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Five Honored For Living McKeesport Message

By Submitted Report
The Tube City Almanac
January 16, 2018
Posted in: Announcements

Above: Pat Harris and Cheryl Myers Cotter receive a proclamation from McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko during January's city council meeting. (Tube City Almanac photo)

Five people were honored this month by McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko and city council for living the "McKeesport Message."

At this month's city council meeting, proclamations were presented to George Mushalko for living the value of "respect," to Carlinos Acie for "hope," and to Pat Harris and Cheryl Myers Cotter for "love."

Also honored, for the value of "dignity," was Melissa Staley, who could not be present.

The "Living the Message" awards are presented quarterly by a subgroup of Cherepko's Select Committee on Crime and Violence.

The deadline for the next round of nominations is Jan. 31, said Jennifer Vertullo, assistant to the mayor.

Nominations should be sent to the mayor's office, 500 Fifth Ave., McKeesport 15132, or emailed to Vertullo at

Biographies of the latest nominees follow.


George Mushalko exemplifies what it means to be a neighbor. At 86, he's out and about on a daily basis looking for new ways to make his friends and neighbors smile.

A lifelong McKeesporter, George grew up in the city's second and third wards, and has lived in the Hall Park neighborhood for 60 years. With an artistic eye and an exceptional green thumb, George has been helping his neighbors on Gordon and Barnsdale streets with their home gardens for years.

In recent years, with the passing of a close friend, he has been working with extended family to maintain the property until the house can be sold.

George considers his talents to be a blessing, and he embraces every opportunity to share them with others. From tending to live flower gardens to creating silk arrangements as special gifts, he wants to bring joy to his friends and neighbors.

"I think kindness and being neighborly is a goal everyone should have," he said. "I hope other people will read this and start thinking more about their neighbors."

George is a member of Holy Family Polish National Catholic Church, where he grew up helping his mother with charitable work and today says it's "second nature."

George attributes his long life to keeping his mind and body active. He is an avid crossword puzzle worker, and he spends hours walking 5 to 7 miles every day, earning him the nickname "George the Walker" by many folks around town.

"We have such a nice community," he said. "We have a beautiful park. We have Penn State. We have nine churches just in this part of town. McKeesport is a cultural area with a library and theater. Our community is undersold, and this is the McKeesport people need to hear more about."


Not knowing much about Southwestern Pennsylvania, Melissa Staley moved her family to McKeesport nearly five years ago. They needed to be closer to a first-class educational program offered in Pittsburgh for her youngest son, who is hearing impaired.

She happened upon McKeesport while in search for affordable, accessible housing, and she's been active in the community ever since. Melissa heard the stories of McKeesport as a thriving mill town with a bustling downtown and picturesque neighborhoods, and she saw a community in disrepair. She wanted to do her part to bring back the image her neighbors described.

In the area of Ross and Dinsmore streets, Melissa and her family have been clearing trash from vacant lots, mowing lawns, and trimming trees for years. They tend to vacant properties as well as those of elderly neighbors.

"It's a lot of work, but when it's done, it's the best feeling in the world," she said. "We've had people stop and ask us if we were buying a property, and they're surprised when they find out we're not. We get so many compliments, prayers and blessings."

Melissa said it's nice when people notice her family's work, but she's not doing it for recognition. She is hopeful others will see what she's done, and they'll try to make a difference as well.

"It only takes a few minutes to clean up the lot next to you," she said. "Anyone can make a difference, and hopefully they will inspire another person to do their part."

Melissa thanked her neighbors for doing their part and the city's public works department for providing dumpsters for large-scale clean-up efforts.


Carlinos Acie has the world at his fingertips. A star athlete and straight-A student, he's making the most of his time at McKeesport Area High School, and he's proud to be a Tiger.

Years of hard work in the classroom and on the football field have earned Carlinos attention from Ivy League schools. He's heard from Dartmouth, Columbia and Brown. He also has interest from the U.S. Naval Academy. And while he has yet to choose from this impressive list of educational opportunities, he's confident in his calling to study sports medicine.

Carlinos always has been a hardworking young man. He knows the persistence, focus and strength it takes to make choices that will guarantee a promising future. In elementary and middle school, his report cards always reflected an impressive performance of A's and B's; and in high school, he's earned straight A's.

On the football field, he has applied the lessons he learned and the drive he developed in the McKeesport Little Tigers program to his role as a running back and defensive back on the high school's Tigers team.

"Your options aren't limited when you can apply yourself and be good at sports and academics," Carlinos said. "You have to work hard to get what you want, and I'm determined to get out there in the world, live a comfortable life, and have an opportunity to give back to my mother and my community."

Carlinos thanked his mother, Liana Simmons, for doing her best to raise him to be a kind, loving person. As an adult, he hopes to support his mother and to give back to the city of McKeesport.

Currently, Carlinos performs community service as a member of the National Honor Society. He tutors third-graders enrolled in the CANOES after-school program at Twin Rivers Elementary School.


Anyone who has attended the Festival of Trees in the last ten to fifteen years has met the smiling faces of Cheryl Cotter and Pat Harris. Cheryl and Pat have been spreading cheer and sharing their love for the holiday season since the event became part of the McKeesport Recreation Board's event series.

In its 32-year history, the Festival of Trees has invited the community not only to enjoy a beautiful display of Christmas trees, but also to take part in the creation of that display. It brings McKeesporters together in celebration of the holiday spirit, and it invites local organizations, student clubs, churches and other participating groups to share their mission and creativity with the McKeesport community.

Cheryl and Pat are always on hand to help volunteers piece together their trees or to take festival-goers on personalized tours once the event is up and running.

"There's something here for everyone --- entertainment, food and so many beautiful trees," Pat said. "Every tree tells a story. That's why we're here --- to share something special during the holidays."

Pat said her favorite aspect of the Festival of Trees is watching children's reactions.

"You can see the wonder in their eyes when they meet Santa Claus or when they see the ornaments they made on a tree that's all put together," she said.

Cheryl said she's most impressed by how the community comes together during the holidays.

"The Festival of Trees brings our whole community together," she said. "This year, it's 84 trees. It's students and adults volunteering their time to serve excellent food and provide entertainment. You can't beat that."

Cheryl said the festival is proof that McKeesport is a community filled with love and holiday spirit, and she's proud to be a part of that.

Living the Message

The McKeesport Message Committee, a subgroup of McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko's Select Committee on Crime and Violence, invites the public to nominate community members who exemplify the words, "Respect, Dignity, Hope and Love."

McKeesporters of all ages --- from youth volunteers to senior citizens --- display characteristics of Respect, Dignity, Hope and Love on a daily basis in our community. Whether through organizing community activities or offering a helping hand to those in need, everyday people are doing their part to make our city a better place.

If we look within our schools, our neighborhoods, our churches and our service organizations, we will find acts of kindness for which we all can be proud.

Living the Message awards are intended to showcase these individuals and give the community an opportunity to share its good news. Awards are given quarterly.

Using 250 words or fewer, describe how the individual of your choice embodies one of the four words.

For more information, contact the mayor's office at 412-675-5020, ext. 605. Nominations can be mailed to the mayor's assistant Jennifer Vertullo, 500 Fifth Ave., McKeesport, PA 15132, or emailed to jen.vertullo@mckeesport-pa.gov. The deadline for the next round of nominations is January 31, 2018.

Originally published January 16, 2018.

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