December 2022 issue of Northern Connection Magazine

Page 12

CONNECTING YOU TO THE COMMUNITY FOR 23 YEARS December Events | Christmas Worship Guide | Holiday Guide Also... Thiel Network Connects College to the Region December 2022

P.O. Box 425 Mars, Pa. 16046

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President & Publisher

Laura Lyn Arnold

Publisher Emeritus & Contributor Marion Swanson Piotrowski

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Managing Editor/Public Relations Coordinator Paula M. Green Paula@northernconnectionmag.com Marketing & Account Executive Mary L. Simpson

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Web Master Swanson Publishing , LLC Core Writers Maura Brown Belinda Burchick Ron Eichner

Paula M. Green Janice Lane Palko Sofya Stearns

Intern Bronwyn Wain

Northern Connection is published twelve times a year by Swanson Publishing, LLC (P.O. Box 425, Mars, PA 16046, 724-940-2444) and is distributed free of charge to the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh. Subscription can be purchased from the publisher at $25 for one year.

The mission of the Swanson Publishing, LLC is to connect the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh by publishing the area’s finest community publication, Northern Connection. The publication is dedicated to the people, commu nities, educational, religious, travel, and recreational needs of the area.

contents of Northern Connection magazine may not be reproduced or copied in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher. Northern Connection magazine reserves the right to refuse editorial or advertisements that do not meet the standards of this publication.

The
NORTHERN CONNECTION
2 DECEMBER 2022 | www.northernconnectionmag.com NC Features 16 2022 Holiday Guide 18 Songbird Artistry Brings Creativity and Inclusivity to Pittsburgh Bronwyn Wain 21 RPM Woodworks 23 December Wrap-Up Ron Eichner 24 Holiday Worship Guide 32 Home Guide Kids & Education 10 Cover Story: Thiel College 14 School Movers & Shakers Health & Wellness 30 Considering a Career Transition? Maura Johnson Advertorials 5 Peripheral Neuropathy Sufferers Have Hope Dr. Shawn Richey 10 In Every Issue... 4 Movers & Shakers 6 Mover & Shaker of the Month: Victoria Chester Rose Paula Green 8 From the Editor: Eating the Elephant Janice Lane Palko 13 MOM2MOMS: Don’t Stress, Be Merry and Happy! Sofya Stearns 16 December Events 22 Trivia Connection: Jolly Old Nicholas Trivia Paula Green 26 Support Our Troops: So Why December? Paula Green December TABLE OF CONTENTS

Movers & Shakers

Dr. Jesse Gabriel returns to Western Pennsylvania to practice medicine with Genesis Medical Associates after a decade of training and medi cal practice. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine; received his preliminary medicine internship at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center; and completed his family medicine residency at Eisenhower Army Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia. Dr. Gabriel subsequently served on active duty with the US Army for six years, treating veterans, active duty soldiers, and their families. While stationed at Fort Drum, New York, he received addi tional training in interdisciplinary pain management. He also gained combat medical experience during a deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan.  For the past seven years, Dr. Gabriel has been in civilian practice in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he continued to serve in the NM Army National Guard. Dr. Gabriel’s medi cal practice covers newborns to senior adults.  He is particularly interested in managing the complexities of aging adults, cardiovascular and metabolic disease, and inflammatory conditions.

Seam Construction

Seam Construction, a locally owned and operated construction company, was founded by Shaler native Sean Miller six years ago. Seam’s expertise involves anything from finish work to structural repairs. It provides full home renovations, including kitchens and baths. Recently, Seam Construction has expanded and has begun to provide work for commercial enterprises and restaurants. Seam takes pride in bringing that residential touch to its commercial work too. Their team of nine in-house employees has over 100 years of combined experience in the field. Miller, a Marine veteran, who sits on the board and volunteers with the VFW in Millvale, offers free estimates along with Veteran’s and Senior Citizen Discounts. Their Contractor License number is: PA152239, and references and testimonials are available on request. Contact Seam Construction at: 412-551-6551 or www.seamconstructionpittsburgh.com

4 DECEMBER 2022 | www.northernconnectionmag.com MOVERS & SHAKERS

Peripheral Neuropathy occurs when nerves are damaged or destroyed and can’t send messages to the muscles, skin and other parts of the body. Peripheral nerves go from the brain and spinal cord to the arms, hands, legs and feet. When damage to the nerves takes place, numbness and pain in these areas may occur. A specialized treatment protocol utilizing brand new technologies is available at TRI-STATE NEUROPATHY CENTERS. It includes the combination of very specific, noninvasive, FDAapproved and painless treatments that are designed to get rid of symptoms of peripheral neuropathy.

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Victoria Chester Rose

Founder of The Izzie Fund

Apet is more than a playful companion; it’s part of the family. Victoria Chester Rose and her husband, George, know what it is like to experi ence that unique camaraderie. Victoria owned a French bulldog named Izzie, and she was one-of-a-kind. “Izzie was my first dog and had been with us on many adventures. She was the perfect mix of sweetness and sass. Izzie was my constant companion and reminded me that pure, unconditional love exists in this world. She was the flower girl in our wedding and the rock in our family when my husband and I lost our dads back-to-back, followed by two miscarriages – over the last five years,” said Victoria.

In December 2020, Izzie was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension. “It was a serious heart condition. The treatment plan included working with a cardiologist, hospital stays, oxygen pet chambers at the ICU, ER visits, ultra sounds, echocardiograms, specialized medicines, and home oxygen therapy. We spent roughly $20,000 in less than three months.” Victoria added. Sadly, Izzie passed away one month shy of her 15th birthday.

“When we lost Izzie, we were broken, but at the same time, we felt lucky to be able to provide her with the care she needed. After she passed, we took her medicine, food, and other items and donated them to Animal Friends. The veterinarian was incredibly thankful, and one week later, we received a heartfelt card in the mail from their office thanking Izzie (not me) for helping the homeless dogs in the shelter. It was in that moment of grief that I found hope. That’s why I started The Izzie Fund, which provides financial assistance to family-owned pets needing specialty veterinary care. It benefits those who are unable to afford the full cost of the recommended treatment plan. I never allowed cost to influence any of our decisions throughout Izzie’s medical treatment plan. I was determined to give her everything possible so we would never look back and wonder what if. We wanted to provide that same gift to others,” Victoria said.

“I used to tell Izzie that I would throw her the biggest sweet sixteenth birthday party. We officially launched The Izzie Fund on March 21, what would have been her 16th birthday. Over this year, we have made amazing progress.

“We’ve hosted 11 community events since June. Upcoming on Friday, December 2, The Izzie Fund is hosting PNO – Paw’rents Night Out, which is a private shopping event and wine tasting. Reserve your spot by emailing victoria@theizziefund.org. For this event, we’ve partnered with OneHope, a California vineyard. If people want to order their holiday wine, 10% of the proceeds go to The Izzie Fund. We have a shop on our website and graciously accept any monetary donations; details can be found on theizziefund.org/.”

“We recently launched our application process and are helping the first dog. We’re here to help with medical conditions above and beyond basic and general veterinarian care. If someone meets the requirements, they’ll need to complete an application. Once approved, we will work directly with your treating provider/veterinarian on providing payment. All the details can be found on theizziefund.org/request-for-assistance/.” Victoria said.

Victoria and George welcomed a new puppy named Teddy into their home. She said, “He is different than Izzie; he’s all spunk. Teddy came into our life about six months after Izzie passed. I wasn’t ready, but now I look at him and see why grief has to exist. It means you loved someone so much that the pain is worth it all. Sometimes I tell him that he will break my heart, too, someday. It is sad but so worth it to love that deeply.” n

MOVER & SHAKER OF THE MONTH
6 DECEMBER 2022 | www.northernconnectionmag.com MOVERS & SHAKERS

Eating the Elephant

Last month my husband and I went on a trip to the Holy Land with our parish, touring Israel and Jordan. The trip was amazing. We visited sites we’ve read about in the Bible and or have seen in movies, like Petra, the ancient city carved into rock facades, which was featured in the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Among the places we visited were Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus and the site of the first Christmas. We also visited Nazareth, sailed on the Sea of Galilee and floated in the Dead Sea. We rode camels in Jericho, walked the Via Dolorosa, the “Way of Sorrows” in Jerusalem to Jesus’s Crucifixion site and entered the Holy Sepulcher, the empty tomb of Jesus.

In Jordan, we visited Mt. Nebo, not the one with Sam’s Club and Target, and the Roman ruins in Jerash. We saw Bedouins herding sheep in the desert, visited Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, and placed prayers in the cracks of the Western Wall. It truly was the trip of a lifetime, and I encourage anyone who gets the chance to visit the Holy Land to do so.

But then it was time to return home.

We left Jordan and did the complicated swap of having our bus driver and Jordanian guide transport us to the border, deposit us there to go through immigration, re-enter Israel, where an Israeli guide and bus driver picked us up and transported us back to Jerusalem. We were having dinner in a hotel before our guide was to transport us to the airport for our flight from Tel Aviv to Newark and then on to Pittsburgh, when I thought to check on our flight status. When I saw a red warning that said “Canceled,” my heart sank. I asked if anyone else had checked the status, which prompted everyone to pull out their cell phones. Not only had our flight been canceled, but we had also been rescheduled on a later flight leaving Tel Aviv but terminating in San Francisco, making it a 15-hour flight. Then we had a seven-hour layover in San Francisco before departing on a connecting flight to Denver, and then flying back to Pittsburgh.

My husband and I had purchased preferred seats so that we could sit together, but the new flight had us both in middle seats-the worst possible places. A sense of despera tion descended. I don’t sleep on planes. I didn’t think I could handle such an ordeal. We’d already been up 19 hours when we took off; all told, by the time we arrived home, I had been up for nearly 50 hours.

Many of you face or have faced far worse circumstances than travel troubles. I have a neighbor who had a health issue that left him in isolation for a year until he received a bone marrow transplant. On the last leg of the trip, I sat next to an 81-year-old woman from West Virginia, who was flying back from visiting her grandchildren in Denver. She told me that when she was 27, her husband, who was a coal miner, had his skull crushed in a mining accident leaving her a widow with a two-year-old and new baby. She said she didn’t know how she made it through.

But I know how she did it, and anyone else facing dire, seemingly insurmountable cir cumstances, knows the secret. It’s the eating-the-elephant mindset. It was Desmond Tutu who said that “there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.”

When I boarded that plane to come home, I tried to take it one hour at a time, one leg at a time, and find something good within each hour. I watched several movies and chat ted a bit with my Israeli seatmate. In San Francisco, I had a delicious BLT sandwich, after no bacon for two weeks. And the lady from West Virginia was sweet and talking to her helped to pass the time. I never thought I’d be able to cope with being up 50 hours straight and being confined in a middle seat for 15 hours, and yet I did.

For any of you facing a challenge now or in the coming new year, remember to take it one small step at a time, find the good even in undesirable circumstances, and realize that you have more strength than you may realize. And before you know it, that elephant will be gone. n

FROM THE EDITOR 8 DECEMBER 2022 | www.northernconnectionmag.com
Walking the Via Dolorosa Me on Mount Precipice with the Jezreel Valley below Inside the Shepherd’s Church Waiting to the enter the Empty Tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
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Thiel Network Connects College

According to the 2022 update of the economic impact assessment study done by the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania, Thiel College is one of six institutions in northwest Pa. that generates nearly $1 billion in economic impact and supports and sustains about 8,000 jobs. Those numbers are staggering and important, but the Thiel story inside that is about more than hard numbers. The ripples that expand out from the College and into the region and the world include the talented and caring faculty and staff sharing their skills with groups and organizations, students experiencing internships and clinical, and graduates launching their professional and postgraduate careers. These connections are just the tip of the iceberg as students are also involved in co-curricular activities and philanthropies.

These connections are living examples of the College’s commitment to the third goal of the strategic plan, “expand Thiel’s reach and impact, contributing to Greenville’s and the broader region’s social, economic and educational development.”

Student internships, practicums and clinical work have created multiple opportunities for students to have an impact on the region. John Robbins ’24, a media and journalism major from Jeannette, Pa. is just one example of that connection that is being made.

“My internship over this past summer with WQED provided opportunities to get my name out there. I was able to be an interviewer for WQED’s Voice of the Arts, make edits for and spots for publicizing Voice of the Arts and other WQED events, and gain connections,” Robbins said. “These experiences have helped me improve Thiel’s radio station, WXTC, with live sports broadcasts and other aspects of the radio.”

The College’s speech-language pathology program has a free clinic which is serving the region and helping students gain critical clinical hours while also helping set them up for professional internships and success. For the second straight year, all the graduates from Thiel’s Speech-Language Pathology program were employed before or shortly after completing the program. Madeleine Campbell M.S.’22 graduated from the Thiel College speech-language pathology graduate program and started working at Community Health Care, Inc., which was one of her externship sites

10 DECEMBER 2022 | www.northernconnectionmag.com COVER STORY
Thiel students contribute to the regional network with internships and practicums

Network to the Region

while a graduate student.

Students in the speech-language pathology program make an impact in the community by working in the College’s free clinic. Nicole Plassio M.S.’21 said the clinic was a wonderful experience.

“The patients that I met while treating at the clinic were nothing short of amazing and special,” she said. “They taught the student clinicians, including myself, a lot about what it meant to not only be a good clinician but a great person, too.”

Plassio said working with patients in the clinic makes a clinician want to do their job better.

Rod Wilt ’86, executive director of Penn-Northwest Development Corp, also speaks highly of Thiel’s impact.

“As the Mercer County and regional population has continued to decline over the years, Thiel College has been a beacon of hope,” Wilt says. “Their presence throughout the region has continued to grow, and they have invested heavily in their campus facilities as well as in new academic programs that meet the market demands of our employers.”

Thiel has collaborated with Penn-Northwest Development Corp. The group has used the state-of-theart facilities in the James Pedas Communication Center to record videos as well as hosting important meetings on campus.

Erie television journalist Isaac Petkac came to campus to launch the new podcast studio in the Pedas Center in September.

“The Pedas Center is a gem. There are working professionals who would love to have a facility like this,” Petkac said. “Thiel College is an unbelievable place to be able to do this. (The new Podcast Studio) is the place where media will explode at this College.”

“Thiel brings a lot of new young people to Mercer County through their wide recruitment efforts,” Wilt says. “As a leader in economic development, Penn-Northwest and Mercer County must work to retain these students once they graduate. Under the strong leadership of Dr. Susan Traverso, Thiel College has become a great partner in many community and economic development initiatives that will have a long-term positive impact on the region.”

Students in the physician assistant studies program hosted their inaugural free health fair and blood drive that was free and open to the public and featured several local

and regional healthcare representatives. The blood collected at the event was sent to local hospitals and remained in the community.

“The reason we organized this health fair is to bring the Greenville community together,” said physician assistant studies student William Sarniguet M.S.’23. “Also, as a new program, we wanted to integrate ourselves more into the Thiel community and fulfill our commitment to serving others.”

The College has unique and important professional and career opportunities. A unique example is the College’s agreement with the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science. Students spend three years at Thiel and one at PIMS. Through the program, students earn a business degree and become licensed funeral directors.

Casey Rose ’14 MBA’21 owns and operates Rose and Black Funeral Home and Crematory with locations in Sandy Lake and Stoneboro. A third facility, Rose Simplicity Cremation & Funeral Center, is opening soon in Mercer. Rose has four full-time and five part-time employees in the Mercer County region.

“Thiel produces students that are prepared for the workforce and continue to invest in Mercer County,” Rose says. “Thiel has a powerful alumni family network that

www.northernconnectionmag.com | DECEMBER 2022 11

allows us to connect with multiple generations in the area. Thiel has always taken the extra step to re-invest in the county and continue using local businesses for education and job placement opportunities.”

“Northwest Pennsylvania is poised for growth,” Wilt adds. “I am proud of the commitment Thiel has made to be a major player in our rebuilding efforts.”

Another recent example is the College’s agreement with Laurel Institutes that provides a pathway for Laurel graduates to complete a bachelor’s degree. According to the agreement, the College would provide an individualized review of Laurel graduates and potential admission to students who met predetermined criteria

“Part of the Thiel College strategic plan is being a resource for the region,” Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs Greg Q. Butcher, Ph.D. said. “This agreement creates an additional entry point for students who want to expand on their career and professional training and complete a bachelor’s degree.”

Laurel Technical Institute is an accredited institute with campuses in Hermitage, Pa., Sharon, Pa., Uniontown, Pa., and Morgantown, W.Va. as well as offering online courses. It provides career-focused training, Associate Degrees and professional certifications.

“We are excited to renew our partnership with Thiel College,” Laurel Institutes Executive Vice President Douglas Decker, Ph.D. said. “We have worked together for a long time and this signing signifies taking the next step. Working

with Thiel offers our graduates outstanding opportunities to continue their education and expand their career pathways.”

An agreement between Thiel College and Sharon Regional Medical Center’s School of Nursing led to a collaborative program that will graduate students with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

Each of these programs and efforts are among the reasons the College’s enrollment has grown, said Chair of Thiel’s Department of Business Administration and Accounting and MBA program director Tony Kos, Ph.D. said.

“Our enrollment numbers are positive with increases of 7.5 percent in 2020 and almost 10 percent in 2021 and another 7 percent this year,” Kos added.

Thiel’s MBA program is another example of a local collaboration. Students enrolled in the MBA program at Thiel College have multiple experiential learning opportunities. Every student will complete 400 hours of career-focused work as a graduate assistant. As part of the required coursework, each student will work in a paid internship for a private sector business for a minimum of 120 hours and participate in student consultant teams advising a non-profit organization.

Last spring, Thiel College partnered with the City of Hermitage, Pa., to collaborate on research efforts to benefit the Food Waste to Energy Program that is operated by the Hermitage Water Pollution Control Department.

The Food Waste to Energy Program converts commercial food waste substances into electricity. To supplement the waste organics the facility is currently accepting, the program is looking to research whether residential food wastes might be utilized as well.

The program tasked Master of Business Administration students with helping to develop this research to determine the efficiency of converting residential food waste into energy. Jeff Meier, the Hermitage eCenter Executive Director, and Tom Darby, the Hermitage Food Waste to Energy Facilities Superintendent, were instrumental in beginning this collaboration with the College.

“This was a great opportunity for our program to be looked at by an outside entity with no knowledge of what we have been doing,” Darby said. “I feel that the students laid bare the main reasons our services have not been understood or even known about in our community. Our department is made up of technical personnel who are unfamiliar with trying to sell a product and a service. Hopefully, through this collaboration we can start to address some of those weaknesses (the) students discovered and start to be more connected to our community.” n

12 DECEMBER 2022 | www.northernconnectionmag.com
Thiel.edu

Don’t Stress, Be Merry and Happy!

holiday

an attempt

December is the month for holidays with Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Even if you don’t feel any joy inside (you’re tired, don’t get enough sleep, restless nights, too much on your mind), try to give the external joy of the upcoming holidays a chance to work its way inside.

Toss out thoughts about what to feed a crowd of relatives on Christmas Day or how to make sure the latkes are fully cooked for the first day of Hanukkah. Dismiss the vision of smoke billowing from a burned on the outside and undercooked turkey, or the scene of a kitchen dusted in flour from the grout of your backsplash to your floor from the attempt to make green and red Christmas cookies. Stop terrifying yourself and relax. All that is secondary. Focus on the important things.

A turkey that is already cooked and just needs to be heated in the oven can be easily bought at Giant Eagle, Whole Foods, or any supermarket of your preference, and it tastes just as good as homemade. The same goes for all the side dishes and latkes. When it comes to dessert, stores are filled with delicious and beautifully deco rated treats. Just make sure to remember to give your store a ring a few weeks in advance.

If you start adding up the cost of all groceries needed to make your dishes and compare it with the price of premade dishes, the difference is not going to be that grand. If you still want to impress your guests, sprinkle a bit of flour on your cheeks, drop a bit of shredded potatoes on your apron and boldly open wide the doors to your guests with a big smile. Your family won’t sell you out; your husband is too busy watching football, and the kids are either making TikTok videos or playing Roblox.

But if you do get a free moment and your kiddos really want to make some

thing, let them help you make some thing together. Latkes are always a crowd pleaser. Or, how about everyone’s favorite appetizer, Phyllo cups filled with a savory or sweet filling. For a special breakfast, crepes or scones are a treat. If you are feel ing adventurous, Pizzelles are fun to cre ate, but you will need a pizzelle maker.

So, moms, don’t stress, relax, be merry and have a Happy Holidays! n

SCONES

Ingredients:

2 C Flour

1/3 C Sugar

1 tsp Baking Powder

1/4 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp Salt

8 tbsps Butter, frozen

½ C Raisins

½ C Sour Cream

1 Egg

1 tsp White sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400F.

Sofya Stearns is the proud owner of Izabella’s Gourmet Chow and the mother of a young daughter, and she is brimming with tips and ideas to share with other moms, step-mothers, grandmothers and moms-to-be to make their lives easier. Sometime, being a mom is difficult, and she hopes that she can help to connect others as they care for and raise the little ones in their charge.

Do you have an idea for a feature in an upcom ing MOM2MOMS article or looking for more healthy tips? Feel free to send an email to me at izabellasgourmetchow@gmail.com

2. Mix all dry ingredients together in a me dium bowl. Grate butter into flour mix ture on the large holes of a box grater. Using fingers, incorporate butter until mixture resembles crumbs. Incorporate raisins.

3. In a small bowl, whisk sour cream and egg together.

4. Stir sour cream mixture into flower mix ture. Using hands or Kitchen aid make a ball.

5. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and make a 7-inch circle, about ¾ inch thick. Using a knife, cut 8-10 triangles. Sprinkle with sugar. Place on the baking tray with parchment paper, 1 inch apart.

6. Bake for 15-17 minutes until golden.

www.northernconnectionmag.com | DECEMBER 2022 13 MOM2MOMS
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Mars Area

Members of Mars Area High School Competitive Cheer Team gathered for a photo after the team was name grand champion at the Jagfest Spirit Competition on Oct. 16.

Mars Area School District collected $6,146.70 to benefit Susan G. Komen Foundation as part of an annual Pink Out & “Hats for Heroes” fund raiser, held Oct. 14.

Members of Mars Area High School Marching Band paused for a picture after winning the 2022 PIMBA Class 2A Championship Title.

BC3

A Butler County Community College cam paign to which employees, students and community members contributed $5,145 in September will provide free holiday meals to BC3 Pioneer Pantry patrons and in boxes deco rated with paper hearts painted by 3- to 5-yearolds. Nearly 60 people during a week of chari table giving administered by the BC3 Education

Foundation helped the college to raise funds to create Thanksgiving and December holiday meals for BC3 community members experienc ing food insecurity.

Butler County Community College BC3 recently honored legacy of late athlet ics director, Charles W. Dunaway. The Gibsonia resident after whom BC3 in 2015 established its new Charles W. Dunaway Pioneer Hall of Fame in the college’s Field House passed away Nov. 11, 2022, at 82.

Feature your school in Feature your school in NORTHERN CONNECTION MAGAZINE'S NORTHERN CONNECTION MAGAZINE'S

14 DECEMBER 2022 | www.northernconnectionmag.com
24TH ANNUAL 24TH ANNUAL EDUCATION ISSUE EDUCATION ISSUE COMING IN JANUARY. COMING IN JANUARY. Deadline December 17 • S P E C I A L A D R A T E S • S O C I A L M E D I A A D V E R T I S I N G • C O M P L I M E N T A R Y L I S T I N G I N 2 0 2 3 E D U C A T I O N G U I D E 724.940.2444 Info@northernconnectionmag com www northernconnectionmag com Celebrating over 23 years of connecting you to the community. Magazines are distributed directly into homes and free pick up locations in the northern area of Pittsburgh. KIDS & EDUCATION School Movers & Shakers
At Home Chuck E. Cheese CosmoProf Edible Arrangements Fine Wine & Good Spirits Fitness 19 Gabe’s GNC Great Clips H&R Block Laurie’s Hallmark Life Uniform McIntyre Beer Nail Center National Tire & Battery Once Upon A Child Original Pancake House PNC Seasons Party Superstore Subway Tropical Touch Ting’s Kitchen Valley Pool & Spa Weight Watchers Tuesday, December 20th • 6–8 p.m. Santa will be escorted on a fire truck through the center! 5-8 p.m. – Join us for Holiday Music, Balloon Twisting, Face Painting, Caricature Drawings, Kettle Corn, Coffee, Hot Chocolate and Delicious Pastries! McIntyre Square McIntyre Square Drive Ross Township /Town of McCandless I-279 McKnight Road Ross Park Mall To Downtown Pittsburgh To Wexford McIntyre Square Route 19 Drop off your Letter to Santa by December 20th Include your Name, Address & Phone Number Children 12 & Under No Purchase Necessary Bring in person or place in Santa’s North Pole Mail Box (Between Gabes and Fitness 19) McIntyre Square – 7900 McKnight Road Drop Off Your Letter to Santa: Santa’s North Pole Mail Box – McIntyre Square – 7900 McKnight Road North Pole Mail Box is located between Gabes and Fitness 19 Letters to Santa Sweepstakes – 10 Winners Winners chosen by random drawing & notified on Wednesday, December 21st Winners receive a $50.00 Visa Christmas Gift Card! Come StayEarly...Late www.northernconnectionmag.com | DECEMBER 2022 15

A Very Merry Sinatra and Streisand Christmas 7:30 p.m., Dec. 3, at the Legacy Theatre at Cumberland Crossing in McCandless Twp. For details, visit TheLegacyLineup.com.

A Visit to Bethlehem 1- 4 p.m., Dec. 3-4, 10-11, St. John’s Lutheran Church of Highland, 311 Cumberland Road. Interactive walk- through recreation of Bethlehem as it may have existed at the time of Christ’s birth. Features towns people, craftsmen, shepherds, census takers and live Nativity. Indoor event is free. For info, (412) 364-1606 or bethlehem@stjohn slutheranchurch.com.

Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh’s 23rd Annual Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Sweater Drive is happening through Dec. 15. For more information about the 2022 Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Sweater Drive, go to pitts burghkids.org/sweaterdrive22 or e-mail hi@ pittsburghkids.org.

Cranberry Artists Network Holiday Show, Give A Gift of Art, runs through Dec. 15, at the Cranberry Township Municipal Center. For info, visit https://www.cranberryartistsnet work.com/.

Cranberry Township 55+ Club meets 1:00 p.m. the 2nd Tuesday of the month at the Cranberry Township Municipal Center. Members must be residents of Cranberry Township. The Club features activities, social opportunities, and visits to nearby points of interest. For info, contact Bill at (724) 776-1933.

Free Matinee Movies on Mondays, Dec. 5, Emma; Dec. 12, American Underdog; Dec. 19, Spencer, at the Legacy Theatre at Cumberland Crossing in McCandless Twp. For details, visit TheLegacyLineup.com.

Glowland, a month-long festival celebrat ing art, light and play, will run thru Dec. 17 in Oakland. For details, visit oaklandpittsburgh. com/pages/glowland.

Gingerbread Houses display, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., daily, runs thru Jan. 3, The Block Northway. Over 60 gingerbread houses have been cre ated by individuals, families, Girl Scout troops and various organizations. The exhibit will be in the South Corridor Lower Level between DSW and Lands’ End. Free to the public.

Holiday Market, Dec. 2-3 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. For details, visit www.handmadearcade.org/holidaymarket22/

North Hills Chorale Comfort and Joy Christmas concerts: 2 p.m., Dec. 4, at the First Presbyterian Church of Bakerstown, 5825 Heckert Rd; 7 p.m., Dec. 10 and 3 p.m., Dec. 11, at Memorial Park Church, 8800 Peebles Rd, Allison Park. Free-will offerings accepted. Attendees are encouraged to bring a nonperishable food donation for the North Hills Community Outreach Food Pantry. For details, visit, www.nhchorale.com.

16 DECEMBER 2022 | www.northernconnectionmag.com
2022 Holiday

Holiday Guide

Northland Library, has numerous events scheduled for December. For a complete list of events, visit: www.northlandlibrary.org or call (412) 366-8100.

Pittsburgh North Regional Chamber Giving Tree Program will serve 17 nonprofit organiza tions this year. Tags with holiday wishes for children, seniors, and families, are placed in several local businesses throughout Northern Allegheny and Butler areas. For details, visit pghnorthchamber.com.

Pittsburgh Youth Concert Orchestra

Christmas Concert, 4 p.m., Dec. 4, at St. Richard Church, 3841 Dickey Rd, Gibsonia. Pablo Ardiles, Conductor. Concert is part of Saints Martha & Mary Parish Concert Series. Free-will offerings accepted. Visit: https:// stsmarthaandmaryparish.org/

Ring Pittsburgh Holiday Handbell Concerts: 2 p.m., Dec. 3 at Canterbury Place (private performance); 3 p.m., Dec. 4, Passavant

Community in Zelie; 4 p.m., Dec. 11 at Merrick Art Gallery; 7 p.m., Dec. 13, Highpointe at Rebecca (private performance); 7:30 p.m., Dec. 16, Resurrection Parish in Upper St. Clair; 2 p.m., Jan. 8, Elfinwild Presbyterian in Glenshaw. For details, visit www. RingPittsburgh.org.

Sealarks Women’s Group meeting, 1 p.m., Dec. 14, at Memorial Park Church, 8800 Peebles Rd, Allison Park. This group provides Christian fellowship and social activity for women alone – widowed, divorced or never mar ried. Alone women are welcome to attend. Entertainment by John Sarkas of the Skyliners. For info, call Edie (412) 487-7194.

Shady Side Academy upcoming Admissions

Zoom Information Sessions will be held monthly for each of SSA’s four campuses through December. Families must RSVP in advance at www.ShadySideAcademy.org/Visit to receive the Zoom link.

UPMC

Passavant Hospital Auxiliary

Membership Opportunities, are you look ing for a stimulating opportunity for social interaction with other dedicated people in support of our community hospitals—UPMC Passavant McCandless and Cranberry? Join the Passavant Hospital Auxiliary’s long tra dition of caring. The Auxiliary meets the 2nd Monday of each month, 10 a.m., Sept. through June. New members are welcome. For info, contact Nicole Kaib at (412) 748-6640 or kaibn@upmc.edu.

Vintage Market is a nonprofit store in Shaler that benefits The Blessing Board. Open every 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. Th/F/Sat in the Shaler Plaza, 880 Butler St. and Rt. 8 (look for the gray door between RiteAid & Planet Fitness).

Women’s Business Network has meetings scheduled in October at various times and locations. For a details list, visit www.wbninc. com.

www.northernconnectionmag.com | DECEMBER 2022 17

Songbird Artistry Brings Creativity and Inclusivity to Pittsburgh

Songbird Artistry has recently made quite a name for itself. Located in Lawrenceville, the store is owned by Debbie Jacknin and her two daughters, Jennifer Orefice and Jacklyn Juliar. It won 1st place as the Best Woman-Owned Business and received 2nd place in the Best Jewelry Store in the Pittsburgh City Paper’s poll this year.

The beautifully decorated gift shop sells many different types of unique finds, including mosaics, screenprinted apparel, handmade jewelry, and more.

“We have been in this location about six years,” Jacknin said. “Prior to being here, we were in the Pittsburgh Public Market under the name Jenn’s Jems, so we started under the name Songbird Artistry in 2016.”

The idea of Jenn’s Jems originated when Orefice was in high school, when she began to make bracelets made from toothbrush bristles.

“I thought I was the perfect mom, and she was brushing her teeth all the time,” Jacknin laughed. “Then I realized what she was doing with them–which was taking out the bristles, boiling water, bending them to make bracelets, and then selling them to her friends. Somebody once called it the playground entrepreneur.”

Jacknin said she knew Orefice was always artistic from a young age and even taught her mother how to make jewelry. They would sell the jewelry at craft shows, markets, and later had the opportunity to open at the Pittsburgh Public Market. Jacknin incorporated her own stainedglass mosaics and polymer clay.

In addition to Jacknin and Orefice’s items, Songbird Artistry currently carries

close to 50 vendors. Some of those local vendors include Olive and Marlowe, Yinz Lids, Paws in the Sand, and pet caricature artist Kai Ayase.

“I like that we are able to support local vendors and help them get their start,” Jacknin said.

In addition to the handmade art, soaps, and vintage items they sell, they use their talent and space to hold classes and special occasions.

“We do classes, parties and events here,” Jacknin said. “We do classes on everything from jewelry making and stained-glass mosaics to decorating wine glasses and vases.”

The shop also holds events such as baby and bridal showers and kids’ parties.

Songbird Artistry also has an online store, which became extremely helpful while businesses were shut down due to the pandemic.

“When we first opened, I was wor ried about how successful we would be,” Jacknin said. “The push really was big-box stores and online shopping, where you would get your stuff delivered the next day. Would people really want to go to a brick-and-mortar store? So, I was not sure that we were opening something that was going to be successful.”

Jacknin believes the pandemic made people appreciate local and women-owned

businesses, and Jacknin said she feels very thankful to be able to do what she loves as a business.

“I feel so fortunate to be able to do this with my daughters,” she said. “We have tried to create an environment here that is very inclusive, so when you walk in, no matter who you are, you feel welcome.” n

18 DECEMBER 2022 | www.northernconnectionmag.com
NC FEATURE
Bronwyn Wain is a senior at Kent State University study ing Journalism and Political Science. She worked as a staff writer and on the social media team at KentWired, the independent news site of Kent State. She especially enjoys writing about music and politics, and she currently resides in Butler, Pennsylvania.

We wish all of you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Holiday Season full of love, peace, and joy and a healthy and Happy New Year!

From the Staff of

www.northernconnectionmag.com | DECEMBER 2022 19
20 DECEMBER 2022 | www.northernconnectionmag.com Starts Mid-November North & South Park Ice Skating Rinks Ages 5+ Register at AlleghenyCounty.us/ParkPrograms Beginner To Advanced Classes Available!

RPM Woodworks

He likes how it combines the creativity of custom designs with the familiar medium of wood. For most projects, Ron cuts the wood, planes the wood, dries the wood, builds the molds, and helps his customers select resin colors that work best for them. Aside from growing the tree, he does it all and takes pride in his work. RPM Woodworks products are made with the highest quality elements and with the greatest attention to detail.

Drawing inspiration from the rivers, woods, and landscapes in Wester n Pennsylvania, and from the infinite colors and textures Ron and his wife have seen during their travels, he built furniture and accessories to decorate their home. Soon people were asking him to create pieces in colors and textures that are meaningful to them.

“If you are looking for a unique, one-of-a kind, functional work of art, you should definitely contact Ron McCloskey. He uses his creativity and carpentry skills to create beautiful charcuterie boards, cutting boards, desks and, in my case, a small table. Not only is Ron’s carpentry work impeccable, he has mastered the use of resin in his designs. Based on my “limited” specifications, Ron created a side table (with a drawer) made of a slab of walnut (from a tree he cut down) and white resin with metal legs. It is gorgeous and quite the conversation piece. Ron is a perfectionist and takes great pride in his work, and it shows. You won’t be disappointed,” said Bev Ludlum, a customer from Butler.

Moreover, with the rise in popularity of charcuterie boards, Ron has kept a pulse on what’s trending and creates unique pieces for each of his customers. The charcuterie boards provide a

unique and natural way to lay out hors d’oeuvres, floral arrange ments, and desserts. Each board has a food grade finish and comes with easy care instructions for years of enjoyment.

“I was looking for a nice cutting board or serving tray and came across Ron’s work. I requested a specific color and design, and it definitely exceeded expectations. It’s beautiful,” says Heather O’Connor, a satisfied customer in Pflugerville, Texas.

RPM Woodworks’ custom furniture is built with care according to dimensions and specifications provided, type of wood and finish desired, and can include colored resin elements.

“We asked Ron to design and build a gate for our front porch. Not an easy task to do because we wanted something that would be easy to open/close and to keep the dogs safe while on the porch. Our two requests were that it be on wheels for ease of opening and to incorporate 2 different types/shades of the wood on our porch. He created an incredible gate with everything we requested. He is amazing. He is a perfectionist, and it shows in his work. Also, it was a quick turn-around time and an extremely reasonable price. I would highly recommend RPM Woodworks for any custom woodworking needs,” says Leigh Ducoeur from Pittsburgh.

Orders for RPM Woodworks quality custom furniture and home decor can be placed directly through their website: www.rpm-woodworks.com . RPM Woodworks finished products are also sold at So Me Artisan Wares and Jewelry Studio in Allison Park and Two Rivers Oil and Vinegar in Beaver. n

www.northernconnectionmag.com | DECEMBER 2022 21
BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT
RPM Woodworks was founded by local artisan Ron McCloskey in 2020. After serving in the U.S. Army, Ron has been a carpenter for nearly 30 years. Even in his spare time, Ron finds ways to build quality custom furniture and home décor.

Jolly Old Nicholas Trivia

Recently, Turkish archeologists believe they have con firmed the resting place of Saint Nicholas, the inspiration for Santa Claus. Nicholas was a devout Christian who served as bishop of Myra (Turkey) during the 4th century. He helped the needy and was known for his habit of gift-giving. In addition, he is the patron saint of children and sailors. In honor of Saint Nicholas, we will look at famous people named Nicholas, Nicole, and Nick and all its derivatives.

Nicolaus Copernicus was a Renaissance astronomer known for formulating a universe model that placed the Sun rather than the Earth at the center. Nicholas II (Romanov) of Russia was known as Saint Nicholas, the Passion Bearer, in the Rus sian Orthodox Church. There have been five popes with the name Nicholas.

How about those famous actors named Nick? There are plenty to talk about – Nick DiPaolo, Nick Kroll, Nick Nolte, Nick Offerman, Nick Robinson and Nick Searcy. But then, there are the actors who prefer to be called Nicholas. Those folks include Nicholas Brendon, Nicholas Cage, Nicholas Colasanto, Nicholas Gonzalez, Nicholas Hoult and Nicholas Turturro. We also have to take note of those famous musi cal Nicks, such as Nick Carter, Nick Jonas, Nick Lachey, Nick Mason and Nick Rhodes.

Some television characters have this namesake – Nicho las Bradford from Eight Is Enough and Nick Stokes from CSI Crime Scene Investigation

In the sports world, in football, these famous fellows include Nick Buoniconti, Nick Collins, Nick Foles, Nick Low ery and Nick Saban. Additionally, basketball pros with this namesake are Nick Anderson, Nick Van Exel and Nick Young. A few other sportsmen to consider are Nick Faldo (golf), Nick Foligno (hockey), and Nick Swisher (baseball).

Now it is the ladies’ turn to be in the limelight. Those fa mous Nicoles and Nickis that need to be acknowledged are –Nicky Hilton, Nicole Kidman, Nicole Linkletter, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, Nikki Reed, Nicole Richie and Nicole Brown Simpson.

We can also acknowledge a few “Nick” politicians, such as Nikki Haley, former governor of South Carolina. Nicholas Sar kozy served as the President of France from May 2007 to May 2012. Nick Clegg is a British politician and corporate executive.

How about the television network Nickelodeon also known as Nick? Several stations have been spun off from Nickelodeon; a few are Nickelodeon Games, Nick at Nite, Nicktoons, Nick Jr. and TeenNick.

Since we have reminisced on these famous men’s and women’s names, we must now “nick” into this thought-pro voking namesake query. So get set to don the Saint Nicholas hats because it’s time to get a little trivial.

1. When do we celebrate Saint Nicholas Day?

2. A descriptive name added to or replacing the actual name of a person is known as a ________?

3. Name the actor who starred in One Flew Over the Cuck oo’s Nest

4. She played Lieutenant Nyota Uhura in the original Star Trek series.

5. Nicholas Colasanto portrayed the character Coach on the TV series Cheers . What was his character’s real name?

6. Who portrays Nick Fury in Marvel Cinematic Universe movies?

7. Charles Dicken’s novel was about a man left penniless after his father’s death.

8. Name the 2002 film that earned Nicole Kidman a Best Actress Award.

9. He is the chairman of TeenNick. This gentleman is also a rapper, actor and former host of America’s Got Talent

10. This songstress gained fame when she sang with the band, Fleetwood Mac.

11. Name the author who wrote Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, and The Notebook

12. He is a retired professional golf pro and his nickname is The Golden Bear.

13. Nick Carter is a singer who climbed to fame as a member of this vocal group.

14. Pittsburghers will remember this former Bowling for Dol lars host, who got involved in a lottery scandal.

15. Who wrote the famous Christmas tale A Visit from St. Nicholas? n

Sources: foxnews.com, spiracle.com, wikipedia.com, Britannica.com, www. imdb.com/list/ls089096462/, ranker.com/list.famous-people-named-nick

22 DECEMBER 2022 | www.northernconnectionmag.com
Answers: 1. December
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5. Ernie Pantusso 6. Samuel L. Jackson 7. Nicholas Nickleby 8. The Hours 9. Nick Cannon 10. Stevie Nicks 11. Nicholas Sparks 12. Jack
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TRIVIA CONNECTION

December Wrap-up

Hey folks, the month of December closes the year. There are three cultural holidays in December in the United States. Christmas is a holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus. Hanukkah is the eight-day Jewish celebration, and Kwanza celebrates African American heritage.

December 7 is National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. December 15 is the Bill of Rights Day, which rec ognizes the importance of the first ten amendments of our U.S. Constitution, which Congress approved on September 25, 1789. December 25 is Christmas when Christians worldwide celebrate the birth of Jesus. December 27 is National Fruit Cake Day. Finally, December 31 is New Year’s Eve, which closes the year.

By far, the number one question I am asked is, “With all the hats you wear managing all of the day-to-day workload of the family farm, how do you find time to write a monthly column?” My answer is, “I have a powerful, know-it-all co-writer who, together with his inspiration, I get it all done.” My co-writer is God. Every month I say to God, “If you feel I need more inspiration, I will welcome it.” Folks, it always comes, and I thank God for what he has given me.

Closing out 2022 gives me much to be concerned about, especially for agriculture and farmers. We are saddled with skyrocketing inflation. Higher gas, die sel, natural gas, propane, and heating oil are at record highs. We are begging countries to buy oil and gas after the pipeline was shut down. Instead of relying on electricity, has anyone thought about using hydro gen instead? Unfortunately, what comes out of the hydrogen car’s tailpipe is water. This calendar year,

synthetic fertilizers jumped 100%, and we are slated to see increased costs and likely shortages next year. For agriculture and farmers to succeed, you have to have a fertilizer program that can be sustained.

In 1954 President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add two words to the Pledge of Alliance “under God” for which it stands. President Lincoln penned “Democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people. Another translation, the people were to be guided by its principles as well. Now it’s twisted out of balance by and for – government for the government, by the government, and God is driven out the government picture.

We can bring our focus back to Christmas and understand that Christmas should be about baby Jesus’s birth. The sparkle in the eyes of young kids on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day is magical. We should never lose that sense of wonder and retain that same sparkle into adulthood. Santa Claus is real, and I don’t see any reason he isn’t.

Our senior citizens are on fixed incomes. Most fami lies are getting hit in their pocketbooks by skyrocketing inflation with no end in sight, and some are choosing between eating and heating. Yet, the government keeps saying, “We have to tighten our belts.” All we can hope for is that the coming year can be better.

My family and I want to wish you and all of your family and friends a Blessed and Merry Christmas. Remember to focus on the birth of Jesus, God’s gift of his only son. You are welcome to stop by Eichner’s Whole Farm and Greenhouses at 285 Richard Road, Wexford, and get “the rest of the story.” n

FACTS FROM THE FARM www.northernconnectionmag.com | DECEMBER 2022 23

Christmas Worship

24 DECEMBER 2022 | www.northernconnectionmag.com

The Little Sisters of the Poor are once again offering Christmas Cards sketched by Sister Martha, lsp. This year’s card is cream with a red sketch of Mary holding baby Jesus. The previous year’s card is also available. The cards are: 7 for $10 (plus $2.00 shipping), 12 for $15 (plus $3.00 shipping) or 30 for $25 (plus $8.00 for priority shipping). Cards can be viewed and ordered online at www.littlesistersofthepoorpittsburgh.org, by calling (412) 307-1100, sending a check made payable to Little Sisters of the Poor at 1028 Benton Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15212 or by making arrangements to pick up at the Main Entrance of the Home. All proceeds from the sale of the cards help to support the elderly poor Residents in the Little Sisters care.

www.northernconnectionmag.com | DECEMBER 2022 25

So Why December?

December is a busy month with all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, but it is also a month for tranquility, as quoted from Luke 2:14 in the Bible, “On earth peace, goodwill toward men.” Sadly, peace is not always the case in our world as some historical battles have occurred during December. There were some underlying causes as to why these events happened when they did.

Tensions were brewing between Japan and the United States in December 1941. Japan was out to destroy the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and they performed their wellconceived plan on December 7, 1941. The timing of this brutal attack was based on striking when the U.S. was vulnerable, and the weather also factored in. The Japanese chose a Sunday because many businesses were closed that day, and it also held religious significance for many. In addition, numerous military personnel were attending off-base services, leaving the ships in the harbor understaffed.

As to why they specifically targeted the date December 7, it boils down to the weather conditions. The aerial attack fleet needed good visibility for it to be effective. Any amount of cloud cover would have made it challenging to identify vital targets. By choosing a clear-skied Sunday in December, the Japanese fleet was, unfortunately, able to do pre cisely what they had intended.

More than a century before Pearl Harbor, General George Washington planned a holiday assault; the enemy wasn’t expecting one since it was Christmas. The Battle of Trenton proved to be one of the most definitive moments of the American Revolution. The events began to unfold on December 25, 1776. During nightfall on Christmas Day, an army of 2,400 Continentals under the command of Washington crossed the frigid Delaware River to surprise Hessian troops quartered downstream in Trenton, New Jersey.

Washington and his troops landed undetected on the hostile shores; the rebels marched all night in the freezing rain to reach their objective. At daybreak, the soaked and shivering attackers overpowered the German mercenaries, who had been up late celebrating Christmas. Although minor in military terms, the victory served as a morale booster and inspired re-enlistments.

A Civil War conflict also developed during the holiday season; it was another attempt to catch the enemy off-guard. The First Battle of Fort Fisher began on December 24, 1864, and ended with a Union retreat three days later, on December 27. The battle included a naval artillery bombardment from the Union fleet, which resulted in minimal damage to their defenses and little loss of life to the Confederate defenders. The Union attempted a land assault, but conflicting information and commander disagreements resulted in the cancellation of the assault and a retreat of the Union.

Operation Linebacker II has been considered the action that ended the U.S. involve ment in the Vietnam War. President Nixon ordered the bombings to begin on December 18, after the North Vietnamese delegates walked away from the peace talks. The operative was called the “December Raids.” The only day both sides got a reprieve was Christmas, when the troops were given a 36-hour break to celebrate. During that time, Nixon ordered the North Vietnamese to return to the bargaining table. They refused, so the bombing continued until December 29, when they agreed to resume the peace talks. These talks led to the Paris Peace Accords, which were held in January 1973. The U.S. ended its involvement in the war soon after.

Northern Connection magazine salutes our troops, and we wish you a blessed holi day season. n

SUPPORT OUR TROOPS 26 DECEMBER 2022 | www.northernconnectionmag.com
www.northernconnectionmag.com | DECEMBER 2022 27
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To our first year of mending hearts.

AHN Wexford Hospital opened its doors last September, bringing advanced heart care to the North Hills.

From the latest diagnostic testing to minimally invasive procedures, our top-ranked cardiologists offer lifesaving heart care, close to home. See the AHN difference at ahn.org/wexford.

Considering a Career Transition?

Afew months ago, I wrote an article regarding recognizing and combating burnout.

Burnout itself can occur in a vari ety of contexts, perhaps most signifi cantly regarding our careers and the workplace. In 2019, I found myself working in a position that left me feel ing frustrated and uninspired. In 2015, after many years working in a patientfacing capacity, I had decided to try behavioral support at the corporate level. While this was rewarding in its own right and provided me with valu able experience, I really missed inter acting with patients and families. After a protracted struggle with perinatal anxiety and OCD, I was also becom ing more interested in perinatal mental

health as a speciality. In November 2019, I officially transitioned to fulltime private practice, as well as other contracts within the behavioral health realm. It has been my best career move thus far and I have absolutely no regrets about any part of the journey to get here.

This had me thinking of a friend’s similar decision to leave a steady, reli able corporate environment to follow their passion. When I first met Jill, she was working for a large retail chain and known by her colleagues to be very good at her job. She was often working long hours, sometimes holi days and struggled to have autonomy over her schedule. An unexpected health issue arose and led her down the path to starting her own small business.

I recently sat down to discuss how she got started, overcoming barriers and the future of her business, Ruby Lou Company.

1) What is Ruby Lou Company and how did you get started?

Ruby Lou Company cottage bakery located in Upper St.Clair/Pittsburgh Pa, specializing in custom sugar cook ies. My passion is to help elevate cel ebrations of all types with delicious custom creations. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 10 years ago, and facing constant challenges from my doctor to lower my stress and take

better care of myself. I made a major choice in the fall of 2019 to leave my 18-year career for a new path.

2) What appealed to you about starting a small business? How did you overcome any obstacles to get started?

My small business found me. In fall of 2019, I left my career in a high stress corporate America job with the intention to find a new career path in January 2020. In my free time during that period, I began to explore several hobbies, including cookie decorating. One pandemic later, I have found my niche, and have been able to turn my hobby into a business! I am a firm believer that “what isn’t for you shall

30 DECEMBER 2022 | www.northernconnectionmag.com
Jill Tonti

pass you by, and what is meant for you will find you”

3) How did you overcome any fears/ doubts regarding leaving the secu rity your job provided?

I would say for me, I was making great money in my previous job, but the price was my mental and physical health. However, now I have found the balance between financial success/sta bility without having to give up so much of myself. And moreover, the value and purpose I am able to find with Ruby Lou Company is actually giving me more than it could ever take away.

4) What does the future look like for Ruby Lou Company?

The future is exciting! While improvements in efficiencies will help us better serve our current clients, we’re also making advances in technology! We now have the capability to print logos, QR Codes and more, directly onto a cookie. This will help us better cater to corporate organizations, as well as private events. n

For more information go to rubyloucompany.com

Maura Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker currently in practice at Cranberry Psychological Center. She is a certified perinatal mental health provider, as well as a contribut ing staff member with Postpartum Support International. While her primary focus is treating PMADs, she also treats a variety of conditions and clients of all ages. She resides in the Pittsburgh area with her husband, Brendan, daughter, Sloane, and dog, Max.

www.northernconnectionmag.com | DECEMBER 2022 31 Reservation Required! Call 724-940-9000
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32 DECEMBER 2022 | www.northernconnectionmag.com
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