Nearly 200 people attended Neighborhood Allies’ Second Annual Healthy Neighborhoods Celebration and Award Ceremony on Nov. 16 at the Carnegie Museum of Art.
Neighborhood Allies is a community development partner focusing on providing leadership, resources and strategies in the Hill District, Hilltop, Homewood, Larimer, Millvale and Wilkinsburg.
The Healthy Neighborhoods Celebration aims to honor the people and organizations improving Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods. Neighborhood Allies recognized the following winners for each embodying one of the organization’s healthy neighborhood elements: Henry Horn-Pyatt, as ally of the year; Trade Institute of Pittsburgh, quality of life; Brashear Association’s Allentown Learning and Engagement Center, community ownership; Afro American Music Institute, neighborhood image; Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, market confidence; and Riverside Center for Innovation, equitable development.
The Millvale Community Library and Zaheen Hussain, Millvale sustainability coordinator, who also serves as New Sun Rising sustainability director, received nominations.
Library Executive Director Susan McClellan said the ceremony was “very inspirational, very moving. It’s great to see what all the other communities are doing in the Pittsburgh region.”
“I feel that we’re definitely trying to improve quality of life for all ages,” she said of nominating her own workplace.
Her nomination stated the library founded the first tool lending library in western Pennsylvania in June, allowing people to borrow tools and other household items, rather than purchasing them.
“In addition, since we serve a population of 48 percent of children living below the poverty level, we raised several thousand dollars for long-term food sustainability for our youth and increased partnerships with area organizations to raise awareness on healthy nutrition.”
The library hosted a teen air quality fellowship as part of the Millvale EcoDistrict 2.0 Plan’s implementation focused on community-driven planning. Fellows studied air quality issues in Millvale, Etna and Sharpsburg to understand poor air quality’s effects and ways to combat it in their homes and communities. They also learned about clean-technology careers and renewable energy, McClellan wrote. The dedication of an air monitoring station that the students constructed at makerspace HackPGH, Uptown, served as a culminating experience.
Furthermore, the library offered a lead exposure workshop, with Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority customers receiving free water filters.
McClellan spoke highly of Hussain, whom she referred to as “the nicest person.”
“Zaheen works tirelessly in Millvale to improve the lives of residents and the community as a whole. He coordinates projects and fosters meaningful partnerships to ensure Millvale continues to grow in a sustainable and equitable way. He is sincere and passionate — his love for this town is evident to anyone who speaks with him,” she wrote in her nomination.
Hussain said Neighborhood Allies has been a “key partner” in a lot of his work.
“In fact, it was a Catalytic Grant to the Millvale Library from Neighborhood Allies that first helped create the sustainability coordinator position here in Millvale,” he said. “Since then, through programs like the Grassroots Grant Making Committee and the Love My Neighbor! Grant Program, community members and organizations have received multiple grants, including the seed funding for energy efficiency workshops, the Millvale Bike Rally, and the Pollinator Garden at the Gardens of Millvale. Neighborhood Allies works to empower residents to make change within their communities from the ground up.
“It’s always an honor to be in the same room as people who work so passionately to bring positive change in our community,” Hussain said, regarding the event.
Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.