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Volunteer effort replaces parade, celebrations canceled due to COVID-19
James J. Blatnik, AFL-CIO community services liaison for the Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council, paints park bench metal frames before the wood is replaced on the bench. (Tube City Almanac photo by Vickie Babyak)
McKeesport city officials, the Allegheny-Fayette Central Labor Council, local union members and their families worked together on Saturday morning to participate in a beautification day at Renziehausen Park.
Because the annual Pittsburgh Labor Day Parade, picnics and other celebrations were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, union members instead organized “Labor’s Weekend of Service” at several locations in the Pittsburgh area.
Darrin Kelly, a Pittsburgh firefighter and president of the labor council, said it was an opportunity to highlight the commitment of union members to serving the communities where they live.
“We are embracing this opportunity to honor the frontline workers who are helping usget through this pandemic and to show what organized labor is all about,” Kelly said. “We are all in this together, and it’s never been more important that we all take care of one another.”
Union members and city officials work to level the surface of the bocce ball court at Renziehausen Park in McKeesport. (Tube City Almanac photo by Vickie Babyak)
During the “weekend of service,” union members also helped Duquesne-based Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and the Pittsburgh Penguins with a food distribution at PPG Paints Arena and led a volunteer group to clean and restore a veterans’ memorial in Pittsburgh’s Crafton Heights neighborhood.
At Renzie, work on Saturday included installing a new border around Renzie’s bocce ball court, painting bleachers at Jimmy Long Field, replacing wood on picnic tables, painting doorways at the Renzie Senior Center and mulching one of the park entrances, said Tom Maglicco, city administrator.
Although those seem like small tasks individually, together they “instantly” improved the appearance of the park, Maglicco said. The work also allowed city employees to “dedicate their time to day-to-day operations and larger-scale projects.”
City officials and local union members volunteer at Jimmy Long Field on Saturday. (Tube City Almanac photo by Vickie Babyak)
Besides serving as a city asset, Renziehausen Park also functions as a regional park and receives funding from the Allegheny Regional Asset District, which is supported by the county’s 1 percent sales tax. The city uses RAD funding and its own budget to support annual operations and programming in the park.
McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said the effort to spruce up the park by the Allegheny-Fayette labor council showed the importance of having “a variety of organizations and community partners working toward the same goals.”
Cherepko thanked the labor council for organizing the work crew and McKeesport-area unions “who aligned their hometown with this volunteer effort.”
City Administrator Tom Maglicco, McKeesport Mayor Mike Cherepko and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitgerald test out the newly repaired bocce ball court. (Tube City Almanac photo by Vickie Babyak)
ACLC President Darrin Kelly, McKeesport Mayor Mike Cherepko, City Administrator Tom Maglicco, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitgerald, AFL-CIO Community Services Liaison Jim Blatnik and Chief Revenue Officer Matt Gergely. (Tube City Almanac photo by Vickie Babyak)
Vickie Babyak is a freelance photographer from Dravosburg. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tube City Almanac editor Jason Togyer contributed to this story. He may be reached at email@example.com.
Originally published September 07, 2020.