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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“The old playground was outdated by today’s standards.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/
 

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.

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
 

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

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.

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
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