Building Connections in Wilkinsburg

This post was written by Max, one of our summer interns! Stay tuned for more updates about his experience. To contact Max, email him at with “Max” in the subject line. 

My time at GTECH has been terrific. I’ve learned a lot and have been exposed to new and exciting expeMax Internriences, like getting poison sumac on my third day on the job. However, what I am most thrilled by is the fresh and creative thinking I am surrounded by and I get to take part in. And, while many ideas that cross my path about urban development and community building may only be novel to me, I have the great joy of feeling surrounded by an innovative and impactful movement. Sometimes, I have the even greater joy of contributing to that movement. In August, the other interns and I will be running a Green Playce event in Wilkinsburg that is deeply rooted in one of these new ideas for me, which I noticed only a few days ago.

A couple weeks ago, Rev. Dcn. Paul Abernathy, the Center Director of FOCUS+Pittsburgh, came to the GTECH office to teach us about the Trauma Informed Community Development (TICD) Program that he is a leader of. The FOCUS+Pittsburgh TICD program conducts “block interventions” to “address the effects of trauma and revitalize community by establishing and promoting healthy, healing micro-communities.” One particularly striking part of the presentation was a block-influences map that charted the positive and negative influences between neighbors on the block before FOCUS+Pittsburgh began their work on the street. Ironically, what stood out to me was the lack of connections on the map. I believe the amount of interpersonal bonds and ties between neighbors is indicative of the strength and health of their block. The TICD Program’s fantastic approach to healing trauma by building community at a block level leads me to the following prediction: when Rev. Abernathy and his research teams from Pitt and Duquesne reassess the block in two years, the influence map will include many more connections. I think the block members will be more connected to each other and, in consequence, the block will be healthier. Extrapolating, I apply this at a neighborhood and organizational level. I believe the amount of connections between organizations involved in a community has a direct and positive relationship with the community’s strength and health; the more connections there are, the healthier the community.

A lot of organizations working in isolation from each other does not achieve as much progress as a bunch of organizations working together, sharing resources, information, and experience to pursue a common goal of greater good. Efficiency is increased, yielding a broader audience of community members without compromising quality of involvement.

As you may know, GTECH has been working on a Green Playce Initiative, helping youth-centered organizations transform vacant lots and unused spaces near them into outdoor play-spaces and classrooms. Much of our (the high school interns’) work this summer has been with Green Playces, and we are holding an event at a new Green Playce on Wednesday, August 10th. The Wilkinsburg Green Playce is adjacent to the Hosanna House, a vibrant community center in Wilkinsburg with lots of youth programming and the primary partner for the Green Playce.

Final Wilkinsburg Green Playce Design
Final Wilkinsburg Green Playce Design

This site has the potential to serve as an environmental education tool for the Hosanna House and any other interested organization, a fantastic play area for kids, a beautification of the neighborhood, and a place to keep children active, connected to their community, having fun, and learning even when they aren’t in school.

The “Learning, Climbing, Growing” event at the Green Playce aims to showcase all these possibilities and is a wonderful opportunity to connect local organizations, community members, and youth with the Green Playce, the Hosanna House, and each other. These are the connections that we hope will strengthen the Wilkinsburg community.

20160713_175730013_iOSProviding a positive resource to be used and shared by many Wilkinsburg organizations will hopefully lead to a stronger web of active community members and, hopefully, a stronger and healthier community. This event will encourage organizations and community members to see this Green Playce as that type of resource. I believe that if we could conduct community health assessments similar to those used by FOCUS+Pittsburgh, we will hopefully see this Green Playce event stoke further positive change in Wilkinsburg’s “connections map.” Connections between organizations, people, and place make a community.


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