Service to community: Annie Skiba

Woman standing in a foyer
Annie Skiba is the recipient of this year’s Community Service Award, given by the Mt. Lebanon Community Relations Board. A member of the Mt. Lebanon Partnership’s executive board, Skiba has been involved in volunteer activities ever since joining AmeriCorps after high school. / Photo: John Schisler

Since she was in her teens, Sunset Drive resident Annie Skiba has been one of those people you can count on.

The Wisconsin native joined AmeriCorps after graduating from high school in 1997. She was based in Denver but served in several states across the west.

“AmeriCorps instilled a sense of community in me, and basically made me a volunteer for life,” she said.

The Mt. Lebanon Community Relations Board selected Skiba for this year’s Community Service Award, given to a Mt. Lebanon resident “who has volunteered his or her time giving back to the community in ways that make a real difference in the quality of life here and throughout the region.”

Another result of her AmeriCorps service: She met her husband, Dan Thomas. The couple moved here 22 years ago with their daughter, Liz, who was then 3 years old.

“When we moved here as young parents, we really didn’t have any connection with other parents,” said Skiba.

So she began to reach out. She worked 15 years as a toddler teacher at Southminster, and she became an administrator on Mt. Lebanon Pass Along and Pick Up, a Facebook page where people could donate unneeded items for reuse. She also started a Facebook page, Just a Mt. Lebanon Housewife, a place for women to share information and recommendations, and occasionally fund-raise for someone in need. Skiba administered the page with a strict no-drama rule, a breath of fresh air amidst the often toxic activity on social media.

“I wanted it to be a space to freely ask questions without being ridiculed,” she said. “The best way to get through to people is to be nice.”

The page soon became an invaluable resource. “That really opened up a lot of doors,” Skiba said.

“During the pandemic, Skiba teamed with Stephanie Fedro-Byrom and Allison Carey to gather food donations for the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.  They received more than $12,000, enough to buy more than 1,500 meals for the shelter and several other charities, including Sojourner House, Meals on Wheels and Ronald McDonald House. Enough cash was  left over to give $650 to South Hills Interfaith Movement, which paid for 31 Easter baskets for kids at the shelter.

“We paid for it with donated money, so we weren’t shorting the restaurants, because they were struggling, too,” she said. “That was such a great project, and it really kind of motivated me to think, ‘What else can I do?'”

“Annie is the first person who jumps in and asks how can she help,” wrote Marcy Jordan in her nomination letter.

Skiba serves on the board of the Mt. Lebanon Partnership, where, among other things, she runs the kids plein air painting event, and the Secret Garden, which happens the day before the plein air event. Kids draw designs on the sidewalk around the water fountain in Clearview Common, and the paint only shows up when it rains or gets wet. Her husband’s painting company, Solid Painters, donated much of the paint for the event.

“Annie is always willing to help,” wrote Partnership president Chris Reidenbaugh in his nomination letter. “You can always count on her to do exactly what she says that she will.”

When Skiba got the word from the Community Relations Board that she was selected for the award, she originally thought the call was to ask her about Reidenbaugh, whom she had nominationed.

Skiba manages all of her volunteer work along with running a design company, Black Oak Hill Design, which she founded with Anna Lynch, whom she met through her Facebook group.

Next on the horizon for Skiba, who was born in Korea and was adopted, is to create some Partnership events surrounding Lunar New Year, as a way to engage Mt. Lebanon’s Asian community.

“That’s never been done in Mt. Lebanon,” she said. “I think it’s a missed opportunity, because we have such a high population of Asians.”

Although it took some time, Skiba feels like Mt. Lebanon is home. Along with her older daughter, Liz, she and Thomas have a daughter, Mia, 15, and a son, Will, 8. “It’s hard when you don’t fit the mold in Mt. Lebanon and you move here and don’t know anyone. Volunteering pushed me out of my comfort zone.”