had been coached to ask, "How am I going to change my study habits so I can achieve what I want?"
To help kids create a smart plan for college and/or career attainment, the Consortium has just unveiled a new program called MAPS (My Action Plan for Success) being piloted this school year by eight local school districts.
Through MAPS, says Babyak, students will be able to create a viable post-secondary plan. MAPS connects each student with adult mentors -- teachers, guidance counselors, school administrators and of course their own family members -- who help devise a realistic and achievable course of action. And it introduces planning software -- eMAPS -- that helps kids lay out the various facets of their plans: How do my skills fit my college and career plans? How about my clubs? My community activities? What specific efforts do I need to make to get better results?
Babyak witnessed several students speaking to their schools' Freshman Academy recently. One of the kids hoped to be a surgeon. Only after using MAPS, she says, had he realized it would be useful to look at specific colleges' entrance requirements so that he could know what to take in high school. Plus, he hadn't before realized that his extra-curricular activity -- drawing -- could be anything other than a hobby. She recalls him commenting, "'I didn't really think about some of those things, beyond listing them on my college application. I didn't think, what am I learning from them?'"
After the pilot program, MAPS will be refined and expanded over the following four years.
"The dropout rate of four-year colleges is even higher than the failure-to-matriculate rate in high schools," says Consortium spokesperson Pamela Gaynor. MAPS, she says, will "potentially help kids have a sound enough plan that they won't need remediation on a subject in college. It's about saying, 'How do I get there? What do I need to do?'"
Babyak laughs at the memory of her own daughter, who switched college majors after she had already completed three years of another program. "I wish my daughter had had this eight years ago," Babyak says. "It would have saved $100,000."
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Mary Kay Babyak, Pamela Gaynor, the Consortium for Public Education

TechNow 9.0: Ever-changing, ever-needed tech know-how for nonprofits

When it comes to the annual TechNow conference for nonprofits, headed for its 9th incarnation on Oct. 25, "Every year is different, because tech changes so fast," says Cindy Leonard, technology services manager for the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University, which runs the conference. "Tech isn't something you get good at and then you're done. There are always new tools out there, new hardware, new software and new techniques."
And new reasons to go, she says. This year's keynote address features Rosetta Thurman, Cleveland-based co-author of How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar, 50 Ways to Accelerate Your Career, who will speak on “Social Media for Thought Leadership,” including how to create a social-media mission statement and which social-media tools work best.
The day includes sessions on leadership, IT management, communications and fundraising, presented by:
  • Andre Bouchard, Co-Editor in Chief for www.technologyinthearts.org at CMU
  • John Carman, owner of Avenue Design Studios
  • Kelly Carter Uzzo, Marketing Communications Manager for Pace School
  • Tim Cook, founder and director of The Saxifrage School
  • Joe Glackin, Information Systems Manager at Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force
  • Scott Hollander, Executive Director of KidsVoice
  • Tom Joseph, Chief Executive Officer of Bookminders
  • Ashli Molinero, Assistant Professor, Pitt's Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology
  • Donna J. Myers, director of TowerCare Technologies
  • Lindsay O’ Leary, web content editor, Carlow University
  • Dan Rossi, Chief Executive Officer, Animal Rescue League of Western PA
  • Sandy Sturgulewski, Technology Systems Manager at Family Resources
  • Sherri Titus, account management team leader, Visvero
  • Ray Wolfe, Chief Operating Officer, Pittsburgh Mercy Health System
Also new this year is a larger location, at the airport's Holiday Inn, as well as lunch discussions and a final dessert reception.
"The biggest value" of TechNow, says Leonard, "is that it gives [attendees] the opportunity to network with their peers at other nonprofits who are interested in leveraging technology to meet their missions."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Cindy Leonard, Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management

What all the cool kids are into now: Genetically engineered machine contest here

At last year's international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Competition, one group of college students entered the contest with a bit of synthetic biology that broke down glutens into sugars in the stomach, potentially defeating their harm to the gluten-intolerant. Then the project came to the attention of a pharmaceutical company.
"They looked at the students' project and decided it was better than the product they had spent millions of dollars developing," reports Tom Richard; the students' project has since become part of the company's research protocol.
That's the great potential of these synthetic biology creations, says Richard, a Penn State professor of biological engineering who led a team, and helped organize, the eastern North American regionals of iGEM at Duquesne University on Oct. 13 and 14. Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pennsylvania and more than 35 other teams with 275 undergraduate students from Canada and the U.S. also competed.
Richard has seen undergraduate team projects with practical applications in medicine, nutrition, energy and the environment, plus games and puzzles. Biological mechanisms can map the most efficient route among stores for deliveries more easily than can computer programs. His PSU team developed a test device that signals whether the body's normal response to oxygen shortage -- creation of more lactic acid -- had started properly or not.
Ideally, more projects will turn into ideas businesses can use, he adds. iGEM has just started an entrepreneurial division to match venture capital with students' projects.
"The biology is something that has taken our civilization a long time to figure out," says Richard, "but once we figured it out, it's not so complicated." In fact, iGEM has also just begun a high-school division. About 40 high-school students from seven high schools in the Pittsburgh region and across the state attended the competition.
"Hopefully some of these schools will have teams competing next spring," he says. "It's a fantastic hands-on science and engineering project for high school students. Most high schools don't teach engineering. Engineering is about design and making things. We're really excited to be able to push science into high schools. We know that in our society, to be successful over the next 100 years, we have to create more people excited by science, technology, engineering and math subjects."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Tom Richard, international Genetically Engineered Machine Competition

One creative use of media: Kid reporters train to cover delegates at One Young World

The newly minted Pittsburgh Youth Media project has recruited 32 local high-schoolers from 26 districts to report on this month's international young leadership conference -- One Young World, Oct. 18-22 -- and to give a youth perspective to other future events in Pittsburgh.
The project began with the formation of the Pittsburgh Youth Media Advocacy Project (YMAP) at Carlow University a year ago. Deciding to focus on One Young World as their first reporting effort, YMAP recruited nearly three-dozen young journalists for a boot-camp training at the studios of SLB Radio Productions, Inc. on Oct. 4 and 5.
Larry Berger, SLB executive director, says the experience was "amazing -- just great kids, eager to get started." Lessons focused on everything from effective storytelling to how to meet a deadline, fact versus opinion, and how to secure and conduct a good interview.

The group practiced their interview techniques first on Post-Gazette writer Tony Norman, who was aiding in the training and the overall effort, along with representatives from Carlow, SLB, the Consortium for Public Education, World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Pittsburgh Community Television and WQED Multimedia. The stories the kids produced next, about preparations for One Young World, are already on the Pittsburgh Youth Media Website (pghyouthmedia.com) in audio, video and print formats.
"They were given technical mentors, [although] the kids had plenty of expertise already," Berger notes. At One Young World, the young scribes will have their own press room and plan to gather on its first morning to devise their assignments and take off into the field, "more or less given free rein to cover what they want to cover," he adds.
Pittsburgh Youth Media project already plans to help guide the group organizing next year's One Young World, in Johannesburg, South Africa, to form their own student media corps. But Berger says the Pittsburgh Youth Media project will continue long after the 1,500 reps from 190 countries have left Pittsburgh, and will be great Burgh ambassadors themselves. "Next year there will be another international convention here," Berger says. "The eyes of the world will be on Pittsburgh. Our kids will become a story for someone."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Larry Berger, SLB Radio Productions, Inc.

Who will earn RISE Awards from Public Allies? The public votes, so vote now

Creating new young leaders, particularly for the nonprofit community, is what Public Allies in Pittsburgh is all about. Four years ago, that prompted the organization to start the RISE ChangeMaker Awards.
"The RISE ChangeMaker Awards are really to honor the community -- and are chosen by the community," says the Allies' Site Director Misti McKeehen. "It's the opportunity for us to celebrate who the community sees as the change makers here in Pittsburgh -- especially those who may not always receive the thanks or the recognition that they are certainly deserving of." Both organizations and individuals were nominated, and voting lasts Oct. 10-24 online. The awards will be given Nov. 13 at the New Hazlett Theater on the North Side. Pop City is a media sponsor of the event.
Among the community organizations nominated for this year's awards:
  • Girls on the Run of Magee Women’s Hospital
  • Special Olympics
  • North Hills Community Outreach
  • Three Rivers Community Foundation
  • Best Buddies
  • Get Involved!
  • Alliance for Police Accountability                 
  • MGR Foundation                  
  • Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse
  • Saxifrage School
The individual awards will be chosen from among:
  • Matt Arch: UPMC Center for Inclusion
  • John Cheatwood: Cheatcodes Tutoring Service LLC
  • Kristina Elias: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh
  • Nicole Domanov: St. Margaret Foundation
  • Haeshah Cooper: New Hill District Business Association
  • Raeann Olander: Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania
  • Erin Baker: Corporate and Institutional Banking Development Program, PNC
  • Seth Corbin: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh
  • Michael Bodis, Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Aimee LeFevers, United Way of Allegheny County            
  • John Hagan: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh
  • Alecia Shipman, August Wilson Center for African American Culture
Several veterans of Public Allies' program, which partners here with Coro Pittsburgh, are up for Alumni Award as well.
Last year's winners were Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh; New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice; Tom Baker (of BBBS) and alumna Bekezela Mguni. "They've been doing wonderful things in Pittsburgh," McKeehen says of the past winners.
Public Allies' main activity in Pittsburgh is an Americorps program that places young people, mostly 18-30, in a 10-month apprenticeship with local nonprofits. Overall, McKeehen says, the group hopes to help build the pool of talent in Pittsburgh through new Americorps participants: "We want them to stay, and we want them to be leaders in this community."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Misti McKeehen, Public Allies Pittsburgh

Doing everything on sunshine but walking: local Solar Tour

"We want to make a point that solar energy isn't just in California, but that it's all over Western Pennsylvania, in great quantities," says Evan Endres, project coordinator in PennFuture's local office. "Whatever neighborhood you're in, there's solar."
That's the reason PennFuture -- Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future -- has created the Pittsburgh Solar Tour on Oct. 13, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., guiding those interested in installing solar themselves, or simply in seeing creative uses, through homes and businesses in Allegheny County and beyond. A $5 ticket available online covers all the self-guided stops and the same tour Website has a full-color guide, map and smartphone app. The Solar Tour highlights 30 of the approximately 300 solar sites in the 10-county region.

"We could have put the most spectacular green homes on the tour, but that's not the experience most Pittsburghers are likely to have," says Endres. Instead, for most people, he hopes the tour lets them see homes that make them think, "'This is [like] my house. I want to go talk to the person and see how they did it.'"
Those homes may include houses featured in Mt. Lebanon and the South Hills, a first-time homeowner using solar in Point Breeze, and a South Side house turned solar -- although like two others on the tour, the residents of this small classic Pittsburgh dwelling also use their personal grid to power an electric car.
Of course, there are more elaborate and involved solar uses featured on the tour as well. Those include stops at:
  • A solar installer’s own solar house in Regent Square, which eliminates 100 percent of his electricity bill
  • A Squirrel Hill green house that features other sustainability solutions and holds monthly Sustainability Salons
  • A North Side loft that is completely green, using reclaimed materials. "That's a real standout and represents the renaissance that Pittsburgh is going through," says Endres.
  • The EECO Center (Environment and Energy Community Outreach) in the East End that offers advice on greening homes and businesses
  • A Friendship Victorian restored on the outside and retrofitted with sustainable technologies on the inside
  • An Aliquippa home honey-maker gone solar
  • Frankferd Farms Foods Inc. in Saxonburg and the Ferderber Farm and Frankferd Farms Milling in Valencia, an organic farm featuring a solar-powered milling operation, and
  • A ground-mounted solar array used for a home in Rochester
Whether you're contemplating solar for the money or planet savings, says Endres, "an event like this helps people who made this investment talk to future solar owners in the area."
Do Good: Ready to go solar yourself? Find a guide at Three Rivers Solar Source.  
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Evan Endres, PennFuture

Rare treat for local kids, parents: international kids' TV festival stops here

Picture the Cannes Film Festival coming to Pittsburgh -- then imagine a Cannes all about kids' educational television.
That's about the level of excitement over at WQED, which is presenting what their Executive Director of Educational Partnerships Jennifer Stancil calls a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" -- a French festival called the Prix Jeunesse, or "Youth Prize," making its first-ever stop in Pittsburgh on Oct. 12-13. The free event, with the help of The Fred Rogers Center and the Toonseum, offers both workshops for kids' media professionals and for parents, as well as screenings of many award-winning children's television shows from around the world. (Click here if you want to attend one of the three Oct. 13 screenings for different age groups -- registration is required, due to limited seating.)
The family workshop, on Oct. 13 at WQED, lets you try your hand at cartooning and animation with the Toonseum's Joe Wos and the Schmutz Company, the local self-styled "performance and visual arts spectacle and arts education partnership." The Oct. 12 workshop for educational and other kids' learning pros delves into the essence and effects of quality kids' TV programming worldwide, and features presenters Sharon Carver (director of the Children's School at Carnegie Mellon University), Michelle Figlar (head of the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children), Jim Martin (children's television director and puppeteer), and Kevin Morrison and Michael Robb (The Fred Rogers Company's COO and director of education and research, respectively).
The workshops are run, and the festival is curated, by David Kleeman, president of the American Center for Children and Media. The selections include everything from game shows to serials and animation, and come from Brazil, Mongolia, Netherlands, Iran, Lebanon, Japan -- 15 different countries altogether.
Kleeman, says WQED's Stancil, "has done a super job of making sure that the world is represented. We're drawing from all the world's reaches and all of the storytelling that is done around the world," but with a selection chosen only for Pittsburgh, she adds. "It's really an exercise in learning. The kids and parents are not just watching, we're learning how television is a reflection of different cultures and different relationships."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jennifer Stancil, WQED

Mastering the art of arts management -- CMU program holds symposium at 25

There are a lot of reasons to celebrate the 25th year of Carnegie Mellon University's Master of Arts Management program, says director and alum Kathryn Heidemann.
"It's still a fairly new field," Heidemann notes. "In the past, there have been MFAs mostly focused on the creation of art and MBAs focused mainly on the management of business." CMU's program is "unique and innovative," she says, not least of which because it is housed in a management school and partners with a school of the arts. Not only does it offer students the chance to learn how to run an arts organization, "it prepares our students to excel in a variety of fields.
"Our program is focused on the sustainability of the arts organization and that the future of their organizations are in good hands," especially as they get older and their original CEOs retire. "This by no means replaces years of service in the field … we all have to pay our dues," she adds. "But this certainly provides you with a fast track education about how those two worlds work together."
As part of the year-long celebration, the MAM program will hold a symposium that looks at current ways in which arts programs innovate. All the presenters are alumni as well, including many who work for local arts groups, including Jeb Feldman (Unsmoke Artspace), Elliott Mower (Pittsburgh Public Theater) and Thomas Hughes (Attack Theatre), as well as CMU's own Andre Bouchard, Jocelyn Malik and Melinda Hungerman Johnson. The keynote speaker is Doug McLennan, founder and editor of ArtsJournal, the go-to arts management publication.
Most arts organizations are nonprofit organizations, and specialized ones at that, so MAM uses cases studies from symphonies, ballets, art galleries and museums -- a perspective students might not get in non-arts management programs. Students operate Future Tenant art gallery downtown, founded by the program 10 years ago, and are eligible for exchange programs to Italy and Germany. They are also involved in MAM's Technology in the Arts research initiative, which examines the places where tech and the arts intersect -- especially how tech is used in arts marketing and funding.
It's a changed arts world out there, concludes Heidemanns, with audiences engaging in arts 24/7, not just in galleries, and MAM students will be prepared for it.
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Kathryn Heidemann, Master of Arts Management program, CMU

More than 3,800 Promise scholarships later, seeking more students to serve

The Pittsburgh Promise has completed its fourth year of awarding scholarships to Pittsburgh Public high-school graduates with a clear sense of accomplishment and "a ton more to do," says Executive Director Saleem Ghubril.
PPS now has a completion rate of 71 percent, up from 63 percent in 2007 (the year before the Promise began). The immediate goal remains to graduate 85 percent, which would exceed the national rate of 70.5 percent, and Pennsylvania's 79 percent average -- although Ghubril cautions that high schools across the state are only now standardizing how they count graduation rates. Some previously weren't counting those who left in 9th, 10th or 11th grade, for instance, but only those who started and completed their senior years.
So far, 59 percent of the scholarships have gone to girls and 41 percent to boys, while whites have received 53 percent while blacks have received 41 percent, with the remainder going to others. The Promise announced an effort to further diversify the recipient pool by attracting more Latino families to a city notoriously low in diversity. Immigrant-focused VibrantPittsburgh is leading this effort, with the Allegheny Conference on Community Development promoting the local jobs picture and the Urban Redevelopment Authority offering a guide to local affordable housing. Another new initiative to promote the $40,000 Promise scholarship is adding informative placards to area homes' "For Sale" signs, cluing non-city residents in to the opportunity that comes with moving here.
The Promise also introduced its first class of Executive Scholarship recipients. These scholarships for the highest-achieving high-schoolers come with the sponsorship of local corporations and nonprofits, representing an effort to connect students with prominent local organizations to increase student access to jobs and community involvement.
The Promise also reported that it helped increase retention rates 9 to 18 percent in schools with Promise Scholars, according to researchers from the University of Pittsburgh's Learning Research and Development Center.
Overall, the Promise, say Ghubril, is "bearing fruit [although] we were building the plane as we were flying it. I feel remarkably good about [being] four years into it. I can, with integrity, say we are fulfilling the Promise."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Saleem Ghubril, Pittsburgh Promise

Fineview Stepathon takes first SiX grant and runs with it -- up hill

"The views are spectacular -- people just don't know about it," says Melissa Gallagher about her Pittsburgh neighborhood of Fineview. Most people probably don't even know which side of town Fineview's on (it's the North Side) or realize a reason to visit.
Gallagher, president of the Fineview Citizens Council, hopes the Stepathon, and the SiX grant from the Sprout Fund this year, will continue to change that.
The first Social Innovation Exchange (SiX) event -- another was this week while the third is scheduled for the future -- is helping Fineview devise new ways to connect itself to other neighborhoods. The $10,000 grant from the Sprout Fund will create an inventory of Fineview's hillside steps -- of which the neighborhood has an abundance -- including a map, signage and trail markers, and will help devise a way to decide which steps to select for improvement.
"The steps were the things that connected people before they had many modes of transportation," says Gallagher. Today they are a fitness trail that goes from one area of Fineview to another and will soon be a viable connection between Fineview and its North Side neighbors. Fineview also hopes to add a Facebook page, Website and downloadable map app for the steps and trail, along with trail stops for various exercises and runnels for people to walk their bikes up the steps.

In the meantime, Fineview is about to have its 17th Annual Stepathon on Oct. 6, giving Pittsburghers a chance to discover this relatively unknown neighborhood. It's a run or walk, with 2.5- and 5-mile courses, covering more than 1600 steps (the equivalent of climbing the staircases in a 17-story building), including the finale of the 371 steps of Rising Main.

The course ends at the Catoma Street Overlook, which Gallagher describes as "a great finish. You actually get to see fine views of the city. In my opinion, Mt. Washington is a little harder to get to and a little more congested with cars. We see a lot more fitness [focused] people moving into our neighborhood."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Melissa Gallagher, Fineview Citizens Council

More bugs, leaves and 'kitchen creations' for more kids at Phipps this fall

"If children aren't interested in botany or ecology," says Science Education Coordinator Christie Lawry of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, "or if they don't know they're interested, we hope they get hooked through art or food and those sorts of science-y topics."
The means for getting them hooked? Phipps' new collection of fall educational programs, including an expanded line-up of activities for 6- to 9-year-olds to go along with their programs for the youngest learners: 2- to 3-year-olds.
Akin to brief versions of summer camp, Lawry says, the fall camps "teach kids that there are things they can do on their own and with their families. We hope they can foster interest among their families" in nature and science as well.
The Friday evening "Ed-ventures" for 6- to 9-year-olds begin Oct. 5 and include "Kitchen Creations," "Art Party," "A Night in the Tropics," "Conservation Investigation," "Deserts and Healthy Desserts," and "Creepy Night Crawlers." Sessions for the youngest kids continue Nov. 16 through May 17. For these youngsters, Lawry says, "the topics we use are fairly simple," covering colors, the senses or counting, and allowing the tots to touch fuzzy or spiky plants, taste plant products (that is, fruit), and experience other parts of nature in a similar manner, in sessions called Little Sprouts Single Servings.

There are also "Celebrate! Fall Harvest" sessions for several younger age groups on Oct. 13, and "Celebrate! The Holidays" for the same groups on Dec. 15, while older kids can enjoy "Celebrate! Fitness at Phipps" on Nov. 10.
Some of the mini-camps are held in Phipps' Tropical Forest, others in its new classrooms in the Center for Sustainable Landscapes, but all use the Conservatory for scavenger hunts, to collect items for crafting, and other uses.
"We have more and more opportunities as the years go by," Lawry says, "and we are always looking for input about what the public wants from us."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Christie Lawry, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Where's that gorilla going with my friend? Local kid answers for national writing prize

For the first time, the PBS Kids Go! Writing Contest for kindergarteners through third graders has produced national winners from the Pittsburgh area: Daniel Trimble of Brookline, in the top age bracket, and kindergartner Ella Black of North Huntingdon.
Daniel, who is being homeschooled in the fourth grade now, couldn't be more nonchalant about winning, although he was happy to unwrap his Kindle and other prizes. As a first grader, he had already won third place in the local contest, held by WQED, for The Mystery of the Golden Bug when he was in first grade. This year he is one of only a dozen national winners, picked from thousands of entries coming from 65 PBS stations across the country. The judges included Lisa Henson of the Jim Henson Company, singer/poet Jewel and Mo Willems, award-winning children's author.
For this year's winning Mystery of the Attic Intruder, "I wanted to write a mystery about me, my brother and a few of my friends," Daniel said. In his story, Daniel and friends are home alone playing Mario Kart when they hear noises in the attic. They suspect an intruder and build a trap. When the trap backfires, the intruder escapes: it's a gorilla, on the loose from the Pittsburgh Zoo, who takes one of Daniel's friends away with him. Happily, the friend is found safe in the zoo's gorilla cage, where he has been put to work as a companion for one of the gorilla's offspring.
"One of the weird parts was, I was talking about the gorilla" as a joke, Daniel says, "but my mom said I could use that."
Daniel has illustrated his own book with hand-drawn and cut-out pictures, in both full-page and four-panel spreads, and added a crayoned cover in lettering "copied from other scary books," he says.  
Told that his name and a congratulatory message was going to be running on WQED, Daniel couldn't react before his father chimed in: "So now you'll have to watch five hours a day."
Writer: Marty Levine
Sources: Daniel Trimble; WQED

Pittsburgh-linked classical with electronica composer among 5 Heinz Awardees

Composer Mason Bates says that learning he was among five recipients of the 2012 Heinz Awards was a complete surprise. "I got an email saying that Teresa Heinz wanted to speak with me, and I was totally bowled over," Bates reports. "I'm grateful there are still some foundations out there that provide support to individual artists."
Bates, currently composer-in-residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, was the 2012-2013 Composer of the Year of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. He is known for combining electronica with classical compositions and working as composer and DJ through his project Mercury Soul, which brings a combination of both types of music to clubs and other venues. He is just 35, and one of the youngest recipients of the no-strings-attached $250,000 prize, which began in 1993. The Heinz Awards, created in memory of U.S. Sen. John Heinz, will be given out during a private ceremony on Oct. 11.
Other winners in 2012 are:
  • In Environment: Richard J. Jackson, a pediatrician and once-controversial researcher into the health impact of community design on children, whose ideas have since been vindicated; he is the host of the public television series, Designing Healthy Communities.
  • In Human Condition: University of Maryland-Baltimore County Professor Freeman Hrabowski, who created a scholarship and mentoring program for African-American men interested in math and science, turning his university into one of the country’s leading producers of black graduates who later earn STEM-related doctorates;
  • In Public Policy: K.C. Golden, who focuses on creating policies for "sustainable prosperity" that reduce pollution and promote clean energy;
  • In Technology, the Economy and Employment: Jay Keasling, who has been instrumental in making the production of a crucial anti-malarial drug possible, and is now working on biofuel production.
What will they do with their prizes? Mason Bates, for one, is a much in-demand composer, but life can get in the way, what with two kids and a house he labels a fixer-upper. "It's still a scary thing to be a freelance composer in 2012," he says. Although he may buy some studio equipment, with the prize, "I'm definitely appreciative of something that can help [the kids'] educational future.
"The main thing," he says, "is that it will buy a bit of security for us and allow me to focus on my music."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Mason Bates

What's the opposite of shouting at each other, and how can we get there in politics?

"The idea of deliberative democracy goes back to the original intent of our constitution, in many ways," says Robert Cavalier, co-director of Carnegie Mellon University's Program for Deliberative Democracy (PDD). "We think best when we think together, but to do that you need a conversation that is informed and well-structured."
To create such a conversation centered around what college campuses can do about climate change, the PDD is bringing students from nine other local universities to the CMU campus on Sept. 29 for a Campus Conversation on Climate Change. The group will attempt to address a number of issues around the global problem as determined by the Pittsburgh Higher Education Consortium on Climate Change, including what campuses can do about climate change and how campuses can better see themselves a part of larger community solutions.
The idea of an informed citizenry making informed choices is not new, but neither does it seem to be a popular way to approach political issues, including climate change. PDD is providing a 12-page document discussing the science of climate change, backed by 35 pages of resources.
"The science part is based on the evidence found in peer-reviewed journals," Cavelier notes, which are conclusive about climate change's evidence and cause, if not all its consequences. "That stands in deep contrast to what we hear in the media and on the Web, [which] results from variations in political campaigns by those who want to cast doubts and create concerns about the issue of climate change." In our current political climate -- let's call it 'reactive democracy' -- facts and issues can be framed in any way; the aim is only to get a majority to agree. "All's fair as long as it's legal," Cavalier says. Deliberative democracy is aimed at countering the superficiality of political debates.
An additional half-dozen colleges around the country are holding their own deliberative democracy dialogs on climate change this fall. Cavalier labels our local event a beta test for a larger, region-wide discussion of climate change and public policy slated for next fall.
In the meantime, Cavalier sees interest among local legislators and city council members in using deliberative methods.
"I think you're about to see evidence that this is at least an augmentation to the other way of determining public opinion and political calculation," he says. "We're hoping to see evidence that there is a desire to create an alternative to the townhall meeting with the dreaded microphone and the angry citizen."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Robert Cavalier, Program for Deliberative Democracy

'Artifacts of the Future' highlight first in new Education, Creativity+Tech series

In the future, the job description of a doctor may not include diagnosis -- and that could be an improvement for health-care practitioners, says Gabriel Harp, research manager for Technology Horizons at San Francisco's Institute for the Future. Harp is bringing his vision, and the research to back it up, to the first of the 2012-13 Education, Creativity + Technology Speaker Series, iCON-Edu -- a program of the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s Creative Technology Network. 
"We don't do predictions," Harp cautions. "We try to create scenarios and alternatives." Nonetheless, Harp has spent the past year working with California colleges to "look at what are some of the big forces … that are causing change," he says, and what changes to industries, from media to agriculture, retail to health care, will affect our need for STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math) and the future career paths that will reflect those changes.
One of those changes will be in "big data," as he puts it -- the massive amounts of information collected and shared for analysis. Doctors, for instance, may actually enjoy the challenge of diagnosis, but as accurate diagnosis requires more and more data being collected beforehand, "it is ripe for a certain amount of automation," Harp says. In the future created by this scenario, nurse practitioners may be the ones with more time to access and process all this data -- and so they may need the education to handle the task.
The new courses these Nurse Practitioners will need, as well as their job descriptions and the devices they will handle, are all Artifacts of the Future that Harp will present as part of his talk in Pittsburgh.
The other presentations in the iCON-Edu series will be:
  • New Visions for Play + Education on Nov. 14, 2012, as part of the Three Rivers Education Technology Conference;  
  • MAKING Innovation on March 21, 2013 at Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center; and
  • Creativity, Innovation + Imagination: The Creativity Post on May 22, 2013 as part of the 2013 Design, Art and Technology Awards (DATA) and Creative Technology Showcase
Pittsburgh, notes Harp, "is a great melting pot, in a way … and Pittsburgh has always been this space where art, design, technology and engineering share a common place."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Gabriel Harp, Institute for the Future

Make Vibrobots or just mess with googly eyes and 3D printers on SparkTruck

SparkTruck has been driving across the country from Stanford University since June 29, the brainchild of six Institute of Design grads (one from Carnegie Mellon University) who realized that arts materials and the tech lessons necessary to use them have been disappearing from schools. They decided to bring these lessons as a thesis project to educators and kids all around the U.S., as well as parents who can use them at home.
This week SparkTruck stops for four days in Pittsburgh and, with the help of WQED, brings what has been dubbed its "fab lab" and "build-mobile" to Oakland and the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.
"We know how big the maker movement is getting in Pittsburgh," says Jennifer Stancil, WQED's executive director of educational partnerships. The materials and lessons of SparkTruck, she says, are at "the innovative intersection between engineering, technology, and creative design." It offers everything from feathers and glue guns to laser cutters and 3D printers, aiming to serve 7- to 13-year-olds and their teachers and parents.
First stop on Sept. 12 is at WQED, where kids from local schools will make Vibrobots or stamps with images or logos related to their schools. On Sept. 13, educators will visit the truck's WQED stop to make similar laser-cut stamps and learn the SparkTruck teaching process.
On Sept. 14, everyone is invited to Schenley Plaza in Oakland from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to take part in WQED-sponsored free building workshops.
Finally, on Sept. 15 at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, there are free SparkTruck tool demonstrations from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and a $5 laser-stamp workshop for parent-and-child pairs, for which registration is required.
WQED has been involved in STEAM education -- science, technology, engineering, arts and math -- for a long time through a partnership with the WBGH Boston-created Website, Design Squad Nation , which is rolling out engineering challenges in schools in the spring, and through the recent launch of a year-long school program, Design Lives Here.
"When it comes to STEAM," says Stancil, "WQED is playing a role in making sure that it is alive and well in both the formal and informal educational environments."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jennifer Stancil, WQED