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Beloved North Side gardener gets new truck, paid for by her neighbors

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Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
Lynn Glorieux (right) of East Allegheny congratulates 'Miss Becky' Coger of the North Side as she is presented with a 2003 Dodge Ram truck outside of the Priory Hotel in East Allegheny on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. Coger, who is a garden steward for the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, lost her old truck when it was demolished after a speeding car crashed into it. The community rallied with donations to replace it.
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Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
'Miss Becky' Coger of the North Side gives a thumbs up as she is presented with a 2003 Dodge Ram truck outside of the Priory Hotel in East Allegheny on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. Coger, who is a garden steward for the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, lost her old truck when it was demolished after a speeding car crashed into it. The community rallied with donations and replaced it.
ptrMissBecky2013015
Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
'Miss Becky' Coger (center) of the North Side reacts as she is presented with a 2003 Dodge Ram truck outside of the Priory Hotel in East Allegheny on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. Coger, who is a garden steward for the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, lost her old truck when it was demolished after a speeding car crashed into it. The community rallied with donations and replaced it.
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Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
Mark Fatla, executive director of the Northside Leadership Conference, introduces 'Miss Becky' Coger of the North Side during a news conference before presenting her with a 2003 Dodge Ram truck at the Priory Hotel in East Allegheny on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. Coger, who is a garden steward for the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, lost her old truck when it was demolished after a speeding car crashed into it. The community rallied with donations and replaced it.

Becky Coger still doesn’t understand all the fuss.

More than three months after a drunken driver destroyed her ancient little pickup, Coger shook her head as she stood next to her new truck, a shiny red Dodge Ram — paid for through donations from more than 130 North Side neighbors who rallied to help her.

“I’m still surprised,” said Coger, affectionately known as “Miss Becky” to her many friends. “You live your life, you do things you enjoy doing, and you’re not doing it for any reward. You’re just doing it because you enjoy doing it. I didn’t expect this. It’s just a feeling of gratitude.”

For more than four decades, Coger would load mulch, soil, vegetables and flowers into her reliable little pickup and tend to six community gardens in the North Side.

Whenever North Siders saw it, which was often, they knew Miss Becky was out working the soil and making her world more beautiful.

But in the early morning hours of Oct. 10, while Coger slept in her Brighton Road home, a woman plowed into several cars on her block, including her ’84 GMC. Police said the driver had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit and hit three legally parked cars.

Coger lives on a fixed-income. Her insurance coverage would not allow her to buy a new truck. So North Siders stepped up.

“People said, ‘We’ve got to help Miss Becky, because she does so much with that truck,” said Mark Fatla, executive director of the Northside Leadership Conference. “Miss Becky’s truck is the community’s truck.”

Fatla set a goal to collect $5,000 for a replacement, spread the word and watched the donations roll in.

More than 130 people donated cash, anywhere from $1 to $500. One woman sent in $20 from Atlanta after hearing about the truck on Facebook. She included a note that said Miss Becky counseled her years ago when she was a teen living in Pittsburgh and she never forgot her kindness.

Donors sent in more than $10,000. The conference used the money to buy Coger a 2003 red Dodge Ram Pickup. The pickup, covered with 130 bows, was unveiled Thursday at the Priory Hotel in the North Side.

“This is indicative of what people on the North Side are all about,” Coger said. “A lot of times, you hear the bad things that happen on the North Side. But we are genuinely good people. We care about the community, and we care about each other.”

Originally from Syracuse, Coger moved to Pittsburgh 46 years ago. She began working on community garden projects in the 1970s, always in the North Side. She declined to reveal her age, saying only that she is as old as she feels — and she feels great.

“When people drive through my community, I want them to know there’s someone who cares,” she said. “We need places of beauty in every neighborhood.”

Chris Togneri is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5632 or [email protected].

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