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‘A Community of Music’ fundraiser planned at The Block Northway

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Melina Bowser, a solo artist from North Allegheny Senior High School, will be performing at “A Community of Music Event” on Dec. 7 at The Block Northway.

North Hills Cares is a new non-profit charity based in Ross that strives to assist financially challenged families in the area. It will hold an evening of fun and music at The Block Northway on Dec. 7 in the south corridor entrance (near DSW and Wahlburgers) from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in order to introduce itself to the community and collect food donations. The event is free and open to all.

“A Community of Music” will be a holiday show and community celebration featuring the North Hills High School Chamber Strings and ARROW Men’s Vocal Ensemble, the Shaler Area Elementary Singers, the Avonworth High School Chamber Singers, and 17-year-old singer-songwriter Melina Bowser of North Allegheny Senior High School.

“The members of ARROW have been practicing on their own time and are excited to share their music — a cappella arrangements ranging from Barbershop to pop styles — in support of this event,” North Hills choral director Shaun Cloonan said.

“I’m so thrilled to be able to be a part of something that’s going to benefit our community and support some people who just need a little bit of help over the holidays,” added Melina Bowser, who will perform some of her original music as well as some holiday classics with which the audience can sing along.

Free photos with Santa, holiday-themed crafts, face-painting and treats for the kids also will be offered. Door prizes, such as gift cards to local businesses, will be given away and items, including a ukulele, cookware and handmade jewelry will be raffled.

Attendees are encouraged to bring individually packaged, shelf-stable food items — such as single-serve fruit, cereal, soup, pasta, sandwich crackers and granola bars — that will be donated to the North Hills, Shaler Area and Avonworth school districts’ Backpack Initiatives, which are programs that provide bags packed with child-friendly, single-serving snacks and easily prepared meals to qualifying students at the end of each week so their families will have food for the weekend.

“People don’t think there’s a hunger problem in the North Hills, but the needs in our area are growing,” said Lynne Sciulli, board president of North Hills Cares. “Between North Hills, Shaler Area, and Avonworth schools districts, a total of 400 backpacks filled with food are distributed each week.”

Sciulli, of Ross, helped create North Hills Cares last spring to address needs like this throughout the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh.

“A group of us with kids aging out of high school decided we wanted to keep in touch, so we decided to do it by forming a group like this to do good works together,” she said.

So far, North Hills Cares has provided brown-bag lunches for high schoolers; ESL (English as a Second Language) summer camps to give elementary students the chance to continue learning and practicing English over the school break; and a “Pop-Up Produce Stand” to provide free, farm-fresh produce in the spring and fall for students at Community College of Allegheny Country (CCAC), where more than one-third of all students are food insecure and about 40 percent have dependent children. The non-profit provided “welcome boxes” containing items requested by social workers for families placed in temporary housing due to a crisis, and purchased 18 graphic calculators, which retail for more than $100 each, for the North Hills High School library so students can borrow them for math classes and standardized tests instead of purchasing them. More programs are planned for 2019.

The holiday concert at The Block Northway is designed to give people an opportunity to learn more about North Hills Cares, add their name to its mailing list, donate to its mission and volunteer with its projects.

“It’ll be a chance for the community to get together and have a positive, fun evening while learning about the ways they can give back,” Sciulli said.

Laurie Rees is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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