Pennsylvania Bridges – October 2018 – “Good Spirits”

pabridges_october2018_cea92818_web-1The October 2018 edition of Pennsylvania Bridges is now available online & in print.

Pennsylvania Bridges – September 2018 – “A Balancing Act”

pabridges_september_coverThe September edition of Pennsylvania Bridges “A Balancing Act” – is now available online and in print.

Thoughts from our Editor: September 2018

balances_commerce_186107About six years ago, my first – and, to date, last – novel, was published by a small press. Titled The Heart Absent, it was a story about Jack the Ripper in love, a tale of My Fair Lady gone horribly wrong.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Jack the Ripper crimes and began writing the novel when I was in my mid-20s. However, life intervened, and it wasn’t until I was in my early 30s a motive and a means to finish the novel presented itself in the form of Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program. In the program, in order to earn a Master of Fine Arts, I had to produce a novel deemed suitable for publication.

Seems simple enough, no? Open a vein and pour your heart out on a page, then on another, and another, until you’ve bled yourself dry and, yet, in your hands you hold a living, breathing story, a creation that sprang solely from you. Doesn’t sound so simple now, does it?

The truth is writing is hard work. I often tell my students that writing is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration and that the most difficult part of writing is actually doing it, the literal act of putting your derriere in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard. You have to treat it like a job and carve out hours in your schedule to devote to the task.

Combined with the realities of life – work, family, and other real-world commitments – maintaining a regular schedule for writing can be daunting at best and near impossible at worst. Like Dr. Lee McClain, one of my instructors at Seton Hill told me, you have to strike a careful balance between life, work, and play, and the only way to accomplish that balancing act is to learn how to tell people “no.”

I’ve never been shying about stealing or sharing great advice, and it’s a nugget I impart to my students as well. Learn to say no, I tell my own students nowadays, usually in the first week of the semester. Don’t be afraid to tell people “not right now, I’m studying and/or writing.” Guard your time like the priceless gem it is, treasure each moment for there will never be another like it.

Speaking of moments, the ones I spent as a graduate student at Seton Hill were among some of my happiest, which is one of several reasons I was thrilled just last month when I was asked to come back to campus, this time as an instructor of writing for a new generation of students. Five days a week you can now find me up at the crack of dawn, driving to the “Hill” to teach composition classes to Seton Hill freshmen before then driving to Uniontown, where I also teach at a community college. It’s left me with a lot less time to devote to Pennsylvania Bridges, and in order to remain the quality of the publication you deserve and have come to expect, I’ve been thankful for the assistance of my fellow editors, our amazing team of writers, and at least one good friend.

Walking this tightrope isn’t easy, but nothing worth having ever is, has been, or ever will be. Thanks for reading!

Until next month, Carla E. Anderton

Mental Health Spotlight: Suicide Awareness & Prevention

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. All month, mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, allies and community members unite to promote suicide prevention awareness. This subject has been the focus of three Spotlights that I have previously presented. It’s that important as this will be number four.

Unfortunately, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the suicide rate in our country has risen sharply between 1999 and 2016. The report was released on June 7, 2018 and found an increase across all states except one, Nevada, which recorded a decline of 1% but remains higher overall than the national average. Tucked away in those shocking statistics is perhaps the most sobering: In more than half of all deaths in 27 states, the people had no known mental health condition when they ended their lives.

Although there were increases across the board among age, gender, race and ethnicity, one demographic stood out with a sharp increase. The rise in the rates of death by suicide from 2000 to 2016, the increase was significantly larger for females, increasing by 21 percent for boys and men, compared with 50 percent for girls and women. For females between the ages of 45 and 64, the suicide rate increased by 60 percent.

Nearly 45,000 suicides occurred in the United States in 2016, more than twice the number of homicides, making it the 10th-leading cause of death. Among people ages 15 to 34, suicide is the second-leading cause of death.

As I mentioned in my July Spotlight, this is a perfect time to reach out to that person in your social circle that may be hurting. Remember that statistic at the beginning of this article, more than 50% of suicides in 27 states had NO previous mental health diagnosis. This disease strike fast and the effects are lasting on all of us who are left behind. Children may be raised without a parent, your favorite sibling my now just be an empty chair at Thanksgiving, your best fishing buddy my no longer be available on those long weekends. Simply because we are too beholden to stigma and don’t have the courage for fear of exasperating a situation. Since it’s awareness month, read up on it a little. Many times, people don’t know how to ask for help or even realize they need it. It’s simply easier to push it aside. Unfortunately, as these statistics illustrate, there is a grave cost.

World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10th. It’s a time to remember those affected by suicide, to raise awareness, and to focus efforts on directing treatment to those who need it most. National Suicide Prevention Week is the Monday through Sunday surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day.

It’s a time to share resources and stories, as well as promote suicide prevention awareness.

BREAKING NEWS: On August 14, 2018, H.R. 2345: National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018 was enacted. This Act will create a simple three-digit hotline number (like 911) for a NATIONAL suicide hotline.

This is a pretty big deal, in my humble opinion, as it is far easier to remember a three-digit number than the long one that is in existence now. I will update when I hear what the number will be. Currently, a committee will be formed to work with the FCC to determine what the number will be. Final form will follow the existing Number-1-1 format.

NEED HELP? IN THE U.S., CALL 1-800-273-8255 FOR THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE.

*Mental Health Spotlight is an opinion based column. Any resources mentioned are provided for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the specialized training and professional judgment of a health care or mental health care professional.

Written by Fred Terling for Pennsylvania Bridges

Southwestern Pintsylvania: Allegheny City Brewing

alleghenycitybrewingAllegheny City Brewing is located in the heart of the North Side of Pittsburgh. It’s not far from the major stadiums but is still tucked away enough to feel cozy yet welcoming. Last month, I sat down with Al Grasso, one of the owners and head brewers at Allegheny City Brewing. He owns and runs the brewery with his significant other, Amy Yurkovich, and her brother, Matt Yurkovich. In the mid-2000s, the three of them moved to Colorado and fell in love with the craft beer scene there. Not only is it generally thought to be a top-notch state for craft beer, the abundance, from what Grasso says, is astounding. The three of them did a lot of hiking and backpacking and Grasso remembers that in almost all the small towns they stopped in to rest, there was a local brewery or brewpub.

Thanks to this, Grasso became interested in homebrewing, and M. Yurkovich soon followed. They soon realized that not only the volume they could produce but also the quality of beer they put out, was influenced by the type and quality of the equipment they used. They slowly started to upgrade to bigger and better setups to push the beers they were brewing. The three of them then decided to move back to Pittsburgh to both be closer to family, since the three of them are from here, and to open a brewery. A. Yurkovich ended up working full time on the brewery while Grasso had a full-time job as the head of sales and marketing for a commercial construction company and M. Yurkovich took a part-time temp job. Eventually, they transitioned and were all full time at the brewery.

Allegheny City is by far not the only brewery in the area. There are a few others in North Side alone, and plenty more in southwestern Pennsylvania. Grasso says that the quality of beer that everyone puts out is great. No one, in his opinion, puts out bad beer, and he thinks this will help make Pittsburgh a craft beer vacation destination. The fact that most of the Pittsburgh craft breweries are small allows them to not only experiment with different things, such as fruiting beers but also ensures you aren’t going to have the same beer twice at different locations. If a brewery wants to be known for a type of beer, that’s great, but some, like Allegheny City, want to be known as a neighborhood pub and gathering place. They want to be welcoming to everyone and try to have something for all tastes whether you are looking for an IPA, a sour beer, or something similar to a Miller Lite. He thinks that at this point what people seem to what is a clean, refreshing beer that they can sip while relaxing at a BBQ, on the patio, or just out with friends and not need to worry about it having a high ABV.

Because of the variances within each brewery or brewpub, Grasso doesn’t think you should check them out over any other brewery. You should check them out and then everyone else because each location is unique and special.

Regardless of which brewery you are visiting, he (as someone on the board of the newly formed Pittsburgh Brewers Guild and brewery owner) follows the motto “A rising tide raises all ships.” Patronizing other places will just help them all in the long run, which is something they try to do already anyway.

If a brewer needs advice, a bag of grain, yeast, or anything, really, Grasso says that they can just go on to social media, email, or make a phone call and get it from another local brewer. They try to help each other and work together.

Since Grasso has made the transition from homebrewing to brewing as a career, I asked him what advice he has for homebrewers that want to open up their own breweries. At first, he laughed and said “don’t do it!” but made it clear that he was joking. His real advice was to realize that it is not just a 6-8 month process, it is a years-long process. It takes a lot of time, money, and energy. Your beers need to be on point from the start or you won’t make it. He also said that the best piece of advice he received was from another local brewery, and that was to take your budget and double it, and take your schedule and double it. What you initially thought it would take isn’t enough.

Grasso ended it by saying “It is a journey, but it’s 1000% worth it.”

Allegheny City is located at 507 Foreland Street in Pittsburgh.

FMI: Call 412-904-3732

Hours: Wed: 5-10, Thu: 5-10, Fri: 4-12, Sat: 2-12, & Sun: 12-7.

Story by Reanna Roberts for Pennsylvania Bridges

Author’s Note: I am working on setting up interviews with other Southwest PA breweries. Is there a brewery you’d like me to cover? Reach out to me via email – PABridges.Reanna@comcast.net

“Expensive habit” becomes business for Brownsville yogi

Route40YogaWhen Paige Goozdich of Brownsville, PA, was searching for a healthful physical routine after her daughter was born, she already knew that traditional exercise held no appeal. On her sister’s advice, Goozdich tried yoga and, in a short time, was floored by the experience.

I started going to classes and loved the laughter, and that there was an 80 year old man there doing arm balance next to me. So, I knew I wanted to do this,” Goozdich said, continuing, “It just became an obsession with me, five and six days a week going to classes. Yoga’s an expensive habit…for me, it was more of an investment if I wanted to do this as a career. I wanted to put my money into my own practice so I could be a good, strong, valuable teacher.”

In 2017, Goozdich took the next step toward a career in yoga by enrolling in Alliance Yoga’s 200 hour training program at Yoga H’Om in Robinson Township, PA. In addition to receiving traditional hatha instruction with “great trainers” Maggie and Terry, she had another month of additional, unexpected training — in the business of yoga. Yoga H’om covered “all of the business aspects of opening and running a yoga studio, and what to expect when working with other people.”

Fortunately for Goozdich, when the time came to put her yoga and business training into action, she was already surrounded by helpful entrepreneurs and, importantly, an available location.

Travelers along National Pike – celebrating its bicentennial this year – are likely familiar with National Pike Chiropractic at 565 National Pike West in Brownsville, which is owned by Goozdich’s father, Lee. Her mother, Ruthann Goozdich, also runs her counseling center at the same location. And as of June, 2018, Paige has been running her new studio, Route 40 Yoga, in the same building.

“My studio shares space with my dad’s chiropractic office and my mother’s family counseling (practice), and my father owns the building so it’s just one big family” Goozdich said. “The whole mind, body, spiritual aspect of yoga seemed to make sense in that building.”

Goozdich also credits her boyfriend, David Dinger, with “the support I needed to get into my own business.” Dinger, a Marine veteran, is also an entrepreneur, having opened DWD Equipment Transportation in Washington, PA in 2017.

According to Goozdich, residents of Brownsville and surrounding communities will find “the perfect introduction to yoga” at Route 40 Yoga. “For me, I definitely feel like I’m a different kind of teacher as far as things I offer students in the area. I come from a more physical anatomy aspect. I focus more on breath work than chanting (which some may find intimidating),” Goozdich said, adding that “I’m trying to be every man’s yogi. I have a 16 year old and an 84 year old. I wanted everybody to try yoga at some point to experience the physical or mental, or even spiritual.”

But because some traditional spiritual aspects of yoga can “be a really big hangup for people coming to yoga,” Goozdich chooses to focus more on breath work and physical poses than on the spiritual. “I’m perfectly content with being a stepping stone studio to get people in the door. And if they want something more spiritually fulfilling, there are more studios in the metropolitan areas that have those aspects.”

Goozdich describes her journey from her first yoga class to her new studio as “a life-changing experience. I always thought it was glorified stretching…(but) there is so much more to it than I could ever believe from the pictures and calming, breathy voices.”

To begin your own journey in yoga, visit Route 40 Yoga at facebook.com/Route-40-Yoga-226329304631156/ Traditional Hatha classes are held on Monday and Wednesday from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m., Thursday morning from 9:30 – 10:30, and a lunch class runs from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. on Fridays.

Story by Keren Lee Dreyer for Pennsylvania Bridges

New Mural Panels Add Interest to Downtown Brownsville

cast_ironThose that drive or walk along Market Street in Brownsville will find a new addition that adds a good deal of eye appeal to the cityscape.

On the facade of Iron Bridge Crossings, a newly opened apartment complex located at 5 Market Street, artist Marlana Adele Vassar added two 8-by-10-foot mural panels designed to showcase the town’s rich history.

Raised in Uniontown but now residing in Pittsburgh, Vassar conferred with former mayor Norma Ryan, who took her around town to show her some of the sites that could serve as inspiration for the mural. Eventually, Vassar chose to create the murals with a theme on the town’s rail, river and road heritage.

The National Road runs right through town, and the mural titled “Young Explorers” includes several historic photos of what downtown looked like in the mid-20th century along with other relevant images provided by the Brownsville Area Revitalization Corporation (BARC).

“The artwork features two young people learning about different landmarks and historical elements of the town,” said Vassar. “I’ve left the figures blank and included a male and female child, so that viewers could envision themselves as part of the artwork regardless of their sex or race.”

“The blank figures also stand for a blank slate, since the future is something that cannot be predicted,” she continued. “I’ve also included a bright palette to draw viewers in and provide a contrast against the black and white elements, with bold flowing lines to bring attention to the entire piece.”

In her career, Vassar had created other public commissions including a group of eight outdoor paintings for the city of Ithaca, New York, and a group of murals for New York Cares at a site in the Bronx.

During a residency at the Brew House, an artist collective housed in the old Duquesne Brewery on Pittsburgh’s South Side, she mentioned to Natalie Sweet, who is in charge of the residency program, and Chris McGinnis, chief curator for Rivers of Steel, that she was interested in public commission work.

After consulting with BARC and submitting a proposal in April 2017, she received notice that the commission was approved by late May 2018.

“The project was developed by Rivers of Steel Arts and the Brew House Association (BHA) in partnership with the City of Brownsville and TREK Development Group [which owns Cast Iron Crossings], McGinnis said. “While enrolled in the Distillery 8 residency at BHA, Vassar worked collaboratively with stakeholders to develop a concept that reflected the unique history of Brownsville and a positive vision for its future.”

In late June, Vassar enlarged the photos of town provided by BARC and glued them to the murals. She then painted around them to finish the panels, then added a layer of outdoor clear coat to protect them from the weather. On Monday, August 6, she and McGinnis transported them by truck to Brownsville where they mounted them on the facade of the Iron Bridge Crossings building by early afternoon.

“It was a pleasure to work with the Brew House Association on this mural project and bring some creative energy to the city of Brownsville’s historic downtown!” said McGinnis. “We are grateful to Trek Development Group for sharing in our vision and providing the perfect location in which to showcase Marlana Vassar’s unique design. We hope this colorful mural will encourage the community to celebrate their unique history and inspire a new generation of Young Explorers.”

Story by Dave Zuchowski for Pennsylvania Bridges

Coming Home: Grateful for a Second Chance

tom_and_randyIn May of 1986, Randy’s car hit a tractor-trailer that had jack-knifed in the road and was stretched across both lanes of traffic.

“I should have died,” Randy explained.

Rescuers had to cut the top of his car off to pull him out. His leg was shattered.

It was his third DUI.

“I showed up to court in October with my leg still in a cast. But I did get to dry out at the hospital. I went through two weeks of withdrawal pains. The doctor offered me medication, but I said no. I needed the pain to remind me why I had to quit drinking.”

“The judge was lenient on me,” Randy said.

He was sentenced to 90 days in prison, the minimum sentence.

Randy, who has been homeless off and on for over twenty years, started drinking in the Army when he was stationed in West Germany after attaining the rank of Sergeant (E-5) and being promoted to Crew Leader of a team of indirect-fire infantrymen.

“It was a very stressful job,” he said. “Instead of turning to God, I turned to the bottle.”

After serving in the Army for five and a half years, he tried to adjust to civilian life in 1983, as an active alcoholic, and he struggled with alcoholism until the accident three years later.

“I knew I had a problem, but I was afraid to change. I didn’t know how to change,” he said.

After his accident and his time in prison, he came out with the attitude that he was done drinking, and he had only one relapse after that on Father’s Day 1987. On his way home that night, driving on winding, dirt roads, he nearly drove over a hillside.

“That night scared me sober,” he explained. “I couldn’t sleep for two days.”

He has been sober ever since. That was 31 years ago.

For the past six months, Randy lived in a tent in the woods near the Taylorstown exit off I-70.

“My friend bought me a red and white tent,” Randy said. “I told him I was going to stick out like a sore thumb.”

To hide his tent so no one knew he lived there, he found some natural camouflage between a walnut tree and a sycamore.

“It was home,” he said. “It kept me warm and dry.”

He had a bucket to collect the cleanest water he could find from a nearby creek to bathe in. Then, he would head off to work as a driver for a local auto auction, where he worked for three years.

A few weeks ago, right around the time he lost that job, Randy saw a story in the newspaper about Steven Adams, the new manager of Veterans Services at City Mission.

“This is my biggest chance to get help,” he told himself. “City Mission is paying attention to veterans. If I have any chance at all, this is it.”

Randy showed up at City Mission, and presented his discharge paperwork, which, along with letters of commendation and certificates from the Army, he had kept through 20 years of intermittent homelessness — a testament to how much his service meant to him.

“My service to my country and my time as a volunteer firefighter are the things I’m most proud of in my life,” he said. “I was born with a desire to help people.”

When Adams heard that Randy was a veteran, he pulled him out of the men’s shelter and into the Patriot House, City Mission’s newly-constructed residence for homeless veterans.

Randy-and-Adam-2“My job is to fish veterans out of the intake process and get them hooked up with the services they need,” Adams said. “We got Randy a bed that night, and we’re getting ready to set him up with the VA in Pittsburgh.”

“The Patriot House is the best place there could be,” Randy said after a week in his new home. “If you’re really looking for help, you can find it here. I’m grateful to God for giving me a second chance at life. This is an answer to prayer.”

Randy has an Associates Degree in Construction Technology from Triangle Tech and has held an impressive variety of jobs: a security guard, a maintenance manager, a garbage truck driver, a delivery man, a machine operator, and an electrical conduit bender.

“All my life, I could never get the support I needed. I’d get a job, but it was never enough. There were lots of times I was homeless while I was working. I tried to be as frugal as I could, but I could never save any money. I used it all to live on.”

After Randy’s first few days at the Patriot House, Adams drove him back to his campsite to clean it up and salvage what they could.

“On the way back,” Adams said, “I asked Randy how he felt to be heading to City Mission after we just ripped down his house. He told me, ‘I feel like I’m going home.’”

Time to Star Party! Visit the Mingo Creek Observatory

Mingo_buildingNow that the sun is setting on this rainy summer and fall is approaching quickly, it’s time to find new activities to replace those trips to the pool. One is fairly close in Washington County at a place most of us may have enjoyed a picnic or two this summer, Mingo Creek County Park.

The Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh, Inc. (AAAP) owns and operates the Mingo Creek Observatory and hosts Star Parties throughout the year. With over 300 members, the AAAP has promoted popular astronomy in western Pennsylvania for over eighty-five years. It is one of the larger astronomy clubs in the nation.

The Mingo Creek Observatory was built in the spring through summer of 2004 and officially dedicated in August of 2005. The mission of the Mingo Creek Park Observatory is to educate and make freely available to a diverse public of all ages programs on astronomy and the preservation of dark skies. The facility is a focal point for scheduled public viewing evenings (Star Parties), as well as the recreational and scientific observations of the membership.

During Star Parties visitors are able to view celestial objects through the observatory’s two large permanent telescopes, or any of a wide variety of portable telescopes set up on the spacious grounds by members. If you prefer, many visitors bring their own telescopes, binoculars or just use their eyes.

Before starting out be sure and check the sky conditions. If the sky is overcast, or the forecast indicates rain, consider waiting for the next scheduled party (most are Friday/Saturday dual night events). If there are just a few scattered clouds with clear sky between, come on up. You can call the Mingo Creek Park Observatory at 724-348-6150 to confirm sky conditions.

Big_telescopeAll Star Parties are free, as is parking. Just be courteous when pulling up if night has fallen and kill your headlights as it takes, on average, thirty minutes for full night vision to kick in. This is optimal for star gazing.

No alcoholic beverages nor smoking is permitted. Also, although it may seem tempting, leave the blankets behind. With all the cars pulling in without headlights, it would be easy to overlook someone laying on the ground. Folding lounge chairs are encouraged, particularly on nights viewing meteor showers.

The location of the Mingo Creek Park Observatory is 1 Shelter 10 Road, Finleyville, PA  15332.

FMI and a full schedule of events, visit: www.3ap.org

Story by Fred Terling for Pennsylvania Bridges

Pastor Dawn Hargraves: Great news about Good Eats!

adolescents_children_200430Just this morning, Beth Baxter, President of the California Rotary stopped to see me. She wanted an update on the Good Eats Program. She mentioned that it would be good if more folks had this update. I am thankful for that suggestion and the subsequent approval of Carla Anderton, Editor-in-Chief of Pennsylvania Bridges. And so, here is the latest news about Good Eats:

Good Eats is a weekend food ministry born at California United Methodist Church to help food-insecure students at California Area Elementary School. Last year, Good Eats received much needed support through a cooperative effort with California University of Pennsylvania. The university’s Center for Volunteer Programs and Service Learning assigned an intern to the program; this assistance helped us to better manage our food inventory. We improved the logistics of our operations, which include volunteers picking up and unloading food in preparation for volunteer teams to stock food and then pack it in bags for transport to the California Area Elementary School. The bags are distributed there to eligible/participating students in Kindergarten through 4th grade to take home on Fridays.

During the 2017-2018 school year, the Good Eats program served from 80 to 113 students per week: 26 weeks X approximately 100 students = 3600 bags!

The good news of Good Eats is abundant. We are excited that the Good Eats program will now be based at the California Area Elementary School. All Good Eats work at the school will take place after school hours. Housing the program at the school will improve logistics, meet people power needs, and increase accessibility to food. For example, the number of trips needed for food delivery will be reduced to just one trip, extra bags and food will be on hand for teachers who encounter emergency needs, and undistributed food bags can be quickly restocked. The food will be where it is needed.

More good news: with the tremendous financial support we’ve received from the community, civic organizations, and churches—plus the award of two grants—Good Eats will now serve students in two additional grades, covering students in Kindergarten through 6th grade. Students who receive reduced-price lunches will receive a bag of food on Fridays. A few weeks after the school year begins, the parents/grandparents/guardians of these students can choose to opt out of the program. As always, the bags will be distributed discreetly to respect the dignity of the students.

The Good Eats program continues to set big goals. We are earnestly seeking corporate and individual sponsorships. Because we purchase food through the Washington County Food Bank, having the program half- or fully funded by such sponsorships would allow us to consider further expansion. Financial support and specific food donations are welcomed and accepted by calling California United Methodist Church at 724-938-2270.

We are grateful to the California area for its continual support of this program. Thank you to Cal U, local churches and civic organizations, individual contributors, California United Methodist Church, California Area Elementary School, and all the volunteers.

Good Eats – feeding school-age children every weekend during the school year so that every child thrives and learns. Now that’s good news!

In hope, Pastor Dawn