Archived News & Events, April 2019


Merakey AVS Individual in the News

Zach! Zach, an individual who lives at Merakey AVS Pine Hollow 1 Home, made the news recently when he was at his cardiology appointment at Children’s Hospital! Zach charmed his way into the hearts of Pitt players and coaches! Zach, wearing a black t-shirt and glasses, can be seen in several pictures in the links below!


Toast of the Rox

Wendy, an individual receiving supports by Merakey AVS, attended the Toast of the Rox breakfast on March 31. Wendy is a Rotarian of the Greater McKees Rocks Area Rotary Club. After enjoying the French Toast breakfast (bread donated by Mancini’s Bakery & Jenny Lee Swirl Bread from 5 Generation Bakers) she assisted fellow Rotarian Kathy Mallas of Clearview Federal Credit Union at the Beverage Station. "I enjoy keeping busy and being part of the group," commented Wendy.

The event drew in over 250 people from around the community, including those receiving supports from Merakey Allegheny Valley School and employees of the organization and their family members. "I thought the food was delicious and the service was great. I will definitely be going again next year," said Elizabeth. Merakey would like to thank those who stopped in to enjoy the community French Toast breakfast hosted by the Greater McKees Rocks Area Rotary Club.

Toast of the Rox
Toast of the Rox


Good Deeds Day at Merakey Allegheny Valley School

On April 7, members of Angels from the Heart Charitable Foundation dressed as princes, princesses and superheroes, and performed for over 120 individuals supported by Merakey Allegheny Valley School, staff and family members in recognition of Good Deeds Day. Many of the audience members sang along and danced to a variety of songs from the 60s, 70s and 80s. After the performance, everyone enjoyed meeting with the members of Angels from the Heart and posing for pictures. A great time was had by all and we are grateful to Angels from the Heart for sharing their time and talents with us.

Good Deeds Day is a global day that unites people from more than 75 countries to do good deeds for the benefit of others and the planet.


A Visit with Representative Kulik

Liz and Megan visited Representative Anita Kulik (District 45) in her office located in Coraopolis, PA on Wednesday, April 3. During the visit they spoke about the need for experienced, consistent and quality direct support professionals (DSP). “These staff come into our home to make us happy and better improve our lives,” commented Liz.

Liz recited her original poem, “I Can’t Be Put Down,” which Representative Kulik videotaped and shared through Facebook. They both thanked Representative Kulik for her continued support for increasing DSP wages. Megan was pleased with the visit, “I really enjoyed today, hearing Representative Kulik explain why she is such a supporter of individuals with various disabilities.”

Liz further shared her messages on May 1 when she joined the County of Allegheny Providers (CAP) and RCPA for Capitol Day in Harrisburg! To learn more about the DSP Crisis in Pennsylvania and to connect with your legislators, visit

A Visit with Representative Kulik

WE Women of Distinction

Wendy Zimmerman attended the WE Women of Distinction dinner on March 26. She shared that she had a good time with her rotary friends. The event provided a platform for members of various Rotary Clubs to network and to share their successes in 60 seconds or less. Wendy was dressed to impressed and when called upon, confidently stood up to share the following:

“Hello, my name is Wendy Zimmerman, I am from Merakey AVS. I work at Lintons Food Service Management 3 days a week and at the Kennedy Center Work Crew. I volunteer at Coraopolis Food Bank, Meals on Wheels, West Hills Food Bank and the Rotary. I enjoy the rotary, talking with people and the friends I have made here.”

House Manager, Susan White, stated “It was awesome listening to so many inspirational women that are all working towards one goal making our communities better for everyone. It was my honor being Wendy's guest and hearing her journey so far in Rotary. Great things are yet to come.”

Thanks to the Greater McKees Rocks Area Rotary Club for making Wendy feel so welcomed at the event. Wendy was joined by the following Merakey AVS employees: Susan White, Carol Erzen and Amy Rocini. District 7300 Rotary Women's Engagement is proud to be the first Rotary Women's Engagement Group in the United States and second internationally.

Thank you, Wendy, for sharing your story!

Women of Distinction
Women of Distinction Women of Distinction
Women of Distinction Women of Distinction


Merakey AVS Takes on KISS

KISS, live in concert! KISS, live in concert!Merakey AVS staff members, Matt Wabals and Patricia Williamson, from the Verree Road location escorted individuals to the KISS concert at the Wells Fargo Center on March 29 where they enjoyed rocking and rolling all night!

To get in the spirit, individuals had their KISS makeup done by Francis Leggett, staff member and make-up artist.

The individuals were treated like rock stars, with fans of all ages waving and cheering as they made their way around the Wells Fargo Center.

Special thank you to the staff members who helped make this experience a magical one for the individuals they serve!


Slippery Rock Program Center gets “Jig”gy With It

St. Patrick's Day Jig! In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, Merakey AVS Slippery Rock Program Center Program Instructor Tony Bellassai, held an Irish Jig-themed Joy Jams Concert.

Joy Jams Concerts are held monthly for the entire program center and everyone is encouraged to participate. Tony invited a few of his band mates from the community, including Terry Steele on the saxophone and John Elmer on the guitar. Some of the individuals supported by Merakey AVS, including Johanna, Rob, and Camillo “Kimmy”, also joined in on their instruments.

Eric, a Pathfinder through the Merakey AVS Transformation Project, emceed the concert and directed the band. Many sang and danced along. These monthly jam sessions are a hit with all the participants.


Zapp Visits the Aviary

On February 6, individuals and staff from Merakey AVS Edward J. Zapp Program Center visited the National Aviary in Pittsburgh. They enjoyed feeding the birds in the Wetlands, learning how to train parrots and visited the newest addition, a baby owl. Everyone is eager to go back and see how the baby owl is growing. After all the excitement at the Aviary, they enjoyed lunch at Atria's Café.

Thanks are due to the to the Walter F. and Ellen H. Nicoden Fund of The Pittsburgh Foundation for helping to fund this outing.

Visit to the Aviary Visit to the Aviary


Teresa Gruber Receives DSP Award

Teresa Gruber

Teresa Gruber, a 17-year employee of Merakey Allegheny Valley School, was presented with the DSP of the Quarter Award on March 20.

Teresa works tirelessly, providing excellent care to the individuals that reside at Merakey Allegheny Valley School in Hummelstown. Her dedication and commitment to her job is admirable. When Teresa was presented with the award she was surprised and commented, “This is so nice, I really like my job.” Congratulations Teresa and thank you for putting your heart and soul into your work.

Pictured is Merakey AVS Central Region Director Roland Champ, Teresa Gruber and Residential Service Manager Niki Ubaldi.

The DSP of the Quarter award has been made possible through Steven’s Fund to recognize Merakey Allegheny Valley School Direct Support Professionals. The fund was created in 2017 in memory of Steven Garlick by his mother Betsy Friedman. To contribute to the fund, visit and include “Steven’s Fund” in the “other” and/or “comments / instructions” box.