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PPG, United Way brighten Propel Pitcairn with colorful paint work

August 17, 2016

PPG teamed with the United Way recently to paint portions of a Pitcairn charter school.

Propel Pitcairn is a beneficiary of PPG Industries Inc.’s “Colorful Communities” initiative that refurbishes locations in communities where PPG products have a presence, and its employees live and work.

The charter school, with about 350 students, was the second of four in the Pittsburgh area to receive such makeovers this month; 30 projects globally are to be completed by the end of the year.

The other Pittsburgh sites are the YWCA Homewood-Brushton Child Development Center, the teen lounge at the Jeron X Grayson Community Center in the Hill District and the Boys and Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania in Shadyside.

“It’s all about investing in our local communities, especially those where the need is great. ... (W)e believe it’s important to give students a bright and cheerful environment in which to learn and grow,” said Sue Sloan, executive director of corporate global social responsibility at Downtown-based PPG.

Lois Mufuka Martin, chief volunteer engagement officer at United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, said PPG’s initiative at Propel aligned with the United Way’s goal to connect people in various communities. The work at Propel was on Aug. 10.

“We want to do with others, not just for others in the community,” she said.

At Propel Pitcairn, a handful of PPG employees volunteered to paint murals and add new coatings to some walls in “One-derland,” the first-graders’ section on the third floor. Some blank walls were turned into vibrantly colored depictions of animals reading and one wall now has friendly monsters for students’ birthdays.

“Encouraging volunteerism builds employee morale and creates positive change that multiplies over time. The goal is to beautify the neighborhoods that we call home,” Sloan said.

Volunteer Denise Bell of Monroeville has been working at PPG’s analytical labs for three months. She said she feels obligated to help with projects that impact her community.

“I feel strongly for Propel. I know it’s hard to get funding for everything (the school) need(s) to give for the kids,” Bell said.

Christopher McClendon, a product manager with PPG’s color design studios, said he had an extremely busy work week but needed to devote time to his passion — volunteering.

“If you don’t stop to give your time and volunteer, you’ll never get (initiatives like ‘Colorful Communities’) done,” he said.

McClendon, who lives in Mars and started his career as a professional painter, also said he has a sense of pride when he can work with products he created and help a good cause.

The volunteers also painted the school’s logo on the playground and outlined play areas for games like four-square, hopscotch and kickball.

Muralist Lynne Mack outlined characters and assigned portions of the painting to other volunteers. Mack, a painter for 35 years, said using her talents to volunteer for the sake of children is especially rewarding.

“It makes me feel good that the kids can wake up, come to school and see something that makes them smile,” she said.

Kaitlin Anselmo and Alex Hauser, first-grade teachers at Propel Pitcairn, removed an adjustable wall that had separated their classrooms and teach all 42 first-grade students together. They said they welcome the new artwork as an alternative to humdrum tan walls.

“We don’t have windows in our classrooms, so we had to use color to create a friendly and engaging atmosphere at school, so (the students) would feel comfortable,” Anselmo said.

School starts for Propel on Monday and the teachers are certain that their students will enjoy the change of scenery.

Jeremy Resnick, executive director of Propel Schools, said the acts giving time and donating to the community correlate with concepts the schools teach.

“We have a strong academic program, but we are about leadership and service opportunities as well,” Resnick said.

Samson X Horne is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7845 or shorne@tribweb.com.