Penn Hills native recognized by Pitt for community service
Felix Catlin, 52, of Penn Hills was recently given the University of Pittsburgh Chancellor’s Award for Staff Excellence in Service to the Community.
Catlin was one of five Pitt employees presented with the award, part of the university’s 38th annual Honors Convocation in late February.
Catlin is a medical translator and has worked at the university for nearly three decades.
He was recognized for his work with the Penn Hills Community Development Corporation, or CDC, a nonprofit formed in 2010 with the mission of “engaging in activities that serve to unite the Penn Hills community and enhance the quality of life for its residents,” according to the CDC website.
Catlin spoke with the Progress about receiving the award the where the still-young CDC is headed.
Q: Now that the CDC has been in existence for just over three years, has it progressed the way you thought it would to this point?
A: I’d like to preface my remarks by saying that I speak for myself and not the PHCDC’s board or general membership.
The short answer is “no.”
Realistically, I’m not surprised, in that the trajectory of an all-volunteer organization is difficult to predict and manage.
Strategic longitudinal planning has been an issue for the group because different people are passionate about a large number of distinct ideas including litter pickup, rain gardens, economic development, code enforcement, education and safety.
These same volunteers are restricted by time, energy and funding limitations.
Coupled with the fact that I would have expected our membership to be bigger by now, I can’t be that surprised.
Having fewer volunteers translates to a higher rate of burnout for those involved.
These factors produce some disagreement among the ranks with regard to which projects to prioritize, and inevitably, some dissatisfaction.
Luckily, these issues have been thus far balanced by the overwhelming enthusiasm of the members who do commit passionately.
Q: In your biography for the Chancellor’s Awards, you note that the CDC is a young organization that is “struggling for identity.” Ideally, what is the identity you’d like to establish for the CDC in Penn Hills?
A: In contrast with established service organizations like Rotary and Kiwanis, I personally, would like us to be a group that produces visible improvements to our, well, “slightly dingy” neighborhoods and business areas.
There exists a vacuum of morale in Penn Hills.
Sociologists confirm that aesthetic valuations are more important to the health and pride of a community than people often realize.
I see great potential for our beautification committee to address this.
The “it’s just Penn Hills” attitude, accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders, doesn’t cut it.
Let’s clean up Penn Hills.
Q: The CDC now has two Chancellor’s Award winners in its ranks — retired Pitt administrator Christine Miller received the award in 2011. Is bringing civic-minded people into its ranks a large a part of establishing an identity for the CDC?
A: Without a doubt. I’d say that civic–minded people already populate our rolls, but we need more of them.
The bottom line is that every member who joins us cares deeply about the current state and future of our neighborhoods.
Caring about one’s community is a civic duty.
Please join us!
Q: What is your most ambitious goal for the CDC over, say, the next five years?
A: My dream is that the PHCDC membership will grow to a size and strength that will force those in local government to take our efforts seriously.
We have our collective finger on the pulse of which quality of life issues Penn Hills residents truly find most important.
Some of these issues may surprise our politicos.
It is my hope that those in local government will learn to regard us as their friendly “unpaid consultants.”
Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or email@example.com.