Get to know your Oakland nonprofits

By Keith Gillogly Staff Writer

So there’s the OCC, OTMA and OBID. And don’t forget the OPDC. And CHS, of course. This army of… So there’s the OCC, OTMA and OBID. And don’t forget the OPDC. And CHS, of course. This army of acronyms makes up the OTF, also known as the Oakland Task Force. Consisting of directors from the Oakland Community Council, Oakland Transportation and Management Association, Oakland Business Improvement District, Oakland Planning and Development Corporation and Community Human Services, the task force holds joint meetings to work together toward common goals. The Oakland Community Council promotes unity among the various Oakland organizations, said David Blenk, executive director of the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation. Though each group serves a particular niche in the community, the Community Council often acts as the medium for discussion between multiple groups. ‘Really, it’s about looking at Oakland holistically,’ he said. One of the Community Council’s chief concerns is enforcing and educating the community on building codes. The group distributes informational pamphlets and meets directly with student groups such as Student Government Board, said council coordinator Pam Eichenbaum. The Community Council also performed student sweeps of property during Saturday’s Pitt Make a Difference Day. The Development Corporation helps people with criminal backgrounds find jobs and works to get more Dumpsters in an effort to reduce litter. Blenk discussed a more recent endeavor that featured a new way to recycle students’ furniture when they move away from Pitt. ‘When students move out in April, we start collecting furniture,’ he said. ‘We collect about 500 items.’ The Oakland Planning and Development Corporation then sells back acceptable collected furniture to students in the fall. Many of the organizations’ projects, however, are designed with all Oakland residents in mind. The Oakland Business Improvement District brought the Sennott Street farmer’s market to Oakland. The group’s director, Georgia Petropoulos, said the farmer’s market’s presence has filled an important gap for the last four years. ‘There wasn’t any fresh food to access anywhere in Oakland,’ she said. The group also collects assessments from property owners and aids in cleaning graffiti. Sandra Phillips, director of ‘Peoples Oakland,’ and Adrienne Walnoha, director of the Community Human Services Corporation, also attended the meeting. ‘Peoples Oakland’ helps substance abusers and the mentally ill, while the Community Human Services Corporation offers homeless assistance programs and youth programs. Some of the directors discussed issues on public transportation. Al Condeluci, chief executive officer of United Cerebral Palsy of Pittsburgh, explained difficulties individuals with disabilities face while riding Pittsburgh’s buses. ‘Making a transfer [between buses] is a pain, but for anyone with a physical disability it’s even worse,’ he said. Some parts of Pittsburgh, such as the Waterfront and SouthSide Works, have taken extra steps to make it easy for individuals with a handicap to get around, Condeluci said. However, Condeluci said individuals with disabilities should not be hampered with having to make so many transfers.’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ Group representatives also expressed concern about the condition of Oakland’s sidewalks. Many were deteriorated, and others had obstacles, such as poles, in the middle of them. And some intersections, they added, weren’t safe for pedestrians. ‘Some of our sidewalks are unusable,’ said Mavis Rainey, director of the Oakland Transportation Management Association.