Noah Brode


 

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Bethany Ruhe was born and raised in the hilly south Pittsburgh neighborhood of Beechview. 

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

It’s a sunny Monday morning in Washington, Pa., and about 20 people are chatting over donuts and coffee in the cafeteria of Washington Christian Outreach. After breakfast, they’ll stay for the morning sermon, and later they’ll be joined by as many as 200 more for the daily free lunch.

Jeanne Allender is sitting in a small office just nextdoor. At 83 years old, she doesn’t come in to volunteer every day anymore, but she still puts in three days a week at the organization she founded 40 years ago this month.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Jennifer Cario is unloading big bins of food in a small storage room adjoining the gym of Bentworth Elementary School in Bentleyville, Washington County, about an hour south of Pittsburgh.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

When James Simon moved into a three-story warehouse in the Uptown section of Pittsburgh in 2000, the area was much different than it is now. Simon said his street, Gist Street, was a hangout for sex workers, and the neighborhood had a dangerous reputation.

At that point, Simon was in the midst of a successful career as a sculptor and a creator of public art. He’d been living in Brazil, but was drawn back to Pittsburgh to help support his family.

It turns out that he had roots in Uptown all along.

Cbaile19 / Wikimedia Commons

When Terry Doloughty was growing up in the 1970s, Polish Hill was a much different place than it is today. Sure, there were more traditionally Polish families and more small businesses -- but what he remembers most fondly were the large green spaces surrounding the little hillside neighborhood.

“I had the ability here to have a very urban life, but then to disappear into the greenery and find some peace there,” Doloughty said.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

It’s Neighborhood Table night in Sharpsburg, and about 60 people are packed into a former Main Street shop to eat fried chicken, salad and Italian bread. Dozens of Styrofoam dessert plates are waiting on carts in the back room.

Scores of Sharpsburgers, many of them over 50, regularly show up to the free event at the Roots of Faith center for the first three Thursdays of each month. Not only are they given meals, but they’re also offered free services: some nights it’s a medical screening from UPMC St. Margaret; sometimes it’s a legal clinic from local law firms.

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Laura Stuart is standing in the center of a small room practically exploding with color. She’s surrounded by artwork of all shapes and sizes -- from painted windows and furniture to decorated mannequins and vibrant beaded bracelets and necklaces.

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With long hair and a big handlebar mustache, Tom Walker is recognizable --and everyone in Millvale seems to know him.

He’s also busy in the community. Walker is a "semi-retired" graphic designer, he’s on the board of directors for the Millvale Community Development Corporation and he’s an avid kayaker and backpacker.

Walker is also known as “The Garlic King of Millvale.”

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Steven "Stevo" Sadvary is scoring and cutting glass in his Squirrel Hill studio, his sheepdog sitting by his side.

It's a unique place -- an otherwise unused level of a parking garage where several artists have set up work spaces. Panels and shards of brightly-colored glass are packed onto shelves lining the wall, and mosaics of all kinds hang on the walls and rest on tables. It's mostly Sadvary's own work, but occasionally one of his students' pieces. 

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

When Caitlin Venczel moved to Bellevue with her family in 2014, she didn’t like going outside. At that point, the Shenango Coke Works was still in operation just down the Ohio River on Neville Island.

“There was a smell in the air," Venczel said. "When we would go outside to play, we’d bring our daughter outside and we could smell it. It made me so nervous, I’d bring her right back inside.

"I felt stuck in my house.”

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

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

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

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

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

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

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Amy Kline moved to Carrick eight years ago, and soon after, she became acquainted with Phillips Park. Kline sent her daughter to the park’s after-school recreation center, where kids play games, work on arts and crafts and play basketball.

But Kline noticed that some parts of the park were habitually underused. She said the long, sloping green space and the 18-hole disc golf course usually sits empty, and the park’s in need of new lighting and paving.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

In the late 1990s, Kristee Cammack was taking classes at Slippery Rock University. For one course, she had to write a paper on what she’d like to change in society. She decided to visit a homeless shelter.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Steve Root moved to Pittsburgh’s South Side in 2006, and right away, he knew he wanted to get involved in the community and make connections.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

In 2015, Caitlin McNulty had been running a youth ministry program out of a Brookline church for a few years when she began to realize that the teenagers in the neighborhood -- the city’s second-largest, and third most-populous -- needed more.

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In the early 2000s, a pair of new college graduates lived in Highland Park, just across the street from a crumbling old church. It hadn't been used recently, and the arts grads dreamed of buying the property and turning it into a community asset where artists and the arts could flourish.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Brian Oswald is pretty familiar with the steps of the South Side Slopes.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

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

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

Courtesy of Rochel Tombosky

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

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

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

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

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

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

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

When Kelly Day moved to Brighton Heights about 10 years ago, she began to notice something -- a large income disparity between neighborhood residents. 

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Allen Lane was born in 1965, and grew up on Murtland Street in Homewood, just down the road from Westinghouse High School. Back then, more than 30,000 people lived in the single square mile that comprises Homewood.

Lane recalled a vibrant, prosperous neighborhood in his youth.

"There were businesses in Homewood, so you didn’t have to walk too far from your job," Lane said. "There was employment in Homewood."

Northside Food Pantry

It was the holiday season of 2012 when Central North Side resident Jana Thompson first asked her neighbor, Darlene Rushing, to join her in volunteering at the Northside Food Pantry.

Rushing agreed, and came in to help on the pantry’s last day of operation before closing for the holidays.
 

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny Commons, Pittsburgh’s oldest park, is a bit like a green oasis amid the bustling streets of the North Side. The sounds of the streets press in from all sides, but a walk down the park’s tree-lined promenade can provide a small measure of respite from the hectic reality of city life.

It’s also a crossroads in the North Side, situated at the junction of three neighborhoods: Allegheny West, East Allegheny and Allegheny Center.

East Allegheny resident Lynn Glorieux seems to know -- and love -- every square inch of it.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Robert Bowden grew up in the Hill District, watching his mother struggle to move her family from a housing project into a nicer neighborhood.

 

Later on, as a young man, Bowden said he was “just a typical guy on a corner.” He had never considered college, and held a job as the janitor at a jewelry store. Bowden said his attitude changed after an incident during one of his breaks on the job.

 

Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission

Two deteriorating dams at man-made fishing lakes in southwestern Pennsylvania will be repaired beginning next year as part of a $25 million statewide investment announced by Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has dubbed 10 dams, including those at Lake Somerset and Donegal Lake, “high-hazard” and “unsafe.” The designations mean that if the dams were to fail during heavy rain, property would be damaged and people could potentially die in the ensuing flood.

UBC Learning Commons / Flickr

State government will soon offer groups promising environmental education up to $50,000 in grant money, a significant jump from the former maximum of $3,000.

Beginning in 2017, funding from the Department of Environmental Protection will be available to help generate groups more ambitious programming on watershed management, brownfield remediation and other topics at the state and regional levels, DEP spokeswoman Susan Rickens said.

To qualify for the max amount, organizations need to generate at least $10,000 in matching funds, she said.

Westmoreland Museum of American Art / Courtesy of the Barbara L. Gordon Collection

From life-sized "cigar store Indians" to antique portraits and even a few hand-carved merry-go-round animals, the Westmoreland Museum of American Art is putting 19th century American folk art in the spotlight this summer and fall.

90.5 WESA’s Noah Brode spoke with chief curator Barbara Jones about the significance of the "Shared Legacy" exhibit.

Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

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