90.5 WESA Celebrates 90 Neighborhoods 90 Good Stories

The 90 Neighborhoods, 90 Good Stories Podcast introduces you to people in the Pittsburgh area, who are striving to make their community a better place to live.

This episode, we speak with Gary Cirrincione, an architect who’s volunteered his skills to rehab housing in Garfield; Siggy Pehel, who helped restore a 50-acre lake in Butler County; and Shannon Merenstein,  the founder of the Hatch Art Studio, a place for children and families to gather and make art in Point Breeze.

90.5 WESA Celebrates 90 Neighborhoods, 90 Good Stories, is sponsored by UPMC.

Charles Bonner
Brian Cook / 90.5 WESA

Flanked by children as he walks the perimeter of the Ammons Community Recreation Center in the Hill District, Charles Bonner makes his way to the Olympic-size swimming pool. He unlocks security gates, checks chlorine levels and proceeds to greet enthusiastic attendees of his summer swimming program.

The 28-year-old Bonner serves as head lifeguard at Ammons, a job he said he’s been preparing for since he was a teenager.

“Starting back in 2005, I was a program counselor,” Bonner said. “One of the positions I had to have was lifeguarding. It was actually my first job."

The 90 Neighborhoods, 90 Good Stories Podcast introduces you to people in the Pittsburgh area, who are striving to make their community a better place to live.

This episode, we speak with Amy Kline, who helped revamp a park in Carrick; Steve Root of the South Side Community Council, who decided to make use of street art instead of painting over it; and Dave Breingan of the non-profit Lawrenceville United, who is trying to bridge the gap between educators and community.

90.5 WESA Celebrates 90 Neighborhoods, 90 Good Stories, is sponsored by UPMC.

flournoy
Elaine Effort / 90.5 WESA

Army veteran Michael Flournoy has made helping other veterans his life's mission. Even though Flournoy retired from his job as a therapist for the Pittsburgh Veterans Affairs hospital a few years ago, the 80-year-old resident of Pittsburgh's Chartiers City neighborhood tells 90.5 WESA's Elaine Effort that does not mean his work with veterans has ended. 

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

ELAINE EFFORT: What made working with veterans so meaningful for you?

The 90 Neighborhoods, 90 Good Stories Podcast introduces you to people in the Pittsburgh area, who are striving to make their community a better place to live.

This episode, we speak with Aubrey Plesh, who connects displaced people to essential services on the South Side; Sue Otto, who helps provide food and clothing to the needy in Ambridge at the faith-based non-profit Center for Hope; and Kristee Cammack, who helped turn an old school building into a family shelter in Allentown.

90.5 WESA Celebrates 90 Neighborhoods, 90 Good Stories, is sponsored by UPMC.

The 90 Neighborhoods, 90 Good Stories Podcast introduces you to people in the Pittsburgh area, who are striving to make their community a better place to live.

This episode, we speak with the Union Project's Jeffrey Dorsey, who is bringing people together through ceramics and other crafts in Highland Park; volunteers with the Pitt Pantry, a group working to make sure that poor nutrition isn’t part of the college experience for any student; and Caitlin McNulty, a co-founder of the Brookline Teen Outreach Center.

Emmai Alaquiva
Elaine Effort / 90.5 WESA

Emmai Alaquiva is a Pittsburgh-based Emmy Award-winning filmmaker and youth mentor who was recently appointed by Gov. Tom Wolf to the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. 90.5 WESA contributor Elaine Effort recently spoke with Alaquiva about Hip Hop on L.O.C.K, an arts education program he created more than a decade ago.

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

ELAINE EFFORT: Why did you find it important to give back and to do Hip Hop on L.O.C.K.?

The 90 Neighborhoods, 90 Good Stories Podcast introduces you to people in the Pittsburgh area, who are striving to make their community a better place to live.

This episode, we speak with Brian Oswald, a board member of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association and a resident expert on the community’s many steps; Diana Ames, a Friendship resident who helped develop the neighborhood’s Baum Grove Parklet; and Brittany Reno, who is working to make sure that future changes in Sharpsburg benefit all residents equitably.

The 90 Neighborhoods, 90 Good Stories Podcast introduces you to people in the Pittsburgh area, who are striving to make their community a better place to live.

andre samuel
Elaine Effort / 90.5 WESA

One of the few community bio-medical labs in the nation is located in Pittsburgh's Hill District. 

The 90 Neighborhoods, 90 Good Stories Podcast introduces you to people in the Pittsburgh area, who are striving to make their community a better place to live.

This week, we speak with Gia Braafhart, a North Side resident and a native of Curacao who speaks five languages and volunteers her time with people from around the world who’ve made Pittsburgh their new home; Jill Evans, who volunteers with the non-profit Voices against Violence in Beltzhoover; and Pat Dirienzo, an organizer with a long-running 5k tradition in Regent Square.

Clare Ansberry-Smith

When her daughter Jessie died at age 23 in 2013, Clare Ansberry-Smith knew right away that she wanted to do something to commemorate her life. But she didn't want it to be a typical charity event.

"There's a lot of wonderful events out there like walks and runs and dinners, and each parish has a fair, but we wanted something where it was games and just having fun -- sort of an Olympic theme, if you want," Ansberry-Smith said. "Kids love to do that."

Elaine Effort / 90.5 WESA

At its peak, 14,000 residents lived in the Larimer neighborhood of Pittsburgh. According to the 2010 census, the neighborhood is down to just 1,700 people. 

The 90 Neighborhoods, 90 Good Stories Podcast introduces you to people in the Pittsburgh area, who are striving to make their community a better place to live.

This episode, we speak with Dr. Allen Lane of the Homewood Children’s Village, who is helping Homewood kids from cradle to career; Kelly Day, who is revitalizing a corner of Brighton Heights; and Zaheen Hussain, who is working on sustainability issues in Millvale.

90.5 WESA Celebrates 90 Neighborhoods, 90 Good Stories, is sponsored by UPMC.

The 90 Neighborhoods, 90 Good Stories Podcast introduces you to people in the Pittsburgh area, who are striving to make their community a better place to live.

Pittsburgh Black Breastfeeding Circle

Ngozi Doreen Tibbs is the co-founder and leader of the Pittsburgh Black Breastfeeding Circle in the Strip District. 90.5 WESA's Noah Brode spoke with Tibbs about helping black moms learn the hows and whys of breastfeeding.

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity. 

NOAH BRODE: So, I'd like to start off by going over some of the benefits of breastfeeding, and why new moms are often encouraged to breastfeed.

Elaine Effort / 90.5 WESA

 Around six months ago, during a West End community meeting hosted by Black Women for Positive Change, Pittsburgh chapter president Diane Powell heard a frustration she knew how to tackle. 

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

It’s a muggy afternoon, and Mark Oleniacz is walking through the tall grass of "Frazier Farms" -- a small community garden adjoining a baseball diamond in the heart of South Oakland. He stops by his own plot, near the back fence.

“I had some garlic left over from last year, ‘cause actually I transplanted it, ‘cause I had that bed -- long story,” he says.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Bethany Ruhe was born and raised in the hilly south Pittsburgh neighborhood of Beechview. 

Elaine Effort / 90.5 WESA

Last year, local journalist Ervin Dyer created American Heroes: The Homewood Project, in an effort to bring positive attention to African-American men doing good work in their neighborhood.

Dyer spoke with 90.5 WESA contributor Elaine Effort about the project and how he hopes to move it forward.

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

ELAINE EFFORT: What is the Homewood Heroes project?

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

It’s a sunny Monday morning in Washington, Pa., and about 20 people are chatting over donuts and coffee in the cafeteria of Washington Christian Outreach. After breakfast, they’ll stay for the morning sermon, and later they’ll be joined by as many as 200 more for the daily free lunch.

Jeanne Allender is sitting in a small office just nextdoor. At 83 years old, she doesn’t come in to volunteer every day anymore, but she still puts in three days a week at the organization she founded 40 years ago this month.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Jennifer Cario is unloading big bins of food in a small storage room adjoining the gym of Bentworth Elementary School in Bentleyville, Washington County, about an hour south of Pittsburgh.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

Nick Ross stood at the corner of Ridge Avenue and West Commons, an intersection on the loop surrounding Allegheny Center. 

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

When James Simon moved into a three-story warehouse in the Uptown section of Pittsburgh in 2000, the area was much different than it is now. Simon said his street, Gist Street, was a hangout for sex workers, and the neighborhood had a dangerous reputation.

At that point, Simon was in the midst of a successful career as a sculptor and a creator of public art. He’d been living in Brazil, but was drawn back to Pittsburgh to help support his family.

It turns out that he had roots in Uptown all along.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

Pam Feltes-McCurdy made her way through a small room in the basement of the Lutheran Church of our Savior in North Huntingdon, squeezing between the wall of the room and a rack of baby clothes. 

Cbaile19 / Wikimedia Commons

When Terry Doloughty was growing up in the 1970s, Polish Hill was a much different place than it is today. Sure, there were more traditionally Polish families and more small businesses -- but what he remembers most fondly were the large green spaces surrounding the little hillside neighborhood.

“I had the ability here to have a very urban life, but then to disappear into the greenery and find some peace there,” Doloughty said.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

In the basement of the Keystone Church of Hazelwood, a group of high school students practiced a hip hop dance performance, counting aloud the steps in the routine in rhythm with a backing music track.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

It’s Neighborhood Table night in Sharpsburg, and about 60 people are packed into a former Main Street shop to eat fried chicken, salad and Italian bread. Dozens of Styrofoam dessert plates are waiting on carts in the back room.

Scores of Sharpsburgers, many of them over 50, regularly show up to the free event at the Roots of Faith center for the first three Thursdays of each month. Not only are they given meals, but they’re also offered free services: some nights it’s a medical screening from UPMC St. Margaret; sometimes it’s a legal clinic from local law firms.

Janet Hellner-Burris / Sanctuary Project

On a stormy Thursday in Wilkinsburg, Janet Hellner-Burris stepped out of the rain on Wallace Avenue and into the doors of the Christian Church of Wilkinsburg, where she's served as a pastor since 1990. 

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Laura Stuart is standing in the center of a small room practically exploding with color. She’s surrounded by artwork of all shapes and sizes -- from painted windows and furniture to decorated mannequins and vibrant beaded bracelets and necklaces.

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