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Hundreds of volunteers descend on North Side park for restoration project

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Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
RoShell Moye, 7, of Manchester, center, helps paint steps during the United Way of Southwestern PA fitUnited’s second annual Day of Action at Fowler Park on the North Side Saturday, June 11, 2016.
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Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Volunteers add wood chips to the Fowler Park playground during the United Way of Southwestern PA fitUnited’s second annual Day of Action in the North Side on Saturday, June 11, 2016.
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Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Sharon Soergel, 14, of Summer Hill in Pittsburgh helps remove knot weed at Fowler Park on the North Side during the United Way of Southwestern PA fitUnited’s second annual Day of Action on Saturday, June 11, 2016.
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Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Luke Ratke of Carnegie and his son Mac Ratke, 3, paint benches during the United Way of Southwestern PA fitUnited’s second annual Day of Action at Fowler Park on the North Side Saturday, June 11, 2016.

Muggy weather did not stop about 200 volunteers from rolling up their sleeves and getting a little dirty Saturday at a North Side park.

The restoration project at Fowler Park in Perry South marked the United Way of Southwestern PA fitUnited’s second annual Day of Action, held in partnership with the Pittsburgh Project, Pittsburgh Three Rivers Marathon and local unions.

FitUnited aims to improving Allegheny County youths’ nutrition and fitness, program director Christine Grady said.

Armed with shovels, rakes and paintbrushes, the volunteers advanced both goals as they spread mulch around the park’s playground, replaced vegetable garden boxes and put in place a number of other improvements.

“This is really about collective impact,” Grady said. “No one organization could do this alone.”

Pine resident Nate Sharp, 12, noted the rapid progress the group made as he took a quick break next to a pile of debris from old planter boxes that he and others pulled from the ground.

“Many hands make light work,” Sharp said.

FitUnited started the Day of Action campaign at Willie Stargell Field in Homewood Park last year. That project led to a conversation about the importance of safe places for children to play. Fowler Park was selected for the next Day of Action after fitUnited starting doing more work on the North Side this year, Grady said.

“We’re expanding, so next year we’ll be looking to do this in a new neighborhood,” she said.

More than 80 members from 17 unions helped out Saturday, said Joe Delale, AFL-CIO community service liaison.

James Hannah, 58, is a member of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, which represents Port Authority of Allegheny County bus drivers. He worked a wheelbarrow full of mulch as the morning sun pushed up temperatures expected to reach near 90 degrees by midday.

“I came out to help the community and give back,” Hannah, of Penn Hills, said. “Actually, my grandkids used to play in this park.”

Other volunteers like Brighton Heights resident Josh Cortina, 32, were not part of a specific group but still chipped in. Sweat beaded on Cortina’s brow after he uprooted a small tree from a garden plot.

“I’ve lived here for eight years,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of good changes in this neighborhood since I moved here, so I thought I’d help out any way I can.”

Michael Walton is a Tribune-Review staff writer. He can be reached at 412-380-5627 or [email protected].

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