Northside Partnership celebrates 20 years of collaboration


Mark Fatla of the Northside Leadership Conference (right) presents Allegheny General Hospital’s Northside Partnership coordinator Deb Caplan (left) with a copy of his signature black fedora in thanks for Caplan’s decade of service to the Northside. (Photo/Kelly Thomas)

Two of the Northside’s most influential organizations rededicated themselves to helping out the neighborhood and each other by re-signing and celebrating 20 years of partnership on Oct. 15.

The Northside Partnership between the Northside Leadership Conference and Allegheny General Hospital, begun in 1989, has spurred community development, brought educational programming to Northside schools and residents and introduced other mutually beneficial programs and events.

Every two years, members of the 15 neighborhood groups, the Leadership Conference and the hospital re-sign the partnership agreement, which was the first and is now the broadest and longest-running agreement between a hospital and the community in the region.

Debra Caplan, senior vice president and partnership coordinator at AGH, highlighted how much the partnership has grown over the past 20 years, from an initiative that focused only on education and employment to one that now includes housing, development and health and wellness.

The presentation highlighted several contributions to the Northside in recent years:

·        Neighborhood reinvestment projects like the hospital-funded renovation of the Aeberlie Building at the corner of North Avenue and Sandusky Street.

·        Homeownership classes to encourage hospital employees to purchase neighborhood homes.

·        Star on Success program that provides internships and mentoring to local high school students.

·        Health and wellness initiatives like the KidShape childhood obesity program and the Living with Diabetes program for seniors.

Council President Darlene Harris reminisced about the original partnership agreement, which she signed, and spoke fondly of the care she and her family have received at the hospital throughout the years.

West Penn Allegheny Hospital System CEO Christopher Olivia, who has been with the hospital system for two years, affirmed his commitment to the community and cited his recent switch from being a Yankees fan to a Pirates fan as evidence of becoming a true Pittsburgher.

“It’s clear that [the partnership has] been very instrumental in the development of a very vital Northside,” Olivia said. “Stick with us and you ain’t seen nothing yet up here on the Northside of Pittsburgh.”

Representatives from each of the groups involved in the Northside Partnership re-signed the agreement Oct. 15 at a ceremony celebrating the partnership’s 20th anniversary. (Photo/Kelly Thomas)

The Northside Leadership Conference Executive Director Mark Fatla spoke after a representative from each community group and the hospital resigned the agreement.

When the partnership was created 20 years ago, Fatla said, it was because of conflict between the hospital and community over possible expansion. Hospital and community leaders recognized that fighting would do neither of them any good and decided to work together — which they have done since, to the benefit of both.

“There will always be tension,” Fatla said. “But it’s how we deal with it.”

If the past 20 years are any indication, members of the Northside Partnership will find mutually beneficial solutions for any problem that occurs in the future.

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