Mild in My Metropolis brings “gentle, dignity and safety” to the homeless inhabitants of Pittsburgh | life-style
PITTSBURGH – A yo-yo led Erik Wiesemann to a discovery that would change his life and help countless Pittsburgh residents.
The 47-year-old South Side resident is currently a kindergarten teacher at Baker Elementary School in Upper St. Clair. When he was still teaching third graders, one day a student brought a yo-yo that he had been given for his birthday. At the weekend Wiesemann learned some yo-yo tricks and fascinated his students with his newly learned skills. He recognized the interest in the yo-yo technique and founded Baker’s All Wound Up Yo-Yo Club.
Part of the club’s mission was to raise funds for local and global nonprofits. As part of All Wound Up, Baker students have donated more than $ 1,000 to the Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh and raised funds for international causes like digging wells in Africa. They also donated to Blankets Over Pittsburgh, a local nonprofit that cares for the homeless. This is how Wiesemann came into contact with his founder Jack Brumbaugh.
Brumbaugh invited Wiesemann to see how his donations are being used for the Pittsburgh homeless, and he immediately noticed something that worried him: Few of them had access to a source of light when the sun went down.
“Our homeless neighbors from Pittsburgh were practically groping in the dark,” said Wiesemann. “It’s a rough way of life.”
He realized that these people deserved “light, dignity and security”. He did some research, gathered some lights, and delivered them to the homeless in the Steel City. His humble endeavor is now a full-fledged nonprofit called Light in My City, which is largely a one-man operation, apart from the occasional help he gets from his 20-year-old son, Evan.
“I have always said that we are called to love our neighbors,” said Wiesemann. “These neighbors happen to live in a different structure than ours, still in the same town. This is Mister Rogers’ town where we ask: ‘Don’t you want to be my neighbor?’ And they are our neighbors. “
It mainly distributes LuminAID lanterns, which store solar energy during the day that the homeless can use at night. They are portable, weatherproof, and many also come with solar-powered chargers. Wiesemann said many homeless people carry government-issued phones that come in handy when they need to contact a clerk or a housing coordinator, for example.
In addition to LuminAID, Wiesemann also sells emergency solar crank radios from the camping / survivalist company FosPower and tactical flashlights from the LED product provider GearLight. On a recent delivery in late June, he said he had distributed 15 lanterns, 15 radios and 15 flashlights.
“It’s been a blessing to meet so many great people,” he said. “There are so many different stories on the streets as to why people are there. Often the homeless are stereotyped. … But I’ve met wonderful, wonderful people out there.
“They often feel forgotten. When you show up with a new lantern in the box, they almost never get anything new. Their faces shine brighter than the lantern in the box. It’s nice to see them smile.”
“You are loved and cared for”
That is true of Brandon, a 45-year-old who has been on the streets for the past 27 years. The ability to see at night is not something he can take for granted.
“Imagine if you couldn’t see if you need to pee or if you are thirsty and have no light,” he said. “Just remember to be in a normal, real situation. You want your drink and you wake up with no light, you’re screwed. Trust me, it’s not easy. “
He is infinitely grateful to Wiesemann and his work with the homeless in the city: “You are great, especially Erik. He helped me to survive and gives me hope. I don’t have many friends or people I can call. Sometimes he’s mine only friend. I am very grateful to him. “
Light in My City relies entirely on donations to continue serving those in need. Wiesemann doesn’t take a salary, and everything he earns goes straight to buying more lanterns or supplies. He has had support from a number of local businesses, including Diamonds Direct, a North Carolina-based diamond importer, which opened its first office in Pittsburgh in March.
Diamonds Direct is still getting to know Pittsburgh and is actively looking for philanthropic partners like Light in My City, according to regional marketing director Nicole Rubino. She said Wiesemann reached out to her and it quickly became clear that he was “somehow your home hero” and the kind of person and organization Diamonds Direct wanted to support. They recently donated $ 1,000 to Light in My City, enough to buy 50 LuminAID lanterns.
“He looked at the needs of the community and done something,” said Rubino. “So much of what Light in My City stands for, it was a natural development for us to be able to give something back to her.”
Wiesemann has recognized the direct effects a single light source can have on a homeless person. He mentioned one such man who used a Light in My City lantern to study for truck school. He completed this apprenticeship and is now on and off the road.
Exactly such stories are the reason why Wiesemann is so passionately interested in continuing Light in My City. He needs the homeless to know that there is always someone who can see them and want to help.
“You are loved,” he said. “Sometimes it may not feel like it, but it can be true whether you live on the street or indoors. But you are loved and cared for.”