Giving back to the Valley
HARRISON: Growing up, Bonnie Orkow said she learned a lot from her mother, Helen Rakowski Bole, about giving back to the community.
Orkow was honored Friday by the Allegheny-Kiski Health Foundation and Citizens Hose Company in Harrison for her charitable contributions of more than $210,000. The donations will benefit residents of Harrison in various ways.
Orkow said that before her mother died in December 2000, and after her father died, the two sat down and made out Helen’s will.
“We agreed that if any money was left when she died we would use the money to set up scholarship funds,” Orkow said.
She said her mother loved literature and poetry, so a $100,000 scholarship was established in her name. The scholarship will be administered by the Allegheny-Kiski Health Foundation and given each year to a student at Highlands High School who plans on majoring in English literature at a four-year college.
Orkow, who now lives near Denver, graduated from Har-Brack High School. Her parents lived in Harrison their entire lives.
A $100,000 scholarship fund also was established in memory of her father, Ralph W. Bole.
The scholarship will be used each year to assist a graduating senior from Highlands High School who plans on majoring in math or science at a four-year college.
Helen also had a love for the nursing field, so each year for the next 10 years, a $1,000 scholarship will be given to an employee of the Butler Visiting Nurses Association who serves clients in Harrison.
She also gave $10,500 to Citizens Hose.
The gift was matched by the Allegheny-Kiski Health Foundation. The $21,000 was used to buy a thermal imaging camera.
In response, Citizens Hose named its biggest truck Helen.
Orkow said she had a dream about her mother after she passed away. In the dream Orkow said she told her mother she was going to name a fire engine after her.
Citizens Hose Chief Ed Naughton said the fire company had no problem putting decals that say Helen on both sides of the large fire truck.
The chief said the camera was something the department had looked into buying but couldn’t afford. He said it’s a valuable tool for fire and rescue situations.
John Pastorek, president and chief executive officer of the Allegheny-Kiski Health Foundation, said he’s grateful.
“She has no more connections to the community, but she felt the need to do this,” Pastorek said.
Orkow said her mother’s spirit of volunteerism and generosity will live on through the gifts she was able to give.
“The reason I did this was to honor my family. I’m the last one of the Bole family,” Orkow said. “That’s the way we can thrive as a community is to give back to it.”
Orkow will be honored again tonight at Citizens Hose Company’s annual awards banquet.