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.
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.
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
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