April 24, 2007 |

Mt. Washington looks for ways to improve attendance at events

Suppose you sponsored an event and nobody came?

That was the case when the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation recently sponsored a Safety Health Expo Mart and had a disappointing turnout. Of course, the organization has many, many accomplishments to its credit but members and directors feel it can always improve, so they participated in a positive discussion about problems and disappointments and how things might change. This happened at the April 19 membership and community meeting which is regularly held at the neighborhood's senior center.

Alida Baker, a community development specialist, came at the MWCDC's request to moderate the discussion. She works for the Community Technical Assistance Center on Pittsburgh's north side.

“I hate to state the obvious but people are not interested in the subject in spite of how valuable it is,” said resident Michele Chunko about the expo mart turnout.

Jennifer Malecki, of Life Line Screening, had a suggestion for the group.

She said her organization regularly sponsors health screenings and never has turnout problems. One reason is that she often goes to the meetings of rotaries, Kiwanis and churches to make announcements about screenings.

Ms. Malecki, in fact, attended the MWCDC meeting solely for that purpose. She told the MWCDC members about stroke and heart disease screenings to be offered at specific costs May 17 at the Mount Washington Presbyterian Church. Pre-registration is required by calling 1-800-324-1851. Ms. Malecki can be reached at 412-370-4849.

Ms. Baker's session was preceded by a slide show describing the programs and accomplishments of MWCDC. She described it as the “Reader's Digest version.”

She next asked for input.

Participants discussed ways to attract members from all over the Mount so the whole community is represented.

Members also wanted to know which board members are up for election in October and the officers promised that the info would be made available in “The Viewpoint,” the organization's newspaper mailed to all Mount residents.

Member Kim Barthelmes praised the group and the program staff for what has been done during the last two years. “The changes have been amazing.” But she said, “The last couple of months have been rough. All this infighting has got to stop.”

Board director Lynne Squilla noted, “We have been painfully polite but there is an undercurrent we need to talk about.”

She noted there has been a battle over methods of revising the bylaws. “What's so wrong that we have to change the constitution?” she asked.

The ensuing discussion focused on how well the board represented the community and whether a minority was deciding things on behalf of the majority.

Cheryl Reed, a nonmember, said she attended the last two membership meetings. “No wonder you don't have more members. You have to act maturely and resolve issues,” she said.

Ms. Baker suggested a parliamentarian or outside facilitator lead a discussion on the bylaws issue.

One lady asked when this meeting would occur. “We'll work on it,” said board president Paul Tellers.

First vice president Frank Valenta said he was originally praised when he signed up 124 new members but added that he is now being chastised by other members for “playing politics.”

“You should sign them but not give them a slate of candidates,” Ms. Squilla said.

Mr. Valenta challenged everyone to do “the same thing I did.”

In other business Mr. Tellers said the MWCDC hoped to open the Ream Center by June.

Ilyssa Manspeizer, the MWCDC park resource manager, said she and school staff would lead a group of Grandview Elementary School students in planting on April 20, in preparation for Earth Day celebration to be held April 22.

County councilman Bill Lestitian was recognized at one point. State Senator Wayne Fontana spoke at the beginning of the meeting. He was denied a chance to do that at last month's meeting and was told he had to wait. “We made a mistake and we're going to correct it,” Mr. Valenta said after thanking him for money he obtained for the community.

Mr. Fontana updated the Mount Washington residents on current issues such as the state budget, which he said is going to be “tough.”

He noted that the state funding for the Port Authority has been high in recent years compared to other areas. “I fought to keep the main arteries of gas and trolley service available,” he said.

There may be a state smoking ban, he said. Most of the emails and letters he received favor this.

Prior to making his remarks, the senator wryly eyed the agenda posted in the front of the room and said, “I'm glad my name is on it.”

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