90.5 WESA Features and Special Reports

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

Albert and Jen Wolf love the sound of their daughters practicing their instruments at home, but that wasn’t always the case.

“When they first begin, it’s a lot of very unusual sounds and you’re not sure what’s coming out of that instrument,” Jen Wolf said. 

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Could a virus offer a cure to cancer?

That’s the question researchers at Western Oncolytics, based in Harmar, are trying to answer. In fact, they’re hoping to start clinical trials in 2017.

Chief science officer Stephen Thorne said the idea that a virus could help kill cancer has been around for a century, but only since the 1990s have scientists been able to modify DNA to create a virus specifically designed to fight cancer.  

The first wave of research focused on creating a virus that could only grow inside a tumor.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

When someone is incarcerated, they family members – especially children – can be forgotten, but Elizabeth Mansley works hard to remember them. 

Last year, Mansley, a Mt. Aloysius College associate professor of criminology, and her students launched The Storybook Project.

“The idea actually came from my daughter,” Mansley said.

Find Some Flow

Three years ago, when Ian Neumaier started to think about playing games as a way to bring people together, he had no idea what he was getting into.

“We didn’t have a full understanding of the environment and the systems at play,” said Neumaier who eventually founded the nonprofit Find Some Flow.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

A few decades ago, Terri Baltimore tagged along with a group of architecture students and their professor while they were visiting the Hill District.

“And what they said about this neighborhood broke my heart,” she said. “That it was dirty.

Simon Lucey / CMU

A decade ago, computer face recognition usually involved little more than detecting faces in a crowd and maybe being able to match them to faces in a database.

“The first stage was sort of thinking about faces as nouns, as it were,” said Simon Lucey, associate research professor at Carnegie Mellon University Computer Vision Group. “But now we’re launching into this very interesting space in terms of, what are faces doing, sort of verbs. So, rather than who is that person or where is that person, it’s, how is that face moving?”

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Richard Spear has breakfast in the Mercy Hospital cafeteria five days a week. He eats there before heading up to the eighth floor to visit with oncology patients.

“I go in and introduce myself to the patients,” he said. “And a lot of times they spill their heart out to me. Unfortunately for me, I get close to a lot of these people and sometimes it makes it very difficult.”

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Nursing home residents who need extra care or specialized help after business hours are often sent to the emergency room. But as those visits can be expensive, disruptive and sometimes avoidable, a South Side company is offering another solution.

Curavi Health, which spun out of UPMC, created a mobile unit called CuraviCart that uses a video conference system, on-call doctors and other instruments a nursing home might need to help residents.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Nearly every day, William Moses uses public transportation and travels from his home on the North Side to Abiding Ministries in Allentown where he volunteers.

He first started with the ministries by serving breakfast to homeless people on the North Side.

“A friend of mine told me about it,” Moses said. “He said I should go down and help… because something good might come out of it.”

Simeon Berg / Flickr

When Iowa-based IT and data company Involta broke ground last month on a new facility outside of Pittsburgh, it wasn’t just creating the average office building.

Located in Freeport, Armstrong County, the company’s new 40,000-square-foot building is planned to be a high security, high performance data center.

Data centers have one primary goal — making sure customers can access their data, be it healthcare, finance, or technology-related. And in order to accomplish that, center operators have to ensure their systems never fail.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Among the gauntlet of campaign workers looking to sway voters before casting their ballots at Northmont United Presbyterian Church in McCandless Tuesday will be Mary Lou English and her glass jars of soup.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Every Friday during the school year, Moira Kaleida gathers a group of volunteers at Pittsburgh Montessori School in Bloomfield to fill backpacks with food for students to take home over the weekend.

“We know that 62 percent of kids in Pittsburgh Public Schools are economically disadvantaged, so this came out of the need to make sure kids have food on the weekends,” Kaleida said.

The kids usually get two lunches, two breakfasts and some snacks tucked inside their backpacks.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh is home to many sports firsts: the Pittsburgh Pirates participated in the first Major League World Series, the city was the first to have a retractable dome stadium and the Steelers were the first to win six Super Bowls.

Discover Downtown Johnstown Partnership

Johnstown has held a holiday parade for two decades, but it wasn’t until Melissa Radovanic joined the Discover Johnstown Partnership that it really began to “light up.”

“I said to the group that I wanted us to be known for something and that we were going to have a name for ourselves,” said Radovanic, who was elected president of the volunteer organization three years ago.

SkinJect / YouTube

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer over the course of their life

But thanks to a new device from a Pittsburgh-based company called Skinject, some people with skin cancer may be able to skip invasive surgeries.

“Skinject is a totally new approach to handling this problem which is growing throughout the world as more and more people expose their skin to the sun,” said the company’s CEO James Nolan.  

Patrick Doyle / 90.5 WESA


 A Pittsburgh group named A Few Bad Apples has three missions.

 

The first is to teach people the lost skills of making use of homegrown fruit.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Along the Allegheny River in an unassuming former car garage sits the 112-year-old Natrona Bottling Company. Established in 1904, the business has distributed thousands of glass bottles with their signature Red Ribbon Cherry Supreme, spicy ginger beer and mint julep.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

Each year, hundreds of kids go through the Open Door in Crafton Heights and many others take part in the Crafton Heights First United Presbyterian Church youth programs.  At both places there is a very good chance they will come in contact with Tim Salinetro.

Megan Harris / WESA

In the fields and forests of Pennsylvania’s Elk County, love triangles, unrequited advances and fevered courtships have a unique soundtrack.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

 

Sara Middleton and Catlyn Brooke both teach cross fit at the Allegheny YMCA on the North Side.

 

They renovated the upstairs studio themselves. Middleton built the barbell racks, as well as a huge structure for pull up rings and high bars.

 

  “I fell in love with it and I got certified to teach,” Brooke said.

 

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Jasmine Cook stood in front of her house in the North Side neighborhood of California-Kirkbride. She held her 7-month-old daughter, flanked by her other two children. Her 7-year-old daughter was a self-proclaimed singer-gymnast and her 4-year-old son was a superhero with laser eyes, graciously contained by a pair of plastic red sunglasses. Running around the side yard was a miniature Batman, the boy who lives next door.

  “All kids around here, nothing else, just all kids,” she said. “Everybody knows each other around here. It’s a good street to live on.”

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

 

Sitting in their living room in McCandless, Bob and Dena Masterino struggled to answer what is usually a fairly easy question: who are you voting for?

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

If you drive into Johnstown from the west, it’s hard to miss the flower boxes that line the streets. The boxes were originally made for a citywide celebration that has been long forgotten — but since 2006, the West End Improvement Group has been keeping them filled for the neighborhood all summer long.

“We started with 13 flower boxes that we had asked businesses in the West End to kind of adopt and take care of,” said Rose Howarth, who runs the all-volunteer organization.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Amongst some pretty worn-down storefronts in Sharpsburg, seven miles from downtown Pittsburgh, Memories Sportsman and Taxidermy Shop has operated since 1990.

In the musty, cluttered space, owner Sam Stelitano, 65, sells new firearms and collectable ones, like original Smith and Wesson’s and Civil War muskets. But look above the rifle-lined counters, and you see his real passion.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

An empty, three-acre parking lot lies at the corner of Station Street and Euclid Avenue.

You can’t actually park there. Weeds grow in the cracked cement between lines of faded paint.

Melinda Roeder / 90.5 WESA

The Catholic Charities Free Health Care Center offers free medical and dental services to some of Pittsburgh’s poorest uninsured and underinsured residents. 

Volunteer Medical Director Dr. Edward Kelly helped launch the clinic nine years ago. The retired orthopedic surgeon spends at least three days a week seeing patients, filling out paperwork and organizing other teams of volunteers who make the services possible.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Seven or eight years ago, Stephen Shelton started worrying about the future.

It wasn’t just his own Pittsburgh-based construction company, but his entire industry. 

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Police Zone 2 Commander Anna Kudrav rented awhile, then bought her own wheels. Riding a bicycle calms her, she said.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

Alisa Grishman has dealt with the effects of Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, for 15 years. And though the Americans with Disabilities Act aims to make life easier for those with disabilities, she can find it frustrating.

“In my opinion, one of the failings of how the ADA was written is that it’s a complaint-driven law and you have to complain all the time,” said Grishman.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

First in an occasional series exploring Essential Pittsburgh.

Jacqueline Wardle was working as the executive chef at Isabela on Grandview, a Mt. Washington restaurant, when she received a beguiling email: Instead of working for someone else, did she want to own her own restaurant?

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