Winter 2014: EECO Center
The Environment and Energy Community Outreach Center (EECO Center) is all about access and connections. Located at the corner of Larimer Avenue and East Liberty Boulevard, the small building is run by Pittsburgh Community Services, Inc. opened in 2012 and is a model of energy efficiency. The goal of the building is to act as a resource center where people from all over Pittsburgh can connect with organizations and learn how to save money and live a healthier lifestyle by saving energy and natural resources.
The EECO Center is home to a variety of events and programs including workshops that teach home energy- saving tricks and the Low Income Heat and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) which helps low-income families pay energy bills. The Center also hosts meetings for local neighborhood groups and organizations from around the city.
Knowledge Murphy, EECO Program Specialist with PCSI at the EECO Center, emphasizes the importance of making these connections between the people and organizations especially in predominantly African American neighborhoods like Larimer, where the Center is located. Communities of color are disproportionately affected by the negative effects of industrial pollution (Murphy points to Braddock as an example) and, he says, are largely left out of the growing conversation about energy efficiency and environmental sustainability.
Murphy is enthusiastic when he talks about the future of the EECO Center. He’s committed to making connections between energy- saving programs in Pittsburgh and residents who may not have had access to those programs before. His goal for the EECO Center is “to make (it) a hub of activity that people can come to. Like if we were playing tag, EECO would be base.”
Learn more about the EECO Center and PCSI at their website.
Summer 2014: LA Grocery; West Indian and American
The owner of LA Grocery, known to all as Dread, brings a wide variety of specialty foods to his West Indian and American grocery store on Larimer Avenue. Inside the store are several rows of shelves of goods as well as produce in refrigerators along the walls, advertisements for community events on the front window, and containers of candy that you won’t find at a traditional grocery store.
LA Grocery opened in September of 1990, two years after Dread moved to Larimer from New York City with his wife. Dread sources much of his inventory from New York which allows him to ensure that the items are fresh and unique; much of what it sold at his store can’t be found elsewhere in Pittsburgh.
Customers come to LA Grocery from all over the city and surrounding areas, some from as far as Monroeville. It is the store’s specialized inventory as well as its longtime presence in the neighborhood that help keep it busy during the day.
Dread describes the business community in Larimer at the time of LA Grocery’s opening in 1990 as similar to that of the Strip District. Dread would like to see the neighborhood like that again; where Larimer residents wouldn’t have to leave the neighborhood but could find grocery stores, barber shops, and other services they needed within blocks of their homes. As far as the future of LA Grocery, Dread thinks the new development will be good for the neighborhood though he’s stayed out of the planning process. More residents would mean a larger customer base nearby for his store, though during the time that the One Voice team spoke with Dread the store was never empty. A steady stream of customers passed through to buy groceries, snacks, and, of course, the famous meat or veggie patties that Dread bakes daily and occasionally sells by the dozen.
This last quarter, the Redd-up Action Team and 52Lots project was “fired up and ready to go.” We cleaned eight debris-laden areas with residents, Larimer Consensus Group members, the 12th Ward Committee members, and Larimer neighborhood friends. Those friends included students from CMU, youth from an Empowerment Project, volunteers from St. Andrews Church, and a number of supportive individuals.
A committed father and relative of these hard working helpers modeled what neighborhood involvement should be: families working toward creating a cleaner, healthier environment. A by-product of Redd-Up/52Lots is providing opportunities for youth to learn the importance of a cohesive neighborhood working together to achieve positive goals.
Winter 2013: Ms. Betty Lane
Ms. Betty Lane is a well-known figure in Larimer and around Pittsburgh for her work as an advocate and organizer in Larimer. She also holds a masters’ degree in Social Work and has a passion for the arts and writing. An advisor encouraged her to study Social Work rather than writing, but she continues writing to this day. Her interest in African drumming was inspired by her work teaching African history to young men. She says that “sometimes when I’m drumming I can just leave. My hands will be playing but I’m somewhere else. I just love it.”
When asked how she would like to be remembered, both her social science background and her passion for the arts were evident: she hopes to be remembered for her work helping people in the community and working for a beautiful and vital Larimer. She hopes to leave the legacy of her writing because, as she says, “[my writing] is the stuff that they don’t see me out there for so when they read my book, they can read about the things that they don’t know about me.” The book is “Seven Days to Ascend” which chronicles her spiritual journey and search for truth.
This winter Ms. Betty can be seen frequently cleaning vacant lots and shoveling sidewalks in Larimer with the 52Lots project and Redd-Up Action Team. The next step on Ms. Betty’s life journey will be to a sunnier climate: a trip to Mexico where she will fulfill what she has called “an elder’s dream” to study the ancient Olmec civilization.
Fall 2013 L.O.U.D. (Larimer Outreach Urban Development)
On September 20th One Voice spoke with Jay Akres and Anton Patton on behalf of Larimer Outreach Urban Development (L.O.U.D), a nonprofit whose mission is to help decrease violence by providing realistic alternatives, developing leadership, and empowering youth to become productive citizens. They co-founded the organization with Timothy Duckett, Danny Carpenter, and Joseph Weatherspoon. They describe themselves as “proud black men from the Larimer community that decided their kids need something to do.”
One Voice: So what inspired y’all to create L.O.U.D?
L.O.U.D.: We sat down and said that our voices needed to be heard. And what inspired us were our kids; we see our kids and we see other people’s kids running around with nothing to do down here. There’s no recreation center, not one recreation center that goes around and helps our kids…everybody turning their backs on the teenagers out there and if they see five black minority men come together and form something strong like this, this probably can give them inspiration to say “Okay, i need to do something with myself.”
OV: So true. So what would you guys like to see for the future of Larimer?
L: We want to see beautification, we want to see people interacting in Larimer like the community that it is. We want to see brighter days and stopping a lot of this nonsense that’s going on around here; the shootings, the fights, the arguments, the neighbors not even interacting with each other.
OV: What kind of resources do you think you might need?
L: The community knows that we make the first step for them by getting the building, making sure the rent’s paid and everything, all we need them to do is support and show up. mainly our resource is the community, that’s the resource. We’re going to do this at the end of the day regardless, whether somebody funds this or not. We’re going to do this.
Summer 2013: Ms. Ora Lee Carroll
Ora Lee Carroll was a strong role model and leader for the neighborhood of Larimer. Known as “Big Mama” she was a vital force in the transformation of the community and her legacy continues to make a mark on Larimer today. Ms. Carroll was a founder and an Executive Director of the East Liberty Concerned Citizens Corporation as well as an exceptional woman and leader. She strongly believed that restoring the cohesiveness of family and community structure was a dire necessity that can provide stability, support, nurturing, as well as guidance. Under her leadership and direction, the ELCCC created a number of projects and programs that helped the community at
large. These projects included the afterschool program “Project Africa,” that taught various skills regarding vegetable and herb gardening businesses, opening bank
accounts and how to sustainably use layaway plans in stores. Helping to spearhead the Larimer Community Plan, Ms. Carroll aggressively sought to bring investment, businesses, jobs and affordable housing to the Larimer neighborhood. She helped to bring in strong organizational partners to continue the growth of the community at large. Community residents could always count on Ms. Carroll’s ability to help in hard times, and her idea that if you help just one family, it will spread to others and ultimately help the entire community. Ora Lee Carroll died at the age of 71 on January 25th, 2013 three years after being diagnosed with colon cancer. Her family gathered in Norfolk, VA to say their good byes. She will be missed by all of us!