30 Pittsburgh girls who led in the course of the pandemic are honored by Pittsburgh Skilled Girls
Beth Caldwell, founder and director of Pittsburgh Professional Women, published her 10th book in 2020 and was due to travel to Manhattan in March to sign a book for the first time.
She never made this trip. She didn’t do the rest of the book tour either.
“The last event I had was International Women’s Day, an event I’ve been doing for five years,” she says.
Stuck at home, she started paying attention to how people were handling the pandemic. While some withdrew and waited and others felt sorry for online, some women were doing innovative and important things right outside the door.
“The first person I saw was Arlan Hess, owner of City Books – the oldest bookstore in Pittsburgh, but it only started in 1995,” says Caldwell. “She sent out emails last year talking about something she saw in Europe called roadside pickup.
“Back then we didn’t know what the roadside pickup was!” She adds. Hess worked with other business owners to get care packages and moved her book store online.
“The second was Mary Lee Gannon of the St. Margaret Foundation. On Mother’s Day, at the beginning of May, she sent an email in which she collected money for all the women who were stuck in the hospital on Mother’s Day without visitors. “
They sent flowers or gifts to each of them, and the campaign was so successful that they were able to buy seven iPads as well. Gannon also launched programs to help hospital staff, from gift cards to grocery stores to childcare needs.
As the pandemic continued, it became clear to Caldwell that there was no way she was going to host the grand event that was slated for the 15th anniversary of her organization in July. At that point, she decided to hold an event for her 16th year honoring women who did extraordinary things during the pandemic.
Like Kiya Tomlin.
One day Caldwell went to her mailbox and picked up a large package from Highmark. Inside was a face mask designed by Kiya Tomlin. “Very impressive!” says Caldwell. “Here was someone who clearly could have just been on vacation. Instead, she employed all of these people to sew these masks for a large project.
“From that moment on, I took names,” she says. Initially, she wanted to pick 16 women for the 16th anniversary, but in the end she had a list of 30.
This includes Stefani Pashman, leader of the Allegheny conference. “I thought she was kicking the ass,” says Caldwell. “When we went to Code Yellow – I’m sure she had a team – but she just took the reins and said, here’s what to do.”
And Anita Buzzy Prentiss, a photographer (in NEXTpittsburgh) who started a series of socially distant “porchraits”.
And Melanie Marie Boyer of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area, one of the first to create a series of digital speakers and host online events on topics like understanding the paycheck protection program. She also highlighted inspiring success stories from leaders in the Hispanic community.
The virtual event in honor of this and other women will take place on Monday, March 8, International Women’s Day, at 6 p.m. and will be co-hosted by Natalie Bencivenga and Caldwell.
Register for the event here. The cost is $ 29 and serves as a fundraiser for the Artemis Fund, which was launched by Caldwell to help families in need during the pandemic.
Check out the full list of award winners, including NEXTpittsburgh founder Tracy Certo, who credits the NEXTpittsburgh team for the extensive and excellent coverage of coronavirus news that continues to this day.