BC: Mon Valley Initiative 2013
FC: Mon Valley Initiative 25th Anniversary | I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. -Mother Teresa
1: Wave Maker Recognition October 24, 2013
2: Henry “Hank” Beukema has played what may be argued as the most profound and seminal role in the creation of MVI. Since 1980, in his roles with The Heinz Endowments and The Pittsburgh Foundation (which until 1993 were co-located and operated jointly) and then as he took the helm at The McCune Foundation in 1992, Hank has envisioned and empowered positive change in the region. However, he has largely played this role quietly from behind the scenes, preferring to make space for genuine community-based leadership to emerge from efforts like the Mon Valley Development Team, an “experiment” started in 1986 that became the Mon Valley Initiative in 1988. The Mon Valley Development Team started with a small team of community organizers who were charged with the task of engaging people from all walks of life in leadership and problem-solving in their respective communities. In addition to managing critical philanthropic support for this innovative effort, Hank was instrumental in providing regular advice and guidance to the original Mon Valley Development Team members and he continued to guide subsequent MVI staff as the organization took shape. He also served as a member of the MVI Community Investment Fund Committee starting in 1991 for a combined tenure of seven years. MVI has had many partners and contributors over the years, but there are very few who have been as committed and loyal as Hank Beukema. Hank’s hopefulness and investments have helped the people of the Mon Valley find their own voices after so many years of being “company towns.” It has been an incredible journey full of amazing highs as well as depressing lows; but 25 years later, we are so grateful for the accomplishments that have been realized, stemming from Hank’s central belief that regular people who love their communities can be a driving force to shepherd and sustain real community change. | Henry S. Beukema
3: This kind of thinking was not commonplace in the region 25 years ago, but thanks to empowering leaders like Hank Beukema, many powerful organizations and governing bodies now recognize that gaining consensus and cooperation from a broad spectrum of community members is simply good business. With the formation of MVI, Hank started making waves 25 year ago that have already rippled out to touch thousands of people who have volunteered with MVI or benefited from an MVI program. We are confident that those waves will continue to make a positive impact well into the future.
4: John Botti
5: John Botti has a calming effect on people. He quickly puts everyone at ease with his quiet aura of commitment and integrity. These qualities have served John very well over the past 31 years since he founded his company, Disaster Restoration Services, a full-service restoration construction company. When not dealing with the aftermath of fires, floods, or storms, DRS is a frequent contractor on MVI projects, bringing a willingness to creatively tackle any construction and infrastructure obstacles that years of abandonment and exposure to the elements have wrought on many Mon Valley properties. DRS has completed the full renovation of a dozen houses, the construction of one new home, and also renovated MVI’s first floor offices. Over the past five years, DRS has also completed the restoration of 56 occupied rental units at Hawthorne Place and Columbia Ridge in Swissvale. The process of completing renovations to occupied housing can be even more challenging than dealing with long–abandoned structures. Tenants were relocated temporarily or carefully worked-around, creating a stressful situation for all parties involved. But thanks to his attentive and diligent leadership, John was able to perform the rare feat of keeping everyone involved in these projects happy during and after the process. Tenants still comment to MVI staff about what a great job the DRS crew members did. Disaster Restoration Services’ high quality approach and excellent execution make them great construction partners. When we consistently see John’s personal commitment and desire to do the very best for MVI’s homebuyers and tenants, we know that we have found a truly exemplary partner and friend. We are so grateful to John and DRS and for the role they have played in helping MVI deliver quality real estate developments to our communities, making the Mon Valley a better place.
6: Scott Brown began his banking career over thirty years ago, first with Mellon Bank and then transitioning to Citizens Bank through the merger process in 2001. Scott is now serving as the Community Development Market Manager for Citizens Bank. Scott has been involved in community development investment from early in his career and he has been a generous partner, working with MVI on some of the first major projects undertaken in the early 1990s. He was an important advocate and facilitated efforts to donate former Mellon Bank branch offices in the Mon Valley to several MVI-member CDCs for redevelopment. When he became part of Citizens Bank, he continued his leadership and support for MVI and the Mon Valley through his effort to engage the new Citizens Bank leadership in making a major three-year investment package to MVI in 2004. These new resources helped to kick-start a number of important projects through the MVI Community Investment Fund and also provided critically needed support for programs and operations. This multi-year investment also enabled MVI to start our Housing Counseling Program, a service that has been playing a vital role in supporting and preserving home ownership, as well as increasing financial literacy in our communities. Thanks to Scott’s genuine commitment to community development and his confidence in our work, the MVI Housing Counseling program, from that initial investment in 2004, now provides direct service to between 400-600 participants annually and is also assisting a network of 26 housing counseling agencies around the United States. Scott continues to be a dedicated partner as our work has grown and changed over the years and his faithful support has been vital in allowing MVI to achieve so much over the past 25 years.
7: Scott Brown
8: Stephanie Cipriani started her career in banking over 30 years ago, and spent a major portion of those years as the Executive Director of the National City Bank Community Development Corporation (1995-2008). She then joined PNC Bank and is currently the Senior Vice President and Market Manager for regional community development banking, including the Pittsburgh, Erie, Morgantown, and Youngstown markets. Stephanie has provided many years of leadership in banking and community development in the Pittsburgh area. Through her latest role with PNC, people from a much broader geography are now lucky to get to work with her too! Stephanie has always sought and valued the input from the local organizations that she has worked with over the years. She has long served as a convener and bridge-builder, connecting people from different parts of the community together to ensure great project results. Many important relationships have been forged and strengthened as a result of meetings and events that she has coordinated, particularly during her tenure as the Executive Director of the National City Bank CDC. Stephanie has also been a great advocate for investment into affordable housing. She led National City Bank’s support of several MVI-member CDC housing developments in the early days of the tax credit programs. Both the Hawthorne Place Apartments in Swissvale and The Cornerstone Apartments in West Newton enjoyed investments from National City Bank thanks to Stephanie’s leadership. Most recently, in her newer role with PNC Bank, Stephanie was able to help MVI to secure PNC financing for the successful Columbia Ridge Apartments in Swissvale. Since 2011 Stephanie has shared her expertise and guidance on all of MVI’s real estate projects as a volunteer member of the MVI Community Investment Fund Committee. In her many volunteer and professional roles over the years, Stephanie has always been a champion for community-driven revitalization strategies and we are grateful to have such a loyal partner who continues to serve the community with sincerity and expertise. | Stephanie Cipriani
10: Senator Jay Costa, Jr. began serving his fifth full term as state Senator from the 43rd District in January 2013, having been first elected to the Senate in a special election on April 23, 1996. The 43rd District includes half of the MVI-member communities in Allegheny County and several more neighboring communities. Sen. Costa has served in numerous leadership positions on Senate Committees and was elected by his Senate colleagues in 2010 and again in 2012 to serve as Democratic Floor Leader, making him the highest-ranking member within the Senate Democratic Caucus. In addition to his work in the Pennsylvania Senate, Sen. Costa is an attorney (Shareholder, Grogan Graffam. P.C.), a former adjunct professor to the Community College of Allegheny County, and a member of the Pennsylvania and Allegheny County Bar Associations. He also serves on the Boards of numerous prestigious organizations, including the Heinz History Center and the University of Pittsburgh.
11: Even as his leadership roles have grown increasingly broader, Jay Costa has still maintained close and genuine connections with his constituents as an accessible, tireless public servant. He has shared his time and expertise with MVI as a member of the MVI Community Investment Fund Committee from 2001 to 2005, and he was also selected to receive MVI’s top annual honor, the H. John Heinz Award for Community Service in 2005. That award recognized his many important legislative accomplishments and his volunteer service activities that have helped the communities of the 43rd District and well beyond. Even following the completion of his term as a CIF member, he has continued to offer representation from his office to serve on the CIF Committee, staying connected and providing critical guidance and support. His commitment and attention to MVI’s work over these many years has been invaluable as we navigate a variety of public resources for our programs as well as for the residents and businesses in our communities. We want to again thank Jay for his service and leadership, and for modeling the honorable personal and professional qualities that we want to see in all of our elected officials, no matter what political party or ideology we may prefer. | Senator Jay Costa, Jr.
13: Dennis Davin | Dennis Davin has built an impressive and impactful career in public service, giving the housing development programs at the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh his dedication and skills for 16 years, then serving a broader constituency as the Regional Director of the Governor’s Action Team. In 2004, the Mon Valley was able to benefit even more from his expertise in implementing successful housing and economic development projects when he took the helm at Allegheny County Economic Development (ACED). As Dennis continues to serve in this capacity, he is responsible for the management and investment of millions of federal, state and county dollars into projects that have helped to propel the region forward along a path of steady economic resurgence, despite the national recession and recent cut-backs in many government resources. Dennis operates with a straight-forward approach that solves complex problems and yields positive results, even when working through a myriad of regulations and requirements that are a necessary aspect of public funding. Upon his arrival to ACED, Dennis immediately focused on a number of major redevelopment projects in the Mon Valley and he looked to the MVI coalition as a community-based resource and partner to implement a number of housing revitalization activities. Of the 474 housing units that have been built or renovated to date by MVI and our member CDCs, 402 have been supported through resources from ACED. Over 300 of those homes have been completed since Dennis has been the Director at ACED. This unprecedented level of cooperation and partnership with Allegheny County has enabled MVI to reach new heights in serving our member communities with long-desired revitalization projects. We remain deeply grateful to Dennis and his staff at ACED who have made our success possible.
14: Jane Downing has been an incredible force for good in the region, in both the public and philanthropic service sectors. She began her local public service in 1970, working first for the Pittsburgh Regional Planning Association and then joining the City of Pittsburgh Planning Department, where she held positions of increasing responsibility, becoming the Director in 1989. In this position, Jane was responsible for comprehensive downtown and neighborhood planning, administration of the zoning and ordinance regulations, historic preservation and environmental regulation, and administration of the City’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. In 1994 she joined The Pittsburgh Foundation and brought her excellence, integrity, and deep knowledge of community development to the regional philanthropic community. In her role at The Pittsburgh Foundation, Jane has been a teacher, researcher, truth-speaker, bridge-builder, and bar-raiser for MVI’s programs. She is incredibly effective in all of these roles because she is recognized as a kindred spirit by the staff and volunteers of the MVI coalition. In a world so often divided into “us and them,” Jane finds ways to make those with whom she works always feel like “us.” She sets high standards and demands excellence, but she delivers equally high levels of support and guidance, and she has helped us to reach goals, particularly in our Workforce & Business Development program, that are truly making a positive difference in our communities. Through that program, MVI can proudly report that we have connected over 1,600 people to employment, and we know these results are a direct product of Jane’s expertise and guidance. Jane has consistently provided this valuable support over a time frame that nearly spans MVI’s total history. Over ten years ago, in 2001, the MVI coalition recognized Jane for her outstanding service to the Mon Valley by giving her MVI’s top annual honor, The H. John Heinz Award for Community Service. Now Jane has added another incredible 12 years to that already-stellar record of service, and we hope to enjoy many more!
15: Jane Downing
16: Mike Eichler has blazed a trail for successful community action that has truly worked for the Mon Valley. His ground-breaking approach in working for justice and equitable community solutions, now known as Consensus Organizing, was a result of his efforts to fight “block busting” on Pittsburgh’s Northside in the early 1980s. The traditional Alinsky-style organizing methods he initially applied ultimately proved ineffective, despite much publicity and deeply engaged neighbors. This experience drove him to reassess and reconsider issues of power and self-interest across individuals and organizations, causing him to stand back from the common tactic of finding an enemy for every issue. He began instead to look for potential partners everywhere, even among those who may have been assumed to be enemies. This new approach resulted in a completely different response to address the housing issues that were taking place on Perry Hilltop. Through this new approach, the neighborhood residents were able to navigate the complex world of real estate sales and brokering, appraisal valuations, and mortgage lending in order to effectively address the damage being done by unscrupulous realtors. In 1985, with this new way of thinking about addressing broad community problems, Mike was contacted by Dave Bergholz, Assistant Director of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. Mr. Bergholz explained that he and his boss, Robert Pease, had been concerned about the on-going, massive lay-offs that were occurring in the industrial towns in the Mon Valley. They learned of Mike’s local efforts and wanted to hire him to go into the Valley and figure out a strategy that would engage local community people to help respond to the devastating changes taking place and find ways to connect the community-generated ideas with the potential resources and ideas of the “downtown” corporate and institutional leaders. Given the deep distrust and anger that was being felt by all parties in those years, Mike and the other members who would join the Mon Valley Development Team, had their work cut out for them. But Mike’s approach to connecting people through direct, honest conversations and breaking down stereotypes, helped to reveal points of agreement across people from different communities and different backgrounds. This critical trust-building process ultimately resulted in the formation of the Mon Valley Initiative as a multi-community, locally-led coalition that also had the dedicated support and respect of the “downtown” leadership. The success of MVI’s structure surprised many observers at the time and it remains an innovative model even 25 years later. | Mike Eichler
17: After his work in the formation of MVI, Mike went on to assist the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) in similar community development efforts around the country. In 1999, Mike established the Consensus Organizing Center within the San Diego State University School of Social Work, and he continues to apply and refine his efforts to affect positive change using the lessons he learned from his time in the Pittsburgh region. After reading Mike’s book “Consensus Organizing: Building Communities of Mutual Self-Interest” published in 2007, it is obvious that calling Mike Eichler a “wave maker” is a serious understatement!
18: Brian A. Hudson
19: Brian A. Hudson, Sr. is the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. He started his career at PHFA in 1975 as a staff accountant and took on progressively more responsible posts, including Director of Finance, Deputy Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer, before being unanimously appointed by the PHFA Board to lead the organization on July 1, 2003. Mr. Hudson has helped PHFA generate impressive results. Since its creation in 1972, PHFA has generated $11.2 billion of funding for more than 152,900 single-family home mortgage loans, helped fund the construction of 122,590 rental units, and saved the homes of more than 46,800 families from foreclosure. These programs have helped many people across the state of Pennsylvania and many people in the Mon Valley. Through Brian’s expanding leadership roles at PHFA, new initiatives like the Homeownership Choice Program started to help distressed urban communities to re-invent themselves through the creation of newly constructed for-sale housing, a tool long sought by MVI-member communities. MVI was very privileged to have received Homeownership Choice Program resources for the Braddock’s Field development, the Homestead-Munhall Revitalization project, and the Swissvale Gateway project. This support from PHFA created 70 new homes, which upon sale generated significant positive impact on these communities. Despite being located 3 hours away in Harrisburg, Brian has made it a priority to personally attend numerous ribbon-cutting and ground-breaking ceremonies on local projects that have been supported by PHFA. His level of commitment and interest in Mon Valley communities has been unparalleled and we know from talking to our colleagues around the state that Brian is similarly engaged in all of PHFA’s projects, making the effort to participate and gain first-hand knowledge about how PHFA can best serve the people and communities of Pennsylvania. We are deeply grateful for his leadership and hard work on our behalf.
20: Ellen Kight, now enjoying retirement, spent 27 years directing the Southwestern PA regional office of the state agency originally known as the Department of Community Affairs, now called the Department of Community & Economic Development. Following this expansive government career, in 2007, she began to provide her leadership and vast experience as the President of a non-profit community development intermediary, the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development (PPND). Throughout her admirable career in service to the public and the communities of Southwestern PA, Ellen has been a stalwart friend to the Mon Valley and to MVI. She shared her expertise and technical knowledge with MVI, serving for 13 years on the MVI Community Investment Fund (CIF) Committee. She started as a founding member of CIF in 1989 and returned to the Committee again in 2006, helping to guide the investments of this vital MVI resource. Her integrity and diplomacy helped to guide MVI through the early challenges that we faced as a newly established organization working to fill gaps and find the best ways to serve our members. In those early years, the CDC members quickly identified the need to acquire, renovate and affordably re-sell the homes that had been abandoned by those who lost their jobs and left the area when the mills closed. However, the home values in our communities were so low that this work could not happen without some form of grant funding. In response to this need, Ellen played a critical role in supporting, through the PA Department of Community Affairs, the very first MVI Rehab for Resale program funding for ten homes. The funds were provided in the then unusual form of deferred-payment second mortgages. This method of investing in the stabilization of home ownership in Mon Valley communities has since become a standard revitalization tool and MVI has now completed 159 Rehab for Resale homes. Ellen’s faith in the idea of MVI and her guidance and support all along the way have helped us to truly serve the people of the Mon Valley, and for that we are profoundly grateful.
21: Ellen Kight
22: Suzan Lami
23: Suzan Lami is a true hometown girl. Born in Monessen, Suzan Lami founded her home-based company, Suzan Lami Architects in 1993. It only took two years to expand the company into the flourishing Lami Grubb Architects that she now owns with her husband, Robert Grubb. Anchoring a high-traffic corner on the Swissvale-Edgewood border in a renovated former corner store and a restored train station, Lami Grubb Architects employs 37 professionals providing a full range of design services. Lami Grubb Architects have been MVI’s go-to local architect for years. From complex rehabilitations of historic apartment buildings to a sensitive conversion of a former church into condominiums to rehabilitation and construction of attractive, functional, and sustainable single family homes, Lami Grubb Architects knows how to solve design problems with elegant and affordable solutions. Leading the charge is Suzan, quick to jump in, and accepting MVI’s frequent challenges for “quick and dirty” feasibility designs with a response of “that will be fun!” One of these recent challenges included a trip to Monessen to measure Eisenberg’s Department Store, where many years earlier, Suzan’s sister had worked. Suzan has a true passion for people and for sharing her knowledge and inspiring others. She regularly volunteers at the Edgewood Elementary School, bringing quirky design-based, hands-on lessons about science and math to young learners. Suzan is also an avid gardener and her lush rain garden at the office as well as her home garden have recently been showcased on tours and in print. Suzan’s heirloom tomatoes are frequently shared and have become the crowning ingredient at her office’s BLT days. Suzan’s generosity and creativity are greatly appreciated by MVI and its member communities and she has made the Mon Valley a better place through her professional and personal excellence.
24: Ricardo Savido has taken the concept of “giving back” to a whole new level. Having grown up in Homestead, Rick has never forgotten his roots or lost the desire to help his hometown and the region as it had to weather the challenges caused by the decline of the steel industry. Rick began his career 37 years ago with Mellon Bank and in 1996 he became President of the Mellon Bank Community Development Corporation. Rick continued as President of the newly named BNY Mellon CDC, following the merger of Mellon Bank with Bank of New York in 2007. Through this specialized lending arm of the bank, Rick has been able to guide the investment of millions of dollars into community-restoring developments, ranging from housing to business incubators. Because of Rick’s expertise, creativity and deep local knowledge, he has been able find ways to make a deal work, when others would have given up. Bearing the hallmark of a true expert, Rick’s mastery of the “rules” is so thorough that he is not bound by the single choice of either following them or breaking them; he can actually create new choices, never even contemplated in the “rulebook.” Rick has helped MVI and many other organizations to succeed with critically-needed redevelopment projects by being able to guide all the parties involved to find new options or alternative approaches that satisfied everyone, and yielded far-reaching successes. Rick has also invested more than dollars into local community development efforts. He is a dedicated volunteer, having served on MVI’s CIF Committee for eleven years, starting in 1996 and then returning for another term in 2005. Rick shares his knowledge and wisdom generously and he has advised MVI staff on a myriad of issues over the years, from deal structuring to fundraising. There are not enough words to truly capture how grateful we are for everything that Rick has done for MVI, but we hope that he knows how deeply we respect and appreciate him! We also want to offer our congratulations on his incredible career because he recently announced his plans to retire this year. He may not be answering his phone at BNY Mellon much longer, but we are hoping that we will still be able to reach him when there is a “unique” deal that needs his expert advice!
25: Ricardo Savido
26: Pearl M. Williams exemplifies everything one hopes for in a partner, including integrity, diligence, good communication, and appreciation. MVI was fortunate to begin a partnership with Ms. Williams in 2003 when she was approved for a loan to help her start up a small-scale senior living facility in Donora. Starting in 1999 and continuing through 2005, MVI’s Community Investment Fund included a small business lending option and through this resource, Ms. Williams was able to secure the funds that she needed to renovate her property and start her new business. She realized that few lenders would invest in a start-up business, and she was very appreciative of the opportunity offered through MVI. Though she had some initial difficulties with the construction contractor performing the repairs, Ms. Williams always stayed in contact with MVI and never missed a loan payment. The members of the CIF Committee and MVI staff were inspired by her hard-work and tenacity to complete the renovations and to see her business begin to benefit the elderly residents that she had planned to serve. She has also noted that this business has provided her with the ability to fund college for her two children and help to provide them with a strong start as they enter adulthood. | Pearl M. Williams
27: As she has successfully operated her business since 2004, she continues to faithfully repay the CIF funds loaned to her and with each monthly check, she always folds in a bit of paper with a simple hand-written “Thank You!” We would like to sincerely thank Ms. Williams for being such a great partner and for helping to ensure that the MVI Community Investment Fund continues to be replenished and able to re-invest in new economic development activities. Like so many people who have participated in various MVI programs, Ms. Williams is truly “paying it forward,” as she has fully utilized the services made available to build her own success story that is benefiting those who directly depend on her and is also contributing to the overall improvement of her community.
28: Dale Bizub is the incoming Chairman of the MVI Board of Delegates and he has been a “Turtle Crikker” (or “Creeker” depending on your preference) for over 30 years. He was also one of the earliest members of the Turtle Creek Development Corporation (TCDC) since it formed in 1988. If his prior service to MVI is any indication of how he will do in the Chair position, then MVI is in very good hands. Dale possesses a distinctive combination of skills. In many ways he is the ideal board member. He is steady and consistent, fair and practical. When MVI staff are facing a serious or particularly dicey situation, they often consult with Dale to get advice and feedback on how best to proceed. Having someone like Dale to lean on when the going gets tough is incredibly reassuring. Numerous, often competing, interests frequently surface in coalition efforts and having a solution pass the “Dale Test” sets a lot of minds at ease. Dale has also displayed a unique and supportive approach in his leadership roles with MVI. He has been able to tactfully suggest new ways of looking at old problems, pushing MVI to become a more effective and creative organization while making sure MVI works within its means and does not lose focus of what makes us strong. He is quick to offer praise when a plan comes together and also consolation when things did not go as hoped. As we have seen in his service on the MVI Board, Dale has been a steady driving force behind numerous efforts in his home community of Turtle Creek. TCDC has benefited from Dale’s years of patience and commitment to efficiently and effectively operate the Grant Street Apartments, 12 units of affordable housing along a visible corridor in Turtle Creek. Through his efforts the apartment complex is currently being expanded and restructured to further improve it for the tenants and build the value of this asset for the community, TCDC, and the MVI coalition. One need not look far to get a better understanding of where Dale’s leadership skills come from. Dale has devoted his life to helping guide youth down the right path. At home, Dale and his wife Gail raised three wonderful daughters. At work, he was a teacher, providing technology education for 20 years. After earning a master’s degree in Library Science in 1992, he served many years as a librarian at Pittsburgh’s Taylor Allderdice High School before his recent retirement from public education in 2012. Dale also has served in many capacities at the First Christian Church of Turtle Creek, including his roles as a trustee and as an elder. MVI, TCDC, and all of the institutions and organizations where Dale chooses to devote his time are fortunate to benefit from his commitment to faith, family, and community.
30: George Burroughs, Jr.
31: George Burroughs Jr. is a talented, versatile individual with the uncanny ability to step up and deliver in any number of settings. As a young person growing up in Monessen, he developed diverse skills and interests that propelled him to achieve much success personally and professionally, and he has shared his success with his hometown and the broader Mon Valley in many ways. After obtaining a B.S. in Mathematics and Computer Science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T) in 1983, George returned to Pittsburgh to serve as a Systems Analyst for Mellon Bank. He then worked as a consultant with CISCORP until 1989 when he decided to take an entrepreneurial leap, co-founding the Mon Valley Sprint Bus and Transit Co., a transportation service company specializing in serving the needs of school districts, churches, youth groups and other organizations in the region. George served as President and CEO of this company until he sold his share to his partner in 1997. Interestingly this start-up business was able to operate in affordable local business incubator space, provided in downtown Monessen in the redeveloped former Check Furniture Store building. This building, now known as the Monessen Business Center, was one of the earliest major economic development projects undertaken by the Monessen Community Development Corporation (MCDC) in partnership with MVI in 1991. While George continues to enjoy a successful career in IT systems consulting, handling a variety of work assignments for corporate clients (mostly with Highmark over the past ten years), his connection with MCDC and joining their board in 1992, paved the way for George to share his talents with the broad array of MVI members when he was designated to serve as MCDC’s delegate to the MVI Board in 2001. George quickly established himself as a leader and served in the roles of MVI Vice President and then President. George provided hands-on guidance to MVI executive staff, making the time to attend numerous meetings with bankers, foundation officers, and other stakeholders whose partnership and investments were critically needed. George’s business acumen and ease in handling these high stakes meetings helped to ensure that MVI gained strong relationships with these vital partners. While managing considerable work and family responsibilities (he is the proud father of now 16-year old daughter, Ondrea), George recognized that his investment of volunteer time with MVI was leveraging important results for his hometown and similar communities in the Mon Valley. And George has found even more ways to participate in the betterment of Monessen. He is a member of Leadership Pittsburgh Class X, and his past volunteer efforts include serving as the President of the Monessen Rotary Club, serving as member of the Monessen Civil Service Commission, and serving as President of Connect Inc. an organization providing services to the homeless. George has also been a dedicated leader of the Mon Valley NAACP and has also served as a board member of Southwestern PA Human Services, Inc. (SPHS), a vital organization providing health and social services in the Mid-Mon region. George has put his expertise and diverse skill set to good use in support of these many Monessen and Mon Valley- based organizations and he has never stopped giving back. In the midst of his hectic pace of business, volunteer and family activities, George is always attentive to finding new ways to help his hometown of Monessen and the broader region.
32: Tina Doose exemplifies the ideal “Braddockian,” a term she frequently uses when discussing her hometown. Though she grew up next door in Rankin, she attended St. Thomas High School in Braddock and she has lived in Braddock for over 20 years with her husband George and their 3 children. After Tina attended Howard University and the University of Pittsburgh, majoring in chemistry and psychology, she did microscopy work for an environmental engineering company. But she realized that she enjoyed working with people too much to spend her life looking through a microscope. She decided to change course and began a 20-plus year career in housing services, first with Bridge to Independence and then with the Fair Housing Partnership of Greater Pittsburgh. Recently Tina has started a new professional role as a Regional Equity Community Organizer with Building One Pennsylvania, a position that will take her dedication to promoting community justice to the state and national levels. Tina has always been very passionate about her community and has worked to create a better place for her family and her neighbors to live, work, and play. In the early 2000’s, Tina saw that there were many opportunities to build on and she was instrumental in re-forming and activating the Braddock Economic Development Corporation (BEDCO) in 2004.Tina also led the effort to help BEDCO complete a successful membership application process to join the MVI coalition that same year. BEDCO members, in partnership with MVI, began to fill local gaps in community planning, real estate development, and other community services. During this time, Tina also accepted an appointment to serve on the Braddock Zoning and Hearing Board, starting her foray into municipal leadership. Tina’s sincerity, diplomacy and thoughtful leadership were quickly embraced by her colleagues on the MVI Board and she was elected as Secretary in 2005, then as Vice Chair in 2009. She has served as the MVI Board Chair since 2011. She accepted these increasing leadership responsibilities with MVI as she was also expanding her leadership roles in Braddock, being elected to Borough Council in 2005. She recognized that she could significantly increase her ability to help rebuild Braddock through her service on Council. And her constituents agreed, re-electing her in 2009 for a second term. When the devastating news of the closure of UPMC Braddock Hospital came in October 2009, Tina served as a rallying voice for the community, helping to coordinate and lend the Borough’s official support to the resident-formed Save Our Community Hospital group as they demonstrated against the loss of this valued medical service from the community. She also worked closely with Allegheny County as redevelopment plans for the vacated site were considered. Her leadership, backed by many voices in Braddock, helped to ensure that 24 new homes are now standing on that site today, with the development of a new commercial building and a civic plaza soon to follow. The loss of the hospital, that was characterized by many as a final knock-out blow to Braddock, has been recast as an example of how much good work can be accomplished when local community leaders, county officials, and private developers (for-profit and non-profit) can engage effectively and honestly to find common ground and then work together to make things happen. MVI has benefited immeasurably from Tina’s leadership over the past ten years and though she will conclude her role as Chair at the end of the year, we know that she will continue to serve and support the work of BEDCO locally and MVI regionally. Even as her new position with Building One Pennsylvania will take her expertise and skills to a wider geography, we know she will always be a true “Braddockian” at heart, working hard for her hometown in everything she does.
33: Tina Doose
34: Mary Dunn is a strong and compassionate woman who believes in giving back to the community. From a very young age Mary felt compelled to provide care and assistance to those in need. As an early teen she served as a Candy Striper in a Philadelphia hospital and at a home for individuals with mental disabilities. Those early volunteer experiences set the tone and foundation of how she would choose to lead her life. Faith, family, community, and helping those in need are all obvious priorities for Mary. The opportunity to connect with family brought Mary, her husband Rick, and their two children to West Newton from Philadelphia in the early 1990s, though the trend at the time was to move out of the Valley. While Mary may have been a transplant, West Newton adopted her into the community as she established herself as a strong voice and advocate for the residents of West Newton. Soon after arriving in West Newton she became active in numerous community groups and projects in addition to her professional position at the local dental/orthodontic office of Carla Capozzi, DMD. She was introduced to MVI through the local CDC organization, Downtown West Newton Inc. (DWNI) in 1993 and soon became a driving force for DWNI, leading in many capacities, including serving as President for several years. She also served as DWNI’s delegate to the MVI Board for ten years (1994-2004), providing her pragmatic and no-nonsense leadership to the coalition. Her diligence and vision helped DWNI and MVI to restore a beautiful anchor building in the heart of West Newton’s Main Street District, providing lovely, affordable apartments and new commercial space to the community. This incredible, well-preserved building stands as a solid testament to the tenacity and leadership of Mary Dunn and her many friends and partners in West Newton, but it is only one in a long list of good things that Mary has been instrumental in bringing to the community. MVI has been so fortunate to benefit from strong volunteers like Mary, who have a “can do” attitude, take-charge approach, and strong moral compass. When Mary sees a need in the community, whether it is helping a friend or planning a fundraiser for the local swimming pool, West Newton can count on her. She does not need to be asked and does not need a committee to identify what needs to be done. It takes a special kind of person to assume a role in trying to help an entire region recover from devastating economic collapse. Mary’s determined approach of leading by example has provided much-needed help as the communities of the Mon Valley have all worked to regain their footing and start the long road back to economic recovery. As Mary’s employer for 16 years, Dr. Capozzi may have summed it up the best when she stated, “It is no exaggeration to say that I don’t know ANYONE else who has given and continues to give so much of herself to her family and friends, her employer, and her community!” Mary Dunn’s arrival to West Newton was a gift that the community needed, and her commitment to MVI has allowed her work to benefit many people beyond West Newton’s borders.
35: Mary Dunn
36: Barbara Edwards is a “Rankin Girl” through and through. Born and raised in Rankin, Barbara has been giving back and investing in the community for decades. On the professional level, Barbara served as a personal secretary to the late Judge Walter Little and continued working for Allegheny County until her retirement in 2007. After retiring, she became a part-time receptionist at the Rankin Christian Center. As a truly community-minded person, Barbara viewed “retirement” as more time to volunteer. In addition to holding different leadership positions with RCDC and with MVI, Barbara has been a driving force behind numerous Rankin activities and events. In the early years she helped to organize the Rankin Bridge Tree Planting event, helped with the Community Clean-Up Day, and most recently she has been involved in helping to plan and organize the annual Jazz Brunch sponsored by RCDC. For a number of years Barbara also coordinated Rankin Community Days, a major community-wide gathering, providing food, fun, and information to Rankin and surrounding neighbors. Many of the recent developments and positive growth that Rankin is currently experiencing can be traced back to Barbara and a small group of committed citizens who just never gave up on their community. Barbara’s involvement with the Rankin Community Development Corporation (RCDC) and with MVI began in 1989. She served as both the Treasurer and President of RCDC. During a period of time that RCDC was not a member of MVI, she helped hold things together until the time was right for the group to rejoin the coalition. This quiet but effective tenacity kept Rankin moving forward and helped put the community in a position to respond when opportunities surfaced. Rankin is now in the midst of its own mini-renaissance. MVI and RCDC recently partnered with the Borough of Rankin and Allegheny County on the redevelopment of 8 more homes, rounding out a major housing redevelopment effort in the Borough that had already added 19 newly-constructed homes, 17 owner-occupied home renovation projects, and 6 Rehab for Resale homes. Though there were certainly people who questioned the wisdom of building and renovating for-sale housing in a shrinking community, people like Barbara believed that these homes would attract buyers---and she was right! Not only did these latest homes sell very quickly, they enjoyed appraisal values and sale prices that exceeded even the most optimistic estimates. Thanks to the vision and tenacity of Barbara and other like-minded leaders in Rankin over the past 25 years, there are new people choosing to make Rankin their home, adding to the tax rolls and becoming part of the wonderful neighborhood fabric that people like Barbara have held together for so many years, even during truly devastating times. This is what community development is all about. Many of Barbara’s friends and family are quick to point out that Barbara’s number one purpose in life is serving God and using her talents to His glory. Her faith and persistent application of it in everyday life exemplify many of the key components of effective community development and Rankin will reap the benefits of her hard work and dedication for years to come.
37: Barbara Edwards
38: Adele Hopkins
39: Adele Hopkins is known for her unwavering commitment to Charleroi. When Adele gets behind a project, she is “all in.” Adele’s involvement in the Greater Charleroi Community Development Corporation (GCCDC) predates the formation of the MVI coalition. Adele was there in 1987 when GCCDC was incorporated and she is the only original member still actively serving. Now that’s dedication! After working her entire professional career with the federal government, Adele retired approximately 10 years ago as the Supervisor of the Social Security Administrative office in Charleroi. The considerable obligations of her professional career did not hold her back a bit from serving in a variety of responsible positions in her volunteer efforts in Charleroi. She has been active in numerous volunteer groups, including serving as a long-time member and past President of the Charleroi Chapter of the Business and Professional Women. She helped build this organization into one of the largest and most effective women’s clubs in the community. Adele’s retirement from her position with the Social Security Office closely coincided with her election to the Charleroi Area School District Board. No one was surprised that upon retirement Adele jumped right in to another important, responsible position. With a dedicated, community-minded person like Adele, “giving back” is part of her make up. As one would expect from Adele, her commitment and responsibilities on the school board progressed over time and she currently serves as the Treasurer. In this role, she has supported the success and quality of the district and she played an integral part in the planning and building of the new Charleroi High School Stadium. Her involvement in GCCDC and MVI is nothing short of legendary. In her 27 years of dedicated service, she has held every officer position on the GCCDC board and she currently serves as the President of GCCDC. Adele has always worked closely with MVI staff, guiding them and staying closely engaged over many years. She is consistently ready to do the “heavy lifting” on the many tasks that are required to manage the different aspects of GCCDC’s work, including local fundraising, oversight of rehab projects, and the development of planning and marketing strategies. Adele has not limited her attention to the Greater Charleroi area. She has also been a dependable advocate and leader for the entire MVI coalition, serving in various roles on the MVI Board of Delegates for a span of 12 years, including serving as the MVI Chair from 1997-1999. Adele Hopkins is a volunteer’s volunteer. Her endless source of love and pride for family and her community is what keeps her going. She doesn’t ask for anything in return, she simply wants what is best for Charleroi.
40: Mary Carol Kennedy has been a pivotal player in MVI’s history. She joined the East Pittsburgh Economic Development Corporation (EPEDC) in 1996 and has served in various leadership roles for EPEDC throughout her membership. She became a representative to the MVI Board for the first time in 2000. Mary Carol’s leadership, integrity and accountability were quickly recognized by her Board colleagues and she was elected to be Vice Chair in 2004 and then served as Chair for the next four years. These were some turbulent times as MVI re-organized various policies, staffing, and programs, resulting in greater transparency and accountability in all aspects of the organization. These important adjustments caused some difficult conversations and changes in MVI’s membership list, as Board members held each other accountable to be honest and fair through the clear example set by Mary Carol’s leadership. She was also able to provide her steady, thoughtful guidance as MVI completed a merger/acquisition of another non-profit agency (Housing Opportunities Inc.) during this same time period. She approaches difficult decisions and situations in a calm and thoughtful manner, focusing on the big picture and seeking to find the areas of consensus that can move everyone forward. We can likely credit Mary Carol’s strong leadership skills and ability to manage conflict to her many years as a nurse, first working as an R.N. at Braddock General Hospital and then serving for over 20 years at Mayview State Hospital where she faced many intense and difficult situations. One day, while working at Mayview, Mary Carol found herself pursuing a patient who fled the facility on foot, resulting in a full-scale search that included state police helicopters. Mary Carol was the one who located the patient, pulled them from a nearby stream and spent over three hours keeping this individual calm and free from self-harm. A result of her deep caring, Mary Carol’s immediate, fearless action ensured that this troubled person was returned to the hospital safely and in good health. The Board of Directors of OPEIU (Office and Professional Employees International Union) Healthcare Pennsylvania, honored Mary Carol by establishing and awarding her the inaugural Mary Carol Kennedy Award for Heroism in Health Care. It is amazing to realize that Mary Carol has been providing this level of outstanding contribution to her profession while she has also been providing an incredible level of leadership to MVI and EPEDC in her spare time. After she retired from her long career at Mayview, Mary Carol continued her service working for those with mental health and substance abuse issues with Turtle Creek Valley MH/MR in Braddock. She has recently attempted to retire from TCV-MH/MR, but they continue to seek her valuable services and she still works on a part-time basis. It is possible that Mary Carol Kennedy may never actually retire from her professional nursing career, but we certainly hope that she will never retire from her volunteer work with EPEDC and MVI. We know that the members of Holy Cross Parish in East Pittsburgh would say the same, as she serves as Parish Council President, CCD Teacher and member of the choir. The Borough Council of East Pittsburgh will soon be added to that list of beneficiaries, as Mary Carol is expected to begin serving the community as a newly-elected member of Council starting January 1, 2014. “Saving the world one meeting at a time” has long been one of Mary Carol’s frequent sayings, and she is doing just that.
41: Mary Carol Kennedy
42: Mary Kay Mehok loved North Braddock. She contributed to the community over her whole life serving in an incredible array of voluntary roles. In addition to raising her five children, she served as a Girl Scout leader, a Den Leader, a General Braddock School band booster parent, President of the PTA of Ben Fairless Elementary School, Judge of Elections for the 2nd Ward, President of the Ladies Auxiliary of Christian Mothers, member of the Ladies Auxiliary of the North Braddock Fire Dept., and a Eucharistic Minister at Good Shepherd Parish. She led a life filled with faith, family and a tremendous desire to help others. When North Braddock began to suffer from the economic devastation that was occurring in the 1980’s as the local steel and manufacturing companies shrank and moved away, Mary Kay was deeply troubled and saddened. It hurt her to see so many of her lifelong friends and neighbors be forced to leave the community as they looked for new jobs that could pay enough to support their families. She believed in “sticking together” to stay strong, but the economic changes in the region were pulling her beloved community apart. Fortunately, Mary Kay was not the sort of woman to be easily overwhelmed or the sort who backed down from a challenge. She began to look for ways to help and she was intrigued by a newspaper advertisement announcing a meeting being held for anyone who was interested in making North Braddock a better place to live. Mary Kay attended the advertised meeting which involved MVI community organizing staff and she soon became the founding member of North Braddock Cares, Inc., the first community development corporation in North Braddock. In 1992, North Braddock Cares, Inc. formally incorporated and joined the MVI coalition. With her long years of experience in participating in voluntary organizations, Mary Kay brought a practical, straightforward approach to building North Braddock Cares from the ground up and to carrying out the numerous projects that the group has undertaken over the years. North Braddock Cares, in partnership with MVI, is responsible for bringing significant housing revitalization activity to the community and helping to eliminate a significant number of blighted, abandoned properties. Without Mary Kay’s persistence and determination, these developments would likely still just be drawings on a map. Mary Kay brought this persistent, practical leadership to the MVI Board as well. She served on the MVI Board as the Delegate or Alternate representative from North Braddock Cares for a combined total of 16 years. During her tenure on the MVI Board, she was also a member of the Executive Committee, serving as Chair of the Regional Development Committee and as MVI Board Secretary. In her service to MVI, Mary Kay was an energetic advocate for fairness and accountability and she always modeled that behavior herself. She worked hard to give her neighbors many reasons to take pride in North Braddock, and though she passed away on July 14, 2010, she built a legacy of beautification and revitalization projects that will be carried on by the current dedicated volunteers of North Braddock Cares. Upon her graduation from St. Thomas High School in 1953, Mary Kay was honored with the title of "Ideal Thomasonian." This honor defined Mary Kay as "someone embodied with honor, courage, leadership, scholarship, and reliability. Trustworthy at all times, she takes part in all school activities, is respected by all and is a loving confidant." All those who knew Mary Kay would agree that those words, bestowed on her 60 years ago, provided a true picture of her character and offered a glimpse into her future as a tireless volunteer serving North Braddock.
43: Mary Kay Mehok
44: Ann Peelor
45: Ann Peelor did not grow up in Swissvale but claimed the community as her own after relocating from the North Side in 1993. Ann had a very successful career in the Trust Department at PNC Bank, but Ann’s passion was her volunteer work in Swissvale after she retired. The Swissvale Economic Development Corporation (SEDCO), formed in 1988, had already been in existence when Ann joined the group. She held many positions in SEDCO as well as serving on MVI’s Board of Delegates and CIF committee. When SEDCO needed a spark to gain new and active members, Ann led the search for residents who shared her passion and desire to take on meaningful yet feasible projects in the town. She tenaciously sought to recruit new members for SEDCO from the many other organizations that she served as a volunteer. Ann was very effective in this role thanks to her deep engagement in many other activities, including the Swissvale Rotary, Meals on Wheels, the Swissvale Democratic Committee, the Swissvale Planning Commission, the Braddock’s Field Historical Society and the Tri-Boro Development Forum. With new energy and members, largely from Ann’s efforts, SEDCO and MVI were able to embark on a large-scale redevelopment plan called the “Kopp Glass Gateway.” This redevelopment project focused on Swissvale’s border with Rankin and the nearby Kopp Glass Factory. With an overarching strategy to restore the community fabric in this part of Swissvale, sixteen homes were renovated and one brand-new home was constructed. All are now sold, increasing and stabilizing homeownership in the neighborhood. The effort also eliminated a number of nuisance and under-utilized properties to make way for a renovated public green space in the Park Avenue Mall, which has been re-graded and updated with new sidewalks, benches, and trees. The development also featured the adaptive reuse of the former Madonna Del Castello church into four energy-efficient and historically charming condo units that are also now sold. Ann consistently made “waves” within Swissvale and MVI to accomplish projects in the community, from major redevelopment efforts like the Kopp Glass Gateway project to beautification projects like bringing a wonderful Sprout Fund mural to the community. She was always making sure that the facts were correct, asking another question, or pushing the issue just a little further. Those who knew this side of Ann may also find it interesting that while attending Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, MD, she had intentions to become a nun. While that scenario may be a little hard to grasp, what is not was Ann’s devotion to making a difference and building a better community in Swissvale and beyond. Though Ann passed away on September 24, 2007 and did not get to witness and celebrate the completion of the Kopp Glass Gateway project, many of us are confident that she knows how it all turned out and how meaningful her vision and community organizing have been to Swissvale, SEDCO, and MVI. She is also probably thinking that she would like to run us over with her big white Cadillac for giving her this recognition! We miss you Ann!
46: Michael Solomon has been serving the Steel Valley since his arrival 54 years ago.He and his wife Mary raised their four children in West Homestead and they both have logged an incredible number of volunteer hours over the past fifty years. Mike’s long-time career as a Mellon Bank branch manager and CRA officer was the perfect complement to his volunteer activities. As one of the early presidents of the Homestead-area Economic Revitalization Corporation (HERC), an organization he helped found in 1978, he was very effective in establishing relationships with other community organizations, governmental agencies, and foundations. Mike’s commitment to partnership and collaboration helped ensure that HERC would become a founding member of the newly formed Mon Valley Initiative coalition in 1988. Mike was also one of the original Delegates to the MVI Board, serving as a steady, consistent leader for 15 years until 2003. Mike has always been a persuasive advocate for the Homestead area, but through his work on the MVI Board, he has also been a compelling promoter of the broader Mon Valley region. He has been effective in articulating the “big picture” vision of a revitalized Mon Valley, but he always keeps a firm grasp on the myriad of small, tangible steps that communities must take to realize this vision. Along with his clear vision, Mike’s unquestioned integrity and credibility have helped HERC, in partnership with MVI, to successfully undertake numerous significant redevelopment projects across the Steel Valley communities of Homestead, West Homestead, and Munhall. These projects include community art and murals, new public infrastructure (sidewalks, lighting, trees) in the 8th Avenue business district, business faade grants and loans, as well as significant housing redevelopment activities. Representing HERC in a variety of community issues,Mike also served as an important voice in the planning processes that were conducted as The Waterfront site was being redeveloped in the late 1990’s. In addition to his dedicated service to HERC and MVI, Mike also served on the Board of the Steel Valley School District for 16 years. From 1973 to 1995, he served on the Board of the South Hills Health System, now known as the Jefferson Regional Medical Center. He is also a 54-year member of the Homestead United Presbyterian Church, serving as an ordained elder and treasurer. For years, he headed the Church’s Lazarus Fund Committee, evaluating requests for assistance from community members. Wherever he is serving, Mike brings strategic thinking, integrity, and a commitment to helping people. Mike Solomon is a firm believer in the Steel Valley communities and his leadership and actions over the past 54 years have made all three of these communities better places. | Michael Solomon
48: Jefferson Brooks
49: Jefferson Brooks knows what he is talking about. With the longest tenure of any MVI employee, having now served 21 years, Jeff originally started with MVI as a Community Organizer in 1992. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and completed graduate coursework at Pitt’s School of Social Work in his effort to find a new career after being permanently laid off as a coal miner. With his own life experiences mirroring those of so many people in the Mon Valley, Jeff has brought an incredible level of compassion and determination to his work at MVI. As a Community Organizer, Jeff worked to coordinate a wide variety of community-building and revitalization efforts over his first seven years at MVI. Following a major organizational strategic planning process in 1999, Jeff agreed to take on the challenge of developing the first workforce support program to be offered by MVI, and he has successfully led the Team in creating an increasingly effective, well-used program for job seekers in our communities. In his current leadership role, Jeff wears many hats. He provides hands-on career counseling services to MVI program participants, and his wisdom and mentoring skills are in constant demand. In addition to guiding and mentoring program participants, Jeff has been tireless in his effort to engage the myriad of partners and collaborators that are needed to truly address the serious barriers that are faced by many unemployed individuals in the Mon Valley and the greater Pittsburgh region. Rather than narrow his focus to make the scope of the program more manageable, Jeff cast his net widely in seeking ways to deliver real and lasting solutions to the problems that have created persistent unemployment in parts of the Mon Valley, long after the broader region had recovered from the demise of the steel industry. As he started MVI’s program, Jeff has reached out to many other non-profit and government agencies, seeking and sharing critically needed information to assist MVI and these agencies to better serve their clients, particularly those facing the barrier of a criminal record. Jeff’s ability to engage a wide array of partners to focus on key issues led to the creation of the Southwestern PA Re-entry Coalition (SPARC) whose mission is to foster collaboration among agencies in the region who provide services to individuals whose criminal record creates barriers to self-sufficiency. Jeff has been able to translate the problems that he learns about every day in his direct engagement with program participants, into macro-level, policy-changing efforts like the establishment of SPARC. In September 2012, along with the collaborative efforts of the SPARC members, Jeff and the MVI Workforce team organized a dynamic day-long educational conference at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, entitled “Life Without Bars: Removing Invisible Barriers to Re-entry.” Nearly 200 people working on issues surrounding offender re-entry attended this conference. This event provided much-needed information and helped to build connections between various government, non-profit, and faith-based organizations that are working on this issue. Jeff’s credibility and persistence in working toward solutions was a driving factor in making this event possible. MVI was proud to celebrate Jeff in 2012 for being the first employee of MVI to reach the 20-year service milestone. Jeff’s faithful and persistent desire to serve others has helped to propel MVI to a level of excellence that few could have envisioned 25 years ago. Thanks to his work, many, many people have been profoundly changed for the better.
50: Rick Dunn has “seen it all” in his 19 years as a Development Specialist and Senior Construction Manager with MVI. Having been a part of the staff for all but 6 years of MVI’s existence, Rick has witnessed firsthand the evolution of the individual CDCs, the Housing and Real Estate Development Team, and the entire MVI coalition. Many might assume that the Senior Construction Manager’s job is limited to oversight of the construction of MVI properties. While that is certainly one aspect of Rick’s work, it does not come close to describing the broad set of responsibilities that come along with the job. As Rick can attest, a Senior Construction Manager gets pulled in every direction on a weekly basis. Rick has to respond to the demands of eager volunteers who all rightfully want more construction in their communities as well as the demands of strict government auditors who want to see receipts from a construction project that has long since been completed and filed in the MVI basement. Much of the work Rick does is behind the scenes. From assessing whether the conditions on a parcel of land make it suitable for development to explaining to a volunteer why it will not be feasible to fix up a particular dilapidated property (even if it is being donated), the job is an ongoing tightrope walk and Rick has been able to “stay upright” throughout his tenure at MVI. Rick has been well-served by his understanding that the foundation of MVI’s work starts with developing strong relationships with the CDCs. Rick has earned the respect of CDC members by taking the time to understand what they want for their community and to help them figure out how to take the steps needed to get to from where they are to where they want to be. Volunteers join CDCs for a reason: they want to see positive results in their community, and Rick plays a critical role in making that happen.In his time with MVI, Rick has been startled to see animals scurry as he opened the door to a potential rehab house and he has witnessed countless CDC volunteers beaming with pride at ribbon cutting events. He has experienced the frustration of being called in the middle of the night to deal with someone vandalizing an MVI home and he has felt the satisfaction of handing new home keys to a young couple starting their lives together in the Mon Valley. Just below the faade of this former boxer who grew up and worked in some of the meanest streets of Philadelphia, there is a kind-hearted, caring individual that has devoted so much of his life to making other people’s dreams come true. Thank you Rick!
51: Rick Dunn