PITTSBURGH (August 21, 2023) – McAuley Ministries, Pittsburgh Mercy’s grant-making foundation, is pleased to announce Sheila S. Petite and Nyabingi Michie as the recipients of the 2023 Sister Susan Welsh Good Neighbor Award.
The Sister Susan Welsh Good Neighbor Award was created in 2019 to honor the legacy of Sister Susan Welsh, RSM, retired president and CEO of Pittsburgh Mercy, a founding board member, and a current board member of the McAuley Ministries Foundation. The award recognizes residents of the Hill District, Uptown, or West Oakland, the three Pittsburgh communities historically served by the Sisters of Mercy, who exemplify the ideals of a “good neighbor” – a person who is compassionate, friendly, and helpful; a willing volunteer; an organizer of neighborhood events; and who devotes their time, talents, and resources to make their neighborhood a better place to live. This year, the award celebrates two residents who exemplify these characteristics and are working to make a positive difference for their neighbors and their community, the Hill District.
Petite was nominated by Emma Lucas-Darby, PhD, LSW, Ashleigh Pollard, and Sister Janis Franklin, CSJ as an avid gardener and the dedicated manager of Sunny’s Community Garden (SCG), located at 613 Granville Street in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. In their joint nomination, Lucas-Darby, Pollard, and Franklin stated, “Sheila has made an indelible impact on the neighborhood by fostering a sense of community, promoting healthy living, and beautifying the surroundings.” Petite has been involved since Sunny’s Community Garden’s inception in 2021. In addition to her love of gardening, Petite has for several years been a part of a group of concerned Hill District residents who have worked with City of Pittsburgh Police to eliminate drug usage, open drug selling, loitering on a local church’s steps, and close a nuisance bar along Perry Street. This group is also discussing beautification projects in the Hill District.
“I have known Sheila for approximately 23 years, and I see her as a Hill resident who cares about many aspects of living in the Hill District,” Lucas-Darby stated. “Although retired, it did not take her long to fill her days with community activities. Sheila is a caring Hill resident who has devoted her time and talents to a much-needed community resource that responds to a critical community need.”
“I really appreciate and admire Sheila’s commitment to the community,” said Pollard. “In fact,
she has inspired me in many ways through her healthy lifestyle choices to eat more vegetables from
the earth and start my own garden. These changes have had a positive impact on my family’s and our community’s collective well-being.”
“Sheila Petite is a kind, compassionate neighbor and friend who has made Sunny’s Community Garden a welcoming place,” Sister Janis stated. “I am very touched and impressed at how creative and generous she is in bringing people together.”
“I am humbled to be one of the recipients of the Sister Susan Welsh Good Neighbor Award for the sheer joy of gardening at SCG. To be thought of by your community and recognized for being ‘yourself’ and doing the activities you enjoy, expecting no reward, it is truly an honor,” said Petite.
“SCG founder Sandi ‘Sunny’ Welch had a vision for using unused urban space for a garden where people could gather around food and grow together. The Center that CARES had the land and graciously offered its use. SCG is managed by the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, a 501c3 nonprofit organization,” Petite added.
“Jan Franklin, Lisa Minor, I, and all Hill District residents work together to learn, grow, eat, and fellowship around home-grown food that is at no cost to whomever stops by. People stop by the garden to look at the beautiful mural created by Kyle Holbrook, sit at the picnic tables, look at the pond, and enjoy the garden. We’re small, and our hope is that more people will find us and spend time there to unwind from the whatever,” Petite continued.
“Receiving this award is greatly appreciated. I think that being a good neighbor is caring about those all around as you walk in this world. Sandy, Jan, Lisa, and I are all different. Where else could a Jewish woman, a Catholic nun, and African American women meet and develop a caring relationship? In a garden, and we want that kind of relationship building to continue for years to come,” said Petite.
Michie was nominated by Andre Samuel, PhD, founder, president, and CEO of The Citizen Science Lab (TCSL) and Kevin McNair, founder of 1 Nation Mentoring. Michie graduated from high school while actively contributing to TCSL and went on to earn his Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Sciences from Lincoln University. He was awarded TCSL’s prestigious Madura Award and scholarship last year, which recognized his exceptional dedication and ambition to pursue a career in STEAM. From serving as an instructor to transporting Hill District youth to and from TCSL programs, he serves as an inspiration for children of color, offering them a relatable and empowering figure to look up to.
Michie’s journey with TCSL began in 2016 when he joined the organization as a high school student. “Throughout his involvement with TCSL, I’ve had the opportunity to observe Nyabingi’s growth, dedication, and unwavering commitment to both personal and community development,” Samuel stated. “During his time as a volunteer, Nyabingi displayed remarkable leadership skills and a genuine passion for fostering positive change. His outstanding work ethic, coupled with his empathetic nature, allowed him to connect with his peers and create a welcoming environment for aspiring young minds.”
“I have had the pleasure of witnessing Nyabingi’s outstanding contributions and unwavering dedication to making a positive impact on the lives of those around him,” said McNair.
“I am deeply honored and profoundly grateful to have been awarded the McAuley Ministries Sister Susan Welsh Good Neighbor Award. Standing here among my fellow ‘good neighbors’ from our community fills me with immense pride and further fuels my determination to contribute even more,” said Michie.
“I extend my heartfelt appreciation to my esteemed mentors, Dr. Samuel from The Citizen Science Lab and Brother Kev of 1 Nation Mentoring, for their invaluable guidance along the path to success and community service. Their unwavering support has been instrumental in shaping my commitment to giving back to the community that has nurtured me,” Michie continued.
“I am indebted to my parents and family members for their unending support, which has been an incredible source of strength throughout my journey of surpassing challenges. They have not only been my greatest teachers, but they also have set a shining example of what it means to be a true and compassionate neighbor,” Michie added.
“My sincere gratitude goes to McAuley Ministries for embracing me with open arms. I am eager to continually evolve and expand, both for my personal growth and for the betterment of my community. This award serves as a catalyst, propelling me forward with a renewed dedication to making a positive impact. Thank you,” said Michie.
“While our communities face increasing socio-economic challenges, we are blessed to be a community full of assets. One of our most prized assets are our residents,” stated Marisol Valentin, executive director of McAuley Ministries. “Sheila and Nyabingi care deeply for their communities and work passionately to care for their neighbors and make their neighborhoods safe, vibrant, and healthy. At a national level, this was seen by HUD’s recent award of the Bedford Choice project. At the local level, the Sister Susan Welsh Good Neighbor Award shines a spotlight on the neighbors making a difference each day. We are honored to welcome Sheila and Nyabingi into our family of awardees.”
Past recipients of the Sister Susan Welsh Good Neighbor Award include Brenda Tate (2022), Ann Adams Simms (2021), Christopher J. Roach (2020), and Edna Council (2019).
Petite and Michie each received a monetary award of $5,000.
About McAuley Ministries
Named in honor of Catherine McAuley, founder of the Sisters of Mercy, McAuley Ministries is the grant-making foundation of Pittsburgh Mercy. McAuley Ministries serves as a catalyst for change, committing resources and working collaboratively to promote healthy, safe, and vibrant communities. Grant-making priorities include capacity building, education, empowerment, environmental care, essential needs and social services, peacemaking, and whole-person health initiatives for nonprofit organizations which focus on the Hill District, Uptown, and West Oakland, the three Pittsburgh communities historically served by the Sisters of Mercy. McAuley Ministries also provides support to organizations in Southwestern Pennsylvania that are sponsored by the Sisters.
Since its founding by the Sisters of Mercy in 2008, McAuley Ministries has awarded 930 grants and community support totaling over $52.6 million. It awards on average $3.5 million in grants annually, making it one of the largest philanthropic foundations in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
About Pittsburgh Mercy
Pittsburgh Mercy is one of the largest community health and social service providers and employers in Southwestern Pennsylvania. We offer help – and hope – to our community’s most vulnerable:
- People who have complex behavioral and physical health challenges. We are the only Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic(CCBHC) and Integrated Community Wellness Center (ICWC) in Western Pennsylvania.
- People who have intellectual and developmental disabilities
- People who are experiencing homelessness
- People who need wrap-around services to live safe, healthy, and well in the community.
We serve more than 18,000 people annually in 60+ locations.
Pittsburgh Mercy is a member of Trinity Health, serving in the tradition of the Sisters of Mercy. Our mission is to be a compassionate and transforming, healing presence within our communities.
To learn more about Pittsburgh Mercy or to make a donation in support of its important work in the community, please visit www.pittsburghmercy.org.