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No Off Season For Pittsburgh’s ‘Real Bearded Santas’

Kiley Koscinski
90.5 WESA
"You Sleigh Me" performers (from left:) Santa Lance, Mrs. Clause Carol and Santa Wayne

On today’s program: Grounded works with community members to breathe life into abandoned lots; get to know Shawnee chieftess Nonhelema; changes in Pennsylvania Republican party leadership could impact its approach to the 2020 elections; and a conversation with holiday performers who celebrate Christmas all year round.

Turning forgotten places into community spaces
(0:00 – 12:30)

Vacant and abandoned lots can be an eyesore and even bring down surrounding property values, but Anna Archer, policy project manager at nonprofit Grounded Strategies Pittsburgh, says it's important that these lots don’t come to define their communities.

Formerly known as G-TECH, Grounded works in distressed and transitional housing markets with high rates of vacancies to reclaim unused land and give it purpose for a community. Archer works directly with residents who volunteer to care for vacant lots, like Kadijah Bey, who took over two nextdoor lots in 2005. She says stewardship is about personal pride.

“When I go outside my doors, I want to see beauty," she says. "So in order for that to happen, I have to be a part of it.”

Shawnee chieftess bridged natives and colonizers 
(13:52 – 17:52)

Nonhelema was a Shawnee warrior who lived in Western Pennsylvania in the 18th century. She was a well-respected member of her tribe, and knew that their survival was dependent on keeping peace with the new settlers in the region. Despite her accomplishments, she was mostly forgotten. As part of the Women in Pittsburgh history series, 90.5 WESA’s Katie Blackley takes a look at her life.

New chair could spell new direction for PA GOP 
(17:55 – 23:48)

Lawrence Tabas, the newly elected chair of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, made his first major change this week by adding a new position: compliance officer. Attorney Denise Dieter will monitor party members’ compliance with party bylaws and rules. 90.5 WESA’s Chris Potter explains that the implementation of this new position comes after the party’s previous chair, Val DiGiorgio, stepped down amidst allegations that he harassed a Philadelphia City Council candidate. The recent shakeups could redirect the state GOP's approach to the 2020 election. 

Christmas in July, August, September... 
(23:49 – 38:49)

Christmas is 155 days away, but for the members of You Sleigh Me, a regional group of professional holiday performers, the Christmas season knows no bounds. In the summer, Santa Lance, Santa Wayne and Mrs. Claus Carol ditch their wool coats and white furs for summery-but-festive Hawaiian shirts, candy cane sunglasses, and of course, lots of red.

The three keep busy with training and community events. Santa Lance says even a trip to the grocery store could mean showtime, if a child “spots the beard and belly.” He carries coins in his pocket to let little ones know they found the real deal, and remind them to behave all year round. 

90.5 WESA's Julia Zenkevich, Julia Maruca and Hannah Gaskill contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.
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