90.5 WESA Celebrates 90 Neighborhoods

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.

Bill Haberthur / Bethel Park Historical Society

On a Thursday night, volunteers were gathered at the old Bethel Grade School building getting their hands dirty. Some sawed wood to use for new baseboards on the first floor; others, on the second floor, pulled down old ceilings. 

A similar scene has played out three nights a week since 2016, when the Bethel Park Historical Society decided to renovate and re-purpose the building.

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.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

When Dave Breingan walks into the gym at Arsenal Middle School during an after school program, about a dozen kids immediately run up to him and say, "hi!"

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.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

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.

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

When Dave Carver, pastor at the First United Presbyterian Church in Crafton Heights, first came to the church 35 years ago, he immediately noticed something.

“The neighborhood was filled with children and teenagers and there was not any programming, ” Carver remembered.

So, he decided to do something about it.

He started a street hockey league in 1983 that revealed lots of enthusiasm for youth recreation in the area, and in 1987, he took the next step by starting an organization called The Open Door.

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. 

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.