For years at community meetings, Arlington friends and neighbors Arlene Trost and Donna Wielock heard complaints about the city's 311 response line.
They also listened to comments of how much easier it would be to alert city officials to problems and concerns if people did not have to travel downtown to do so, and could remain anonymous.
The women discussed their idea for a Hilltop presence with city Councilman Bruce Kraus and, once free space was secured, the District 3 Satellite Office was born.
On April 12, Mrs. Trost and Mrs. Wielock celebrated one year as volunteers in the first floor office of the Allegheny County Adult Probation's Day Reporting Center, 2320 Arlington Ave., the former dialysis building.
The office is open Mondays and Wednesdays from 1 to 3 p.m. for phone calls or walk-ins. Residents may remain anonymous.
While the sign on the door reads, "City Council District 3, District Office of Councilman Bruce Kraus," the entire Hilltop community is welcome regardless of the district in which one resides.
"Anyone driving by who knows the office is here can stop," said Mrs. Trost.
A small stipend from Mr. Kraus' council office professional services account for the past few months is intended to cover some expenses.
Complaints the women field range from a neighbor's overgrown grass, to drug dealing, to excessive noise, to neglected pets, to a suspected methamphetamine lab, and more.
The women contact the appropriate city or county agency, such as the police, Public Works Dept., Animal Control, or the county Health Dept.
If they can cut through the red tape by contacting an agency official directly, they do so, and with a sweet, "Hey, how you doing?"
"If you treat people with kindness, you get so much more done," said Mrs. Wielock.
The women also place 311 calls and file complaints, which they follow up for timely responses. And, they never attend a meeting unprepared.
For example, a resident's problem with an abandoned house, they bring photographs of it to show an inspector with the Bureau of Building Inspection (BBI).
Sometimes, all a resident wants is someone to listen, for which the women are more than willing to oblige.
"We don't push them out the door and say we only have so much time," said Mrs. Wielock.
"Providing consistent, high quality constituent services is the foundation of what we do in the District Three satellite office, and Donna and Arlene are the very heart of our Hilltop and South Pittsburgh office," said Mr. Kraus.
"No problem is too big or too small, and they are there to serve any city resident with any problem they have.
"I am so very proud of the work they have done," he said.
"We're not afraid," said Mrs. Wielock.
"We want people not to be afraid to come for help. For seniors who are afraid to call, let Arlene and me be their mouth," she said.
"People in the neighborhood we never knew stop us on the street and say ‘thanks' and that we're doing a good job," said Mrs. Trost.
So, what have the women learned about city government in the past year?
"A lot of things can be done if you use the right approach. You attract more flies with sugar than vinegar," said Mrs. Trost.
"I didn't realize all the stuff that needs to be done in District Three," said Mrs. Wielock.
"I never realized that for salt boxes you have to call and ask for them.
"There is so much that I thought would be taken care of, and it is not," she said.
But the biggest thing she learned is "nobody should be afraid to ask for help."
As to why they volunteer, the women agree it is for the intangibles.
"I like seeing people happy, and not being scared anymore. I enjoy it," said Mrs. Wielock.
"It's a heartwarming feeling," said Mrs. Trost.
"The best is seeing people with smiles on their faces."
To contact the satellite office, call the probation office at 412-431-1014 and ask for Arlene or Donna.