As I write this article, we are preparing for the 100th anniversary of Mt. Lebanon’s creation. In preparing for the various remembrances and celebrations, I am constantly reminded of what a remarkable journey it has been. Since 1912, we have grown to be one of the 20 largest towns in Pennsylvania and our population has stayed fairly constant between 33,000 and 34,000 residents over the last 30 years (all according to census data since 1980). But those are just numbers; what matters about our community cannot be measured statistically.
How do we build on what was accomplished over the last 100 years? I think to answer that, you need to decide what it is that makes Mt. Lebanon a special place to live. When I ask most people this question, they answer in terms of facilities and services. They talk about the schools, the library, the walkability of the community, the parks, the brilliant leadership of the Commissioners (OK, that last one was my mom). But to me the answer is more general. Mt. Lebanon is a great place to live because it is not just an address but also a community. There are other good school districts; there are other areas with nice parks, and anyone can use our library. But there is no other community I know of with so many people who are proud of where they live and who truly love their town. Sure, there are different factors that influence different people, but I think our sense of community is the most important. Identifying with others on your street, in your neighborhood and in the town as a whole generates great Lebo pride.
How can you help build on that? The simple answer is neighbor by neighbor and street by street. Every helping hand offered to a neighbor brings our community closer. Whether you call it the “golden rule,” “paying it forward,” or just “being neighborly,” assisting your neighbors is the backbone of our community. When you shovel someone’s driveway, walk a neighbor’s child to school, check on an elderly neighbor or just welcome newcomers and introduce them around, you are building on our traditions.
I would like to call on people to pitch in and work as a group to help a deserving neighbor. Many streets have one or two houses where the owners are unable to keep their house the way they would like. In most of these cases, a few dedicated neighbors willing to sacrifice an afternoon can make all the difference in the world. The neighborhood becomes prettier; a neighbor beams with pride about his or her home again, and everyone benefits from a neighborhood coming together to help one of its own. I know it can be done, because I have seen it.
Last year I became aware of just such a situation. I was unsure what to do but knew I wanted to help. Unfortunately, we cannot just send one of our hard-working public works crews to do the job. So, I called in the next best thing, the Scouts. I called the scoutmaster for Troop 65, Eric Stuart, and told him about the situation. Before I could even ask a favor, he volunteered the Scouts to take care of this problem. Within two weeks everything was taken care of. I still smile when I drive past that property and see what a difference those Scouts made for one deserving person.
Maybe you have another idea of how to help. Maybe you feel more comfortable joining an organization that is already helping our residents. Groups like the Mt. Lebanon Village, which helps seniors stay in their homes, or our soon to be internationally accredited fire department. Maybe you can coach a youth sports team or volunteer at the schools or the library. One thing is for sure, there is no shortage of opportunities to volunteer. I cannot think of any group in town that could not use a little extra help. So just find something that interests you, and give them a call.
I realize that none of us have to help. And I know many of you are doing these types of things already. But for those of you who are not, just try one time. Though it is true that none of us feel like we have the time to spare, I can assure you that serving your neighbors will feel like time well spent. If you are like me, you will find that the benefits are well worth your time. Maybe at our bicentennial, my great-great-granddaughter will be talking about the community we left for those who followed us.