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Identity & Community

Welcoming Pittsburgh To Tell 30 Locals' Stories

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For the next month, the city of Pittsburgh will highlight a different resident each day in an effort to show off the region’s diversity.

“We’re very much lacking in that area,” said Betty Cruz, the city's deputy chief of special initiatives. “But there are people from diverse backgrounds here and they need to be welcomed and they need to have their story told.”

"30 Neighbors. 30 Days." was born from Welcoming Pittsburgh Advisory Council Member Elizabeth Heidenreich's reaction to negative rhetoric in the national and regional media about immigration. Heidenreich was “itching to do some positive storytelling,” Cruz said.

Each day, a short bio and a picture will be posted on NEXTpittsburgh's website and on social media with the hashtag #IamPGH. They'll be “transplants from others cities, residents who have been here for generations, newcomers from other countries, immigrants, refugees, Latinos and others,” Cruz said.

“We wanted to … capture the stories and experiences of everyday Pittsburghers. And [what is an] 'everyday Pittsburgher' might surprise some folks.”

Among the featured Pittsburgh residents is Adnan Pehlivan. The native of Turkey first moved to the United States to work for the Hilton Corporation. He has lived in several states, but 18 months ago landed in Pittsburgh to open his own restaurant.

“I did not know until I came to Pittsburgh there were any Turkish people [in the city],” Pehlivan said. “I thought maybe, like, one or two people. I had no idea.” 

Pehlivan estimates there are 3,500 Turks in city, including 1,200 Turkish students. He said he would like to bring a few more over to work in his restaurant Istanbul Sofra in Regent Square, if he can arrange the visas. 

“The city welcome was very good and the neighborhood welcome was very good ,and I don’t want to disappoint them and we want to gain the respect in the city,” said Pehlivan, who contends he never felt like an outsider.

Cruz said she hopes Pittsburghers will pay attention to the profiles in the next 30 days.

“Be inspired and feel connected to these individuals,” she said. “Any attention that shows we are doing our best to celebrate all Pittsburghers ... is a beautifully thing."