Homewood resident Ms. Mary Savage has been beautifying the neighborhood for over 50 years. By tending to the many gardens and green areas of Homewood, Savage has made it her passion to keep her community beautiful, even at times on her own dime.
On Friday, Savage received a helping hand from University of Pittsburgh Athletics and other community organizations as they transformed a vacant lot in Homewood into a brand-new green space for its residents.
Pitt partnered with local organizations The Mission Continues and Operation Better Block to reinvent the space.
Founded in 1970, Operation Better Block aims to support youth, housing and economic development in the Homewood Community. OBB often partners with The Mission Continues to better the neighborhood they share.
The Mission Continues is a national non-profit that provides veterans with the opportunity to continue their service by empowering them to make a positive impact in their local community. The organization has three platoons in the Pittsburgh area that serve Homewood, Hazelwood and the South Hills, specializing in neighborhood youth, revitalization and refugee and immigrant support.
The “Homewood Platoon” is lead by Navy veteran Derrick Clark, who grew up in Homewood. Clark remembered the work Savage had been doing around the neighborhood for decades, and had the idea to collaborate with her in creating a new park based on her vision.
“There’s a lot of gardens in Homewood,” Clark said. “Why don’t we reach out to Ms. Savage and see if we can do something for her?”
National Manager of Staff Experience Stephanie Grimes said that the revitalization of the space would have likely taken years to complete if not for the help of Pitt Athletics.
“They were looking for an opportunity for all of their staff to come and serve together, and that they were wanting to do something with veterans,” Grimes said.
Grimes continued that with Pitt’s partnership, they were able to complete the project in about a day, when they previously believed it would have taken about three years.
Athletic Director Heather Lyke was one of Pitt’s many administrators and staff members helping with the cause. Lyke identified community service as one of the core values of her administration at Pitt.
“Every year one of our summer goals is to do an athletic department community service event,” Lyke said. “It’s really our chance to unite among one another, and give back.”
In addition to Lyke, staff members from across the athletic department joined in helping Homewood, including members of the media relations and marketing departments.
“One of our core values is to unite, engage and give back to our community,” Lyke said. “We have those expectations of our student athletes, and so if we expect it of our student athletes, for us as leaders and athletic department administrators not do it, it’s not very aligned.”
Upon completion, the new park will provide a variety of options for Homestead residents to get active or unwind. The park will include benches and chess tables for those that want to have lunch and relax. For those that want to exercise, there will be pullup bars, a walking track and tires for locals to break a sweat. There will also be a fountain sprinkler system for kids to cool off in the summer.
The new green space is located at the corner of North Murtland Street and Fielding Way just blocks away from Westinghouse Academy, providing an area for students to unwind or collaborate outside of the classroom.
“We want to encourage parents to send their kids to their home school,” Savage said. “We want to do this garden and others, and bring them together as a wonderful community in Homewood.”
The park will hopefully have a positive impact in Homewood, and Lyke feels that it will be equally as beneficial for Pitt’s athletic department.
“I think in a day like today,” Lyke said. “Event though we’re giving back to a community, we’re getting a lot out of it too.”
They park has yet to be named, but Clark believes there is only one worthy place to look for its namesake. He suggests it be dedicated to the woman that inspired it, Ms. Mary Savage.