Meet NPCA’s Newest Member Group
By Jonathan Pearson on Sunday, August 15th, 2010
There’s been a long and steady presence of the Peace Corps community in Pittsburgh. But as in most all communities, group activity has experienced both peaks and valleys over the years.
Now, however, there’s a resurgence underway. So much so that the Pittsburgh Area Peace Corps Association (PAPCA) was recently approved by NPCA’s Board of Directors as its newest member group. PAPCA held an August 14th backyard potluck that attracted more than 60 people. All eras of Peace Corps service were on hand – from a Mongolia volunteer who returned home in the past few months, to self-described “Kennedy girl” and current PAPCA treasurer Kirsti Adkins.
Kirsti, who was at the steps of the University of Michigan Union nearly 50 years ago when John Kennedy’s campaign speech ignited a spark that helped create the Peace Corps, says taking a Farsi language class recently caused her to reminisce about her Peace Corps days in Iran. Now retired, she decided to be more engaged than she had been for a while.
That prompted a discussion with Ann Bozick at a monthly volunteer project Pittsburgh RPCVs conduct with Global Links, which sends medical surplus equipment to Latin America. Ann, who moved to the area from Boston (where she was active with the Boston RPCVs) jumped at the opportunity to revitalize the group. As group President she (with RPCV husband Brad) hosted Saturday’s potluck at their home in Mount Lebanon.
Ann says the experience brought exposure of Peace Corps to her neighborhood. “When they heard how many people were coming, our neighbors were concerned that we might need more tables and chairs and offered assistance.” She assured them with a smile that as RPCVs, the group could manage – if need be – by finding a small patch of grass to sit on. She also noted how the neighbor across the street came over to visit when she saw the NPCA banner in the front yard. Ann and Brad talked about their Peace Corps work which led their neighbor to say “Mount Lebanon could use more Peace Corps volunteers!”
Group membership coordinator Judy Hale Reed was delighted with the turnout, saying the group is an easy one to lead because you want to hang out an organize activities with them. “It’s like getting together with cousins who you know and don’t see that often, but are drawn together because of a strong connection.”
PAPCA leaders say that Peace Corps connection is bringing back some longtime friends who have been away for ten years. It also attracted 10 – 12 new members on Saturday, including Jonette Mauer, Peace Corps’ new field-based recruiter for western Pennsylvania. Perhaps most important, the group also started to build that critical second-tier of leadership, with one volunteer agreeing to help organize group dinners and another to serve as a liaison with RPCV graduate students at the University of Pittsburgh.
With the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps fast approaching, there will undoubtedly be lots of activity in the works in Pittsburgh.
Follow this link for a complete itinerary of NPCA Advocacy Coordinator Jonathan Pearson’s eight-state, twenty city tour to connect with members of the Peace Corps community and share their stories.