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Gas Co. Volunteers Pitch In at Trail Shelter

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
April 21, 2022
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Mike Huwar, Peoples Gas president; Linda Brewster of the McKeesport Trail Commission; Jacqueline Ziemianski, Peoples Gas manager of corporate giving and community relations; and McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko. (Tube City Almanac photo)

Drizzle didn’t deter more than two dozen volunteers from Peoples Gas who volunteered to paint, clean and pull weeds around the overnight shelter on the McKeesport section of the Great Allegheny Passage.

Peoples on Thursday also presented the McKeesport Trail Commission with a check for $10,000 for capital equipment purchases, upkeep to the trail hostel and summer programming.

The McKeesport stop — tied to the annual celebration of Earth Day — is one of more than 20 volunteer events being held by Peoples employees throughout the company’s service area, said Jacqueline Ziemianski, Peoples manager of corporate giving and community relations.

Most of the projects being done around April — like planting trees or picking up refuse — have a conservation or natural resources theme, said Mike Huwar, Peoples Gas president.

“Like many of the projects we support, they help to lift up communities that we serve, and signifies how important they are to us as an organization,” Huwar said.

Employees from the company’s McKeesport and Wilkinsburg offices pitched in at the McKeesport trail hostel, located along the trail near McKees Point Marina.

Linda Brewster, president of the all-volunteer trail commission, said Peoples Gas approached her husband, state Sen. Jim Brewster, to ask where the company’s volunteer efforts could be best utilized for Earth Day.

The trail hostel, which provides overnight accommodations for people traveling through McKeesport on bicycles, was closed in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and needed a thorough cleaning, Linda Brewster said. In addition, the plantings surrounding the shelter were in need of replacement with more drought-resistant vegetation, she said, and two of the four security cameras were damaged.

About 15 to 20 travel parties use the shelter each summer, Brewster said.

Use of the overnight shelter, which includes hot water, a shower, a bathroom and a kitchenette, costs $40 per person or $120 per night, she said.

Linda Brewster, chair of the McKeesport Trail Commission, with a map showing the hometowns of some of the visitors to the overnight hostel. (Tube City Almanac photo)

The Peoples volunteers also painted the neighboring picnic shelter and repaired several benches.

Brewster said the trail commission intends to use part of the grant to develop programming for children and young adults along the McKeesport section of the trail this year.

Peoples is a subsidiary of Essential Utilities. The Peoples grant was made on behalf of the company’s charitable arm, the Essential Foundation, and not from the firm’s operating budget, Huwar said. “This is money that was donated by our company and our employees, not investor dollars,” he said.

About 200 Peoples employees have donated time already this year on projects such as Thursday’s cleanup, Ziemianski said. “It’s encouraged by the company,” she said. Employees are not obligated to volunteer, Ziemianski said, but they are paid for hours devoted to volunteer work.

Peoples Gas volunteers with members of the trail commission, state Sen. Jim Brewster and McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko. (Courtesy State Sen. Jim Brewster)

Originally published April 21, 2022.

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