Ambassador Alums in Action

Like clockwork, I get 6-8 emails every single day between noon and 12:05pm. I know what you’re thinking. My fan mail gets held and released only once a day. I’m pretty popular, what can I say?

Actually, these emails don’t come from real people at all, but are automatically generated through Google Alerts. Most people know that at GTECH we have Ambassador cohorts—groups of community leaders in different parts of the city and county who come together for about a year to learn, plan, and implement their visions for vacant lot projects in their neighborhoods. But what happens when that year is over? We don’t cut off contact with our Ambassadors just because they’ve finished their projects! We work hard to keep our Ambassadors engaged with us in many forms, such as through a whole follow-up program like ReClaim South 2.0, McKeesport Ambassadors helping us with a new project in the area, our Ambassador alumni Facebook group, inviting them to events and workshops, etc. etc. Sometimes an Ambassador will even join our board.

But as community leaders, we know our Ambassadors are doing incredible things that don’t directly fit with what we do, and we want to stay engaged with them. But now in our tenth year, it’s hard to keep track of the 100+ Ambassadors we’ve worked with over the years. So I set up Google Alerts for each and every one of our past Ambassadors, and each day at noon I sift through and see if any of the alerts relate to one of them (the Internet’s a big place—often the alerts are for someone halfway around the world with the same name; this has led to me finding some interesting stories). We love hearing about the amazing things they’re doing, and we thought we’d share some of these with you.


In April, the Tribune-Review ran a story on artist and ReClaim Northside Ambassador Linda Wallen. Linda has been a truly gifted artist for years, and has been commissioned by some big names around Pittsburgh, such as the Shadyside Hospital and the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, to paint portraits. Linda has only started making mosaics in Linda1 (1)the last couple decades after a trip to Barcelona, but has found that simply working on mosaics has been a great way to engage with her community.

“It was wonderful to get to know the people who live around my house and walk their dogs past my house. . . . It becomes a really interactive activity, an inclusive activity. Making a mosaic is sort of like: put globs together in a certain way and it comes together and it looks cool. It’s accessible, and it’s something that a lot of people can participate in and feel some gratification.”

Read the story about Linda here.


Also in April another ReClaim Northside Ambassador, Jay Donaldson, participated in the 8th Annual Blues/R&B/Jazz Showcase Fundraiser for the nonprofit he started, the P.R.O.M.I.S.E. Foundation. P.R.O.M.I.S.E. stands for Protecting and Restoring the Order of Mankind with the Initiative of Serving Elders. The foundation focuses on youth and elders, standing against black-on-black violence, and the fundraiser featured Kenny Blake, Jay1 (1)Blvd of Blues with Sydney Jefferson, and Josh “Caso” Adams, among others.

“Getting more artists involved is what I want to do. I love the arts and art forms. Our goal is to bring in more art forms which will open the doors for them to come into P.R.O.M.I.S.E. and work with the young people we have waiting for this to happen.”

Read more about Jay and the fundraiser here.


In May, the Post-Gazette profiled 2013 ReEnergize Ambassador Tara Sherry-Torres, who started her own Latino-focused marketing and events business in early 2014. While working in community development, she noticed that there were many missed opportunities to connect with Latinos. Tara and her firm, Café Con Leche, have run 25 events in the last 2+ years that showcase Latino culture. Latinos account for just 3% of the population of Allegheny County, but the population is growing rapidly, and Tara is getting out ahead of it.Oakland-TaraSherry-Torres

“Fear is part of the process and probably is never going to go away, so at some point, take that risk. Fear should not be the thing that stops you.”

Read the profile of Tara here.


Finally, in early July, 90.5 WESA ran a story on two-time ReClaim South Ambassador Cara Jette and the work she’s done on the historic Knoxville Incline trail, going over and above our usual Ambassador projects. Cara has been working with the City Council to officially designate her site as Pittsburgh’s newest greenway. The site, formerly an incline rail line connecting the South Side Flats with the Hilltop, has been in clean-up mode since at least 2005. In 2013-14, Cara worked on the site as a ReClaim South Ambassador, and has continued working on it this year as part of ReClaim South: Sustaining Momentum. Cara has also been raising money for a sign that will detail the Cara bridgehistory of the Knoxville Incline for new visitors to the greenway.

“So, if people are walking by, they’ll see that sign and they’ll have some idea of what happened on the site from 1880 to 1960. And why it’s set aside and different from other hillside areas in the city.”

Read the story on the progress toward greenway status here.


Check back for more Ambassador alum updates in the coming months!

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