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Table of Contents

Seventh Annual PCRG Summit is a Success!

Member Highlight: A+ Schools

VISTA Spotlight: Introducing Jess!

Awards Presented at Summit Evening Reception

City’s Capital Budget Deliberative Forum Delivers on Quality, not Quantity

Introducing PCRG’s Newly Elected Board Members

PCRG VISTAs Attend Main Streets Conference

PCRG Staff Attends People and Places Conference

June Events and Announcements

Seventh Annual PCRG Summit a Success

Last modified on 2017-06-16 15:00:09 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

The 2017 Community Development Summit has come and gone. On behalf of PCRG, thank you to all of our supporters. Whether you presented, volunteered, sponsored, or attended, you made our Summit a success. But don’t take our word for it! Here’s some of the feedback we got from attendees:

“The Summit was amazing as always.


“I appreciated the diverse perspectives of the presenters and the variety of topics.”

attendees (1)

“I loved the two Keynote Speakers – their message was powerful and I hope to see improvement made in the City of Pittsburgh like Chattanooga has made.”


“The opportunities for networking were fantastic and I met a number of people in the community that I have been wanted to connect with.”


Here are some of the numbers. We were able to award scholarships to 49 attendees, thanks to the generosity of our scholarship sponsors, and to some of our other sponsors, who donated extra tickets.

 Scholarship Sponsors

This year we had attendees from 14 states and 63 cities.

Map of Attendees

 Finally, save the date for next year! Our 2018 Community Development Summit will take place May 15 – 16, at the Omni William Penn in downtown Pittsburgh.

Member Highlight: A+ Schools

Last modified on 2017-06-22 15:19:25 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

a+ schools canva

1. Organization: A+ Schools

2. Founding Date: 2004

3. Executive Director: James Fogarty

4. Current Staff Size: Full-time 6, Part-time 1

5. Geographic Area Served: City of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh’s traditional and charter public schools)

6. Mission Statement:

A+ Schools is a community force advancing the highest educational achievement and character development for every public school student. A+ Schools’ vision is a district where 100 percent of students graduate and at least 80 percent of students go on to complete some form of college or career training. A+ Schools wants schools that work for all children and for race to not be a factor in student achievement or access to opportunities.

In order to achieve this vision, A+ Schools advocates for students to receive an equitable education: one that provides each student with the individual support he or she needs to reach and exceed a shared standard of success. What equity looks like will be different from school to school and community to community, but ultimately, A+ Schools wants each child’s promise and potential to be reached through a high quality education.


Talking with James Fogarty, Executive Director

7. What is one project or program that you are really excited about?

We’re really excited about taking our Parent Nation and TeenBloc programs to the next level in the coming year. Our Parent Nation advocates have volunteered over 13,000 hours in high needs schools in the past year, and they have come together to win campaigns for increasing the number of school nurses available to students and to improve language supports for immigrant families. And our TeenBloc students will be starting a new year this fall with an Youth Organizing Academy to generate ideas for issues they want to address in their schools and in the District. These cohorts of youth and parent leaders are integral to a long-term strategy to work with district leaders and staff to improve educational outcomes for all children.


8. What are some of the corporation’s recent accomplishments?

In the past year we’ve engaged over 1,250 people at neighborhood, community, and school events in conversations about education equity. Parent volunteers spent 13,353 hours volunteering in schools mostly serving as classroom aids and monitors. We delivered over 35,000 copies of our Report to the Community to families with children in Pittsburgh and presented to over 400 people about progress in Pittsburgh’s public schools. Finally, we helped lead the “Vote School Board First!” coalition that knocked over 2,000 doors and reached over 10,000 registered voters through, mail, phone, and online.


9. What is an interesting fact about your corporation or its history? 

A crisis in the Pittsburgh Public Schools led to the creation of A+ Schools in 2004. Two years earlier, three major Pittsburgh foundations withdrew financial support from school district — prompting then mayor Tom Murphy to establish the Commission on Public Education to address the situation and make recommendations. The Commission’s report called for the formation of an organization to provide the leadership needed for school reform. A+ Schools became that organization.


10. What are some of your upcoming events?

Our annual Changemakers Celebration will be taking place Thursday, June 22, 2017 at the August Wilson Center. We’ll be honoring the Pittsburgh Promise as our Changemaker Organization of the Year along with parents, educators, students, and volunteers who make our work possible. To join us go to bit.ly/changemakers2017.


13. Contact Information

  • Name of contact person for further inquiries: James Fogarty
  • Telephone: (412) 697 – 1298 ext. 100
  • Address: 1901 Centre Ave., Suite 302
  • Website: aplusschools.org

VISTA Spotlight: Introducing Jess!

Last modified on 2017-06-16 15:00:29 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

For the next few months, we will be introducing the PCRG community to our latest AmeriCorps VISTAs. Get to know our cohort as each member will be featured on our blog and in our newsletter!


Safety & Housing Initiatives VISTA: Jessica Durkin



Economic Development South

Tell us a little about yourself and why you chose to serve with AmeriCorps VISTA?

I am an older VISTA who was wanting a new work experience. I was in the communications field for more than 10 years – first as a print journalist then as a labor union campaign public relations specialist. I also did some work in media policy, but I realized I was hitting personal and practical dead-ends. I wanted to do something else. My father was a VISTA in the late 1960s, so I always knew about the service program, then it occurred to me that I should look into it for myself. I browsed the one-year assignments in my city, so I wouldn’t have to move, and I was surprised at all the interesting opportunities to work in communities. I chose a community development group in South Hills because I know the territory: I lived in South Pittsburgh for five years before moving to another part of town recently.

What goals do you have for your service term?

The goals for my service term are to come away having helped, taught, influenced, and learned from everyone I have worked with, whether on the staff at my job site, Economic Development South, or in the communities I am working directly with. I also hope there is more awareness among these populations about what AmeriCorps and VISTA is. Most people don’t know when I tell them.

What projects are you working on with VISTA?

I am a VISTA public safety and housing organizer/facilitator. I have been working with the Carrick-Overbrook block watch group. I arranged for the city police data department to compile a crime data analysis for the neighborhood. I am working with Pittsburgh city police and social service agencies on resettled refugee public safety issues. We organized a safety meeting in May that had an exceptionally high attendance and was for Nepali and Bhutanese refugees resettled along Brownsville Road. I am working on duplicating that meeting for the Arab-speaking community.

What are your plans after VISTA?

I am seriously considering applying my end-of-service Segal Education award toward college tuition at a local school. I have a bachelor’s degree in communications-journalism, but I want to go back to school to learn a different skill. I got to do community organizing as a VISTA and I love it and I would like to continue community organizing in my life in some way, whether it is in paid position somewhere or as a dedicated volunteer.

Awards Presented at Summit Evening Reception

Last modified on 2017-06-16 17:56:23 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Since being founded in 1988, PCRG has taken the time each year to recognize financial institutions, nonprofit groups, and individuals that positively impact their communities. That annual awards luncheon has now transformed into our two-day Summit. However, each year we still take the time to recognize individuals and groups from the Greater Pittsburgh Region who have contributed to growing our communities.

Neighborhood Leader Award In Memory Of Bob O’Connor

Each year, PCRG recognizes an individual who exemplifies the late mayor’s dedication to neighborhood improvement; the recipient is selected by the family of the mayor. This year, Sister Janice Vanderneck of Casa San Jose was selected.

After accepting the award, she said “I want to extend my gratitude to the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group for honoring me with the Neighborhood Leader Award.  I am humbled and so very grateful.  Please let the family of the late Mayor Bob O’Connor know of my sincere thanks to them.”

Sister Janice Vanderneck

Community Development Award

The Community Development Award  recognizes outstanding achievement in the revitalization of urban neighborhoods in Greater Pittsburgh. Any project or program that creates a positive, lasting impact on the physical, social, or cultural fabric of a community is eligible for an award. This year’s Community Development Award was given to Gordon Manker, Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation‘s Business Development Specialist. Since 2015, he has supported dozens of entrepreneurs from the community. Although he was not able to attend the award ceremony, Tracey Evans, Executive Director of Wilkinsburg CDC, accepted the award on his behalf.

One of the participants in his inaugural class had this to say: “The Wilkinsburg CDC’s Business Planning Workshop helped me to get things moving. I have since developed a solid business plan, which I had never done before. It helped me write my dreams down, and now I have clear goals for what I want to accomplish. Now, I am taking action to make my dreams come true. I am truly helpful for all the help I am receiving and look forward to my opening day.” Audrey White is planning to open her business, ChicKory Cafe, in Wilkinsburg within the year.

Pictured below is Gordon Manker, along with participants in his Business Planning Workshop.


Community Banking Awards

PCRG’s annual Community Banking Awards are determined by analyzing the amount and dollar amount of mortgage loans, made by financial institutions that operate in Pittsburgh. Pictured below are the bank representatives and individuals who received awards.

PCRG recognized Dollar Bank in the African American Lending Category, for making the largest number and dollar amount of mortgage loans to African American borrowers by a large bank in 2015.

PCRG recognized Allegheny Valley Bank in the African American Lending Category, for making the largest number and dollar amount of mortgage loans to African American borrowers by an intermediate or small bank in 2015.

PCRG recognized PNC Bank in the LMI Lending Category, for making the largest number and dollar amount of mortgage loans to low- and moderate-income borrowers by a large bank in 2015.

PCRG recognized Allegheny Valley Bank in the LMI Lending Category, for making the largest number and dollar amount of mortgage loans to low- and moderate-income borrowers by an intermediate or small bank in 2015.

Bank Award Recipients

Community Reinvestment Act Awards

PCRG also gives Community Reinvestment Act Awards to CRA officers who go above and beyond their job description. This is determined based on speaking with our members to see which individuals in the banking industry have made a difference in their neighborhoods. The following awardees are recognized as having significantly impacted the quality of life for low- and moderate-income individuals and communities.
Evan Zuverink of First Commonwealth Bank was presented with the 2017 Community Reinvestment Act Award in the Large Bank Category, in recognition of his dedication to the Community Reinvestment Act.

Jennifer Harris
 of Slovak Savings Bank was presented with the 2017 Community Reinvestment Act Award in the Small Bank Category, in recognition of her dedication to the Community Reinvestment Act. Although Jennifer was not able to make it to the awards ceremony, we ensured that she received her awards as well as our thanks for the work she is doing.

City of Pittsburgh Capital Budget Deliberative Forum Delivers on Quality, not Quantity

Last modified on 2017-06-16 17:55:39 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

In anticipation of the adoption of Mayor Peduto’s proposed capital budget, the City’s Office of Community Affairs hosted two deliberative forums, one in Brookline on June 8th, and one in Shadyside on June 14th. Deliberative forums give citizens the ability brainstorm and discuss issues with policy makers and one another, and provides a more participatory counterpoint to the traditional public hearing model. The proposed capital budget, which you can find here, will allocate just over $74 million toward infrastructure, facility, and neighborhood improvements.


The goal of the forum was to present Mayor Peduto’s budget priorities for 2018, receive community members’ feedback, and then hopefully incorporate that into the final product. Staff from Mayor Peduto’s office presented five priorities of the administration, some with clearer paths forward than others. The five values laid out were: 1) leveraging partnerships “through coordination with community stakeholders,” 2) “building a Complete Streets network,” 3) “establishing a baseline of core infrastructure,” 4) “creating opportunities for stability and growth for communities,” and 5) “utilizing data to invest strategically.”


One major question that lingers is what will happen to these community and infrastructure programs if Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding is cut by Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Ray Gastil, the head of City Planning, was able to address this partially, assuring us that funding levels will remain stable for 2018. However,  it remains unclear what local governments across the country can expect from HUD in the coming years. Sam Ashbaugh, Pittsburgh’s Chief Financial Officer, explained that in the case of a drop in CDBG funding, the City is able to rank which programs are most vital and in need of preservation– either because they are people-centric (e.g. Housing for People with AIDS [HOPA]) or provide a strong return on investment. However, funding was just one of many issues brought up by participants, and other topics covered included adding digital infrastructure costs to the capital budget, determining who is responsible for deciding what constitutes a baseline in our neighborhoods, and how to City determines which neighborhoods get assistance and capital upgrades first.


Unfortunately, due to severe rain and a flash flood warning, attendance was relatively sparse. Of the estimated 45 people at the event, roughly half were staff and presenters. As a group representing neighborhoods from every corner of Pittsburgh, PCRG hopes that the City will work on creative ways of getting bigger crowds and more diverse participants in the future.

Introducing PCRG’s Newly Elected Board Members

Last modified on 2017-06-20 15:18:55 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

During this year’s 7th Annual Community Development Summit, PCRG membership ratified the election of its newly elected board members.  These delegates will go on to serve PCRG for the 2017-2019 term.  Please meet our new board members below:


Chris Koch.jpg


Chris Koch joined Design Center Pittsburgh in July 2012 and currently serves as Chief Executive Officer. Previously, Chris was co-founder and COO of GTECH Strategies. In 2008, Chris was awarded an Echoing Green Fellowship for global social enterprise. In 2011, she was honored as one of the 15 “Women Greening the Pittsburgh Region” by the Women and Girls Foundation. She holds a Masters of Public Policy and Management from the Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University and a BS in History from the same.





Marian Lien serves as the Executive Director of the Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition. For over 20 years, her interests and desires to create a more socially just society has led her down a professional path creating safer environments for patients in rural health care; teaching diversity in higher-ed; and building a more sustainable community. A ‘1.5 gen-er,’ from Taiwan, Marian straddles the two worlds of Chinese-Eastern and American-Western ways. She grew up in southern California in a household wherein four Asian languages as well as English could be heard at any one time. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy Management from the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, and strives to understand how people’s lives can be enhanced through public and governmental systems. Marian currently serves on the Greater Pittsburgh’s YMCA Committee for Diversity, Inclusion and Global Centers of Excellence (DIG); is a commissioner on the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian and Pacific American Affairs in Pennsylvania and on the City of Pittsburgh’s Commission for Human Relations. She begins her third year on the executive board of OCA Advocates for Asian and Pacific Americans, Pittsburgh Chapter.



Gordon Manker is the Business Development Specialist for the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation since March 2015.His responsibility is to coordinate small business programs and assist with our Green, Clean and Safe initiatives. Bringing extensive veterans affairs knowledge to the WCDC, Gordon served nearly 30 years in the PA Army National Guard and U.S. Air Force Reserves. Gordon is also a former Wilkinsburg business owner. Gordon worked at the Micro-Business Institute and the Environment & Energy Community Outreach Center (EECO), both programs of Pittsburgh Community Services Inc. Most recently, Gordon is the President of the Board at Hope For Tomorrow and was the treasurer for the Board at Pittsburgh Green Innovators.


Greg Whitted is dedicated to the preservation and restoration of existing housing stock throughout Pittsburgh.  He’s very active in several community organizations geared towards affordable housing advocacy and initiatives.  As the Co- Founder and CEO of the Pittsburgh Housing Development Association (PHDA), he coordinates all program development and Strategic, Capital planning and related activities for PHDA in corporate pursuit of opportunities to assist low to middle-income individuals and families to pursue their dream of home ownership.  Greg has also spearheaded the Wilkinsburg Affordable Housing Assessment Study panel in 2010 focused on Wilkinsburg Borough, in collaboration with government and community leaders, non-profit organizations and graduate students from Carnegie Mellon University Heinz College of Public Policy Management.  He works to ensure PHDA enlists support and funds for construction loans, mortgages and first time homebuyer down payment assistance grants from multiple financial institutions.  Part of his CEO experience has led him to work on the tax committee draft of Wilkinsburg, PA.   Greg’s efforts led to the creation of the Property Tax Abatement/Tax Compromise Legislation, which offered property tax incentives to developers and property tax forgiveness to tax delinquent property owners in order to attract new development to the area.


We’d like to thank our current board members for their continued service and commitment to the organization and we’d like to welcome our new board members to the PCRG team!

PCRG VISTAs Attend Main Streets Conference in Pittsburgh

Last modified on 2017-06-20 15:22:30 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Our AmeriCorps VISTA members had the pleasure of attending the Main Street Now Conference alongside PCRG staff this year. The National Main Street Center, Inc. (NMSC) is a membership-based nonprofit organization focused on revitalizing historic downtowns and creating people-centered places that will increase investment, which will in turn create jobs and sense of pride for residents. The Main Street Now Conference is the largest nationwide gathering of commercial district revitalization professionals and it was held in Pittsburgh this year. Around 1,500 community leaders from all over the country attended the conference this year. Here are some of the highlights from our VISTA members,

I enjoyed the session “Hospitals: Not just for sick people!” at this year’s Main Street Conference about the role hospital anchor institutions can play in community health that goes beyond providing beds and emergency rooms. The panel from Highmark and Allegheny General Hospital talked about their new outreach program Health’s Angels, which has a community outreach component, sending hospital staff into the neighborhoods to check needs around the hospital. The panel also showed how it organizes vendor fairs and promotional events at the hospital to bring local business to the thousands of hospital staff, and how it partners with community groups in hospital site planning that could impact the neighborhood. – Jessica Durkin

The Main Street Now was a fantastic experience. It justified my commitment and interest in working in historic preservation and revitalization efforts. From event planning to marketing, ideas were flowing between sessions. Making small and colorful changes to a business district or community gateway can make the difference to bringing back a once thriving Main Street. – William Prince

The Main Street Now Conference allowed me to learn more about community development from the perspective of main street management. It also showed me that there is much more room for collaboration between main street managers, city officials, and nonprofit organizations when it comes to placemaking. My favorite session was called “Radical Inclusion: Hosting Meaningful Conversations That Transform Your Community.” During this session, the facilitators shared different strategies for bringing the community together in conversations where all participants not only feel welcomed, but like they have a voice. I was excited that the World Cafe model was included as a strategy because I am currently in the process of planning a series of three community workshops in Wilkinsburg that are based on this model. – Ashley Pinamonti

“I attended the Placemaking Session. During this session, we discussed cheap and easy ways to improve our communities through “placemaking”, or creating attractive and convenient areas that can be a hub for community activity. The key is finding abandoned, unattractive, or underused lots and providing cheap improvements such as benches, community gardens, and parks. Good placemaking is about conforming design to human desire, making it convenient for people, rather than inhibiting people’s natural tendencies. Good placemaking utilizes convenience, color, and utility. Even small changes can make massive differences in attendance by creating an emotional connection to the space that both attracts people to it and keeps them coming back, enriching the surrounding community.” – Max Chis

At the Main Street Conference, I had the opportunity to attend many sessions to learn more about the different roles main streets play across the country. I attended a session entitled Shared Use Kitchens: Creating Entrepreneurs with Talent, which focused on the continued development of Pretzel City Kitchens, a shared use commercial kitchen space in Freeport, Illinois. Pretzel City Kitchens hopes to encourage collaboration, support local farmers and businesses, and involve both high school and college students through this project. The overall goals of the Kitchen include improving food security and supporting overall community health. I found this concept very interesting because Freeport is a food desert, similar to Millvale, the community where I serve as a VISTA, and I like learning about projects and solutions other communities are exploring to improve food security. – Maria Mongelluzzo


During a special screening they viewed ‘Through the Place’, a documentary by the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation. Pictured below are some of our VISTAs and staff with Arthur Ziegler, President of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.

PCRG Staff Attends People and Places Conference in Arlington, VA

Last modified on 2017-06-16 17:32:27 GMT. 0 comments. Top.


Pictured above: Angela Rye, CEO of IMPACT Strategies. Angela is also a Political Commentator for CNN and a Political Analyst for NPR.


Our AmeriCorps VISTA members, PULSE Fellow, and staff attended the People & Places 2017 Conference in Arlington, Virginia this month. People & Places is the only national peer-learning event specifically for community leaders dedicated to improving the lives of others and strengthening their communities. Community leaders from different regions, cultures, and professional networks were brought together for the conference to explore challenges and solutions that we all face. National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA) co-hosted the event with the National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders, National Urban League, National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development and the Network for Developing Conscious Communities. Here are some of the highlights from the conference,

“It was great to meet people from all over the country working on similar problems to me. I also got the opportunity to go to a forum at the Department of Housing and Urban Development during a gap in the conference schedule, which was a great opportunity to hear directly from the people who making housing policy.” – Sarah Slater

“I attended a session titled, “How Messages about Community Revitalization and Poverty-Alleviation Backfire and What You Can Do About It.” The presenter shared tips and examples of how we can change our storytelling and outreach methods to begin fighting the antipathy so many people feel towards impoverished communities and the families that live there. It was great to leave this session with tangible action items that I could immediately implement in my personal and professional life.” – Roaslie Evans

“One of the last sessions we attended was titled, “Racial Equity and Community Development.” One of the presenters, a professor of sociology from Georgia State University, spoke on issues faced in Atlanta, GA on community development and the negative effects it has had on minorities throughout the city. We then talked in groups about what racial equality means and what we can do to get there. It was really fascinating to see how after attending the previous sessions in the conference already was helping us to come up with more appropriate and effective ways to help our communities. I really enjoyed meeting people from around the country and learning from them about racial equity and community development.” – Brigid O’Hara

June Events and Announcements

Last modified on 2017-06-22 15:55:59 GMT. 0 comments. Top.


PCRG Events



Tuesday, July 11

12:00 – 2:30 AM

[PCRG Office]


City’s Climate Action Plan Release

Thursday, July 13

[Draft will be posted to the City's website]



Friday, July 14

9:00 – 10:30 AM

[PCRG Office]



  • Make sure to fill out a summit survey online here! Your feedback is crucial to making sure next year is an even better success.
  • Urban Innovation21 is hiring a new President & CEO. Urban Innovation21 is a unique public-private partnership that is supporting growth of entrepreneurship in our region’s innovation economy and connecting that growth to underserved communities and the residents who live in those communities. For more information, view the job description here.
  • Hazelwood Initiative is hiring a Community Organizer. Hazelwood Initiative is a community-driven organization, providing a shared stronger voice for Greater Hazelwood by gathering community input to build a sense of hope, harmony and promise, and by supporting human, spiritual and community development. For more information, view the job description here.
  • Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh is hiring a Director of Operations. RTP is an organization that provides low-income homeowners with critical home repairs, accessibility modifications, and energy-efficient upgrades. For more information, view the job description here.
  • Allegheny Land Trust is hiring Education Program Facilitators. ATL is an independent Pennsylvania non-profit corporation created in 1993 by Allegheny County to protect land of natural value. Their mission is to serve as the lead land trust conserving and stewarding lands that support the scenic, recreational, and environmental well-being of communities in Allegheny county and its environs. For more information, view the job description here.
  • NeighborWorks of Western Pennsylvania is hiring an AmeriCorps VISTA for their Fund My Future program. NeighborWorks Western PA is a non-profit organization with the mission of financial empowerment that promotes home ownership and stable communities in Western PA. For more information, view the job description here.

For more information on this newsletter, please contact Brigid O’Hara, Member Engagement and Communications Coordinator, at bo’hara@pcrg.org or (412) 391-6732 ext. 211.

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