Celebrating Pittsburgh’s 250th anniversary by engaging citizens and contributing to the “Pride & Progress” of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
A Grassroots Celebration
Community Connections was a regional grantmaking program led by The Sprout Fund on the occasion of the Pittsburgh region’s 250th anniversary. In partnership with the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, and dozens of other partners, Community Connections granted nearly $1 million to 100 projects across 14 counties of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Community Connections engaged citizens, addressed pressing issues, left a lasting impact on communities, and contributed to the “Pride & Progress” of Southwestern Pennsylvania in 2008. Led by established and emerging civic leaders, these initiatives created a critical mass of grassroots activity throughout the anniversary year.
Community Connections was divided into four phases: Idea Generation & Solicitation, Project Selection, Project Execution, and Reporting & Documentation.
In summer 2007, Sprout invited neighborhoods, communities, and civic organizations in Southwestern Pennsylvania to “Imagine What You Can Do Here.” A coordinated outreach campaign was conducted to garner ideas from across the 14-county region and encourage the submission of applications from as diverse a network as possible. Ultimately, in fall 2007, 558 applications were received for consideration.
Sprout used a community-based decisionmaking model to select 100 projects to receive support. 270 people participated as part of 15 decisionmaking teams, one for each of the 14 counties and one regional committee. All meetings were held in person and used the scoring and selection process that was originally developed for the Seed Award program.
Throughout 2008, in addition to grant dollars, Sprout provided each project with technical assistance and marketing support and fostered collaboration between related projects. A significant effort was made to professionally document and capture the people, projects, and activities that had a role in making these projects a success, resulting in the 2009 release of Making the Connections, a collection of stories about the funded projects and their impact on their communities.
The program marked the first time that Sprout’s footprint expanded beyond Pittsburgh and proved that Sprout’s community decisionmaking model was effective in geographically diverse environments. Community Connections also represented Sprout’s first deep dive into program documentation, which resulted in an increased focus on professional photography and writing for many future funding programs.
Program In Brief
14 counties of Southwestern PA
Making the Connections Video Trailer
At the conclusion of Community Connections, The Sprout Fund released a book that captured stories and photos from the initiative. This video shares some of the best examples of people and projects we supported.
Funded Project Highlights
Community Connections projects represented the vibrancy of Southwestern Pennsylvania both geographically and in terms of project focus, with applicants ranging from churches and community organizations to museums, schools, artists, and even farmers.
A panel of regional leaders, including representatives from all 14 Southwestern Pennsylvania counties, selected 12 compelling initiatives as Regional Projects to receive awards up to $50,000.
Celebrate Pittsburgh: Music Commissioning Project
Commissioning 7 new Pittsburgh-themed musical works from 7 regional composers premiered at River City Brass Band performances.
Civil Rites: Oral Histories of Two Generations of Pittsburgh Artists
Collecting personal stories of local African American artists as well as the memories of those who knew them for the August Wilson Center permanent collection.
Explore Western Pennsylvania’s Wild Waterways
Constructing a series of boat launches to create a more welcoming environment to enjoy the Connoquenessing and Slippery Rock watersheds.
Great Allegheny Passage Trail Town Public Art Project
Creating large-scale public art installations in 6 trail towns along the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail from Pittsburgh toward Washington, DC.
In Sisterhood: The Women’s Movement in Pittsburgh
Producing a multimedia exhibit featuring leaders and activists in the late 20th century women’s movement with roots in Pittsburgh.
In the Making: 250 Years 250 Artists
Creating a museum-quality, full-color catalogue documenting artwork by 250 artists from all 14 counties in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Mobile Ag/Ed Science Lab
Constructing a mobile science and agricultural laboratory to bring the science of farming directly into schools.
Pittsburgh Environmental Oral History
Producing a series of stories and interviews celebrationg progress from a region based on resource extraction to a burgeoning leader in green environmental practices.
Pittsburgh Signs: 250
Creating a full-color book documenting the unique signage in Southwestern Pennsylvania to celebrate the unique culture of the region.
Roadside Giants of the Lincoln Highway
Working with vocational and technical students to design and build incredible roadside attractions at locations along the historic Lincoln Highway.
South Side Sculpture Project
Completing the final stage of a monumental piece of public art created from salvaged artifacts of the local steel industry on a former riverfront mill site.
Separate panels of community leaders were convened in each county to review the proposals developed by local residents, and these panels selected 88 Grassroots Projects to receive awards up to $5,000.
Arcadia Theater’s Endowment Establishment
Securing the future of the historic Arcadia Theater with a 10th Anniversary Celebration Performance & Gala featuring the legendary Frankie Avalon.
Showcasing works by Pittsburgh artists in bus shelters and demonstrating that art is accessible, engaging, and an important part of daily urban life.
Community Car Ministry
Helping low-income and working-poor families maintain their vehicles by performing oil changes, brake and muffler repairs, and tune-ups—at no cost.
Connecting minority communities with greater access to outdoor recreation opportunities and encouraging healthy lifestyles.
Downtown Greensburg Campaign
Highlighting the architectural details of buildings located within the Downtown Greensburg historic district with new banners.
Everson Borough Veterans Parklet
Creating a new monument and memorial for those who served in the armed forces after the original was dismantled and name plates were stolen.
Fort McIntosh Garrison Revitalization
Helping equip a regiment of re-enactors representing the garrison stationed in 1778 at Fort McIntosh, the first permanent peacetime post of the U.S. Army.
Organizing fishing trips so underserved African American senior citizens could enjoy the outdoors, sustain social connections, and monitor health.
Gateway to Ambridge
Creating a water feature by a local artisan near a bridge that carries over 22,500 people daily to Ambridge.
Grant Avenue Pocket Park
Creating a public green space for community events in the heart of the Millvale downtown business district.
Homewood Redd Up!
Organizing community clean-ups in the Homewood and Squirrel Hill neighborhoods to connect neighboring communities.
Indiana County Covered Bridge Festival
Celebrating the history and beauty of covered bridges at a one-day festival highlighting the significance and history of these sites.
Jay Bee Model Circus
Supporting the acquisition, marketing, and opening celebration of the Butler County Historical Society’s newest exhibit, featuring a hand-carved and hand-painted model circus.
Enabling filmmakers to tell stories of humor, sadness, romance, and even music that express the character of the diverse and unique neighborhoods they live in.
Old Bedford Village Redoubt
Building historically accurate attractions to add to the collection of artifacts at this living history museum.
Operation Fresh Express
Helping prevent thousands of pounds of perishable food from going to waste by changing from monthly to weekly food bank distributions in Westmoreland County.
Postage Stamp Park
Creating a small park along the riverfront within the central business district of the City of Parker, the “Smallest City in the U.S.”
Restoring a Hay Wagon
Honoring the toil of ancestors and learning about the function of a hay wagon and its contributions to our nation’s progress.
Sailing in Pittsburgh
Promoting sailing on Pittsburgh’s rivers with the establishment of a permanent sailing program in conjunction with the 2008 Three Rivers Regatta.
Sandyvale Memorial Botanical Gardens Visitors Area
Bringing a historic building back to life as the visitors center of the Sandyvale Memorial Botanical Gardens at the site of an old pioneer cemetery.
Slippery Rock University ‘Green & Growing’
Providing green bikes as an alternate mode of transportation and planting 100 trees on campus.
Tanoma AMD Wetlands Educational Trail
Building an educational trail at the Tanoma Wetlands, an Abandoned Mine Drainage passive treatment system in Indiana County.
Staging re-enactments in Boyce Park, near the site of General John Forbes and Colonel George Washington’s encampment on November 22, 1758.
Community events were used throughout all four phases of Community Connections. Citizens were engaged in each step of the process: people participated in idea generation, decisionmaking, and project management, and ultimately they enjoyed celebrating the success of these 100 projects.
Outreach and ideation events were held in all 14 counties. Sprout used graphic facilitation as a tool to document the meetings and explore project ideas.
14 decisionmaking teams were seated to make decisions about grassroots applications, one per county. This model emphasized Sprout’s focus on hyper-local decisionmaking.
Regional Decisionmaking Forum
A regional committee comprised of leaders from across Southwestern PA participated in the Forum, where they heard regional applicants’ final pitches and selected winners.
Funded projects, community leaders, government officials, and the media gathered at the top of the Regional Enterprise Tower for the announcement of the selected projects.
At the end of the program, project leaders gathered to reflect on the accomplishments of the anniversary year and celebrate Community Connections’ many successes.
Making the Connections Booksave_alt
Working with author Justin Hopper and a team of local photographers, Sprout collected the stories and images of Community Connections in a commemorative book published in 2009.
Thank you to all those who made this program possible!
- Atlas America
- Armstrong County Community Foundation
- Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation
- BNY Mellon
- Citizens Bank
- Community Foundation for the Alleghenies
- The Community Foundation of Fayette County
- The Community Foundation of Greene County
- Community Foundation of Western PA & Eastern OH
- The Community Foundation of Westmoreland County
- Fifth Third Bank
- First Commonwealth
- The Grable Foundation
- The Hillman Foundation
- Jewish Healthcare Foundation
- Laurel Foundation
- Richard King Mellon Foundation
- National City Bank of Pennsylvania
- NiSource Charitable Foundation
- The Pittsburgh Foundation
- PNC Financial Services Group
- Donald & Sylvia Robinson Family Foundation
- Allegheny Conference on Community Development
- Pittsburgh 250, Inc.
- Landesberg Design
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- WDUQ 90.5 FM
Community Connections Committee Co-Chairs
- Aradhna Dhanda Leadership Pittsburgh
- Cathy Lewis Long The Sprout Fund
- George Miles Jr. WQED Multimedia
- Dustin Stiver
- Timothy Blevins
- Ryan Coon
- Matt Hannigan
- Mac Howison
- Cathy Lewis Long
- Justin Hopper documentarian
- Nate Boguszewski photographer
- Alexander Denmarsh photographer
- Nathan Schritter photographer