The collective mood was so triumphant at the Northside Leadership Conference’s 26th annual awards dinner that attendees could be forgiven for forgetting that the rest of the world is in the midst of a recession. Inside the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church on North Avenue, the community appeared insulated from any negative economic news, and members celebrated numerous benchmarks that the Conference achieved during the last year.

The dinner’s theme, “Back on Top Again,” said it all. NSLC’s Executive Director Mark Fatla opened the event by rattling off a list of the Conference’s recent achievements.
“In real estate we’ve climbed to the second highest producer among [community development corporations] in the city,” Fatla touted, citing that the Conference now has a total of “$6 million to lend.”

Fatla also lauded NSLC’s relationship with the River’s Casino, which will increase the job pool among lower-income residents, and their success in registering 200 Northside kids for the city’s youth summer employment program.

When Fatla asked, “And is East Ohio Street looking better these days?” he was met with a roar of applause.

After mentioning one area that needed improvement, the continued specter of violent crime, Fatla encouraged the crowd by noting that the Northside Public Safety Council had the largest attendance of any community safety committee city-wide.

Additionally, Vincent Locher, president of Huntington Bank’s Pittsburgh region, was on hand to present the NSLC’s investment arm, the Northside Community Development Fund, with a $300,000 commitment over six years. The money will be used for the Fund’s operating expenses.

(For a video of the check presentation, click here.)

Master of ceremonies Jack Hunt, AKA Johnny Angel of Johnny Angel and the Halos, introduced the Northside notables sitting at the head table. Judge Joe Williams of Manchester, Amanda Green from the County Council and City Councilwoman Darlene Harris from District 1 were all in attendance. Councilwoman Tanya Payne from District 6 was also in attendance but had to leave early.

County Chief Executive Dan Onorato, born in Manchester, arrived in time to congratulate those in attendance. When he approached the microphone, for a brief moment the focus shifted to Pittsburgh’s progress as a whole.

“We’re getting articles written about us in the New York Times and the Economist. The G20 is coming here. Even the President said, ‘We’re going to show Pittsburgh to the world.’”

One of the night’s main events was the Conference’s presentation of student scholarships. The Rotary Club of Pittsburgh’s Northside gave away four laptops to graduating seniors Elizabeth Clayton of Perry H.S., DaVaughn Copeland and Javon King of Oliver H.S. and Lashae Robinson of North Catholic H.S.

(For a video of the laptop presentation, click here.)

The Conference then presented a record thirteen $1,000 scholarships, underwritten by the dinner’s corporate sponsors, to area graduates. Students were chosen for outstanding volunteer work in their respective communities.

           Afterward, 15 community groups and businesses presented awards to outstanding members of their separate neighborhoods.

           A Special Recognition Award was given to attorney Joseph Lawrence for his pro bono work for the Allegheny City Society, Central Northside Neighborhood Council and the East Allegheny Community Council and helping numerous other civic groups throughout the Northside.

           The Conference also presented three lifetime achievement awards. Helen Wehner of Brighton Heights, Virginia Barnes of Manchester and Dick Schubert of Troy Hill were all recognized for their decades of leadership and activism in their respective neighborhoods.

           The dinner’s underlying theme of Northside pride and confidence was solidified in one of Jack Hunt’s many jokes.

           “When I was young, I didn’t understand the different sides of Pittsburgh. But as I grew up I learned there’s the Northside, and there’s the outside!”

Additional Awards and Awardees    

 Scholarship Awardees

Tasha Jordan, Historic Deutschtown

Taleesha Johnson, Charles Street

Ashley Hoffman, Brighton Heights

Chon Pryor, Brighton Heights

Samantha Karpa, Summer Hill

Erica Green, Brighton Heights

Sidney Hale, Spring Hill

Rachel Kocay, Brighton Heights

Morgan Gilbreath, Observatory Hill

Taylor McKenzie-Davis, Brighton Heights

Danielle Delaney, Troy Hill

Shaniqua Towler, Historic Deutschtown

Shaquala Towler, Historic Deutschtown

Neighborhood and Business Awards

Allegheny General Hospital…Lori Dernus

Allegheny West Civic Group…Catherine Serventi

Brighton Heights Citizens Federation…Alcosan

Brightwood Civic Group…Josephine Harding

Central Northside Neighborhood Council…Rev. David McFarland

Charles Street Area Council…Will Thompkins

Community Alliance of Spring Garden/East Deutschtown…John Basel

East Allegheny Community Council…Cynthia Shea

Fineview Citizens Council…Joe Goldsmith

Manchester Citizens Corporation…Brenda Moye

Observatory Hill, Inc….Bill Schmidt

Perry Hilltop Citizens Council…Sherman Culver

Spring Hill Civic League…Steve Brady

Summer Hill Citizens Committee…Elsie Curry

Troy Hill Citizens, Inc….Mike Wallisch

Northside Service Provider Award…Allegheny YMCA