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Award #33: Diverse Mothering Initiative

3 Sep

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Cindy Mendoza is a mother of three boys whose passion is motherhood.  She grew up in both Wilkinsburg and the Hill District and her grant winning project, Diverse Mothering Initiative, is a reflection of that urban childhood. The things she most values in life–writing, reading, exploration, and conversation–revolve around children or ideas and experiences she gained as a child, and she hopes to help the broader mothers-of-color community with what she has learned about effective parenting.

Diverse Mothering Initiative’s objective is to assist Pittsburgh’s minority mothers in developing their own personal templates for effective parenting in the confines of a socially supportive community. Mothers are the backbone of minority families, and when given the tools they need to develop effective parenting strategies, along with the social support necessary to apply those strategies to everyday lives, they have a real opportunity to change the way minority families function.

Newest Awesome Pittsburgh trustee Melonie Nance reports,

“We trustees were really impressed by the professional presentation of this group via their website, in addition to their great cause! We hope that our grant will help spread the word to others who may benefit from joining their supportive network.”

Low-income, minority mothers have long been the targets of some cultural hostility which implies that this particular group of mothers is not equipped to be effective parents. The stereotyping continues to exist, i.e. that black mothers are financially, emotionally and intellectually unable to raise healthy, college-bound, responsible children. Mendoza’s efforts hope to eradicate this false notion. She says,

“Effective mothering has the potential to tremendously impact minority communities. Bottom-line: moms who become better mothers make fathers better fathers, children better adults, and communities better communities.”

The grant will assist Cindy’s project in hosting seven events which enable mothers-of-color to tackle issues such as family planning, co-parenting, literacy and diversity. The events will run from September 2014 to June 2015.

You can Register here for the upcoming kick-off pampering event for women on Saturday, September 13, which takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Alloy Studios on Penn Avenue in East Liberty. And you can follow Cindy’s Brown Mamas venture on the web, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

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 www.facebook.com/mobilesculptureworkshop.

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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

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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] gmail.com 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: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2136487442/farm-truck-foods-pittsburghs-mobile-grocer

Award #28: Urban RC in Homewood

12 Apr

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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

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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

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