Our 40th anniversary is the perfect opportunity to recognize some of the projects, people, events, and organizations that have shaped our history over four decades.

Regis Bobonis crossed paths with CCI while serving as director of community relations at the Duquesne Light Company, which he joined after 25 years as PR Director at Mercy Hospital. He was very involved with engaging Duquesne Light’s employees with the Energy House and other CCI energy conservation efforts during his tenure at the utility company.  A graduate of Duquesne University, Rege worked also worked in media as a reporter for the Pittsburgh Courier and the first African American reporter for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and WIIC (now WPXI) TV.  Following his retirement from Duquesne Light, Rege successfully spearheaded an effort to build a memorial to the Tuskegee Airmen from Western Pennsylvania in Sewickley. Rege passed away in November 2016.

Housing Opportunities, Inc. was a McKeesport-based nonprofit that provided financial advice and counseling to enable first-time homebuyers to purchase homes and meet resulting mortgage obligations. Through its work, HOI recognized that the inability of first-time homeowners to make mortgage payments was due to rising utility costs and inadequate conservation education, which resulted in its involvement with the Energy House project.  HOI’s responsibility was for the maintenance and management of the structure during the life of the project, then for the disposition of the property to a qualified first-time homeowner. In 2001, after 25 years of service, HOI changed its corporate structure and added McKeesport Neighborhood Initiatives.

Robert Kobet, AIA, LEED Faculty, is the CEO of The Kobet Collaborative, a parent company that includes Sustainaissance International and The International Eco-Friends Network.  Sustainaissance, which began in 1979 as Energy Design Associates, is a multi-discipline architectural consulting firm specializing in sustainable design and development, high performance LEED-certified buildings and environmental education.  Bob has worked in 11 countries on five continents for more than 39 years creating innovative places to live, work, and learn. His green building and sustainable community development projects around the world range from small nonprofit endeavors to multi-million dollar developments.  For CCI, he converted a 120-year-old former boarding house into the Energy House, an on-site, community-based energy conservation demonstration project.

Frederic B. Sargent has a long history with CCI, beginning with his service as a member of the Energy House Advisory Committee when he was president of Sargent Electric Company, an electrical contracting firm.  Fred recently completed a turn as a CCI director and continues his involvement as a member of the organization’s strategic planning committee. Professionally, Fred maintains his dedication to well-managed service operations as founder and president of Great Service Forums, a company that helps electrical contractors develop their service organizations.  He also shares his experience through a column about service and maintenance he co-authors in Electrical Contractor Magazine.  Fred’s latest book—Great Service Made Simple—was released in October 2017.

Betty Ann Simon four years before CCI and its partners created the Energy House, Betty started the Dollar Energy Fund modeled after a program in St. Louis.  She had been a volunteer on KDKA’s “Call for Action” and heard repeatedly from people who were having trouble paying their utility bills.  Betty was president of the Dollar Energy Fund and an active member of the Advisory Committee of the Energy House, bringing her knowledge, energy, and empathy to the project.  She remained a life-time board member of the Fund until her death in 2002.  The Dollar Energy Fund since established the annual Betty Ann Simon Memorial Award to recognize a leader who has made significant contributions to the limited-income community.

Ann Jones Gerace was an elementary school teacher before raising four children.  Her next job, which she started in 1987, was energy manager at CCI.  She became executive director in 1990.  Ann retired from CCI in 2013.  During the intervening years she was a major voice in championing the benefits of energy efficiency, especially in low-income neighborhoods. Her vision for the CCI Center “as an example promoting and highlighting those “green” values, and a resource hub for other environment organizations and the public,” according to Don Hopey in the Post Gazette.

Described by The New York Times as “Pittsburgh’s most innovative theater company,” City Theatre specializes in new play development. The Mainstage Theatre seats 254 and accommodates a variety of unique configurations to enhance the audience’s theatrical experience. The Hamburg Studio is a black box theatre that invites the audience into the action with room for just 110.  The Charles Morris Building houses the rehearsal hall, as well as costume, prop, and paint shops. The Walter Long Building, a former steel rolling plant across from the theatre, functions as a storage facility for set pieces and materials

Ellis Schmidlapp has been called a master in restoring and recapturing historic buildings while introducing modern amenities into the design to make them energy efficient and environmentally sensitive.  For more than 35 years, he was the president of Landmark Designs Associates (LDA), a full-service architectural firm he founded that specialized in historic preservation in western Pennsylvania.  The firm’s work received awards and honors from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum.

Yoko Tai and Steve Lee formed TAI + LEE, architects in 1981, and have earned a reputation for innovation and experience in a wide range of project types. The expertise of the founders has evolved from their years of experience in urban design, neighborhood revitalization, adaptive reuse and sustainable design. Yoko Tai is the owner and principal of TAI + LEE, architects and she is assisted on a project basis by co-founder and consulting principal, Steve Lee, who is Professor & Head of the School of Architecture at Carnegie Mellon. Yoko has assembled a talented team of professionals, interns--such as CMU students Christine and Marc Mondor on the CCI Center project--and engineering consultants that are capable of providing a full range of architectural services. 

The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) is the City of Pittsburgh's economic development agency. Its goals are to create jobs, increase the city’s tax base, improve the vitality of the city’s businesses and neighborhoods, and improve the City of Pittsburgh’s livability as a whole. Incorporated in 1946, the URA was one of the first redevelopment authorities in Pennsylvania. Organized by corporate and civic leaders, the URA undertook the first privately financed downtown redevelopment project in the United States -- Gateway Center. Since then, the URA has constructed and rehabilitated tens of thousands of homes, reclaimed thousands of acres of contaminated brownfield and riverfront sites and assisted hundreds of businesses in neighborhoods throughout the City of Pittsburgh.

Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania - A longtime partner with CCI—is one of seven energy-distribution companies of NiSource Inc.  It serves 426,000 residential, industrial, and govern customers in 450 communities.   Columbia Gas continues to offer a free weatherization program designed for customers with low incomes and high gas usage.  Currently called WarmWise, the program first identifies an energy picture of the customer’s home and then takes action to seal up areas where heat escapes.  The goal is to help customers better manage energy use and gas heating costs by reducing natural gas consumption.

Colteryahn Dairy was the oldest and last remaining dairy in the City of Pittsburgh.  It  now is operated by Turner Dairy Farms as Pittsburgh Special-T Dairy.  Prior to the June 2017 transfer, Colteryahn operated at the Brownsville Road site for almost a century.  In 2012, Economic Development South, a multi-municipal community development corporation, received a URA grant to develop a plan for a Carrick Dairy District, with the Colteryahn Dairy on Brownsville Road as its eponymous centerpiece.  A pavilion—named the Historic Dairy District Marketplace—was added in 2016 and houses the Citiparks weekly Farmers Market, flea markets, food trucks, and other special events.   

Mike Dawida, a native of Carrick, is executive director of Scenic Pittsburgh, a nonprofit organization that protects, preserves, and promotes the scenic resources of southwestern Pennsylvania.  Mike’s public service career spans 30 years as a legislator, lawyer, and teacher.  As a Pennsylvania state senator and representative, Mike championed and passed many legislative firsts including the Pennsylvania Clean Indoor Air Act and the Pennsylvania Organ Donor Act.  Mike also served as Allegheny county commissioner where he founded the Airport Authority and created the Allegheny County 911 system, among other accomplishments.  He is a professor of law and public policy at California University of Pennsylvania.

The Heinz Endowments is a regional foundation formed from the Howard Heinz Endowment, established in 1941, and the Vira I. Heinz Endowment, established in 1986. It is the product of a deep family commitment to community and the common good that began with H. J. Heinz, and which continues to this day. Based in Pittsburgh, its mission is to help southwestern Pennsylvania prosper as a vibrant center of creativity, learning, and social, economic and environmental sustainability.  Core to its work is the vision of a just community where all are included and where everyone who calls the region home has a real and meaningful opportunity to thrive. Over CCI’s 40-year history, The Heinz Endowments has awarded grants to help further its work energy efficient, healthy homes and communities.

Petra Mitchell is the president and ceo of Catalyst Connection, a private, nonprofit economic development organization dedicated to helping manufacturers with management consulting and technical assistance leading to business growth and job creation.  Catalyst Connection is the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and the Industrial Resource Center (IRC) of Southwestern Pennsylvania and Petra is its center director.  Her experience in manufacturing operations, technology acceleration, and business development stretches back to 1988.  Before joining Catalyst Connection, she was employed by GE Aircraft Engines, now GE Aviation.  She was named a 2016 Most Admired CEOs in Pittsburgh by the Pittsburgh Business Times.