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Award #32: Mobile Sculpture Workshop

10 Aug

Mobile Sculpture WorkshopAndy Prisbylla serves as the project administrator for the Mobile Sculpture Workshop (MSW), a pilot program of the Industrial Arts Cooperative (IAC), whose mission is to inspire artistic literacy in the Pittsburgh region by offering enrichment opportunities that advance the understanding and process of sculpture-making artists and their work.

MSW is a Pennsylvania-based summer workshop aimed at demonstrating the techniques of safe and proper welding and metal fabrication while producing large-scale sculpture for public display. The Awesome Pittsburgh $1,000 grant will help buy safety gear and welding supplies.

Prisbylla is thrilled that the Awesome Pittsburgh grant will contribute heavily to…

“our effort to inspire the youth of Hazelwood and its neighbors with an opportunity of design, conception and completion of public art.  Upon completion of the workshop, student apprentices will understand the basic fundamentals and terminology of welding and metal fabrication, including safety procedures, and learn to efficiently work within a team to recognize the importance of organizational cohesion.”

Adds new Awesome Pittsburgh trustee Robert Young, “I don’t think there is any better way to foster the learning and creativity of children than to guide them in the process of making something. Not only do they gain a true sense of accomplishment but their skills in science, technology, engineering, and math are enhanced through the process.”

The 2014 summer workshop concludes on September 6.  This summer, MSW project representatives have appeared at the Polish Hill Festival, in Braddock at Chef Kevin Sousa’s Superior Motors community cookout, in Munhall at the Rivers of Steel Sunday Heritage Market at the Pump House, and will be in Rankin on August 16 at the Save the Deer Fundraiser at the Carrie Furnace.

To read more, the Mobile Sculpture Workshop keeps up-to-date posts and news at

msw logo

Award #31: The Global Switchboard

15 Jun

As The Global Switchboard’s short video will point out, “In Pittsburgh, globally focused individuals and organizations are often too isolated; they lack a platform for collaboration, so we’re building one. The Global Switchboard will be a shared working space for members committed to international development, global education in Pittsburgh and abroad, and community empowerment.”

Brandon Blache-Cohen is the Executive Director of Amizade Global Service-Learning, a small non-profit responsible for The Global Switchboard initiative.  Since 1994, Amizade has been connecting individuals and communities through worldwide service and learning. Says Blache-Cohen:

“The Global Switchboard is honored to have Awesome Pittsburgh as a vital partner in building Pittsburgh’s home for global engagement. Thanks to Awesome Pittsburgh, the outdoor event and reflection space of the Switchboard will be better equipped to inspire a new era of global citizens.”

The physical office and event space will serve as a home for globally-engaged, social-profit organizations; currently, there are ten organizations slated to be housed at the corner of 34th and Ligonier Street in Lawrenceville. Awesome Pittsburgh’s grant provided partial funding to clean up this empty lot. The interior build-out of the project was completed on May 1, and completion of the exterior is planned for June.

The Global Switchboard’s goals in creating a co-working and event space are threefold:

  1. To increase global engagement and accessibility in the Pittsburgh area
  2. To cultivate young Pittsburgh-based global organizations
  3. To attract new resources to our city for internationally collaborative projects

Awesome Pittsburgh trustee Melanie Harrington adds,

“We are thrilled to support The Global Switchboard.  It is an exciting opportunity to bring together the region’s Pittsburghers and global communities in a shared space designed for social engagement and conversation.  The promise of this cross-cultural friendship building and learning is critical to promoting the numerous efforts underway to grow the diversity of the Pittsburgh region.”

You can follow the Switchboard’s progress and inquire about joining via Facebook and its website.

Award #30: Bandi Schaum Art in the Garden

21 May


For the last three years, the City of Pittsburgh has offered South Side residents public space and water at individual garden plots at Bandi Schaum Field. There are nearly 90 plots, all of them filled, which qualifies this particular garden as one of the largest community gardens in Western Pennsylvania.

The garden was planned with the notion to leave open space for future projects and community fun.  One of the spontaneous and positive outcomes of this venture was that children became excited about exploring the garden. The Bandi Schaum gardeners applied for an Awesome Pittsburgh grant because they wanted to create an experiential art space for these children and their families. Their project, “Art in the Garden,” was driven by a desire for those families to experience what they’re learning about planting, growing, and harvesting through art.

Steering committee member and gardener Carla Garfield says,

“Community gardeners grow much more than vegetables and flowers. In partnership with the city, we make positive environmental, economic, and aesthetic impacts on daily lives. We visualize a true community arts environment for families, within the realm of our treasured garden. We’re so excited about the opportunity we’ve been given, thanks to Awesome Pittsburgh, to make our vision a reality!”

Awesome Pittsburgh trustee Iris Whitworth shares her enthusiasm for this urban project:

“Art in the Garden is an awesome project that grew out of an already vibrant space for community food growing. I visited Bandi Shaum last summer during a bike tour. After climbing the steep slopes, the tired bikers were welcomed into a tree-top oasis! What struck me the most was the gardeners’ passion for sharing food with everyone. Art in the Garden is an awesome and creative way to engage youth in food growing and to provide educational tools via an impressive community space.”

The garden’s steering committee will set up art boxes, art tables and seating, art equipment and supplies, and weather-resistant musical instruments.  The committee not only wants to provide children access to materials (paints, paper, chalk, beads, wire, chimes), but also to offer exhibit space.  Additionally, this grant will enable the committee to invite and hire artists who will teach artistic and musical techniques to children and families, and to oversee larger, collaborative projects. Building and implementation of new projects begins soon.

To follow the project’s progress, watch the garden’s blog and Twitter account, or feel free to contact bandischaum [at] to get involved!

Award #29: Farm Truck Foods

22 Apr

FarmTruckFoodsGroupAwesome Pittsburgh recently awarded $1,000 to Farm Truck Foods for its team’s solution to Pittsburgh’s food desert dilemma.

As defined by the USDA, a food desert is any “urban-neighborhood and/or rural town without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food.” Seven food deserts are attributed to Pittsburgh, and the three co-founders of Farm Truck Foods want to see that number reach zero. Each of the co-founders possess health and food-related backgrounds: Michelle Lagree is a registered dietitian, Meredith Neel earned her Public Health degree, and Landon DePaulo earned a Food Studies degree and has experience with food trucks and local farming. The trio aims to offer a mobile food market targeting low-income communities via the buying and selling of local, nutritionally dense, farm fresh foods.

Farm Truck Foods’ overarching goal is to help bridge the gap between farmers and community members throughout Greater Pittsburgh, with the hope of empowering people to live happy, healthy lives. Its trucks will deliver fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, eggs, and canned goods to low-income community members at affordable prices. Farm Truck Foods is also committed to forming relationships with communities in order to meet the needs of their residents and will accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps).

Says Ms. Lagree, “Our educational approach will be varied. We will provide nutritional information, teach activities to children, distribute healthy recipes, and demonstrate how the truck operates, covering topics such as preparation, clean-up, and exactly how our products are sold. Farm Truck Foods will make planned stops at places like community centers, YMCAs, and residential complexes.”

The $1,000 grant will help retrofit the team’s food truck to make it capable of storing and transporting necessary food stuffs. Additionally, the co-founders want to make the truck wheelchair accessible and install an awning for customers’ comfort when it rains.

Food Truck Farms’ supply chain and community stop sites have already been chosen, and Michelle, Meredith, and Landon are currently attending town meetings so that community members have the opportunity to meet them and to hear their commitment before bringing business to the streets. The team plans on having the truck fully operational by June 2014.

You can follow the new program at its Facebook page and web site. (Thanks also to WESA for covering the story!)

You can meet some of our recent winners, the Awesome Pittsburgh trustees, and other awesome people at our spring awards party on April 28, 6:30-8:30pm at Benjamin’s on the North Side. Check out the event’s Facebook page for more info.

Update 4-30-14: Check out Farm Truck Foods’ new Kickstarter campaign to raise $40,000 by June 4:

Award #28: Urban RC in Homewood

12 Apr


Keith Reimink owns and operates DALIBORKAfilms, a small Pittsburgh-based film production company. His most recent documentary idea is the story of Homewood resident Marty McDaniels whose hobby is building and racing remote control cars (RC racing),. Marty’s project earned a recent Awesome Pittsburgh $1,000 grant.

For the past several summers, Marty has been creating a “bashing” track -a backyard, homemade racing track built from found materials – on an abandoned lot near his home. Marty hopes to repudiate Homewood’s reputation for violence by turning his hobby into a racetrack where kids and adults can race in a place free from fear and intolerance.

Mr. McDaniels spends every spare dollar he earns on car parts, limestone dirt for the track, and tools to make repairs on his growing collection of cars. Marty will collaborate with DALIBORKAfilms to showcase his unique hobby. Together, Keith and Marty will visit existing RC tracks in the greater Western PA area, talk to promoting organizations, and research various RC cars, all while building  their own track in Homewood. The film will be shot and produced entirely in Pittsburgh, utilizing post production facilities in the city as well.

Marty believes that:

“The vision is big, but we have to start small. By creating a fun, positive, racing environment that is accessible to everyone, we can raise awareness for the sport of RC racing and the positive effects it can have on urban youth and adults. Many people want to race but there simply isn’t a place within the city limits.  My goal is community awareness and involvement by creating a Pittsburgh RC track that everyone can be proud of.”

The grant money will be used to clean up the lot, add some professional touches–such as installing professional track tubing and buying professional grade dirt to give the track a smooth surface–and investing in landscaping tools. Mr. Remink’s additional plans include collaboration with like-minded Pittsburgh organizations in an attempt to draw awareness to as many positive aspects of Pittsburgh as possible.

You can follow the progress of the film and/or find out how you can help with Marty’s project by contacting Keith through his website or Facebook page.


Award #27: An Orchard for Isaac

31 Jan


Behind every awesome idea stands an awesome pig.  Or so veterinary surgeon Karen Phillips would argue.

Her work at both the Western PA Humane Society and the Animal Rescue League opened her eyes to the growing number of unwanted farm animals. Inspired by Isaac, a stray pig found on the Pittsburgh city streets in mid-winter, Dr. Phillips founded the Hope Haven Farm Sanctuary in 2013. Hope Haven’s mission is to rescue neglected pigs, goats, sheep, and poultry who have been surrendered at animal shelters, confiscated by local humane agents, or saved from factory farms. It took Karen over three years to find a property in Franklin Park with enough pasture land for a farm whose proximity was close enough to the city to entice visitors.  She spent an additional year clearing the property (an old junkyard), acquiring proper zoning, installing the barn and fencing, and filling out the paperwork to become an official non-profit organization.

Karen applied for an Awesome Pittsburgh grant, requesting funds specifically for an orchard in Isaac’s memory. Unfortunately, Isaac only lived on the sanctuary for two months before he died from a neurological disorder. He was a wonderful ambassador for the farm, and a new fruit orchard will honor him and ensure that he continues to inspire and educate all who visit.

The plan is to situate the orchard next to a pond.  A variety of fruit bearing trees will be planted, i.e. apple (a pig favorite), pear, and peach.  The orchard will provide nutritious fruit for all the sanctuary’s deserving animals and will help control feed costs.  In addition, the trees will act as protective cover to over 30 ducks and geese who frequent the pond.  The fruit trees’ substantial branches will shield them from predators such as hawks and owls. A natural walking path through the trees will be part of the visitor experience, expanding the sanctuary’s tours out of the barn and onto the land.

Says Awesome Trustee Leah Helou,

“This project really spoke to me because there is such a strong need for places offering sanctuary to farm animals who are turned over to shelters.  Karen’s idea to plant an orchard that will help feed more than 80 animals, give them shelter from predators, and beautify their haven is fantastic.  This is such simple and pure project, and yet it meets several needs and provides critical sustainability to Hope Haven Farm.”

The grant will enable the purchase of large, mature fruit trees from a reputable local nursery, and will pay for planting and maintenance equipment and organic insect sprays and fertilizers.  In order to ensure a proper installation of the orchard, Karen plans to collaborate with the knowledgeable staffs at both Grow Pittsburgh and The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation.

Karen shared her unbridled enthusiasm with all the trustees after she found out she had received the grant:

“We are extremely excited about this opportunity to strengthen our non-profit sanctuary, nourish our deserving animals, and educate and enlighten a Pittsburgh audience. We are very appreciative for the opportunity to bring this project to fruition, and we are honored to be the first animal-oriented project funded by Awesome Pittsburgh.”

Hope Haven Farm invites you to track its progress, volunteer, and even donate through its website and Facebook page

Award #26: Kiss for Peace!

14 Jan

Kiss for PeaceLast month’s Awesome Pittsburgh grant was awarded to Nima Dehghani and Behzad Tabibian, for their winsome Kiss for Peace! Project. It seemed particularly well-timed for the holidays; the project promotes peace, love and hope—ideas which are especially inspirational between the end of an old year and the start of a new one.

Nima is an artist, director and playwright who is currently enrolled in the MFA program at CMU. Behzad Tabibian is a Master of Information Science student at the University of Pittsburgh. Their goal? To reduce misunderstanding and bring people in Iran and the United States closer together.

The project asks both Iranian and American citizens to post photos of themselves blowing kisses. On November 4, the anniversary of the 1979 embassy takeover in Tehran, Nima and Behzad used their web site and Facebook page to motivate readers to blow a kiss and post the photo. “Come on – 34 years of hostility is enough. Let’s move on,” the site declares. To show their willingness to overcome a history of hostile relations, participants added personal messages of friendship. The site enthusiastically received more than 300 pictures in two days from Iranians and Americans, including sentiments such as:

  • “Let’s start a new era with a kiss”
  • “Iranian people love American people”
  • “After 30 years of distrust now it’s time to shake hands”

The mutual affection which was visually revealed made a huge impact; the story was picked up by several international news agencies including the BBC. In fact, more than 168,000 people have visited its site since the launch.

 “Promoting peace and mutual understanding between the people of Iran and the U.S. is both smart and downright awesome. Kiss for Peace! is a successful online project and this public performance invites Pittsburghers to participate in a timely political dialogue,” says former Awesome Pittsburgh Trustee Ayanah Moor.

This public performance component is part of a broader project called Netformance, in which political issues are taken out of their conventional context and infused with a fresh perspective dependent entirely on user participation.

Explains Dehghani, “In light of Pittsburgh’s long history in embracing creative art works, we would like to project images on a city building, to invite observers and pedestrians of Pittsburgh to participate in real time and post their photos (their kisses!) on the website which then will be projected back on the building. With enough public participation, the campaign could receive wide media coverage and to help create a more positive political atmosphere for the two countries to resolve their differences and move towards a warming of relations.”

Netformance places audience at the heart of an art work and looks to use innovative technology in an effort to have people’s opinions heard. The founders are looking for an appropriate building location for the project; they are currently considering Bakery Square, Market Square, Station Square, the cultural district or downtown as potential spaces. You can follow their current project, “Letters from Iran,” at

Award #25: The Drop Project

14 Dec



Our 25th award goes to Ann Payne and Kristen Reynolds, two graduate students of Chatham University’s Falk School of Sustainability. Their vision is to grow and diversify watershed stewardship by increasing awareness of the human-water relationship as well as promoting lifestyle choices that support a healthier watershed.

Their vision will come to life through The Drop Project, an interactive exhibit designed by Payne, Reynolds, and their faculty mentor, Dr. Molly Mehling, Assistant Professor of Ecology and Sustainability at the Falk School. The award-winning project idea will include a month-long series of exhibits and activities held at Assemble, a community space for arts and technology, in Garfield’s Penn Avenue arts district. This project serves as their master’s thesis and it is the first exhibit of Water Connects, Mehling’s long-term, art-science project to improve water quality in the region.

Ann is a visual storyteller, marketer, and wordsmith. Kristen is a geoscientist, avid kayaker, and water nerd. Dr. Mehling is an aquatic-landscape ecotoxicologist, photographer, and sustainability professor. Together, their goal is to demonstrate the plausibility of a collective sustainable future for all. The Drop Project will allow the participants to have a sensory experience that draws them into a stream ecosystem. Visitors will bump their way through stream rocks made from used fabrics and will learn about the visible and invisible pollution that stress our waterways, which includes everything from plastic to pharmaceuticals. They will engage in creative, unconventional approaches to allow visitors to understand the problems, but also the personal practices, or “little drops” that can truly make a difference.

A major objective for The Drop Project is to connect stakeholders and provide a playful experience to learn about water. Water is a valuable and contentious resource in the Pittsburgh region and around the world. The Drop Project seeks to connect communities to action organizations, government agencies to non-profits, artists to scientists, and recreationalists to resource managers. Ann and Kristen plan to use goods from Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse and make as much by hand as possible, thereby using the grant money to go towards the purchase of additional materials for the April exhibit at Assemble, as well as toward web site and basic project promotion. The Drop Project is to be completed by mid-summer of 2014, with the exhibit in April.

You can join Awesome Pittsburgh in donating to the project by visiting its website and you can follow its project on Facebook and Twitter.

Award #24: PittMesh

8 Nov

PittMeshTwo years ago, Meta Mesh founder Adam Longwill wanted to make a private Wi-Fi connection to his friends’ houses. After testing various antenna designs and routing technologies for a year, he decided not to limit his network to just his friends. He recruited a team on-line, and one year ago, founded his company, Meta Mesh, LLC, to build a free, public wireless network. One month ago, he became a Certified Wireless Network Administrator. Today, Awesome Pittsburgh is backing this awesome idea.

Adam’s idea has grown into a project to build a city-wide wireless mesh network, called PittMesh, wherein each access point is independently owned so that there is no single point of failure or control.  Anyone with a wireless-enabled device can connect to the network and anyone with a compatible wireless router will be able to expand the network. His team designed the PittMesh so that anyone can join by buying and configuring inexpensive, commercially available Wi-Fi hardware.

A mesh network eliminates the centralized middleman of a traditional Internet Service Provider (ISP). Instead of traffic going through a series of Internet routers potentially hundreds of miles away, a mesh network’s traffic is routed by the shortest and fastest possible path locally.  By eschewing a traditional ISP, users can enjoy the benefits of more secure privacy and of low-cost connectivity within a geographic area. Members of the PittMesh Network will gain access to all the local resources and anonymity that an “off-the-grid” network affords, while simultaneously expanding the network even further.

Adam provides background:

“This is a novel but not new method of networking. Mesh networking has the potential to change the way we communicate within a geographic area, to disrupt ISP monopolies, and to solve the networking privacy issues that have recently come to light. The solution is low-cost, low-maintenance, community-owned wireless routers placed throughout neighborhoods.”

Says Awesome Trustee Mike Capsambelis,

“We are excited to help Meta Mesh pilot a wireless mesh network in Pittsburgh. We were impressed by the technical elegance of their approach — a distributed, intelligent wireless network with no single point of failure — and by the fact that it shifts the power of connectivity from corporations to the community. We’d love to see this spread through neighborhoods throughout the city and offer people a true alternative to traditional Internet providers.”

Awesome Pittsburgh’s $1,000 grant will enable the purchase of necessary routers and antennas.  While the project is in early stages, there are ways to become involved now. Meta Mesh has produced a short video about PittMesh which concisely explains the basic principles behind the project.  Currently, interested parties can contact Adam directly to donate or volunteer to be a wireless node host in the South Side. Meta Mesh will provide and install a free wireless router.

Award #23: Tip Type

25 Oct

The study of language and objects looms large in the life of local artist Brandon Boan, who currently lives and works in Wilkinsburg. Recently dedicating himself to the practice of typesetting and lithography, Boan plans to have a working linotype shop with photo lithography capabilities up and running by next year. Brandon named the shop “Tip Type” and will carry on the practice of “hot metal type” started by his friend and mentor, Rudy Lehman.

Rudy Lehman ran his business, Lehman Typesetting, in Wilkinsburg from 1957 until his death in January 2013. His shop housed a complete and classic working Linotype machine, a rarity in modern America. Following Rudy’s death, Rudy’s family told Brandon that metal scrappers were coming to haul away the Linotype equipment in the shop. Brandon asked them to please cancel that plan. Rudy’s wife, who is a graphic designer by trade, was delighted that someone wanted to save the shop and ever since that conversation, Brandon has been raising money to buy the shop and the equipment while developing new work to be produced in the space.

Tip Type will be a working Linotype and photo lithography studio, available for projects by artists in Pittsburgh and beyond. Since the learning curve of linotype-casting is quite steep, Brandon attended Linotype University, an intensive course held at the Working Linotype Museum in Denmark, Iowa during the entire month of September. The course was a labor of love and preservation and offered at no cost to people who have the equipment.

Each step of the learning process provided meaningful discoveries for the artist. Brandon explains, “Linotypes are amazing and beautiful machines! The Linotype is sometimes called a typesetting machine, but that term is misleading as it does not set type. It is actually a substitute for typesetting. Strictly speaking, a linotype is a composing machine. Text is molded and cast into printers-metal, and after the printing process, the metal is melted back down and recycled. I am extremely excited to work with this extraordinary and evocative process and to be able to make it available to other artists.”

Awesome Pittsburgh’s $1000 grant will help cover the costs of the Linotype University and will stock Tip Type with consumable materials in preparation for opening to the public in January 2014, the one-year anniversary of Rudy’s death.

Awesome Pittsburgh trustee Ayanah Moor speaks of this project with great enthusiasm: “Rudy Lehman’s Legacy is an awesome idea! Brandon not only preserves the legacy of a mentor and friend but extends his knowledge of technical and artistic skills to support local and visiting artists. The Tip Type project will serve as a wonderful addition to Wilkinsburg.”

To learn more about Tip Type, follow Brandon on Facebook or email him at branshealthy [at]

Jan. 2014 Update: Make sure to stop by Tip Type’s grand opening on Wednesday, February 5 from 7-10pm! The Tip Type team, Wilkinsburg area artists, and Boxcar Press have really helped the shop come alive. Check out the details on the new web site

Award #22: Cupcakes & Culture Series

30 Aug

Jasmine Cho decided to ride the wave of cupcake popularity by putting her own Asian-American spin on things, and the payoff has been quite a surprise to the Korean-American, Los Angeles, CA native.  To raise awareness of Asian-American culture in Pittsburgh, she began the Cupcakes & Culture Series, the first of which was held in late July at Biddle’s Escape, a coffee and bead shop in Regent Square (Wilkinsburg).

DSC01716Jasmine has three goals for the series:  to bring the local Asian American community together, to bring the wider Pittsburgh community in touch with Asian-American population and culture, and to build retention of young diversity in Pittsburgh by enriching its multicultural atmosphere.

With more than 200 people attending, the first event was a complete success. Three weeks later, Jasmine found out that Awesome Pittsburgh had awarded her idea with our most recent $1,000 micro-grant. She had applied for the grant at the same time as planning the series, and the timing could not have been better.   Says Jasmine,

“After the initial shock [of winning] faded, I was totally ecstatic and giddy.  Afterwards, I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion. I’ve been working so hard and trying to overcome certain challenges coming at me at every angle, so when I found out that I won the grant, it felt like that toil paid off. Overall, I was just so moved that my efforts are being recognized and supported.  Right now I’m just so grateful and want to live up to the awesomeness!”

She’ll use the $1000 grant to help transform each of the future venues into something spectacular.

Jasmine Cho moved to Pittsburgh from Hawaii in 2009 and soon afterwards, formed the Pittsburgh Asian Network with a vision to strengthen the local Asian American community as well as raise the network’s visibility in the mainstream. Through her business, Yummyholic, she hopes to enhance Pittsburgh’s multicultural atmosphere with Asian-inspired fun and sweets.  Cho believes that the Cupcakes & Culture Series can blend education and entertainment together into something fun, vibrant, and enlightening for the city of Pittsburgh; her primary target audience is college-aged students and young professionals.  The series’ five events will each feature a different element of Asian-American culture, free cupcakes and finger foods from Asian eateries, free music and entertainment, and free information and literature from local Asian diversity organizations.

The next Cupcakes & Culture Series event will offer an Asian horror theme and take place on Thursday, October 24, at Cavo (Strip District).  Jasmine hopes to find volunteer artists or art students who could build décor, and would also appreciate help with set-up and break-down duties on the day of the event. Potential volunteers, partygoers, and partners can contact Jasmine through Facebook or email helloyummyholic [@]


Award #21: G.L.A.D. Bags, a Project for Foster Children

26 Jul

Bridgette and Jason Jodon recently underwent the arduous process of becoming foster parents.  Having learned the intricacies of the system, they decided to not only become foster parents (hosting up to two children at once), but also to effect change in the lives of as many children in foster care as possible. Thus, their $1,000 award winning idea was born.

Their idea is simple yet profound.  They want to create a “comfort bag” for each child who is removed from a home, as opposed to a standard trash bag which is the current norm.  The Jodons will purchase as many cinch sacks as possible and fill them with necessities and objects which might bring comfort to the child during a difficult transition time. They named their project G.L.A.D. Bags, an acronym for God’s Love And Devotion and a play on words on the name of a popular trash bag The grant money will go directly to the purchase of the bags.  The Jodons will then work on stocking those bags, by asking various businesses, churches and organizations to help with the labor involved.

Bridgette explained the origins of their brainstorm: “This project was designed with the hope that this small gesture will trigger positive change in foster children’s’ lives. Over 1,500 children are in Allegheny County’s foster care system. Often times when children are removed from foster care, they are handed a trash bag for their belongings.  To me this is very unacceptable.”

She continued, “When our first placement came to us, his belongings were brought in two plastic grocery bags.  As foster parents, we were instructed to pack his belongings in case of a quick move back to his biological family, and my husband and I insisted that he not return with grocery bags.  We purchased a duffel bag for his belongings, not for the purpose of protest, but out of respect for the child.  There is a level of respect and dignity that must be integrated into this difficult process.  We want them to know that while we don’t necessarily understand what they are going through, we care, love and value each of them. We want to keep the integrity of the children intact and show them that they matter in this world.”

The Jodons currently do not have a web site specifically for the project, but Bridgette maintains a blog site ( which she updates weekly. The blog is public and expresses her thoughts, feelings, and faith regarding her and her husband’s personal journey through foster care.

Awesome Pittsburgh trustee Carolina Pais-Barreto Beyers believes that “G.L.A.D. is remarkable initiative.  The Jodons identified a need and transformed it into an opportunity to show these children that they are valuable.  We hope that the Awesome award helps bring more awareness to this effort.”

G.L.A.D. Bags will be an on-going project. In the future, the project plans to incorporate a suitcase, duffle bag and backpack drive. Until then, the Jodons will seek donations for the contents of the bags, which include tooth paste, tooth brushes, hair brushes, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, body wash, socks, small fleece blankets, journals, pencils, small comfort toys, and luggage tags. Inquiries about the donation process can be made directly to Bridgette (bridgette.depew1 [at]

Come meet the Jodons and other recent $1,000 awardees at our Awesome Awards and Networking party Monday, July 29!


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