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120 over 80. What’s it worth to U?

Introducing HealthyU from UPMC Health Plan. Reaching your goals is worth more than ever. It’s worth money. That’s because HealthyU offers financial incentives for making healthy lifestyle decisions. Now when you do things like quit smoking, work with a health coach, or even get a flu shot, we put money into your very own Health Incentive Account. Money that can be used to help pay for doctor visits, prescription drugs, and even surgery. To learn more about this new, one-of-a-kind plan, talk to your employer or visit

IN Penn Hills is a community publication dedicated to representing, encouraging and promoting the Penn Hills area and its comprising municipalities by focusing on the talents and gifts of the people who live and work here. Our goal is to provide readers with the most informative and professional regional publication in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.


IN Penn Hills | WINTER 2011 |



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Penn Hills annual Christmas train display • photos by Gary Yon

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Penn Hills Keeps the “Lights On Afterschool” 



Holocaust Survivor Tells Story



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IN Penn Hills | WINTER 2011 |

elcome to the Winter issue of Penn Hills magazine. I hope you and yours had a wonderful fall, that the kids transitioned back to school well, and that you had an opportunity to catch a few Steelers games along the way. We all view winter differently—some see it as the holiday season, some see it as the gloomy period when we put away the swim trunks and patio furniture. Others see it as their opportunity to break out the skis and sleds and hit the slopes. no matter how you view it, winter is a time when we have to be the most diligent, despite our mood about snow, or our preoccupation with playing in it, for those who need us the most—our seniors. While it’s hard enough for many of them to get around in good weather, the winter months can be a trial of terror for the elderly. Who’s going to shovel the snow? How will I get groceries? Will I be home before it’s too dark for me to see the road well enough to drive? And for those who have transitioned to assisted living facilities, the questions might be of an altogether different, but equally unsettling nature. Will anyone Wayne Dollard visit me for Christmas? Hanukkah? new Year’s? These are our Publisher mothers, fathers, friends and neighbors, and they don’t like to ask anything of us. But they need us just the same. I know the economy is bad, and I’m not saying go out and spend money you can’t afford, but going caroling with a church group, or visiting someone who has no one is free to us all. Chances are, you’ll not only put a smile on their faces, you’ll be giving them something money can’t buy—the feeling that someone cares.


Have a joyous holiday and a happy new Year!


  MANAGING EDITOR

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agree with Andy Williams. It is the most wonderful time of the year. Welcome to the winter edition of Penn Hills. This is is the season of hustle and bustle, Christmas carols, and most importantly good cheer. In this edition, you’ll find out about Eva Schloss, a Holocaust survivor who shared her harrowing story with Penn Hills students. We also dropped in on the quilt show sponsored by the Quilt Company East Guild, a very talented group whose members craft amazing quilts. It is also the season of giving, and in this edition, we feature the outreach council of Trinity Tower united Methodist Church, who are involved in a number of projects that help people throughout Allegheny County and even into Westmoreland County. They’re just the warmest, most giving folks you’d ever want to meet. Speaking of giving, in this edition we caught up with Zumba Monica L. Haynes Eastern Regional dynamo and cancer survivor Catherine Brennan, who holds an Editor annual Zumba for the Cure event to raise money for the Pittsburgh chapter of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. With the help of her Zumbettes, she is truly an inspirational force. Our spring edition is next and we’d love to hear from you regarding the people, places and events you’d like to see us cover. During this holiday season, we’d like to wish you peace and goodwill. And as always we hope you enjoy this edition of Penn Hills.


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This magazine is carrier route mailed to all district households and businesses. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Copyright 2011. CORRESPONDENCE Direct all inquiries, comments and press releases to: IN Community Magazines Attn: Editorial 603 East McMurray Road McMurray, PA 15317 Ph: 724.942.0940 Fax: 724.942.0968

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Please recycle this magazine when you are through enjoying it.


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 Lights on

afTerschool Darrel Pullie, winner of the Lights on Afterschool essay contest


cross the country, many children go home to an empty house where they spend time alone after they finish their school day. Instead of being outside playing games and sports or learning a new skill, they flip on the television or computer for hours. In Penn Hills School District, school officials are doing their part to prevent that from happening to their students by promoting involvement in linton Middle School’s 21st Century Community learning Center Magic in the Middle program. This October, the district joined with schools across the country to raise awareness about their afterschool program and the need it serves in Penn Hills during the annual lights On Afterschool Day. Parents, school officials, politicians and program volunteers met with students who participate in the afterschool program during a dinner and presentation among other events on Oct. 20 at the William E. Anderson library. “We must keep the lights on and doors open in our schools after hours,” said Mark Wolfe, program administrator. “Our students need the extra enrichment, and they need a safe place to go after the school bell rings, especially when parents are working.” In Penn Hills, the program will serve more than 200 students during the fall and summer sessions. This year, the focus for students is on reading, math and science outside of the regular school day, said Stefanie Raspotnik, Penn Hills professional development and funding coordinator. “Our goal is that by supporting the students through their middle school years, this will enable them to be more prepared for high school success.”

To Raspotnik, the program is critical to student success academically, socially and recreationally. “This program is vital because it provides students a safe place to learn and grow together, and this will have a direct impact on their future community and societal contribution.” Penn Hills has offered the program for seven years and partners with the state Department of Education and Communities In Schools, the nation’s leading dropout prevention organization. The organization believes that all students need and deserve a one-on-one relationship with a caring adult, a safe place to learn and grow, a healthy start and healthy future, a marketable skill to have upon graduation and a chance to give back to their peers and the community. All these are aspects of Penn Hills’ program and contribute to its main goal of increasing school achievement by taking part in fun, engaging experiences that differ from a child’s school day, said Raspotnik. In the program, in addition to academic enrichment and support, students design artwork for a drama production, take part in karate and Zumba classes, learn sewing, knitting and crocheting with a service component and gain information about the benefits of eating healthy, bullying prevention and conflict resolution skills. Across Pennsylvania, approximately 26,000 youth are served by after-school programs like the one in Penn Hills. But the need is much higher, said Raspotnik. “We are serving more students this year… It is my hope that the event will bring a greater awareness to the community of the need to sustain this program for our students.”


Penn Hills | Winter 2011 | 3

The employees of Peoples Natural Gas – more than 650 strong – are bringing a new sense of energy to Western Pennsylvania. With Peoples now fully Pittsburgh based and run, decisions are being made locally -- with an eye to investing for the energy future of the region. We're making $100 million in infrastructure, service and technology upgrades to better serve our more than 360,000 customers. Customer service is becoming fully local, too... with a dedicated new service center staffed by experienced people who thoroughly know the region and its people. Our vision: to help Western Pennsylvania move forward by creating new jobs and serving our customers well. It's a commitment we're proud to make.


y o u r e n e r g y p a rt n e r


safety-driven Peoples Natural Gas is embarking on an extensive program to modernize our infrastructure. More than $100 million will be invested to replace pipelines throughout our 16 county service territory. In 2011 and 2012, this means replacing 40 miles of old cast-iron pipes wherever they exist. This year and next, Peoples Natural Gas is hiring 60 new pipeline workers. And, we’ ll need to employ almost as many local contract workers. Last year, we brought back 200 jobs to the region. These are not temporary jobs, but family sustaining jobs – the type of jobs that generations build on. Through the end of 2012, you will see Peoples Natural Gas employees hard at work on this project. They will be working in the snow and sun to improve the infrastructure for our communities. Our goal is to replace all the cast iron pipe in our entire system. This is an extensive project and we will need your patience and understanding as we work to complete it. In 2010, Peoples Natural Gas was purchased from anI out-of-state company. We are now a Western Pennsylvania managed company. All our management lives in the region. Our sole priority is serving our local communities. Our new company has refocused its total efforts right here. This pipeline replacement program is the first major construction initiative of Peoples Natural Gas and it has been made for your safety, and the need to modernize our infrastructure for the future.

Safety is the number one priority of Peoples Natural Gas. Every day, we strive to keep our customers, our employees and our communities safe. Here are 3 Sensible Words about Natural Gas to help keep you and your family safe. Natural gas leaks are rare. But they can happen. Your senses will alert you if a leak occurs. SIGHT Escaping gas affects the nutrients in soil, so discolored soil or dead vegetation near a pipeline may indicate a leak. Dirt or water blowing up from the group may indicate a natural gas leak. SOUND Natural gas leaks may make a hissing or a high-pitched whistling noise. Noises will vary based on the line pressure.


SMELL A strong odor of natural gas can indicate unburned fuel in the air. Because the gas is odorless, a sulfur based odorant is added to give it a rotten-egg smell that warns of its presence. Be alert for this odorant or any petroleum smell. If you believe a natural gas leak is occurring, leave the area immediately and notify Peoples Natural Gas by calling 1.800.400.4271.

y o u r e n e r g y p a rt n e r


  new Vision Community Church was started in October 2006 by Rev. Jerry Craig as a place to provide the community not only a place to workship but also a place where one can find God’s love come alive to assist people in their daily walk. Five years later, what started out as a two-member church, Pastor Craig and his wife, in two small offices in Penn Hills, is now a thriving ministry, which moved October 21 from laketon Road to its new location in the former All Saints Church, 1620 Randolph lane in Verona. After finding its laketon Road location in 2008, new Vision began several ministries: God’s Provision Ministry (provides emergency food packages), Kid’s Closet Ministry (free clothing exchange), and host site for Angel Food Ministries. Since the inception of these ministries, new Vision has helped over 650 families.  In addition to the community service ministries, new

Vision has also started Women of new Vision, Boys & Girls of new Vision, Oneness (A Marriage Ministry), Choices (A Prison Prevention Ministry), Sunday School, Prayer Meeting & Bible Study, and Coffee, Tea & HE (midweek service). Rev. Craig has received an MA in philosophy/religion and is a certified counselor through the International Institute of Faith Based Counseling. He is also a member of the Penn Hills Christian Clergy Association, Association of Christian Counselors, national Association of Faith Based Counselors, national Association of Pastoral Counselors and Association of Biblical Counselors. For more information about new Vision Community Church, please visit .

Penn Hills | Winter 2011 | 5

Tells Story to Penn Hills Students


istory became more than words on a page when Holocaust survivor Eva Schloss recounted the horrors of daily life in an Auschwitz concentration camp during a presentation at Penn Hills High School on October 24. Her first-hand account of life under nazi rule was also webcast to 65 other schools across the country. “Every day was the same. We didn’t know what week it was. We didn’t know what month it was,” said Schloss, a wife, mother of three and grandmother of five. In addition to her own harrowing story, Schloss is connected to that period in another way. Her stepfather was Otto Frank, father of Anne Frank, a teenager who did not survive Auschwitz but became an international symbol of the Holocaust when the diaries she kept while hiding from the nazis were published after World War II. The diaries have inspired movies and theater productions about Anne’s life. It took Schloss four decades to talk about what happened to her. She spoke about her ordeal for the first time in 1986 during the opening of a traveling exhibit from the Anne Frank Museum. “I didn’t want to say anything,” Schloss said. But she did. “Everything I had suppressed for years came tumbling out. People said it’s real important that I tell my story and write it down. Since then, I haven’t been quiet.” In 1988, her memoir, Eva’s Story, was published. It was authored by Schloss and her friend Evelyn Julia Kent. The book chronicles her family’s flight from Vienna, Austria, to Belgium and eventually Amsterdam, Holland, where they lived in hiding until they were discovered by the nazis and sent off to concentration camps. Schloss, who was 15 at the time, and her mother, Fritzi, survived. Her father, Erich Geiringer (whom she called Pappy), and her brother, Heinz, did not. Along with co-author Barbara Powers, Schloss has also written another book, aimed at children, called The Promise. That book was the inspiration for a play, “light in the Darkness: A Story of Hope During the Holocaust,” written by J.E. Ballyntine, Jr. Schloss attended the play’s world premiere in Youngstown, Ohio, on October 14. The webcast presentation was not Schloss’s first visit to a Penn Hills

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school. She has told her story twice before to linton Middle School students, first in 2008 and again last year. The second visit was videocast to six other Penn Hills schools. The visits were arranged by Harold Davis, head of B’nai B’rith of Youngstown, Ohio. Davis scheduled Schloss to speak at community centers, libraries and schools during her 2008 visit. He was also in the audience for this most recent presentation. Students in Angela Keeley’s ninth grade English class have read Eva’s Story and designed tri-fold posters focusing on various aspects of the Holocaust. The posters lined a hallway outside the auditorium, and Schloss and her husband, Zvi, perused the exhibit after her presentation. Schloss engaged her young audience, detailing that dark period of her life and her connection to Anne Frank – the two had been playmates. After the war, Otto Frank married Schloss’s mother and worked to keep the legacy of his daughter alive. Schloss admits to being a bit jealous at the time of the attention that Anne’s story received. “Then I thought, ‘How can I resent somebody who doesn’t have a life?’” Schloss said. Answering a student’s question about whether her nonJewish friends changed toward her after the nazis took power, she recalled going to the home of her best friend, who was Catholic. The friend’s mother would not allow her to come in, and slammed the door in her face. “I went home and cried,” Schloss recounted. “I didn’t understand.” She was nine years old at the time. Asked by another student whether her experience made her question her faith in God, she said it did. “We prayed for God to stop it,” she said. When she was rescued from the camp, she considered herself an atheist. Then she said the birth of her daughter and the realization of daily miracles and the goodness of people who did help restored her faith. But she still

questions why something like the Holocaust happened. “I question, but it is a mystery of life,” Schloss said. “We will never, never have an answer.” Everyday life in a concentration camp was a lesson in humiliation and degradation, but also a lesson in survival, according to Schloss. “I was so desperate to live. I never, ever gave up hope that I would make it.” She was close to not making it a couple of times when she had been selected for groups that would eventually be killed. Each time, however—at the last minute, for some reason or other—

Schloss recalled how cruel some of those in charge of the camp groups could be. She told of how hungry she and her fellow prisoners often were. If the supervisors were having a good day, they might give a prisoner the water from some boiled potatoes, which was like a feast. But if they were having a bad day or if they wanted to be especially cruel, the supervisors would call someone over, as if to offer the potato water, only to pour it on the ground. Despite everything she has gone through, Schloss said she is very hopeful for a better

she was removed from that group. “If you speak to any Holocaust survivors they’ll tell you it’s a lot of luck,” Schloss said. She recalled one particularly terrifying moment, when she and a group of women encountered Dr. Josef Mengele, known as the Angel of Death, when they exited a shower. Schloss was put into one group and her mother into another group, where the women were set to be gassed. For three months, Schloss believed that her mother had been killed. Eventually, the two were reunited in the camp. Schloss and her mother were liberated by the Russians in 1945 and returned to Holland. When asked if she had any good memories of that time, Schloss responded, “no, I’m afraid not. It was really terrible. There was never anything really nice that happened in the camp.”

world. However, she said the world must remain vigilant and not look for scapegoats for the problems that arise. “We must be very well aware when we see the evil head of discrimination rearing again,” she said. Students appreciated Schloss sharing her story with them. “It was very powerful because a lot of people don’t know about the Holocaust,” said Vita Vanhausen, who presented Schloss with some homemade chocolate chip cookies after her presentation. The guest speaker also received a Penn Hills jersey with her name on it, a blanket that read “We love Eva,” a golf shirt, and other gifts. “I think it’s wonderful that they know so much and that they’re interested and want to learn,” Schloss said, “because after the war, people didn’t want to know.”

Penn Hills | Winter 2011 | 7

Quilts Star


the Quilt Company


East Guild Show

uilts and the people who love them got a pre-holiday gift when the Quilt Company East Guild held a threeday quilt show at 3 lakes Golf Club in Penn Hills. The show, which took place november 3-5, included 125 quilts of various shapes, sizes, colors, fabrics and themes, as well as other craftwork items. In addition to the quilts on display, there was a vendor mall, a boutique where visitors could purchase handmade items by quilt guild members, baskets and a quilt for raffle. The guild was founded in 1987 and has more than 100 members. All members are encouraged to participate in the biannual quilt show, whether they are beginners or at the professional level. Represented in the display were traditional, contemporary and art quilts and quilts developed during the guild’s retreats, challenges and other special interest groups. While it was a non-juried show, those

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visiting had the opportunity to vote on their favorite quilt. That honor went to Ona Marks and her “Affairs of the Heart” quilt. Another guild member is Gerry Benton of Wilkinsburg, who had three quilts in the exhibit. Benton, a fabric artist, has been quilting since 1984. “I work in all different mediums,” she said. What she likes about quilting is that she can incorporate all the other mediums. Quilt Company East holds meetings on the third Monday of the month, from September to June at 7:15 p.m. at Beulah Presbyterian Church in Penn Hills. The guild hosts a number of programs including workshops, weekend retreats, bus trips, guest speakers, and quilt auctions, among other activities. Members also make and donate quilts for organizations such as Children’s Hospital, Bethlehem Haven homeless shelter, senior centers, and a school for hearing-impaired children in Malawi.

Michael Trapani around the time the story takes place

Holiday Memories hristmases of long ago flash thru my mind as I remember the 50’s and 60’s. My four kids were young and I think brand names were just making an appearance. There are two toys that I remember distinctly. Marybeth wanted a “little Red Spinning Wheel”. That was the first year that I remember going from store to store in search of a popular toy. We finally did locate one. Although the TV ad showed it tran sforming yarn into all sorts of wonderful things, Marybeth never mastered anything other than a red knitted circle of yarn that just became longer and longer. She knotted a 30 inch piece of it and proudly presented her father with his new necktie. Another year, Michael asked for some sort of gun that shot out canon balls. I found it early in november. Smugly, I put it in lay-a-way with several other toys. Early on the 24th , I picked up all the boxes held together with twine. At about 8 that evening, Dom started to assemble the toys. I


opened the canon box only to find it empty! I drove to the shopping center and found the store closed with an emergency number on the door. I got in touch with the owner who was quite sympathetic,apologetic and empathetic, but unable to do anything about it. The toy sold out late in november. This had to be a parent’s worst nightmare! I went to Sun Drug, probably for aspirin for my ensuing headache. Walking down the toy isle, I spotted a green plastic canon that ejected ping-pong balls, priced at $1.99. What did I have to lose other than two dollars? I took it home, put it into the empty box and put it under the tree. The next morning, I held my breath as Michael o pened the box. He squealed with delight and started to bombard his sisters with canon balls. Over the years when my grown up children have shown signs of apoplexy when they have been unable to find a requested toy, I remind them of the Canon Story. It was the best two dollars I ever spent! Pat Trapani, Verrona

The Trapani Family today

Penn Hills | Winter 2011 | 9

        

   



here were lots of laughs and lots of sweat as breast cancer survivor and certified Zumba instructor Catherine Brennan of Penn Hills held the Fourth Annual Zumba for the Cure October 23 at the Penn Hills YMCA. The event, which included 24 instructors from across Pennsylvania foundation in touch with the national office of Zumba and now there are and 260 registered participants – 24 of them breast cancer survivors, Zumbathons, called “Party in Pink,” all over the world. To date, $500,000 raised money for the Pittsburgh affiliate of the Susan G. Komen has been raised from these international events, Brennan said. Foundation. In addition to the registration fees and sponsorships, money Her event is nearing the $20,000 mark for total funds raised. Each year, was also raised through a silent auction, Brennan’s Zumba for the Cure has gotten which included 45 gift baskets. more participants. “People are just very, It is difficult to know whether Brennan very generous when it comes to this,” she gets her energy from the crowd or they  said. “I plan to do it next year, but it’ll have get theirs from her, but there’s no to be a bigger place. We were a little stopping either once the music starts  crowded this year, but it was a good pumping and the instructors take to the crowded.” stage. In addition to overseeing the event,  Brennan teaches Zumba Tuesday and Brennan got her Zumba on with the Thursday nights at the universal Fire Hall participants before leading the final few no. 6 in Penn Hills. Among her students are  minutes. She brought all the breast cancer 12 fellow breast cancer survivors. Many if survivors to the floor in front, while two of not all of them help out in some way with  the ladies “Zumbaed” on either side of her the Zumba for the Cure event, in addition on stage. to her other students. Brennan calls the  This year’s event had 100 more women who support her endeavors participants than last year. But her “Zumbettes.” For this year’s event, the whole thing is about more there were 50 volunteers. “They than making money. It’s about support me no matter what I do. They education and celebration, were right there, welcoming people, Brennan said. thanking people for coming. I think “I organize this event in that says something, too, when you memory of my mother, get that many people giving support,” Susanna Howard, who died Brennan said. from a rare form of breast As if organizing an annual event cancer three months before I and teaching fitness classes isn’t was diagnosed,” Brennan said. enough, Brennan—a wife, mother of “She was an amazing woman five and grandmother of three— who taught me so much. This works for uPMC and also leads the event celebrates her life.” warm-up for the annual Susan G. Participants have the chance Komen Foundation’s Race for the to celebrate those who’ve fought Cure held on Mother’s Day. “I have or are fighting breast cancer on a granddaughter. By the time she gets older she’s not going to have to the Wall of Warriors, where they can post messages and photos. The wall worry about this,” Brennan said. will be delivered to the Pittsburgh office of the Susan G. Komen Breast cancer is not a sisterhood any woman wants to be a part of, Foundation, along with the $8,300 that was raised from the event. Brennan said. But anyone who does become part of it is glad to have the Brennan came up with the idea for a Zumbathon in 2008. The first support of the other women that make up that sisterhood. “I think the event, put together in less than six weeks, had about 88 participants and biggest thing for me is when they tell me I’m an inspiration,” Brennan raised about $1,700, she said. When she took the money to the Susan G. said. “That’s so humbling to me because I promised my mother I would Komen Foundation, the staff had never heard of Zumba. She put the make a difference.”

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INTRODUCING OUR NEWEST DOCTOR The physicians and staff at Greater Pittsburgh Medical Associates-UPMC are pleased to welcome our newest doctor to our offices in Bloomfield and Penn Hills. Erika Ramsey, DO

Connecting People’s Resources with People’s Needs

Over the past 54 years, Brother’s Brother Foundation has connected over $4 billion in people’s resources with people’s needs across 141 countries. BBF supplies hospitals with vital medication and equipment, supports hand-carried medical mission groups, funds the rebuilding of schools and fills them with donated books across the world. 1200 Galveston Ave. Pi ttsburgh, PA, 15233 Phone: 412-321-3160

Internal Medicine Dr. Ramsey received her medical degree from the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed her residency in internal medicine at UPMC Shadyside. Dr. Ramsey, the physicians, and staff provide primary care services as well as care for chronic conditions, women’s health concerns, depression, and anxiety. Beginning in October, evening hours are available on Tuesdays at the Penn Hills location. To schedule an appointment at Greater Pittsburgh Medical Associates-UPMC, or for more information, call one of our offices. 5129 Liberty Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15224 412-682-3117

7555 Saltsburg Road Pittsburgh, PA 15235 412-793-9099

Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, UPMC is ranked among the nation’s best hospitals by U.S. News & World Report.

Penn Hills | Winter 2011 | 11


            

  

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           

                 

             

     

                    

   

  12 724.942.0940 TO ADVERTISE |

Penn Hills

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Health and Wellness News You Can Use For residents of eastern communities

BundleUp,Baby Remember how Mom made you bundle up before going outdoors in the winter so you wouldn’t get sick? She was right. So be sure you dress for the weather — and that means covering your head, ears, mouth, and hands. Turn to page 3 to learn why your ears, nose, and throat need extra care in winter.

What’s Inside

© 2011 UPMC

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When Your Body Talks ... Be Sure to Listen

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Make a Date With Your Doctor Three Cheers for Your Ears, Nose, and Throat

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A Snapshot of UPMC East Opening Summer 2012

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Technology for 21st Century Hospitals

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Taking on Tourette Controlling a life in motion at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC

When Your BodyTalks…

Be Sure toListen Being attuned to changes in your body can help in the early detection and treatment of cancer and other serious medical problems Is your body trying to tell you something important? It can be an excellent communicator — if you pay careful attention to its symptoms. There are numerous warning symptoms for cancer, many of which also can point to other serious medical conditions. That’s why you should call your primary care physician (PCP) if you have any unusual or persistent symptoms lasting longer than two or three weeks, says Edward Chu, MD, chief of the Division of Hematology/ Oncology at UPMC and deputy director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. “The vast majority of patients will get a clean bill of health from their doctor,” says Dr. Chu. “But when it comes to cancer, time is often of the essence. Early detection can help keep cancer from spreading, allow for faster treatment, and improve your chances for recovery.”

Symptoms that reveal Most of us know to be on the lookout for such important cancer warning signs as a sore that does not heal; a thickening or lump in the breast, or other parts of the body; blood in the stool or urine; or changes in the size or color of a mole.

Dr. Chu says it’s also important to be aware of more generalized body changes (also known as constitutional symptoms) that can compromise your physical performance and overall well-being. By getting to know what’s typical for your own body, you’ll be better able to recognize unfamiliar changes when they occur. They can include: • Extreme tiredness (fatigue) • Unexplained weight loss (typically 10 pounds or more) or loss of appetite • Changes in how food tastes • Fever and chills • Night sweats • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing “These symptoms don’t necessarily mean you have cancer,” he emphasizes. “But if they linger or worsen, it’s important for your doctor to rule out — or treat — possible problems.” If you are interested in locating a PCP or specialist in your area, visit or call 1-800-533-UPMC (8762).

Did You Know? The University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), based at the Hillman Cancer Center in Shadyside, is the only National Cancer Institutedesignated Comprehensive Cancer Center in western Pennsylvania. Learn more about UPCI and its partnership with UPMC Cancer Centers at

Cancer Screenings: Are they right for you? Another important tool in the early detection of cancer is screenings. Cancer specialists at UPMC East say that when combined with regular checkups with your family doctor or a specialist, screenings like mammograms, PAP smears, and colorectal exams have proven to be invaluable in the fight against cancer. Your personal and family medical history, risk factors, age and other considerations will help your physician recommend the right tests — and frequency — for you. To learn more about the programs and services at UPMC Cancer Center at Oxford Drive in Monroeville, visit


Health Tips from UPMC Health Plan

Make a Date With Your Doctor You take your car to the mechanic for an annual inspection to be sure it’s running properly. So why aren’t you giving your body the same kind of attention? When you’re in good health, it’s easy to put off going to the doctor. But regular checkups can help you stay healthy, and avoid disease and disability. That’s why scheduling a physical is the one New Year’s resolution you should keep. According to primary care physicians (PCPs) with UPMC East, an annual exam is the perfect time to talk about illness prevention, healthy lifestyle choices, and any screenings. That information helps you and your doctor create a plan to maintain your health, or get you started on making changes to improve your health. Building an ongoing relationship with a PCP also means peace of mind. PCPs with UPMC East say there’s real value to being seen by someone who knows you and your health history — someone you trust to guide you through an illness or emergency.

Your exam checklist How can you make the most of your annual exam? Here are four things to do before you see the doctor:

1. Make a list of all medications you are taking Include all prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and supplements that you currently take, how often you take them, and why.

2. Update your family history Your family history can provide important clues about your risk for certain diseases, including diabetes, some cancers, and heart disease.

3. Ask about health screenings Screenings can be important tools in preventing some illnesses and diseases. Get a list of recommended screenings and talk about them with your doctor.

4. Make a list of questions or health concerns Asking questions and sharing your concerns about health issues helps your doctor improve your care. One final piece of advice: Be honest. Never be afraid or embarrassed to tell your doctor something. What you don’t disclose could be important for your doctor to make an accurate diagnosis or prescribe the best treatment plan.

Three Cheers for Your Ears, Nose, and Throat Winter is the season for sniffles, scratchy throats, and earaches — often all at once! And with good reason: our ears, nose, and throat all are connected and affect each other greatly. Otolaryngologists (also known as ear, nose, and throat doctors or ENTs) are physicians who specialize in caring for this complex, interrelated system. Test your ENT knowledge with this quick quiz:

Who gets earaches more often — children or adults? Nearly every child experiences at least one ear infection between infancy and the age of five — something weary parents know firsthand. Because children have shorter, straighter Eustachian tubes (which connect the nose to the ears), it’s easier for bacteria to migrate into their ears.

Why are you more likely to get a nosebleed in winter? The same heated indoor air that makes your home cozy in winter also can dehydrate the inside of your nose. It can become crusted or cracked, or can even bleed. A dry nose makes you more susceptible to germs, so exercise good nose care. Lightly coat the inside with petroleum jelly. Overthe-counter saline mists and sprays (not decongestants) also are helpful.

Will antibiotics cure laryngitis? Most cases of laryngitis are caused by viral infections that make the vocal cords swell — so antibiotics are ineffective. Your best course of action? Drink plenty of fluids, rest, and cut back on talking. Straining your voice when you have acute laryngitis can damage your vocal cords. Source: American Society of Otolaryngology






Technology for 21st Century Hospitals How technology is working to transform the quality of your care during hospitalization If you ever have to be hospitalized, you’ll certainly want to be cared for at a place that delivers quality health care using the latest technology available. That’s precisely what patients find when they are admitted to a UPMC hospital. “UPMC’s vision of quality is for every patient to receive the right care, at the right time, in the right way — every time,” says Tami Minnier, RN, and chief quality officer for UPMC. “Technology lets us serve patients more efficiently and accurately. Most of all, we’re able to give patients greater control of their health care.” Here are just two of the ways UPMC hospitals are delivering on that goal.

SmartRoom® technology brings it all to you Launched three years ago by UPMC in partnership with IBM, SmartRoom is an impressive technology. First used at UPMC Shadyside and UPMC Montefiore, it is gradually being introduced in other UPMC hospitals. All patient rooms at the new UPMC East will be equipped with SmartRoom technology. SmartRoom brings all essential data related to your care to your bedside. Its computerized software programs give caregivers fingertip access to all the information essential to your care — from your electronic medical records to the tests you’ll need that day.

The SmartRoom concept simplifies workflow and makes documentation of your care faster and easier. Each room has two screens: one for your caregivers, and another for you to access email, entertainment, and a vast library of patient education videos and information.

The right meds at the right time “It is our goal to make the hospitalization and discharge experience as stress-free as possible for our patients and their families,” says Jacqueline Dailey, UPMC’s vice president for Solutions for Medical Science, Research, and Patient Centered Accountable Care. “Not surprisingly, by the time patients leave the hospital, they’re often confused and overwhelmed by changes in their medications and how to take them.” “We begin when you’re admitted with an electronic assessment of your current medications and how they’re being taken,” explains Ms. Dailey. “As medications are adjusted or eliminated during your stay, this information is instantly available to all your physicians — from your family doctor to the specialists caring for you. That’s especially important if you transition from one level of care to another, such as intensive to acute care.” An added layer of safety: both a pharmacist and the nurse administering the medications verify any new medication orders from your doctors. Throughout your stay, you’ll receive comprehensive instructions on your medications. “We know that people learn in different ways, so this information will be shared multiple times and in multiple ways,” notes Ms. Dailey. “We also urge patients to contact their doctors for help with any questions they may have on their return home.”


Taking on Tourette Controlling a life in motion at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC That’s especially difficult for adolescents who want to fit in. Tics, such as throat clearing, turning, or shaking, also can cause pain.

Seven Barnishin was just 11, playing with action figures alone in his Pitcairn home, when the tics began — involuntary arm flicks, head jerks, and sounds. “I freaked. It seemed like something else was controlling me,” he says.

At the Tourette Syndrome Clinic, patients have access to a trio of experts: two pediatric neurologists with training in neurodevelopmental disorders, and an adult neurologist trained in movement disorders who provides transitional care for older teens.

Tom and Amy Barnishin first thought their son’s behavior was linked to the start of the school year and peer pressure. When symptoms grew worse, and other tics emerged, their doctor sent Seven to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC where he was officially diagnosed with Tourette syndrome (TS) in January 2009. “We were blindsided,” says Amy.

Be in the know about TS Treatment varies.While there’s no cure, medication sometimes helps control tics. Psychologists can teach habit reversal and relaxation techniques to help patients cope with stress and reduce symptoms. But the most important treatment is education, says Dr. Coffman. “That includes educating families, educators, and the general public about TS.”

Diagnosing Tourette syndrome TS is a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting one in 100 people, says Keith Coffman, MD, a pediatric neurologist and co-director of the Tourette Syndrome Clinic, part of the Brain Care Institute at Children’s Hospital. Most cases are diagnosed between ages 3 and 12; the majority are boys. The main symptoms are sudden, repetitive, uncontrollable movements and sounds called tics, including throatclearing, sniffing, blinking, gestures, and head jerking. For a true TS diagnosis, tics must start before age 18, include two or more motor tics and at least one vocal tic, and last at least one year. Tics peak at the onset of puberty. Approximately 60 percent of children outgrow the tics, or the tics become so subtle only that person knows when they occur.

Did You Know? An estimated 200,000 Americans have TS, but misconceptions still surround the disorder. For example, TS is not an emotional or behavioral condition. It is an inherited neurodevelopmental disorder that causes abnormalities in the brain.

Coping with Tourette “People with TS cannot control their tics. They experience a sensation that makes them feel like they have to move — like having to sneeze,” Dr. Coffman says. The earlier the diagnosis, the sooner children can benefit. Movements can interfere with school work. Children with TS often are bullied, teased, or viewed as being disruptive.

Other TS facts include: • TS patients have the same IQ range as the general population. • People in every walk of life, including professional musicians, athletes, authors, and scientists, have TS.

“Knowledge is power. I’d be unnerved if I didn’t know what it was,” adds Seven, now age 14. Although he cycled through almost every tic, the movements and sounds have subsided with treatment. The Barnishins credit the team at Children’s for helping them understand TS, guiding them through treatment options, and providing support. “Children’s gave us answers and helped us gain control over an uncontrollable situation. Instead of being spectators, we were part of the process. That helped lower Seven’s anxiety, which helped ease the tics,” says Tom. To learn more about the Tourette Syndrome Clinic and the Movement Disorders Clinic at Children’s Hospital, visit, choose Neurology as the service, then click the Clinics and Services button on the left.

• Less than 15 percent of TS patients swear or use inappropriate expressions.



UPMC 600 Oxford Drive Monroeville, PA 15146

UPMC Today is published quarterly to provide you with health and wellness information and classes and events available at UPMC. This publication is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice or replace a physician’s medical assessment. Always consult first with your physician about anything related to your personal health.

Follow UPMC East on Facebook.


OPENING SUMMER 2012 For more information, visit

Penn Hills | Winter 2011 | 21

Trinity Tower United Methodist

Reaches Out

to Help Others


rinity Tower united Methodist Church’s website state’s “God’s Power through Our Hands.” That’s certainly evident in the church’s Outreach Council, which carries out various projects, from bagged lunches for the homeless to purses and toiletries for women living in shelters. This past summer, the church hosted its seventh annual Sock Hop Festival Fundraiser and Car Cruise, which included dance team performances, silent and Chinese auctions, hamburgers, hot dogs, Italian sausage and ice cream floats. The event’s proceeds, which average $2,000 to $3,000, fund the numerous outreach projects. “It’s not about me, it’s about the people we help,” said Dawn Himes-Pinner, a member of the church’s outreach council who came up with the idea for the sock hop. “The event started as a very small idea, and

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it just has grown exponentially every year since then. We would not be this successful if it were not for the many wonderful businesses who donate gift cards, food, reduced prices on supplies. It’s successful because of the people who help support us.” Initially, Himes-Pinner said the intent of the first event was to raise enough money to buy socks for the homeless. The idea of an old-fashioned sock hop was appealing. “That whole era was very popular,” she said. Some of the church’s musically-talented teens learned to play music from the 1950s, and the church dance team performed dances from the 1950s, and people who had classic cars brought them out,” HimesPinner explained. She credits two young women who were youth members at the time with sparking the outreach to those in need in the Pittsburgh area. Caroline Marra, who just graduated from Ohio State university and Danielle Allison, now a student at Penn State, said they wanted to do something to help people, locally. They came up with the idea of making scarves for the homeless. Other women in the church joined in and eventually 100 scarves were made with the two girls accompanying Himes-Pinner to downtown Pittsburgh to pass them out. While others may judge those who find themselves living under bridges or in shelters, she does not. “All I care about is what I can do to help you,” she said. “It’s very easy to have sympathy, but when you can empathize with someone that really makes a difference. . . no one has ever grown up saying, ‘I hope I’m homeless one day.’” This year, there were about 32 classic cars at the event, and the outreach has grown from providing scarves and socks

Penn Hills

for the homeless to providing brown bag lunches for patients at Operation Safety net, an organization started by Dr. Withers, that provides medical care for the homeless. The lunches include a sandwich, fruit cup, cookies, bottle of water and other snacks. “Sometimes, this is the only food they get all day,” said Catharine Drago, a member of the church’s outreach council. laverne Sembower, another member of the outreach council, is in charge of putting together the lunches. Every Monday, volunteers drive the lunches to the Operation Safety net office on Forbes Avenue in uptown Pittsburgh near uPMC Mercy Hospital. Two other members of the outreach team are nancy Maffeo and nancy Stevens. “Another thing that we do is five days a week we pick up the leftover bread at Panera in Penn Center,” Drago said. “We have ten people, husband and wife teams, that take it to a variety of places, soup kitchens, food banks. If somebody doesn’t pick up the bread, they throw it out.” Members of the church’s outreach council also fill up donated purses with toiletries and take them to 18 different homeless shelters throughout Allegheny County. Many of the shelters are affiliated with the Homeless Children’s Education Fund, Drago explained. “The women in all these shelters have to go to school or be involved in a training program,” she said. “They can’t just come to the shelter and stay there forever.” The outreach council also purchases new underwear for those living in shelters. “A lot of what we’re trying to provide are

some of the little things that these places don’t get, things that we take for granted but that people often go without if we don’t provide them,” said the church’s pastor Dale Reese. However, the outreach council does not limit itself to local endeavors. In another effort, members collect used neckties, which an organization on north Carolina’s Outer Banks weaves into things such as table runners and handbags. The money from the sale of these items goes to homeless shelters on the Outer Banks. Money from the sock hop is used to buy mosquito nets to help prevent malaria in Africa via the organization, nothing But nets, and it donated money to help the victims of the earthquake in Japan earlier this year. “Wherever we see a need we try to help out, whether it’s Penn Hills or another country,” Drago said.

The Penn Hills train display at the municipal building has been operating annually during the holiday season since 1984. It began as a project of Police Helping People Daily, a charitable organization started by Penn Hills Police Officer Domenic Slebich, Jr. The organziation is now called People Helping People Daily. Sadly Slebich, who was retired, passed away in November. Volunteers begin putting the train display together in November for its opening during Penn Hills Light Up Night, which this year was December 1. The display is open 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 1 to 9 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays until January 1.

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 Penn Hills | Winter 2011 | 23

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en Milko, owner and floral designer of Flowers in the Attic, in Penn Hills is continuing his Christmas spirit in the tradition of years past… 13 years to be exact. The Flowers for Patients Program delivers flowers on Christmas Eve to area nursing homes. The flowers are donated by customers, employees of Flowers in the Attic, friends, and Milko himself by a simple five or ten dollar donation and a written gift card personalized by the giver. This year 14 nursing homes are on the recipient list. “Our customers look forward to the program. We all know someone in a nursing home,” Milko said. “let me tell you why the Flowers for Patients Program has been my heart’s choice for holiday giving. “It began years ago on a very snowy Christmas Eve.  I was making a rather late delivery to a resident in a nursing home.  The staff asked that I personally deliver the arrangement to the room.  As I walked down the long and very lonely hall, each and every resident looked at me with expectant eyes anticipating that he or she might receive the flowering gift.  The disappointment in their eyes and the diminishing smile on each face broke my heart.  After checking with staff, I learned that too many of our elderly in nursing homes have no visitors at Christmas or throughout the year.  There and then I promised myself that thereafter everyone in area homes would have a gift on Christmas Eve.  It may not be much to those whose tree overflows with gifts, but it is a miracle that one flowering gift can light up the room to someone who has no one.” Participation in the Flowers in the Attic Flowers for Patients Program can be made by calling Flowers in the Attic at 412.798.2200 and asking for Donna liberto.



 “Singing gospel songs with traditional, modern, and contemporary stylings, The Pittsburgh Gospel Choir and Ensemble performed October 22 at Beulah Presbyterian Church’s “The Music on the Hill Concert Series.” Dr. Herbert V.R.P. Jones led the group of 65 members who gave a musical experience that kept the audience enthralled with a performance of eight songs. The audience was also treated to the talents of “gospel legend” Valetta O’Kelly, who has been singing the gospel for 70 years. The Pittsburgh Gospel Ensemble, a smaller group comprised of members of the mass choir, performed two songs.

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Penn Hills

Beulah Presbyterian Church Introduces New Worship Service

“”  Beulah Presbyterian Church introduced a new contemporary worship service, named “Revolution,” on Sunday, november 20. Revolution is a weekly coffeehouse-style worship service in a comfortable, family-friendly environment. The service will feature Revolution Praise Band and a children’s area for the youngest attendees.


area in 1758, God has continually reshaped Beulah over its long history to make it relevant and to fit the unique needs of the time. Beulah is evolving again, offering Revolution as a new form of worship.

 For more information on this service, contact Beulah Presbyterian Church at 412.242.4570 or visit

Sundays at 5:45 p.m. This service is in addition to the regular Sunday morning worship at 10:15 a.m.

 Beulah Presbyterian Church, 2500 McCrady Road, Churchill

 Since the time of the Revolutionary War, Beulah Presbyterian Church has found innovative ways to glorify God and to meet the needs of the community. Beginning as a place of worship for soldiers stationed in the

Penn Hills | Winter 2011 | 25

St. Bartholomew’s

 t. Bartholomew Parish in Penn Hills held its 61st festival this year. The much-beloved and highly-anticipated community event has taken place in October for the past four years. Prior to that, the festival was held for the first 56 years in the summer, and used to be eight days long, said Sister Dorothy Pawlus, parish life coordinator for St. Bartholomew. “I think it started out as a fundraiser and it’s also a community builder,” Pawlus said. The event was changed to October because it’s cooler and it doesn’t have to compete with all the other church festivals going on in the summer, she said. “People like the food because all of our food is homemade,” Pawlus said regarding what makes the festival popular. “I think the rides are a big attraction, and also our basket auction. We have some beautiful baskets that we put together.”


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Penn Hills

But it doesn’t happen with out a lot of assistance. “We get a lot of things donated from our parishoners, from the community,” Pawlus said. There are about 50 volunteers each of the festival’s three nights, getting the booths ready beforehand, making food, running the kitchen, and working the booths.

Imagine Penn Hills Charter School of Entrepreneurship Empowering Students. Encouraging Leadership. Inspiring the Future.

Attend an Open House: Saturday, Jan. 14 at 10am Thursday, Jan. 19 at 6pm       

Saturday, Jan. 21 at 10am Wednesday, Jan. 25 at 6pm

200 Penn School Drive Verona, PA 15147 Imagine Schools Equal opportunity for all students. • 412-793-6471 Serving students and their families living within a 10+ mile radius of our campus.

Penn Hills | Winter 2011 | 27


Whether you are a mature adult facing changes in your living arrangements or the child of an aging parent, the prospect of discussing this major life change can be a formidable one. Most experts agree that it is best to broach the subject earlier rather than later.

By Pamela Palongue

n the popular 1990s TV series “The Golden Girls,” Dorothy always had a secret weapon she used to coerce her mother into cooperating with her. Dorothy would periodically threaten her with the ominous warning, “Shady Pines is getting your room ready as we speak…” But nowadays, only around 7% of people over age 75 live in nursing homes, according to census figures, and there are more choices than ever for different lifestyles and levels of care. There are as many as 20 different types of senior care facilities, and before looking at any new living arrangement, it’s important to have a basic idea of what the different levels are to avoid feeling overwhelmed with choices. The following are some of the most popular living arrangements for seniors of today. One favorite for mature adults is the active adult community, sometimes referred to as a retirement community or independent 28 724.942.0940 TO ADVERTISE |

Penn Hills

living. These dwellings are usually homes or condos with individuals living independently and owning their own home, but in a grouping or housing plan with other seniors. Many times these communities will offer a clubhouse and have planned social and cultural activities and limited transportation. They may also provide housekeeping and communal meals for a monthly fee. They are probably best suited to individuals who are active and able to assume total care for themselves, but desire social interaction with others in their own age group. Assisted living facilities usually allow individuals to have the privacy of their own apartment or home, while offering daily assistance with bathing and dressing. Some communities may also help with administering medications. This is an attractive option for many seniors because residents may be able to bathe and dress themselves initially, but as health and mobility decline the help becomes readily available without having to make a change in living arrangements. Communal dining may also be an option for an added fee. Residents

rent their apartment or home and may pay one ‘all inclusive’ fee for services or may be charged ‘a la carte’ for each additional service needed. This is a good choice for any mature adult who is currently ambulatory, but who may have concerns about future mobility problems or perhaps has the beginning of mobility issues. Another increasingly popular option for mature adults is home health care which allows individuals to remain in their homes while receiving professional assistance with bathing, dressing and meal preparation. The care may also extend to medical needs such as the administration of medications and the ongoing management of blood pressure or diabetes. Medicare and Medicaid may provide financial assistance in some cases, but there are several eligibility requirements which must be met. This is a particularly good option for individuals who are emotionally attached to their residence and do not have a strong need for social interaction with other seniors. Rehabilitation facilities are primarily a temporary option for those recuperating from injury or illness. Rehab helps the individual recover and provides adaptive techniques for preparing the patient to return to independent living. While the person may not function at the previous level, the goal of rehab is to enhance the patient’s quality of life by improving mobility, speech and self-care. Though people seldom look forward to going to a nursing facility, skilled nursing homes provide 24-hour care for individuals with serious illness, injury or mental decline. The good news is that there have been several improvements in the quality of care received in nursing facilities since the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987. nurse aides now have more training, and each resident must be fully evaluated upon admission so that an individual care plan can be established. Meals are planned by a dietician to ensure proper nutrition, and many nursing facilities now include regular exercise as a part of their managed care for residents. Whether you are a mature adult facing changes in your living arrangements or the child of an aging parent, the prospect of discussing this major life change can be a formidable one. Most experts agree that it is best to broach the subject earlier rather than later. Try to discuss the different options with aging parents and find out which ones appeal to them. Certain conditions such as serious dementia may prevent a meaningful discussion of these topics later. By talking about the choices now, your loved one can weigh in on the decision and help you decide based on personal preferences. The topic is also easier to discuss when it seems a long way off, rather than inevitable in the near future. The older person will also have more time to make decisions, rather than hastily settling on a new home. When beginning the discussion, always reassure your loved one that you want him/her to remain as independent as possible for as long as possible. Ask questions rather than offering advice. This will help your parent to feel more in control of the conversation. Try not to force any decisions with only one discussion. Give your loved one a chance to digest the idea and to form some thoughts on the subject. Suggest the possibility of a visit to an independent or assisted living community. Many parents who are initially reluctant to even discuss moving become excited about the prospect of making a change when they are able to see firsthand the positive social aspects and activities offered at assisted living facilities. Finally, enlist the help of one of your parent’s friends already in independent or assisted living as an advocate. Oftentimes parents may feel that their children are “ganging up” on them if they are confronted by several siblings telling them what they should do. However, an individual in their own age group who has made the adjustment and is happy is the best advocate.

  

on finding a home for your loved one, you may want to consult, a free elder care referral service. For more tips about speaking with your parents or services available for your loved one, visit the Area Agency on Aging website at

Penn Hills | Winter 2011 | 29


to a Senior Program

                                                                 

   For as long as some Pennsylvania residents can remember they have sat down four times a year and filled out a small postcard. This small postcard asked you to list your wages, calculate approximately 1 percent of your earnings and mail a check to your local earned income tax collector in your community municipal building. But in 2012, every Penn Hills Township taxpayer can cross one more chore off their to-do list thanks to a new state mandate. Beginning Jan. 1, all employers who have work sites in the commonwealth are required by Act 32 of 2008 to withhold all earned income taxes from every employee. And all employees have to do is make sure they have filled out a residency certification form. “The legislation affects every single municipality and school district in Pennsylvania,” says Mitch Hoffman, local government policy manager at the state Department of Community and Economic Development. “That in itself is huge. In addition, it also affects every single taxpayer and every single business that operates in Pennsylvania.”

 Earned income taxes have been a fixture in Pennsylvania since 1965. At the time, state lawmakers imposed the levy to allow local entities such as school districts and municipalities to raise more funds. “It provided an avenue for local taxing bodies to impose a tax to help fund their operating costs, and it was only imposed on people who actually had earned income, not those who were retired or were not working,” says Hoffman. Earned income tax is unique to Pennsylvania. neighboring states have similar structures in place, but they are not identical. In theory, the tax is simple. Anyone who works in the state pays on average a 1 percent tax four times a year. Some townships, boroughs and school districts tax a bit higher and some a bit lower. And to pay their bill, an employer could withhold the tax from an employee’s pay or the employees themselves could calculate their tax and send it to their local earned income tax collector. But from the start, issues arose. Pennsylvania has one of the highest numbers of local municipalities in the country, and at one point, there were up to 560 different earned income tax offices in the state, says Hoffman. “It was very fractured and very convoluted. There was no consistency in collections, no consistency in annual returns and no consistency in transfer of records from one tax collector to another.” 30 724.942.0940 TO ADVERTISE |

Penn Hills

d e n i a l Exp  Confusion about where to send taxes also abounded for companies that are headquartered out of state but have a plethora of work sites and thousands of employees in Pennsylvania. “Many of these companies did withhold the tax, but with so many different collectors it was difficult for them to comply with all the expectations,” says Hoffman. The cumbersome structure also was not attractive to new business endeavors as it created one more regulation interested companies had to comply with when they opened a site in Pennsylvania. Within decades, people started to question the structure used to collect earned income tax.

 By 2002, various organizations sought change and restructuring. Their pleas were supported by a study commissioned by the Pennsylvania Economy league among other entities. The study found that millions of dollars across the state were not being accounted for correctly and millions of potential tax dollars were not being collected at all. The actual amount always remained uncertain, says Hoffman. “I talk to employers every day who have had work sites in Pennsylvania for years and have never collected the tax. We are not just dealing with Pennsylvania businesses though, this hits businesses across north America.” Change was slow to come, but in 2008, state lawmakers passed Act 32 and its effects were so far reaching it gave local municipalities and school districts three years to implement its regulations. under the new law, the burden related to the tax has shifted from employees to their employers. Every employer in Pennsylvania is required to have each employee fill out a one-page local earned income tax residency certification form by year’s end. On the form, employees list their address, municipality and county of residence. This information matches to a municipality specific code ensuring the tax dollars are automatically withheld and end up at the correct tax collector. Throughout Pennsylvania, except in Allegheny County, earned income tax collector positions were eliminated or altered as taxes will go to a county level tax collector chosen by a tax collection district made up of representatives from every municipality and school district in the specific county. In Allegheny County, four collection districts were chosen to better serve the area’s unique demographics, says Hoffman. “The four collection districts are separated by the rivers. Allegheny County is different than anywhere else in the state due to its diverse populations and number of corporations.”

 In addition to the more centralized structure, the law has other oversight and accountability features. There are explicit time frames set out for the distribution of dollars as well as training and certification for all tax officers. There also are penalties for late payments and annual auditing, says Hoffman. “All of these are built in to guarantee the amount of monies being collected are collected properly, remitted properly and distributed properly.” Filing returns also will be more uniform throughout the state. “Some local returns were several pages, some half a page and some had none at all. now there is a standard form for all of Pennsylvania and all the tax collectors are required to use it. We now have consistency.” Penn Hills Township Manager Mohammed Rayan expects the positive outcomes predicted to come to fruition in time. “If all goes well, we are hoping more revenue will be generated. Changes are always hard, but we are hoping the end result is in our favor.” The township expects to collect approximately $8.5 million in earned income taxes in 2011. A main change is getting used to larger, lump sum deposits in their accounts from Keystone Collections Group, Allegheny County’s southeast region tax collector, as opposed to almost daily smaller deposits. “This is something new for us. For years and years, we have had our own collectors. now we have to share one collector. We will see how it is going to go. “In the future, we can’t predict what will happen, but we hope it will get better.”

 Penn Hills Township has a specific code to ensure all earned income taxes go to the right municipality.

   720501

Penn Hills | Winter 2011 | 31

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