A newsmaker you should know: West End volunteer's quest for cleanliness awarded


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Gena Turner of the West End is doing her part to ensure her section of America's Most Livable City sparkles and shines.

On March 22, Ms. Turner was named Volunteer of the Year for 2011 at the fifth annual Clean Pittsburgh Commission's Meet n' Greet Mixer, saluting the city's Clean Pittsburgh Stewards in 90 neighborhoods.

The same evening, she and representatives of three neighborhoods received Bob Awards, named for the late Mayor Bob O'Connor and his dedication to cleaning up the city through the combined efforts of volunteers and the city's Public Works staff.

Ms. Turner has been a Clean Pittsburgh steward in the Elliott neighborhood of Pittsburgh since 2007. She organizes and leads spring and fall Redd Ups in one of Pittsburgh's smallest neighborhoods and one of the most visited city-view attractions, the West End Overlook.

Ms. Turner said she never expected to be named Volunteer of the Year and was very surprised when her name was announced.

"I don't do things for recognition," she said. "It was kind of an embarrassment because I don't like to be singled out."

Ms. Turner was born and raised in Elliot and still lives on the same street where she grew up. She described her efforts to keep the neighborhood she knows and loves clean as an everyday process and has adopted a lifestyle of picking up litter every time she is out and about.

Ms. Turner is not alone in her quest for cleanliness. She oversees a group of about 25 volunteers who assist with the Redd Ups and other scheduled clean ups. In addition, approximately 45 students from the University of Pittsburgh lend a hand each fall.

Redd Ups involve picking up litter and removing large items such as tires, landscaping equipment and abandoned bicycles. The strangest item Ms. Turner she said she's ever had to disposed of is a water heater.

In addition to serving as a Clean Pittsburgh steward, Ms. Turner is chairwoman of the Elliott Community Group, through which she applied for and received two Love Your Block grants. LYB is a partnership of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and The Home Depot Foundation to revitalize Pittsburgh block by block.

Ms. Turner said the money will be put toward beautifying the neighborhood by planting flowers, bushes and trees and making other necessary improvements.

Ms. Turner expels a lot of time and energy in making her neighborhood a beautiful place to live and said she loves to see the end results from all of her efforts. However, her greatest satisfaction comes when others model her efforts and pitch in to clean up their neighborhoods, streets and homes. "I'm trying to get people to be more caring about their neighborhood," she said. "I'm seeing that because we do this often, more and more people are cleaning up daily."

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Shannon M. Nass, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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