Volunteering

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.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Glade Run Lake is frozen over right now, its 50-plus acres of water transformed into a broad, snowy plain set amid the rolling hills of Butler County.

Oddly, though, tree branches are reaching up through the frigid water and breaking the icy surface like gnarled, blackened fingers.

The trees are holdouts from when the man-made fishing lake was completely drained. In 2011, the state’s Fish and Boat Commission decided Glade Run Lake’s 56-year-old spillway was too badly deteriorated to be reliable. Fearing a flood downstream, the agency drained the lake that summer.

About 16 miles downstream from the headwaters of the Ohio River lies the borough of Ambridge. It was founded in 1905, when the religious group the "Harmony Society" sold about 2 square miles of land to the American Bridge Company -- that’s where the name Ambridge comes from.

The borough’s population boomed in the early 20th Century along with the rise of the steel industry, but declined steadily as mills began to close. More than 20,000 people lived in Ambridge in 1930, but now, the Census Bureau estimates the population to be fewer than 7,000.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Almost 30 years ago, a business on Baum Boulevard bought and demolished a house in the little residential neighborhood of Friendship to make way for an extra parking lot. That demolition became a catalyst for the placid East End community.

“The neighborhood was so upset about this commercial encroachment that they banded together and were successful in keeping the zoning residential," said Friendship resident Diana Ames.

Gerben Van Es / Dutch Defense Ministry via AP

Pennsylvanians with specialized skills are headed to help out with the destruction expected from Hurricane Irma.

Officials said 39 members of an urban search and rescue task force departed from Philadelphia on Wednesday for a staging area in Mobile, Alabama.

They'll meet up with other members of the group who have been working in Texas in response to Hurricane Harvey.

It's unclear how long they'll be deployed for Hurricane Irma.

Courtesy of Rochel Tombosky

Rochel Tombosky was born in California, but she and her parents moved to Squirrel Hill to become a part of the Jewish community there.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Jill Evans grew up in Beltzhoover. She remembers a community where neighbors looked out for each other.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

You might call the neighborhood of Regent Square a "border town" of sorts. It straddles the lines between the city of Pittsburgh and the eastern boroughs of Edgewood, Swissvale and Wilkinsburg.

In fact, the border between Pittsburgh and Swissvale runs directly through the home of Pat DiRienzo. Like many houses in Regent Square, DiRienzo’s sits on a quiet, shady street where tufts of grass spring up between the bricks used to pave the roads.