| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter RSS Feed

Community : Civic Impact

56 Community Articles | Page: | Show All

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
 www.shim-center.org/give-help/volunteer/kaboom-playground-volunteer-registration/

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

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/
 
56 Community Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts