Check back often for news and events from Westmoreland Community Action. WCA holds fundraisers, summits, classes, workshops and more throughout the year.
Westmoreland Community Action Represented on the NCAF Board
Tay Waltenbaugh, CEO of Westmoreland Community Action, was elected to join the National Community Action Foundation (NCAF) Board of Directors as its first at-large board member. The NCAF was founded in 1981 with the purpose of representing Community Action Agencies and their state and regional associations in Washington, D.C. Current Executive Director David Bradley, with the mentorship of Sargent Shriver, co-founded the organization in an effort to ensure that the federal government continued to support the Community Action Program.
Westmoreland Notables: Head of county’s drug overdose task force knows struggles of addiction firsthand
Rich Cholodofsky, Tribune Review, April 9
And Phillips should know. At 58, he’s a recovering addict who has been drug-free for nearly 29 years but still struggles with the pull of drugs and alcohol, even as memories linger about how he nearly died as a result of his habit.
In the early 1980s, he was driving home from a party high on drugs when he rammed into an abutment along Route 30.
“I was taken to Jeannette Hospital and a priest came in and gave me last rites,” Phillips said. “I still continued to use another six to eight years. I thought I could control my using.”
It’s a common thread among addicts, the thought that they can control their drug use. And Phillips, who worked in various businesses at the time, was no different. Not until he took a friend to a rehab clinic on Pittsburgh’s North Side did he even consider getting help for his own addiction.
It was Nov. 28, 1988. Phillips has been sober ever since, after spending years using cocaine, alcohol, painkillers and any other drug he could get his hands on.
“I had a realization. I was tired of my family being disappointed with me,” he said. “When I picked him up after 30 days, he had this transformation. I thought, ‘This is the kind of place I could go to teach me how to behave responsibly.’ I never intended to stay clean, but I went there and I got clean.”
Nearly three decades later, the Hempfield resident is a pre-eminent voice in the effort to slow the ever-growing drug epidemic that has gripped Westmoreland County, the region and country.
He was hired early last year to the new position of executive director of Westmoreland County’s Drug Overdose Task Force after years of serving as drug rehabilitation and recovery specialist for Westmoreland Community Action.
Phillips has been at the forefront of the county’s efforts to curb the addiction problem, which reached new heights in 2016 as 174 people died from overdoses in Westmoreland County. It’s a trend that hasn’t slowed, with each new year setting a record high for drug-related deaths.
Officials have said 2017 is on pace to shatter last year’s record.
Phillips uses his own story of struggle and recovery to show addicts they too can overcome their dependency on drugs.
“If I keep it all to me, what good is it? I try to give them hope. If I can do it, they can do it too. Nobody can help an addict better than another addict,” Phillips said.
After his successful stint in rehabilitation, Phillips took jobs as a drug addiction counselor with Adelphoi Village helping juveniles and then with other agencies throughout the county. Until recently, he led a weekly group session for recovering addicts and continues to attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings twice a week.
He is on pace to graduate this month from the FBI Citizens Academy as part of its Heroin Outreach Prevention and Education initiative, created to help curb heroin addiction in Western Pennsylvania.
Westmoreland County Detective Tony Marcocci, a former undercover investigator who focused on drug crimes, has worked with Phillips for more than 15 years trying to slow the addiction rate.
“Tim has been an inspiration to me. I was used to arresting people and putting them in jail. He showed me there is so much good in people and that jail is not the only alternative,” Marcocci said. “He’s proof that we can’t arrest our way out of this problem. He’s walked the walk and talked the talk, and because of it he’s respected by everybody in the field.”
There is still much work to do. Phillips knows overdose deaths continue to rise, so he preaches to anyone who will listen that recovery is possible for everyone who struggles with addiction.
“If we weren’t doing what we are doing, the numbers would be double. My gosh, I would hate to think that,” he said. “No one has to die from this disease. It’s the most treatable disease.”
His life is an example of that.
“Before, the drugs and alcohol controlled me. Now I’m free to live. I can make choices, and the drugs aren’t calling the shots,” he said. “I would have been a statistic if I didn’t get clean.”
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or email@example.com.
Pistols and Purses Bash a Success!
Everyone had a blast at the sold out Pistols and Purses Bash held Saturday, April 8th at the Youngwood Fire Hall. There were plenty of winners and delicious food catered by Bubba’s in Greensburg. Keep your eyes open for WCA’s next event.
Mt. Pleasant Borough begins to gather ideas for mural that juvenile offenders will help paint
Tribune Review, March 5, 2017
A nondescript Mt. Pleasant Borough building with white siding will be the canvas for a mural designed and painted by community members and juvenile offenders.
Ideas about how the mural should look gleaned from public meetings — the first is Wednesday — will be combined into a design created by lead artist Bernie Wilke.
“It’s a challenging job,” said Wilke, an art history professor at Westmoreland County Community College. “We’re looking for general themes from people and even sort of general images to use. We believe that there’s going to be a fair amount of unity among the comments.”
The project is the first local “restorative justice” initiative based on a similar program in Philadelphia in which former inmates are given temporary jobs producing murals. The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program helps eliminate blight and reintegrates former prisoners into the community.
Area officials attended a presentation about Philadelphia’s program at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg in February 2016. Tim Holler, assistant professor of criminal justice at the college, is moving ahead with replicating the idea here as project director of the Community Arts & Reintegration Project for Westmoreland County.
The first community meeting will include a discussion of concepts to include in the mural’s design. The session will be held at American Architectural Salvage in Mt. Pleasant, which will be the site of the mural.
Westmoreland Community Action CEO Tay Waltenbaugh said the organization — it operates American Architectural Salvage — had been contemplating a mural on the side of the building that faces the Coal & Coke Trail.
“I’m excited to get that up and running,” he said.
Addie Beighley, director of the county’s juvenile probation department, is excited about the possibilities, too. Juvenile offenders can connect with community members and earn their support while using time spent on the mural project as what Beighley called “meaningful” credits toward their community service requirements.
“I think it’s a really great opportunity,” she said. “We want them to, when they leave our system, be a law-abiding citizen.”
Wilke has completed 72 similar community murals, mainly in Indiana and Philadelphia, working with various local groups.
“The process is kind of similar with whichever group I’m working with,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for people to make a mark on the community.”
Once a design is finalized, community members will be joined by juvenile offenders to paint small squares of the mural that will be pieced together and hung on the side of American Architectural Salvage.
“It’s all paint-by-numbers style,” Holler said.
He hopes that adults on probation and inmates being released from the Westmoreland County Prison can join community members to create murals in other communities as well.
“This was kind of to be a reintegration project,” Holler said. “We’re starting this with juveniles with hopes that the community starts to loosen up.”
Initial funding came from the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County. Holler said organizers will have to raise funds to cover other costs.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update: A community design meeting was held on March 8 at 6:00 pm at WCA’s social enterprise American Architectural Salvage. The meeting was lead by Dr. Timothy Holler, with assistance from Bernie Wilke and Kris Demnovich, Probation Supervisor. A collaborative drawing/brainstorming session was conducted to help generate ideas for the mural.
April 27 – HPV Documentary Event
This award-winning documentary takes a look into the lives of five brave women affected by HPV.
Their stories portray the misconceptions, stigma, shame, heartbreak, pain and triumph that they
experience while battling cervical cancer. This film is not rated, but recommended for older teens
and adults. Local experts will be available for questions and answers.
Sponsored by the Southwest Immunization Coalition with funding from Gateway Health
and the PA Department of Health, Division of Cancer Prevention and Control.
Thursday, April 27
Latrobe Cinemas, 315 Latrobe 30 Plaza, Latrobe
Showtime: 6:30 pm
Question and Answer Program: 8:00 pm
Free Admission and Popcorn
To view a trailer of this film, go to: http://hpvepidemic.vhx.tv/
Credits for Health Professionals
This activity has been approved for AMA PRA Category 1.50 Credit(s)™ by Indiana University School of Medicine.
This free KNOWLEDGE BASED activity is accredited for 1.5 CE credit hour(s) (0.15 CEU) for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians by IU Health.
This continuing nursing education activity is approved by the Ohio Nurses Association (OBN-001-91), an accredited approver by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation for 1.91 Contact Hours. Approval valid through 2/16/18. ONA# 18755
To obtain CME, CNE, or Pharmacy CE Credits after viewing “Someone You Love: The HPV Epidemic” use the following links:
CME or Pharmacy CE Credit: http://cme.medicine.iu.edu/hpvdocumentary
http://cmetracker.net/IUPUICME/Login?FormName=RegLoginLive&Eventid=157207 and complete the pre-test.
Complete evaluation and receive CNE certificate of completion: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/5D6KCZN
This event is also approved for 2 hours of Act 48 and Act 58 continuing education by Division of School Health, Bureau of Community Health Systems, Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Chamber BASH at American Architectural Salvage
We hosted a wonderful Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce BASH at our social enterprise American Architectural Salvage in Mt. Pleasant. There were demonstrations, a scavenger hunt, and delicious food and drink. If you haven’t checked out this amazing store yet, what are you waiting for? Its mission is to reduce landfill waste and promote the resale and reuse of goods, while financially supporting Westmoreland Community Action initiatives that help those in need.