Former WTAE-TV anchor Wendy Bell given warm reception at Greensburg fundraiser
Sisters Chloe Boske, 16, and Rylee Boske, 14, usually aren't all that interested in attending Greensburg College Club's spring fundraiser.
But when they heard that former WTAE-TV anchor Wendy Bell would be the special guest at Sunday's Ladies' Day Out spring tea, the Unity girls were thrilled to go, according to their great-aunt and club member Darlene Frederickson of Hempfield.
“She's inspirational. Wendy is so upbeat,” said Frederickson, whose great-nieces spent time talking to Bell during and after the event. “I'm very touched by that.”
Bell spoke for about five minutes to nearly 100 women at Greensburg Masonic Center during a fundraiser for the group's scholarship fund. Her message focused on the positive impact the club and its members have on the community.
“The whole philosophy of what these women are doing, it's positive, it's uplifting, it's inspiring,” Bell said afterward. “This whole philosophy is what we need more of in our own lives.”
Her remarks came less than a week after Bell backed out of an agreement to serve as the keynote speaker for a Point Park University social media workshop on the advice of her attorney.
Bell is suing WTAE over her firing, which came after she posted and later deleted controversial online comments about the March 9, 2016, shooting deaths of five adults and an unborn child in a backyard barbecue ambush in Wilkinsburg.
Bell speculated in that post about the race and family background of the shooters and contrasted that profile with her encounter with a black busboy. The post, the company's delayed reaction and Bell's subsequent firing drew widespread public criticism on social media.
In the year since, Bell has focused on posting positive, inspirational stories on her Facebook page, which has 90,000 followers, many of whom are from the Greensburg area, she said.
It was important to her to return the favor “to support the community that has unwaveringly stood by my side,” she said Sunday.
In her remarks, Bell did not mention her controversial Facebook post or the planned June launch of her own subscription-based website, “Positively Wendy Bell,” which will focus on uplifting news stories.
But many were thrilled to see her and thanked her for coming, including Chloe and Rylee Boske, who said they were upset with WTAE's decision.
“I've been a big fan of hers,” Rylee said.
They sat at a table with Bell during the fundraiser and shared a moment with her afterward.
“I thought she was very kind and genuine,” Chloe said.
The Greensburg College Club was founded in 1917 by 31 college-educated women as a service organization that hosts several fundraisers as social activities for its membership. Bell was the biggest name the club has had at its spring event, said co-chairwoman Paula Daily.
“I knew that many people like Wendy and I just thought that I would take a chance and see if she would come,” Daily said. “It was like we were instant friends. She agreed almost immediately.”
Daily said she appreciated Bell's comments about the group.
“I think there is too much negativity in the news,” Daily said. “I think it's wonderful she's creating a website to have positive news.”
Club president Betsy Hoeldtke said Bell and the group have similar goals — working toward good in the community.
“We're delighted,” Hoeldtke said afterward.
Bell took photographs with several of her fans, while learning more about their lives. She said a special goodbye to the young sisters.
“That made my whole day,” Bell said to Frederickson while leaving.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374 or firstname.lastname@example.org.