Category Archives: community

Students in Action program continues to earn accolades

Students in Action members Jakob Sabatula (left), Jayda Smith, and Andrew Haven, along with sponsor Kellie Polvinale, gather outside the Brownsville Free Public Library, where the team is creating a teen space.

Students in Action members Jakob Sabatula (left), Jayda Smith, and Andrew Haven, along with sponsor Kellie Polvinale, gather outside the Brownsville Free Public Library, where the team is creating a teen space.

According to Newton’s first law of motion, an object at rest will stay at rest and a body in motion will remain in motion, unless acted on by an external force; in Brownsville that force is Students in Action.

The high school program started seven years ago continues to influence the direction of growth in the downtown area. In the 2011-12 school year, a group of six students approached Brownsville Borough Council with a proposal to put a stage next to the library. The idea evolved until it became a park with a concert gazebo adjacent to the Market Street parking lot along Dunlap Creek. A private developer has constructed senior apartments across the street.

“From people not being able to get things moving, six kids were able to make it happen,” said Kellie Polvinale, one of the current teacher sponsors of SIA.

Polivinale and Rebecca Harvey, both kindergarten teachers, were asked to take over the program at the start of last school year after the first sponsor, Kelli Dellarose took a new position. Polvinale said they were tapped as the sponsors because Harvey’s son was a senior in the program last year and Polvinale’s younger sister had been one of the founding members of the group. Polvinale said the new superintendent, Dr. Keith Hartbauer, has been very supportive of SIA.

“He was very proud of what this team had accomplished and wanted to keep it going,” Polvinale said.

The SIA team is made up of two students from the sophomore, junior and senior classes, with two new sophomores selected through applications and interviews each fall, giving the team continuity and experience from year to year. This year’s SIA team included seniors Jaden Harvey and Andrew Havens, juniors Jayda Jones and Salanieta Waqanivalu and sophomores Sainiana Waqanivalu and Jakob Sabatula.

“At first I wondered why we kept it so small. I looked at other schools that had 30, 40, 50 students involved,” Polvinale said.

Polvinale said she has come to realize that the small team is actually able to accomplish more than a large group.

“Since there are only six of us, if people don’t do their job, you can tell,” Jones said.

SIA is a national student leadership program started by the Jefferson Awards Foundation, designed for students to pursue public service including their entire school and the wider community for maximum impact.

Jones said she was very active at Brownsville Area High School her freshman year, serving as class president and joining other activities.

“But it was all school oriented. I noticed our community wasn’t doing so well,” Jones said.

When the opportunity came up to apply for SIA, she jumped at it, seeing it as a chance to impact the town.

Sabatula said he was influenced by the work of the teams that had gone before him.

“My freshman year, seeing the past SIA members, it was very inspiring. When the stage project was first announced and the sign was put up with the amount they needed to reach, it really motivated me. The stage being completed has spurred other projects in town,” Sabatula said.

Jones said the current team at first thought about ways to bring more businesses to town, even to the point of considering what type of business they would like to start, but realized that running their own business would be impractical.

Smith said the team realized it would be easier to get people from outside of Brownsville to invest in the town if the people who live in the community are already utilizing the resources that are there.

The current SIA team is working to develop a teen space at Brownsville Free Library. The project started with the idea of developing a basement room of the library into a place where teens could collaborate on projects, learn new skills and just have a place to call their own. The library board has asked the students to consider an addition to the library, which would provide even more opportunities. The team has visited other community libraries over the past year to see how teen spaces have been developed and have settled on a model which provides the tools students need, such as sewing machines or guitars, but generally doesn’t have formal programs.

“We’re in the very beginning stages,” Polvinale said. “They want a place where they can get together and share resources and help one another.”

Although the teen space is just a concept at the moment, the project was strong enough to garner first place in the national Jefferson Awards competition this year. Sitting through the awards ceremony was difficult, the students said.

“It was nerve-wracking. Had we done enough to win? These other schools had done amazing things,” Jones said.

The students said that when the bronze and silver winners were announced and only gold was left, they assumed they hadn’t won, but were ready to get back to work on their project.

“When I realized we had won, I didn’t hear anything else that was said,” Haven said.

Polvinale said the Jefferson Awards committee realizes that big projects take time and start with big ideas.

“The original team won on just an idea,” Polvinale said. “What they see with these students is they want to make impacts that will last years and years. When Jakob goes off to college, that stage will still be there.”

Sabatula said it took determination to complete the stage project.

“Just one step at a time, and it carries on by itself. We had the help and support, it was unbelievable,” Sabatula said. “Once we came across a problem, we worked on it as a team and found a solution and kept moving forward.”

Story by Christine Haines for Pennsylvania Bridges

Ghost of club animates Mon Valley Academy for the Arts

JoeCampusThe Twin Coaches Supper Club, formerly on Route 51 in Rostraver Township, was a swinging big band joint with a history spanning from the early 1930s through its fiery demise in October of 1977.

The club was purchased in 1944 by Rose and Tony Calderone, who brought major acts to their newly enlarged hotspot – a must-stop venue for touring performers. Legends such as Tony Bennett, Charleroi native Shirley Jones, Canonsburg’s own Perry Como, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sammy Davis, Jr., graced the club’s stage through the years. Backed by the Frankie Barr Orchestra, whose top-notch professional musicians made easy work of even the most intricate of scores, the sound and scene were the best around.

Sometime in 1997, Charleroi resident and professional drummer, Mark Smith, purchased a 1938 vintage Slingerland Radio King drum kit. Further research revealed it was owned and played by original Frankie Barr Orchestra drummer Glenn Brady. And sometime in 2015, when Smith came across two suitcases full of 68 handwritten music charts from the Coaches, he decided it was time to breathe new interest into the Valley’s music scene.

Smith met with Susan Sparks, an artist with experience in non-profit arts management, and California area representative Pete Daley, to discuss the possibility of forming a charter music school or performance center with the idea “to take art to different venues.” But without sufficient funds or additional personnel, a clear pathway for their idea was not evident. However, Smith, with big band charts in hand and keen interest from original members of the Frankie Barr Orchestra, created an event to turn the ghost of Twin Coaches Supper Club into a living, breathing phenomenon.

On November 16, 2016 “A Night at The Coaches” gala music event took place. “We had a reunion concert at Belle Vernon High School, geared on the Coaches show, including nine members of the Coaches band,” Smith enthused, “It was our first big venue. We had 350 people for a two hour show dedicated to memory of the Coaches, a dance troupe, and five featured vocalists.”

Though the show was a great success, it also revealed a somber truth about arts in the Mon Valley. “We said ‘there is a void here,’” Smith explained, continuing “I made a living in the Valley playing. And in the Valley, the arts have fallen apart…for the last 15 – 20 years work has become difficult. In the Valley’s heyday you could make a living as a musician and raise a family. (In more recent years) it has dwindled, and all my colleagues have trouble, too.”

Still, “Memory of the Coaches sparked this renewed effort for live entertainment” in the Valley, Smith said. So, to fill the void, Smith and company “decided to create and incorporate Mon Valley Academy for the Arts (MVAA, a 501(c)(3), with Smith as president). Our mission is to create cultural events and incubate younger players with older players.”

To find those players, Joe Campus, 83, a trumpet player, conductor, and arranger from the Coaches “came up with the idea of the Twin Coaches Junior Stage Band,” Smith said. “We went to local middle and high schools and recruited 17 student musicians. Each had to be interviewed, auditioned, and rehearsed, just like the Coaches band.”

Students from areas traversing Woodland Hills to Waynesburg passed muster and became part of the junior stage band. With mentoring and teaching help from Duquesne University graduates, along with Joe Campus, those students are learning the ins and outs of both music performance and the music business.

Smith said of the mentoring process “We talk to them about the economy of the business – how to be on time, how to dress, how to spend your money, how to practice. We talk about the whole rounded business of being a professional musician.”

MVAA_JazzTrioFunding for charts, advertising, and more is provided in part by the Frick Tri-County Credit Union, which sponsored the junior stage band and provided an additional perk for each student who completed their 2017 concert: A $200 cash scholarship. An additional perk for the student musicians was playing with Joe Campus’s former Twin Coaches Supper Club band. “We did this as a tribute to Joe. We want to keep the junior stage band intact so it’s a working band with its own jobs” Smith said.

Word of the junior orchestra is out and having positive effects for live music in the Valley. In addition to Chess Park concerts by jazz and big band acts, along with The Twin Coaches Junior Jazz Trio, Smith received a “great call from a local dance studio that wants to do a dance recital with the Twin Coaches Junior Orchestra. Over the years, dance recitals went to records and CDs, but we’re talking about live music with dancers on the stage.”

The Mon Valley Academy for the Arts has also grown into its own permanent office at the newly renovated Mon Valley Chamber of Commerce Building, along with enjoying an expanded volunteer board, advisory board, and staff. Additional funding to keep the programs running is an ongoing need, and the MVAA continues working on grants to help cover expenses.

To find out more about the Mon Valley Academy for the Arts and its upcoming events, including its November, 2018 gala, art shows, and more, friend them at facebook.com/pg/monvalleyacademyforthearts.org/ and for the Twin Coaches Orchestra Project, facebook.com/groups/1694687720747275/about/ Contact MVAA via e-mail at info@monvalleyacademyforthearts.org

Story by Keren Lee Dreyer for Pennsylvania Bridges

Bedner’s Farm and Greenhouse: More than Flowers & Veggies

bednars3I’m not sure that Stephen and Elizabeth Bedner could have foreseen the generational farming heritage their family would spawn in the years following their beginning acreage in Upper St. Clair in 1917. For decades their family would grow exponentially as would their farming community. It would even reach as far south as Palm Beach County in 1960. In 1985, the effort expanded to 42 acres in McDonald, Pennsylvania delivering fresh vegetables and hanging flower baskets to their retail shop in Upper St. Clair. In 2000, four more greenhouses were built to grow more container gardens and perennials. In 2006, a nexus garden was built to be used as a larger retail space in McDonald, Pennsylvania to include an expanded perennial section and a nursery area. Nexus gardens are greenhouses using heating and cooling for food and floriculture production. Finally, Passiflora Springs debuts as their newest venture into wine making.

Currently, Bedner’s Farm and Greenhouse is a member of six associations including Washington County Farm Bureau and American Nursery and Landscape Association. Additionally, the farm has strong community support from fourteen organizations including Pittsburgh Botanic Garden and Cecil Township Parks and Recreation.

In keeping with its commitment to community, Bedner’s has added many social events to their retail offering of plants, vegetables and flowers. All the following take place at their location at 315 Coleman Road, McDonald, PA 15057. You can contact them at (724) 926-2541. Their hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Weekend hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They have a Facebook page at BednarGreenhouse.

August 2, 5, 9, 12, 16, 19, 23, 26 and 30 – 11 am – 2 p.m., U-Pick Veggies

Pick your own vegetables at their Family Farm. Stop by anytime between the hours of 11 a.m.- 2 p.m.  They provide the picking containers. $15 per chip basket.

August 4 – 2 p.m. – 3 p.m., Sandcast Leaf Birdbath

In this workshop, you’ll cast your very own garden-ready birdbath. $15 per person. Registration is required.

August 12 – 2 p.m. – 3 p.m., Rock Fairy Houses

Join local artist Jane Irwin as she guides you step by step to paint several of these adorable rock fairy houses. No prior art experience is necessary. Painting will be adapted to work with every level of artist. Fee: $20, includes instruction and all materials. Registration is required to hold your spot. Max class size of 15 people.

August 12 – 2 p.m. – 3 p.m., Monthly Weed Walk

Meet at the store entrance to go on an educational plant walk around our property with expert Jen Dalke.

August 18 – 10 am – 11 am, Yoga on the Farm

Take your yoga practice outdoors for an invigorating and peaceful yoga experience. Increase your strength and flexibility while soothing your mind, body and spirit. Classes will be led by Kristen Kolenda RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) and adapted for all age and experience levels. $10 per class.

August 18 – 2 p.m. – 3 p.m., Fairy Garden Workshop

Enjoy building your very own miniature garden in this all ages workshop.

Construct enchanting fairy hideaways with tools and supplies included in the class fee. Participants will take home one fairy garden with plants, accessories, and character for $35.

August 18 @ 6 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., Fields to Fork Wine Dinner

Enjoy a scenic hayride through their fields, live music and a multi-course dinner prepared with homegrown produce and other locally produced foods. Each dinner course will be paired with a wine selection from the debut of Bednars’ own winery, Passiflora Springs. Guest Restauranteur and Wine Connoisseur Debbie Curigliano, Piccolina’s Guest Chef Chelsey Rawson and Piccolina’s Winemaker Russ Bedner. $125 per person, tax and gratuity included. 21 and over. Tickets available online only at www.bednersgreenhouse.com and are nonrefundable. The menu is pre-set. Please indicate any food allergies at the time of ticket purchase. Flat footwear is recommended, as this is a true farm experience. In the case of inclement weather, this rain or shine, outdoor event will be held inside the greenhouse. Tickets will be on sale until August 8.

August 19 – 1 p.m. – 2 p.m., Canning Exhibit and Dial Gauge Testing

Home Food Preservation Canning & Freezing Basics An extension educator will be available to teach you all you need to know about canning fruits and veggies. Presented by Dori Owczarzak, Extension Educator. For more information, call: Penn State Extension 724-858-4208.

August 19 – 2 p.m. – 3 p.m., Succulent Centerpiece

Join local artist Jane Irwin as she guides you step by step to paint and plant an adorable centerpiece. Succulents will be planted at the bottom of the dish.  No prior art experience is necessary. Painting will be adapted to work with every level of artist. Fee: $40, includes instruction and all materials. Registration is required to hold your spot. Max class size of 15 people.

August 23 – 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., The Surprising Benefits of Goldenrod

Join expert Jen Dalke to learn all about goldenrod and make a tincture to take home. All supplies included. $15 per person.

August 25 – 12 p.m. – 2 p.m., Hypertufa Planter Workshop

Create one, or more, hypertufa containers to take home. They have recycled materials for you to use as molds but feel free to bring your own. Items like planters, dishpans, baskets, soda bottles, etc. will all work. Please bring your own rubber gloves, if desired! $25 per person.

August 25 – 2 p.m. – 3 p.m., Terrarium Workshop

Learn how to make your own terrarium and how to keep them healthy and thriving year-round. Then, you can make your own terrarium to take home. $15 per person includes instruction, planting soil, rocks, moss, twigs and stone selection and light refreshments.

August 26 – 2 p.m. – 3 p.m., “Bee Happy” Garden Sign

Join local artist Jane Irwin as she guides you step by step to paint a rustic garden sign. No prior art experience is necessary. Painting will be adapted to work with every level of artist. Fee: $20, includes all supplies and step-by-step painting instruction, Registration is required. Max class size of 15 people.

August 30 – 3 p.m. – 5 p.m., DIY: Crafting Wild Medicine 101

Master the art of making your own herbal remedies. Discuss how to make tinctures, syrups, salves and more. $20 per person.

For more information and events, visit Bedner’s Farm and Greenhouse at: www.bednersgreenhouse.com.

Story by Fred Terling for Pennsylvania Bridges

Southwestern Pintsylvania: The Lipkes from Leaning Cask

Leaning Cask brewer Joshua Lipke and his co-owner and wife, Stefanie Lipke

Leaning Cask brewer Joshua Lipke and his co-owner and wife, Stefanie Lipke

This month, I sat down with Leaning Cask brewer Joshua Lipke and his co-owner and wife, Stefanie Lipke, in Springdale, PA. The brewery has been open for a little over a year, but Joshua has been brewing a lot longer than that. He, like many others, started with a homebrewing hobby and expanded. The turning point for the Lipkes to take the step from homebrewing to opening their own brewpub was a trip to England in the mid-2000s. While there, they tried cask ales, which are a bit different than what you normally get in the U.S. in terms of brewing and serving style.

The brewery has three authentic English hand pumps, one of which is portable. Leaning Cask is also one of the only places in the Pittsburgh area that has a beer engine, which assists in pumping the beer from casks stored in the basement. Joshua says that while they do keep their beer warmer than most, it isn’t quite to the 50°F to 55°F that it would be served at overseas. Their beer is stored in the basement but not quite at those true “cellar” temperatures you would see in England. The casks are closer to traditional temperatures at 45°F to 50°F because they are stored in the farthest corner of the cold storage.

When it comes to the beer itself, contrary to popular belief, it isn’t only English-style beers that are brewed and stored in casks. Stefanie says they put any type into casks, and they often use it as a way to try out a new beer or style of beer since the initial release is on a smaller scale. Cask beers aren’t the only types they have, either. The brewery has 12 taps, which allows a wide variation—a little bit of everything.. On most visits to Leaning Cask, you will see three to four different IPAs on tap, their own cider, a stout or porter, a wheat, English ale, and some type of Belgian. Depending on when you visit, various seasonal beers will come into play, too. Another tradition you might notice is all the brews are named with a dog theme. The Lipkes love dogs and appreciated how dog-friendly English pubs are. They wanted to bring a little of that home with them, so they not only have dog-themed beer names, but they are also very welcoming to dogs, as long as they are well-behaved. They go even a step further than allowing dogs inside the bar—they have an actual indoor bathroom for dogs only. While it is becoming more common for breweries to allow dogs, this may be the only indoor dog restroom!

Joshua, the sole brewer, brews as close to traditional English style as his equipment allows. He has a thirteen-barrel setup in the basement of the pub, as well as room to expand upstairs. He says this setup is relatively large for a new brewery; less than ten barrels are more common for somewhere that has only been open for a little over a year. I asked if he had any advice for homebrewers who may be considering expansion into commercial brewing, and Joshua said, “Be prepared for the business adventure. It’s a lot more than just making beer. That’s the simple way to put it. Do your research, know what you are getting into and, really, if you don’t have a business background, get some help or some education on it because the bottom line is you are running a business. Brewing is my downtime. That’s when I don’t have to think about the other things. Even if you are making stellar beer, you’ll be able to make good beer at the commercial stage, but it’s everything else that goes into a business.”

At this point, Leaning Cask is Joshua’s full-time job, but Stefanie still works as an elementary school counselor full time. It was refreshing to meet a woman in the industry because the craft beer and brewery field is dominated by men. Stefanie says she doesn’t feel she’s been pushed aside or ignored and feels like she gets the same amount of respect as Joshua when she introduces herself as an owner. She is a member of the Pink Boots Society, an organization for women in the beer industry and, despite the support she’s experienced, says, “I definitely think there could be more recognition, awareness, and more females involved.”

With so many breweries in Southwestern Pennsylvania, The Leaning Cask offers a British twist that helps it stand out in a booming industry and provides a style of beer that was under-represented in the area until now. They distribute to approximately 20 locations in the area but, since Springdale is not far outside the city limits, why not go to the source to try their beer?

Leaning Cask is located at 850 Pittsburgh St, Springdale, PA 15144. They are open Wednesday and Thursday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday 12 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. New casks are released every Thursday.

FMI: leaningcaskbrewing.com

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

Story by Reanna Roberts for Pennsylvania Bridges

Community Center provides summer employment…and fun

35819517_2187269384621481_5Summer employment is a traditional and constructive way for high school students to earn spending money, begin saving for college, a car, or even to buy basic, everyday necessities.

However, landing that first job can be difficult without prior employment experience to attract gainful work. Fortunately, through the auspices of Southwest Training Services, Inc., four local high school students have found rewarding work, and fun experiences, at the Daisytown Community Center at 3 Main Street, Daisytown, PA.

Maddie Hite, Faith Keene, Dru Miller, and Savanna Owens round out the summer student staff at the center, which provides local youth a “safe and happy educational environment,” according to their mission statement.

With a 32.5 hour work week and generous hourly wage, the four are gaining valuable work experience while garnering several healthy paychecks through Southwest Training Services, Inc.

During the course of helping to prepare and serve food, clean tables, and interact with kids at the center, Hite, Keene, Miller, and Owens universally agree that their time at the center has honed both a sense of responsibility and the ability to work well with others – valuable traits which will benefit them during future employment.

While responsibilities are important to fulfill, they are not exclusive of edifying and fun experiences through the center. According to Sonya Miller, Executive Director of Daisytown Community Center, the students and center’s youth enjoy a back to school bash, an annual Christmas party, a trip to Lavender Farm, a fall bonfire, and an annual coat drive, along with Halloween parties and a Christmas play.

The Daisytown Community Center joins with the Lemoyne Center in Washington, PA in order to receive better rates and amenities during outings and field trips, said center board member, Tammy Hite.

In addition to providing employment opportunities to local high school students, the Daisytown Community Center provides a fun place for local youth to spend time, be mentored or tutored, receive a personal escort back home, and even have lunch.

Food is also provided for youth and the elderly alike, though demand has been on the rise. “It’s really blown up in the last two years. Because we have a lot of families who are food insecure, we are making sure they are eating. We’ve been teaming up with food banks and stores, and the kids will be able to take food home,” Hite said.

Helping hands

Support for the center is “is either through donation or grants,” Hite said, while crediting West Pike Run Township Supervisor Rick Molish, in particular, and the township in general, for “a tremendous job of donating money and time…The supervisors of West Pike Run Township have helped during bonfires, (with) maintenance of the building, and help provide activities which are safe for our children.”

Additional summer help is provided by Cindy Tyler and Joyce Ellis, who coordinate activities along with Darra Owens, Sherri Watkins, Juanita Tyler, and Earnest Tyler, to name “just a few of the folks” who generously help at the center.

Additional funds and volunteer time have also been kindly provided by the Lions Club, while the Daisytown Athletic Club “has been our largest donor throughout the year for our center to keep our doors open for operation” Miller said, adding special thanks to 91 year old twins, Arlene Miller and Florence Green, who work “all year round to help as well.”

36678943_2209202822428137_6Helping the community – a family affair

Willie Tyler, Sr., Miller’s father, also had a caring eye for Daisytown area youth and saw an opportunity for a new community center in the old water company building. Miller explains, “The center is our old water company building and my father purchased it for $1 from the owner as it was being donated. It was a struggle – he worked daily on the building with little help, along with a local family named the McFann family, that donated all the plumbing to help get us open.” Without their foresight and efforts in the beginning, Miller said “we would not be as far as we are now.”

Be sure to friend the Daisytown Community Center at facebook.com/DaisytownCommunityCenter/, check out the Lemoyne Community Center at lemoynecommunitycenter.org, and visit Southwest Training Services at swtraining.org to learn more about their helpful services.

Area high school students who seek summer employment should talk to their school’s guidance counselor for more information.

Story by Keren Lee Dreyer for Pennsylvania Bridges

Ada’s Blessings helps those battling congenital heart defects

Baby Ada

Baby Ada

According to the American Heart Association, congenital heart defects (CHD) – abnormal development of the heart and/or its vessels before birth – range from a repairable small hole in the heart through life-limiting, incomplete heart formation. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 25% of the 40,000 babies per year born with CHD require surgery, while citing CHD as “a leading cause of birth defect-associated infant illness and death.”

What facts and figures cannot show is the isolation parents experience from living in a hospital as their little one slowly succumbs to their heart defect, nor the despair at not being able to comfort that child because of ongoing medical procedures.

Compounding parental grief when their child passes is a pervasive feeling of being forgotten, with no apparent place to reach out for support or comfort with others of similar experience.

Fredericktown residents Roxanne Sweany and husband, Jordan, lived these experiences, and more, as they cared for their daughter, Ada, who was born with a CHD. Though Ada fought hard, was greatly loved, and received the best of care, she passed on in March of 2017 at the age of only nine months after a valiant seven month battle with her CHD.

During their time caring for Ada at Childrens Hospital of Pittsburgh, the Sweanys were buoyed by the generosity of caring individuals and entities, as Roxanne explained “We lived seven months in the hospital. Other non-profits would come in and give gifts, and that helped a lot. You’re trapped in the hospital all the time and these strangers come and give you gifts, sometimes for children, others for parents…My husband commuted every day, and the gas cards people gave really helped. We felt we wanted to give back, too.”

From these dispiritining times, Roxanne Sweany created Ada’s Blessings to honor Ada because “that’s where my heart is.” Ada’s Blessings, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, takes in donations of toys, money, and many other needed items to help support children, parents, and siblings in their battle with CHD.

The organization also provides education about CHD while offering welcoming resources to those who feel isolated in their struggle with the aftermath of a lost battle. “There is this whole community of CHD parents who have lost their babies, and we want to let them know they’re not forgotten,” Sweany said.

With fall and summer being slow times for charitable donations, Sweany “wanted to do something when the need was, not when everyone else was giving.” To counter the downturn in donations, Ada’s Blessings sponsors Ada’s Birthday Party at Childrens Hospital. “We get a list from the cardiac unit for each age group, and what the kids’ likes and needs are. We put that out on Facebook and people send money so I can go get those things, or people donate (toys and other items) as well.” Siblings are also able to pick out a toy of their own, or receive one picked by their parents, as “they may feel like they’re on the back burner, so we make it a point to feel like they’re involved because they get to pick a present as well.”

Roxanne, Jordan, & Ada Sweany

Roxanne, Jordan, & Ada Sweany

Another summer event, and its biggest fundraiser, is Ada’s Blessings Bike Run. The fundraiser kicks off Saturday, August 11 at 10 a.m. at Tradesmen’s Inn, 1769 E National Pike, Scenery Hill, PA. Registration is $20 per driver and $15 per passenger. At noon, Sweany said “kickstands are up. It’s about a 100 mile ride and stops at four or five bars and restaurants along the way. We’ll have a Chinese auction at the end, a D.J., and food catered by Tradesmen’s Inn.” Ada’s Blessings Bike Run also provides “blockers front and rear, and at certain intersections” to keep participants safe while riding for a good cause.

Ada’s Blessings not only helps others, but helps its founders cope in as positive way as possible. “It’s actually helped me get through my grief, and when I’m having a bad day I go to work on something for Ada’s Blessings,” Sweany said. Though there are days that hit her hard, Sweany notes that “it does feel good to get a whole cart of toys to give” and not worry about the expense. Funds and donations are welcomed by Ada’s Blessings all year long. Gift cards to be given to those in need, and checks made to Ada’s Blessings may be sent to Roxanne Sweany, 8 Crawford Road, Fredericktown, PA 15333. Tax receipts are available upon request.

Join the Ada’s Blessings Group on Facebook at: facebook.com/groups/222929584862157/about/

Editor’s Note: Baby Ada, pictured top left with her parents, is also pictured on our cover. Thanks so much to Roxanne and Jordan Sweany for sharing these special photos of beautiful Ada with us.

Story by Keren Lee Dreyer for Pennsylvania Bridges

Pennsylvania Bridges June 2018 Edition – Lean on Me

june-2018-cover_9xThe June 2018 edition of Pennsylvania Bridges – Lean on Me – is now available online and in print.

May 2018 Edition – “Coming Back to Life”

may-2018-coverThe May 2018 edition of Pennsylvania Bridges“Coming Back to Life” – is now available online and in print.

Pennsylvania Bridges April 2018 – “Spring Into Action!”

april-2018-coverThe April 2018 edition of Pennsylvania Bridges is now available online and in print.

Pennsylvania Bridges March 2018 – “Make Some Noise!”

march-2018-coverThe March 2018 edition of Pennsylvania Bridges – “Make Some Noise!” – is now available online & in print.