806 Western Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15233

Letter from the President – September 2014

WHILE not a leaf seems faded; while the fields,
With ripening harvest prodigally fair,
In brightest sunshine bask; this nipping air,
Sent from some distant clime where Winter wields
His icy scimitar, a foretaste yields
Of bitter change, and bids the flowers beware;
And whispers to the silent birds, “Prepare
Against the threatening foe your trustiest shields.”
For me, who under kindlier laws belong
To Nature’s tuneful quire, this rustling dry
Through leaves yet green, and yon crystalline sky,
Announce a season potent to renew,
‘Mid frost and snow, the instinctive joys of song,
And nobler cares than listless summer knew.

– William Wordsworth, September 1815

After the muggy weather we had for the Labor Day Block Party on N. Lincoln Avenue, it’s hard to believe that
autumn is on its way. Still, the calendar tells me that it’s so. While we’ve had an unusual amount of cool weather this past summer, I’m still looking forward to the crisper days ahead.

I think everyone who attended the block party will agree that it was another excellent Allegheny West event. A tip of the cap goes to Tom Barbush – the Corn Master, and Scott Mosser – the grill master who tended the hot coals and turned out some truly excellent roasted ears of corn. I’d also like to thank everyone who provided side dishes or desserts. They were uniformly excellent, with the possible exception of the Keebler Cashew Sandies that I brought.

Thanks, too, go to all the folks who helped set up before the event, or cleaned up afterwards. I’d also like to express my appreciation to Cathy Serventi, who staffed the donations table for the food pantry, and to all those who donated. The biggest thanks, though, go to Tim Zinn, our Membership Chair, who has overseen these events for the past two years. He’s done a great job with Allegheny West parties and community events. Give him your thanks when you pass him on the street, and tell him that his beard looks good, too.

Please don’t forget the next membership meeting on Tuesday, September 9, at Calvary U.M. Church on Beech. There will be lots of exciting games and prizes. Well, maybe there won’t be games or prizes, but it will be an informative meeting nonetheless.

I’ll leave you now with one more September quote:

I love September, especially when we’re in it.

– Willie Stargell

I hope you have a great month.

Bob Griewahn
President, AWCC

Recruiting Vacant Land Ambassadors NOW

Submitted by Lydia Yoder 

Growth Through Energy and Community Health (GTECH) is on a search for ten Northsiders looking to make change in their neighborhood. From the fall of 2014 to the spring of 2015, these individuals, called Ambassadors, will meet for classes and workshops to learn about Pittsburgh’s vacant land issue and think about recreating vacant lots in ways that benefit their communities.

Throughout the spring and summer of 2015, each Ambassador will make their ideas come to life. Participants will use what they’ve learned in the classroom to build their very own project on a vacant lot in their neighborhood. We’d love to have an Allegheny West resident as part of the cohort.

Please help spread the word or recommend any potential Ambassadors. Here is a link where more information about the program can be found along with the application:

Learn More and Apply

Donna Otto: A Life Well-Lived

Submitted by Fran Barbush

The members of the AWCC extend our sympathy to Donna’ surviving family. Her devoted husband, Gary; her daughter, Lonice Wells (Keith), Cindy Musselman; her stepson, Aaron Otto; sister, Laura Artinger (Robert); and beloved grandchildren, Layla Raye Musselman, Wynn Musselman, and Laura Wells.

Bob Griewahn asked if I could write something about our neighbor Donna Otto. For those of you who knew her, I hope that you will recognize her from my reflections, and find inspiration from the way she lived her life.

What words could I use to describe Donna Otto?

Beautiful, funny, successful, charming, generous, loyal, competitive, focused, engaging, welcoming, compassionate, and loving come to my mind very quickly. But these individual words could never capture the vitality and love of life that she exhibited. When I first met Donna she was dating Gary and was meeting other long time neighbors for the first time. She completely disarmed me with her candor. I learned that you could talk with Donna about anything. She actively listened, and had a gift for building strong relationships. All her friends sought her counsel, her listening ear, and her shoulder. I think it was because she valued people, and was open and honest with them. I can also say that I never heard her speak negatively about anyone. Donna had accomplished much in her life, but would remind people that she was from “the bottoms” of McKees Rocks. She never wanted to put too much distance from where she grew-up.

I feel so blessed to have known her, become one of her friends, and shared wonderful precious moments. My last fun moment with Donna was on the 4th of July. I met her on her porch on my way home from watching the fireworks on Allegheny River. Carrie Doyle, brought out some sparklers. A collection of neighbors – young and old; the grandchildren – Layla Raye, Wynn, and Laura; Donna and I enjoyed one of those youthful moments twirling and writing with sparkler wands. I thought to myself, “Remember this.” I try to keep these wonderful moments strongly in my memory. They are precious to me.

Donna loved life. She did all that was possible to spend as much time living as she could. That is why it is particularly sad that she lost her battle with pancreatic cancer on Tuesday, August 5, 2014. After her death, I was talking with friends and we were surprised that we had a common thought. “What Would Donna Do?” We decided to keep this in our minds when faced with decisions. We felt we couldn’t go wrong if we approached life as she did. We spoke about the extra time she would take to invite you in; drive you somewhere; look at your pictures; share a glass of wine; sing and dance in the kitchen; help you select an outfit for a special occasion; or any number of other ways that she showed that she valued you. In doing so we all hope to be a little more like her.

WANTED: Hosts for Allegheny Commons Meet & Greets!

Love Allegheny Commons Park and looking for a way to meet new people in the neighborhood?

Host an Allegheny Commons Meet & Greet! These small gatherings with neighbors, light food and beverages exist to celebrate Allegheny Commons and to inform the community about the park restoration process. Hosts invite friends from the neighborhood and prospective Friends of Allegheny Commons to the event. Participating in an Allegheny Commons Meet & Greet is a great way to learn about current and future projects taking place in the park. If interested in hosting or attending a Meet & Greet please get in touch:

Email Erin Tobin
Project Administrator | Allegheny Commons Initiative

AWCC – This is YOUR Civic Council

Submitted by Tim Zinn

Many times in the past I have written about the importance of volunteers to the Allegheny West Civic Council. We are, after all, a volunteer-based organization with no paid staff. Without dedicated volunteers, we would accomplish nothing and AWCC would cease to exist. Fortunately, we have a core group of faithful volunteers that we know will continue to give of their time and talents. However, we have very few NEW members that attend civic council meetings, and are therefore knowledgeable of the workings of AWCC and understand its structure, finances, current challenges, and projects.

The problem, however, is two-fold. Not all can be blamed on neighborhood apathy or the seeming unwillingness of some of our newer residents to become involved in the civic council. The bylaws of AWCC specifically direct each committee chair to “select from between two and ten members for their committees within 45 days following their election. This stipulation has not been rigorously followed in the past. However, this is precisely how we encourage new or currently non-participating members to become active in AWCC and ensure that we have a strong membership and future leaders within the organization. Please thoughtfully consider any request you may receive from a committee chair to join their committee.

In the next few months we will prepare for our largest fundraiser of the year, the Christmas House Tour. While this event draws dozens of volunteers from not only inside our neighborhood but far beyond it, there is always a need for additional help with some aspect of the event. If you have never participated in the house tour, I encourage you to do so.

In addition to the tours, numerous other challenging, enjoyable, and rewarding volunteer opportunities are available throughout the year. We need your help to ensure that the quality of life we enjoy in Allegheny West continues to be enhanced year after year. Show your support of YOUR civic council by becoming a member, renewing your membership, volunteering, joining a committee, and attending the monthly general membership meeting.

Letter from the President – July 2014

“Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.”

– Sam Keen

The next stop on my 2014 Laziness of the World Tour is in the Allegheny West Independence Day Block Party. It’ll be held this Friday, July 4. Tim Zinn, AWCC’s redoubtable Membership Chair, has a rib cook-off planned for this year’s party. Pittsburgh is known for rib cook-offs and, though we won’t be featuring musical performances by washed-up rock bands of the of the Seventies, we’ll still have a great time. If you’re a master rib chef, contact Tim at to reserve a spot. If, like me, you’re more of a rib critic, be sure to come to the party and opine. As always, Allegheny West Civic Council provides the meat and the beverages, but we’d like you to bring a side dish or dessert to share with your neighbors.

Before I sign off, I’d like to thank everyone who participated in the Wine Tasting and House & Garden Tour last month. We had a great turnout, and I heard nothing but compliments from the tour-goers in my groups. Special thanks go to Trish “Trixie” Burton and Deb “Deb” Kelly for organizing the event. The did a great job of pulling things together.

Well, that’s all for now. See you at the block party. I’ll be the one with rib sauce all over my face. And shirt.

Bob Griewahn
President, AWCC

Young Preservationists Association – July Speaker Series

YPA is pleased to host John Canning at our second Speaker Series event. John is a lifetime resident of Pittsburgh’s Northside and member of the Allegheny City Society. John will discuss Northside historic preservation opportunities and the importance of protecting not only physical structures, but also the cultural fabric of a community.

The event is free to the public, but seating is limited. Light refreshments will be provided. Please RSVP at

Event Details

Wednesday, July 9th from 6:00-7:30 pm
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh – Allegheny
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA

A Taste of Italy – Another Successful Year

Submitted by Debra Kelly

Trish and I would like to thank everyone who helped contribute to making our wine tasting and tour in June such a huge success! This year, we sold out very early as more people are learning about our annual fundraising event and quite a few are now coming back year after year.

The weather could not have been any better to stroll through some of Allegheny West’s lovely “secret” gardens and beautiful homes. Although some of our guests have been on our tour multiple times, for others it was their first glimpse at the wonderful neighborhood we all get to share on a day to day basis. We served as hosts to 180 guests during the tours, who were divided into groups of 15 and who were led through our neighborhood by experienced guides who shared the history of Allegheny West. This year, our theme was “A Taste of Italy” where guests were served 7 different regional Italian wines and had hors d’oeuvres paired to complement their wines. In addition, they also experienced balsamic vinegar and olive oil tastings and sampled Italian cheeses and loves throughout the evening. Our guides pointed out Italianate style homes as they walked through our streets and taught our guests how to identify that style of home. We also had a Wine Specialist to speak about wine tasting and our wines of the evening and an expert in Italian gardening at several of the houses.

Our guests had very positive things to say about our neighborhood and the tour and expressed gratitude for being able to spend their evening with us. We would also like to thank all the homeowners who spent countless hours preparing their homes and gardens for the tour; volunteers who served as greeters; neighbors who helped make sure everything was spic and span on our streets; to all the people who prepared hors d’oeuvres and desserts and for those who served them and poured the wine; for preparation of the brochures and ticketing for our guests and to all the guides who told the tale of Old Allegheny while leading our guests throughout the neighborhood.

This fundraiser, along with our Christmas tour, allows us to take on projects in the neighborhood which help to make Allegheny West increasingly beautiful from year to year. Without the help from so many people, these events would never happen.

For those of you who have not been actively involved in our fundraising events or have not considered having your home on tour for either of our fundraisers, please consider doing so! We may not think our homes are ready to be on a tour, bas as one of our guests said “it is like walking into Downton Abbey” and your perception of your home will change when you see the awestruck look as some of our guests walk through your home. Please let us know if you would like to have your home on the Christmas tour or to help in some other capacity, so that our fundraising events can continue!

Council Notes

  • Bocce games continue on Thursdays at 6:30 pm, corner of Western Avenue and Rope Way.
  • Erin Tobin is scheduled to update neighbors about the progress for the NE Commons Fountain Project at the July 8th membership meeting.
  • Street sweeping Summer dates:
    • July: Tuesday the 8th and Monday the 14th
    • August: Monday the 11th and Tuesday the 12th

Please note: there will be no general membership meeting in the month of August.


Letter from the President – June 2014

Press close bare-bosom’d night — press close magnetic nourishing night!
Night of south winds — night of the large few stars!
Still nodding night — mad naked summer night.

– Walt Whitman; Song of Myself

I hope you are enjoying your mad, naked summer nights as much as I.  I also hope you enjoyed the first Allegheny West block party, on Memorial Day.  We had a great turnout, and I think a good time was had by all.  Our next block party will be on Independence Day, which falls on July 4 this year.  Mark it on your calendars, s’il vous plait.  Tim Zinn will be e-mailing out an announcement, with additional details, in a few weeks.

AWCC has started collecting donations for the Northside Food Pantry.  You many have seen the collection table at the Memorial Day party.  We intend to do this at all the block parties this year.  While in-kind donations are gratefully accepted, we encourage you to give money.  The reason for this is that the Food Pantry has the ability to purchase food at much lower prices than the average person can.  So, they can stretch your food dollar much farther than you can.  Also, they are not seeking non-food items, other than paper products like toilet tissue.  The Food Pantry is, obviously, a very worthy cause, and we’d like to raise a large donation on behalf of Allegheny West.  You needn’t wait for a block party to donate, either: simply send your check, made payable to “Northside Common Ministries”, to Cathy Serventi at the AWCC office, which is now 806 Western Avenue.

Finally, we have two new neighbors at 808 Western: Jeb Jungwirth and Alissa Martin.  I met them at the closing of the sale of 808, and they seem like very nice people indeed.  So, please welcome them to Allegheny West when you meet them.


Bob Griewahn
President, AWCC