Alcoa employees lend a hand

| Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, 1:06 a.m.

Like the corporation, itself, Alcoa's monthlong community service project began in Pittsburgh and the Alle-Kiski Valley but will spread to all of its facilities throughout the globe.

Serve-a-Thon, as it's called, was inaugurated in the Greater Pittsburgh area on Monday to honor Alcoa's founding 125 years ago today, according to corporate spokeswoman Lori Lecker.

She said it will spur an estimated 37,000 employees worldwide to volunteer for local projects throughout October.

Yesterday's kickoff prompted more than 800 employees to volunteer with various nonprofit organizations.

Workers from the technical center in Upper Burrell were among those who volunteered in the Valley.

John Butler, an Alcoa director of materials and process technologies, spent the day in Arnold refurbishing a dilapidated house for Habitat for Humanity.

He and 33 coworkers poured cement, painted and erected drywall to help the organization complete the project by its Thanksgiving deadline.

“Volunteering is part of Alcoa's heritage,” Butler said. “We've always wanted to build positive relationships within our community. It's in our history.”

Alcoa was founded on Pittsburgh's Smallman Street in 1888 as the Pittsburgh Reduction Co.

After outgrowing its facility, the organization moved to New Ken-sington three years later, where it produced aluminum and fabricated products.

Today, Alcoa is the world's leading producer of aluminum. It has a presence in 30 countries across the world, and contributes to philanthropic efforts large and small.

But for Butler, it's the hands-on experience of volunteering that makes the greatest impact.

“We have people today giving up their time and effort to help people out, and that personal interaction, I think, resonates with people more than a faceless monetary donation.”

The time and effort wasn't wasted on Dan Casella, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Allegheny Valley. When asked if the home restoration would have been completed on time without Alcoa's help, Casella's answer came without equivocation.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “This is a huge project and we've been really fortunate to have their help. We really needed it for this one, too, because we have to finish before the winter months.”

The prospective tenant for which the house is being restored is Nichole Fiedor, a former Air Force officer and single mother of two.

Fiedor resides in a duplex whose only bathroom is situated in its basement.

This presents a problem for her 9-year-old son whose handicap confines him to a wheelchair.

Fiedor currently takes her son to the bathroom by carrying him on her shoulder around the outside of the house and entering the basement from a side door.

Fiedor said she's looking forward to the new house along Leishman Avenue primarily for the handicap accessible bedroom-bathroom combination that's being built for her son.

In the meantime, she's remaining tentatively optimistic that the project's completed by Thanksgiving.

“It really all depends on the donations,” she said, “but just seeing people who don't even know who I am work as hard as they have on my behalf has been truly amazing. It really renews your faith in mankind.”

Less than two miles south from where Butler and others worked to make Fiedor's dream a reality, several Alcoa Technical Center employees were helping the elderly along Third Avenue.

Seven Alcoa employees spent the day at the A-K Valley Adult Activities Center, formerly the Alle-Kiski Valley Senior Citizens Center, preparing lunch and performing music for the center's members.

Kenn Lippert, a technical scientist, joined three of his coworkers to form a makeshift classic rock quartet for a one-time performance.

“We just figured we'd throw something together and hope the folks here enjoy it,” he said.

The positive reception was palpable as the center members clapped and sang along. That type of excitement, said center director Kathy Mazur, bodes well with the organization's mission of promoting senior wellness.

“That type of socialization is a really positive thing for our members,” she said. “We're very appreciative of what Alcoa does. It's great to see that kind of social impact coming from the private sector.”

A third group of Alcoa employees spent time with students at Kiski Area Upper Elementary School in Washington Township.

Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or

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