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:

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

A Tribute to Joe DeNardo, Pittsburgh Icon, Part Two

Joe-Denardo-Cal-4It was a very rainy that day in May 2011 as I made my way from the (now shuttered) parking garage behind Manderino Library to Morgan Hall. By the time I got there, I was soaked. Ironically, I had forgotten to check the weather forecast and didn’t have an umbrella on the very day I was to meet Pittsburgh’s most iconic weatherman, who had come to speak at California University. But more on that a little bit later…

In last month’s installment, we discussed how Denardo became part of the WTAE Family by the end of the 1960’s, thanks in part to his friend – and legendary Pittsburgh news anchor – Paul Long. As time went on, Denardo and the WTAE staff became familiar and welcome guests on televisions across Pittsburgh.

In promos for “What is talked about during Channel 4 Credits” Denardo and Long traded friendly barbs, as in this exchange where Denardo says to Long, “Your wife called, she wants you to pick up a can of hair spray…it’s for her” (Long was bald) or Long asking about the upcoming forecast, “Joe, will I be able to play golf this weekend?” to which Denardo replied “Probably not, Mr. Long, you could never play golf before.”

When Denardo came to speak at Cal U in 2011, Communications Professor Rick Cumings showed Denardo some of these vintage clips, which an amused Denardo said he hadn’t seen in years.

“You know we teased him,” said Denardo about Long, “But I loved him, he was one of my best friends.” Long passed away in 2002.

Another 1976 promo featured Denardo as a mad scientist in a Frankenstein style laboratory, with a Boris Karloff type voice announcer stating, “There’s something almost frightening about the accuracy of Joe Denardo’s forecasts.” The promo ends with him putting on his coat in the manner Dracula dons his cape.

As we left behind the bellbottoms and Bee Gees of the 1970’s and entered the era of parachute pants and Purple Rain in the 1980’s, billboards started appearing in Pittsburgh, with a black background, in white letters, with three little words…”Joe Said It Would”.

It became iconic familiar phrase in Pittsburgh, meaning if you wanted the most accurate forecast, from sunny skies, to heavy downpours, to snowy skies, Joe Denardo was the man to count on.

According to a June 15 WTAE web article by station reporter Sheldon Ingram, in the mid 1980’s a new charitable cause was created by Pat Roney (widow of late Steelers owner Dan Rooney) and Jeanie Caliguri (wife of late Pittsburgh Mayor Richard Caliguri) which would help provide winter clothing for children and senior citizens across the Pittsburgh area, known as “Project Bundle Up”. WTAE and The Salvation Army teamed up to help, and Joe Denardo helped play a huge part.

In Denardo’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette obituary, Caliguri told writer Marylynne Pitz, “A lot of people lend their name. Joe didn’t lend his name. He was a part of it.” Caliguri went on to explain, “We worked together for 15 to 20 active years. He took children shopping when we went for coats.”

After retiring in 2005, Denardo remained a popular presence in Pittsburgh. In Spring 2011, Denardo came to Cal U’s Morgan Building to speak to students and answer questions, and Yours Truly was fortunate enough to meet him. He couldn’t have been nicer, he posed for a picture with me, and he even autographed a previous weather-related Cal Times article I had written, signing, “Joe said it would: Chuck, Next time don’t forget to bring your umbrella.”

It was a sad day this past June when he passed. A class act, Joe Denardo will be missed.

Story by Chuck Brutz for Pennsylvania Bridges

Brick, mortar stores close, entrepreneurs seize opportunity

34538776_392391131262421_65When a local K-Mart closed its doors, Cece Tiberi and Pam DellaPenna bought some of the store’s clothing racks and put them into action at their church’s fundraising consignment sale. Tiberi and DellaPenna, president and vice president, respectively, of Christian Mothers of St. Cecilia in Grindstone, PA, working with a number of Christian Mothers members, successfully raised funds to help the church.

On the heels of this accomplishment, the pair decided to “do it for ourselves, because what girl doesn’t like designer handbags?” They found a suitable location at 3142 National Pike in Ritcheyville, PA, and “didn’t waste any time, so we couldn’t talk ourselves out of it” Tiberi said of their desire to set up a new business. Shortly after, Simply Chic Upscale Resale opened its doors to a waiting public on July 16, 2018.

Though it is a consignment store, “It’s more like a boutique. We sell crystal jewelry, gently used and new designer handbags, and household decor,” Tiberi said, adding “Our customers have told us we’re unique, but we’re taking different decor from different people who have unique tastes.” Also unique to Simply Chic is their own handmade crystal jewelry, which could provide just the right accent to their stock of designer clothing.

As brick and mortar retail outlets close, consumers have fewer opportunities to see and handle merchandise in real life. However, DellaPenna notes, “People still want to look at a store, and there’s not too much in the area.” With their location on historic Route 40, Simply Chic Upscale Resale provides not just an easily accessible real-world shopping experience, but one without real-world retail prices.

“You’re actually going to pay less here (for products) than Goodwill,” Tiberi enthused, continuing “They’re priced right today and they’re going to be priced right next week.” And to assure a pleasant experience for shoppers, Tiberi asks that clothes brought in for consignment are cleaned and free of wrinkles and pet hair. Once items are received, Simply Chic tags and racks them in an environment that is warm and, itself, chic. Simply Chic splits sales 50/50 with consigners.

High quality items available include Juicy Couture, Banana Republic, Michael Kors, Totes, Pink by Victoria’s Secret, Hollister, American Eagle. Abercrombie and Fitch, Vera Bradley, new LuLaRoe (all are new), Tory Burch, Kate Spade, and more, providing Simply Chic Upscale Resale an edge in filling the gaps left by area closures of Macy’s, Bon-Ton, and K-Mart.

For the boutique’s ambiance, special care was taken to create a welcoming, attractive setting because, as DellaPenna notes, “presentation is everything.” In addition to the ready-to-wear designer clothing gracing the racks, Tiberi said “home decor is hung on the walls, lamps go on the tables, and we light them so they look homey and cute.”

Striking a balance with upscale products upstairs is a flea market setup in the location’s basement, full of common flea market fare such as dishware, tablecloths, and other handy items. If a shopper’s goal “is to get the most for their five dollars,” Tiberi said, “they’re going to shop in the basement.” She notes, however, that with plans for upcoming shows, the flea market space may be sold out to make room for those events.

One of those events is a consignment craft fair on September 29 and 30 – Saturday and Sunday – from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. both days. Fall, Christmas, and Pike Days events are in various stages of planning, and a new web site is in the works. Meanwhile, be sure to find out about the latest sales while making a new friend at

Those on the hunt to find good food and good bargains for a good cause can also find Tiberi and DellaPenna, along with other members of Christian Mothers of St. Cecilia in Grindstone, working hard on the church’s semi-annual spaghetti dinners. Additionally, there is an annual calendar party, annual vendor show, and for the second year, an all-in-one Christmas tree raffle, flea market, and consignment show.

Potential Simply Chic Upscale Resale consigners and show vendors can call 724-970-5641 for further information and arrangements.

Story by Keren Lee Dreyer for Pennsylvania Bridges

Save the dates for an innovative season of Cal U Theatre

An Evening of Creative Works – The Blaney Theatre – October 4, 5, 6 @ 7 pm, October 6  @ 2 pm

This annual production is filled with a mix of genres and performance styles that provide a form of expression for our students.  One acts, dance pieces, devised performances, digital performance, Reader’s Theatre—the door is open for exploration. Subject matter may not be suitable for younger patrons.  

Red Horse – The Blaney Theatre – November 1, 2, 3 @ 7 pm, November 3 @ 2 pm

A devised production inspired by the work of the Mabou Mimes and Lee Breuer

A completely original retelling of the experimental 1970s production.  Red Horse is a collaborative creation; Actors create images allowing dialogue to give way to actor’s bodies in a poetic staging of the life of the Horse. Exciting for the whole family! Red Horse marks the twenty-second annual first year student show, and one of the first devised productions by first year Cal U students.  As always, a great deal of fun you do not want to miss!

Harry Connick Jr.’s The Happy Elf – Steele Hall Mainstage Theatre –   December 6, 7, 8 @ 7 pm, December 8-9@ 2 pm

Music and Lyrics by Harry Connick, Jr.

Book by Lauren Gunderson and Andrew Fishman

Based on the song by Harry Connick, Jr., and adapted from the television show written by Andrew Fishman

Beloved bumbling Eubie is back for one more year in Bluesville.  Join him, Gilda, Hamm, and the big man himself, Santa, for this heart-warming musical filled with the holiday spirit.  Steele Hall will be filled with elves galore as Cal U Theatre students and members of the local community come together to bring this show to life.  This production is suitable for all ages!

Edges – The Blaney Theatre –February 21, 22, 23 @ 7 pm, February 23 @ 2 pm

Music and Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

Edges is the first musical attempt by award-winning composer/lyricists Benji Pasek and Justin Paul (of Dear Evan Hansen fame).  Edges is a song-cycle about burgeoning adults asking coming-of-age questions. This charming, witty and honest examination of adulthood explores what happens when we are teetering on the edges of our lives.

Unexpected: A Selection of Symbolist Plays, Steele Hall Mainstage Theatre – April 4, 5, 6 @ 7 pm, April 6 @ 2 pm

A night filled with the unexpected sure to make your mind to roam, your heart yearn, and your hairs stand on edge. One-act plays by Maurice Maeterlinck, Susan Glaspell, and Valery Bryusov will have you on the edge of your seat.  As symbolist plays traditionally handle thought provoking content, our selections are sure to provide a night full of surprises.

Commit to the Bit: An Evening of Sketch Comedy and Improvisation.  Steele Hall Mainstage Theatre – April 17 & 18 @ 7pm

Graduating senior Jeshua Myers, known to audiences for his portrayal of Ram (Heathers, the Musical) and Barfeé (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee), Jesh will combine his training in theatre and improvisation in this showcase.  

An Evening of One Acts – The Blaney Theatre-   May 2, 3, 4 @ 7 pm, May 4th @ 2pm.

Join us as we welcome our new crop of directors with this evening of one act plays ranging from laugh out-loud comedies to through-provoking dramas. Some subject matter may not be suitable for younger patrons.

Brownsville man launches new biz after inventing smart meter

koseveckWhen most people have a leak in their water system they call a repairman; Mark Kovscek isn’t most people.

For Kovscek, who lives in Brownsville, a faulty boiler valve resulted in spending the summer at Amazon headquarters in Seattle working on perfecting and marketing a new smart home product to work with Alexa.

“It dates back to the summer of 2014. In August of that year my water bill was $50 higher. I kind of ignored it until September when it was $50 higher again,” Kovscek said. “The valve in my boiler was bad and it would fill up the overflow and put it down the drain without me knowing it.”

Kovscek said he researched systems that would detect leaks, but they were all more expensive than the money they would save in most cases. So he began designing his own smart water meter, resulting in the invention of H2know and Kovscek’s company, Conservation Labs.

“I found a way to measure sound waves and to convert them to water measurement,” Kovscek said.

Kovscek said each water-using device in a home has its own special sound frequency, letting H2know distinguish between a running toilet and a dripping faucet. H2know records all water usage in the house, not just the leaks, so homeowners can take steps to reduce their water usage if they would like.

“We can tell you not only that the water was running, but that the toilet was flushed seven times and the shower was run twice, and for how long,” Kovscek said.

Kovscek said H2know is designed to give homeowners information on how they are using water and can provide customized conservation measures, estimating that most homeowners could save as much as $250 a year through simple measures to prevent waste. The device, Kovscek said, also provides peace of mind by giving homeowners real-time information through a smartphone app and alerts.

“If it’s a catastrophic leak, we want you to know immediately, so you’ll receive either a call or a text,” Kovscek said. “We catch leaks within minutes, and not 30 days later like I did.”

Despite the technology, Kovscek said most homeowners could install the device themselves in a short period of time, clamping it to a pipe and connecting it to their wifi network.

Conservation Labs launched H2know at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year. Kovscek’s demonstration was seen by people from the Environmental Protection Agency and, unbeknownst to him at the time, by Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban.

Kovscek is currently participating in the second cohort of the Alexa Accelerator in Seattle, a 13-week program sponsored by Techstars Seattle and Amazon for startup companies. There are nine companies, including one from Tel Aviv and one from Cambridge, UK participating in the program. Each is working on its own products with voice-related technologies.

“Techstars has a lot of these programs around the country. The one here is with Amazon, Alexa Techstars Program,” Kovscek said.

Kovscek said the 13-week program has been extremely beneficial with workshops to support business growth and working on the technical design to work with Alexa.

“We met a lot of people. These people act as mentors and help us get the product to market. The real tangible benefit is that Amazon and Techstars are investors in Conservation Labs, so that brings money in,” Kovscek said.

Kovscek said that at present prototypes of H2know are in a few dozen homes, but he is now testing with companies that reach millions of homes.

“We expect the first pilot-ready devices in October or November. We’re expecting to have the final production run in the second quarter of 2019,” Kovscek said.

The H2know devices may also be pre-ordered through Conservation Lab’s Indiegogo account,

Story by Christine Haines for Pennsylvania Bridges

Tips from TechBoxz: Setting alarms with Alexa

alexaIn past articles, we have talked quite extensively about the four major Home Assistant options: Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Home, Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri. By way of other publications, friends, and family you are more than likely knowledgeable in the most common commands they use, like turning on your TV or a lamp just by asking them, but did you know they can also create and share shopping lists, add appointments to your calendar, change television channels and remind you of tasks in need of attention? All four can perform each request with varying success, but Alexa still holds a slight edge. Add to this Microsoft’s recent collaboration with Amazon, and Cortana may not be around very long.

Full disclosure: I’m a bit biased towards Alexa. When I first became interested in home automation, Alexa was the only game in town. Siri was great, but her real strength was running an iPhone. She just hasn’t grown beyond dialing numbers and taking notes. As the years rolled by, Siri, Cortana, and Home added more features, but I already had an investment in Alexa. I will expand coverage and write a proper review once I’ve purchased the hardware for a break down of Home, Cortana, and Siri’s personal assistant abilities. For now, I focus on Alexa.

Alexa can be voice activated from your phone, Fire TV or an Alexa enabled device like the Echo or other third party devices such as Sonos’s One. Alexa can be accessed using the Alexa App to delete old recordings, see expanded options and skill settings or change account information. Here is a brief rundown of one of those areas.

Open the Alexa App and follow the selections: HOME > REMINDERS & ALARMS>

From here, we can add and review the currently set Reminders, Alarms and Timers. Though they sound very similar each has their own unique function. Alarms are the most fully featured of the three. Once set, Alarms go off at a specific time, can be snoozed, can be set to re-occurring and will continue to sound until turned off. Reminders are very similar to your phone’s notification function. A Reminder will go off at a specific time, but unlike an alarm there isn’t a snooze option and the alert only sounds once before turning itself off. Personally, I don’t see a need for the notification feature as it’s just a limited version of an Alarm. Timers are also limited alarms but serve a purpose I now can’t live without, the ability to easily set multiple alerts at specific times that delete themselves after I’ve turned them off. For those who spend a lot of time in the kitchen, imagine the ability to set five different timers, one for each item being prepared. I haven’t burned or overcooked anything since finding this option and my trusty LavaTools instant-read thermometer. Spouse Approval Factor = Ten plus.

When I started this article my goal was to impart some of the specific steps to find and use some of Alexa’s lesser-known features. I’ve underestimated the size and scope of that task. I now look at this as the introduction to a multi-part tutorial. If you have any questions or suggestions email See you next month.

Story by Eric J. Worton for Pennsylvania Bridges

Art drop brings scavenger hunt fun to promotion

ArtDropInvitePic-(1)Advertising for an annual big event typically involves shouting from social media rooftops and taking out ad space in local magazines or papers. But, for the second year in a row, Charleroi’s own Valley Art Club will employ an “art drop” as a fun way to lead art lovers to its annual juried exhibition. Hosted again this year by the Monessen Public Library, Valley Art Club’s 76th annual show kicks off with a public reception on Sunday, September 30, 2018 from 1 – 4 p.m., with exhibits on display until October 11.

During the exhibition, a Valley Art Club member will usually be present to answer questions and show visitors around said Francine Miceli, six year board member of the club. Most of the works on display will be for sale, while some artists offer prints as a more economical way to get art into the hands of a fan.

For the art drop, Valley Art Club members hailing from Belle Vernon, Charleroi, Coal Center, Grindstone, Monessen, Monongahela, Stockton, and West Newton will prepare original, one-of-a-kind works on a 5” x 7” medium using pencil, pen, or pastel.

“Most members are participating, and at least 25 original pieces will be dropped during the first week of September. They will be dropped in an envelope with the Valley Art Club logo at churches, doctor’s offices, libraries” and other places, Miceli said. Members will distribute works in their own town, increasing the drop’s coverage area.

The lucky finders will get to be keepers of the artist’s original, one-of-a-kind work. Though they’re sure to be pleasantly surprised by the quality of artwork that can fit on a 5” x 7” medium, the club asks one small favor, as Miceli explains, “We hope they do contact us in some way to let us know how they liked it…some artists have their card or an e-mail on the back and would like to be contacted to let us know what their reaction is to it.”

Also inside the art drop envelope is a postcard with information about the reception, including times and location. Additionally, Miceli’s own artwork fronts the postcard, giving art lovers a two-for-one find.

In addition to the art drop and art show, Valley Art Club continues its efforts throughout the year to get the message out that art is alive and well in the Mon Valley. “There’s still a lot of people who say ‘I didn’t know there are any artists around here.’ We try to do the best we can, and we’re trying to reach out more every year,’” Miceli said. “We do paint-outs (outdoor painting) at parks or different places people suggest we go. Sometimes we just go to the park and sketch so people know we exist.”

Valley Art Club’s visibility in the valley is set to increase through the talents of fellow artist and new “publicity person,” Dawn McKechnie, who Miceli says “wants to do a lot for the club. I’ve liked all her ideas so far.” Stay tuned for more.

Artists interested in joining the club’s roster may reach them at 724-872-4642 or directly on Miceli outlines a few requirements for membership, including a minimum age of 18, paying $20 for an annual membership, and attendance at three meetings per year along with the annual exhibition. Additionally, “We ask them to bring a couple of pieces in, and we vote whether to bring them in or not. I don’t know that anyone has been turned away.”

The club “could use some young blood in there” along with new artists, including more men, Miceli said, adding that the “only thing is, everything has to be two dimensional,” meaning no sculptures, textiles, photography, or the like.

Anyone finding a Valley Art Club art drop envelope is encouraged to post their find on facebook at:, while the public is invited to the September 30 juried exhibition and reception.

Painting top right by Francine Miceli.

Story by Keren Lee Dreyer for Pennsylvania Bridges

Pennsylvania Bridges – August 2018 – Ada’s Blessings

august-2018-cover_9xThe August 2018 edition of Pennsylvania BridgesAda’s Blessings – is now available online and in print.