Stefani Danes (RCE Project Manager) and Doug Cooper have been members of The Pittsburgh Cohousing Group for many years and are delighted that those goals are being realized in Rachel Carson EcoVillage. They both have architectural backgrounds and teach in CMU’s School of Architecture. Doug’s a muralist whose work explores the ways we experience cities, and Stefani’s a practicing architect with a passion for housing and community. With Doug’s charcoal drawings and Stefani’s fabric collage, they have also been making murals together. They’re members of the East Liberty Presbyterian Church Chancel Choir and the Pittsburgh Paddlefish Dragon Boat Team. Their five children are all on their own and doing well.
Judy and Jim Robertson (Founder Manager) both were born and raised in Pittsburgh. Jim was an Engineer and Judy a Social Worker; both are now retired. Early in their marriage they lived in South Africa and Belgium. Jim later spent seventeen years commuting to China. Both enjoy traveling and paddling. They paddle outrigger canoes and have paddled in Europe and the South Pacific. They were members of the Pittsburgh Paddlefish Dragon boat team for 13 years. They are looking forward to being part of the intentional community and the opportunities for socialization and being active physically and intellectually with projects including helping with the chickens, gardening and more. They have four grown children all living with their families in states throughout the country.
Grace Astraea (Information & Newsletter Manager)
I am the proud parent of two children ages 14 & 20 and I currently live in West Homestead. I operate a multifaceted business that challenges and supports my family and I. I love to garden and connect in the natural world to anything I can as well as relax with a good book or puzzle when I’m not tending to my business or other volunteer pursuits. What interests me most about living in an intentional community is the intentional part; after living in about a dozen or so of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods since moving here and experiencing a lack of felt community despite efforts to integrate, it just makes sense to join with others who actually want to be in community with each other in building a place to live. The most exciting aspect of the Rachel Carson EcoVillage for me is the location and relationship with Chatham University’s Eden Hall campus and what that will add to the community.
Becky Lubold is a retired environmental educator who has worked with many conservation and community groups throughout her career. She now focuses on education and activism related to climate change and local/regional food systems.
Becky loves spending time outdoors…walking/hiking, camping, observing (and submitting observations through “community/citizen science” projects like the Great Backyard Bird Count and Project FeederWatch), gardening, and cross-country skiing. She also enjoys cooking (and eating!), reading, music of many types, drumming, contra dancing, and practicing yoga.
Rachel Carson EcoVillage seems just what she is hoping for in the next chapter in her life: living in a multi-generational, diverse, vibrant, and supportive community; having opportunities to learn, befriend, garden, share skills and interests with others; living more lightly on the earth and demonstrating how, as humans within natural ecosystems, we can have positive impacts and transition to a sustainable future. An innately curious person and lifelong learner, she is excited and intrigued by the possibilities for connecting with Chatham University’s sustainability programs and other activities at Eden Hall Campus.
Jerry Sales is a Pittsburgh native who grew up in Highland Park. He earned his BA and MBA at Northwestern University. He is a CPA and has worked as a Chief Financial Officer for over 30 years. He has been interested in cooperative living since his early college days and has been involved in fostering cohousing in Pittsburgh as a member of the Pittsburgh Cohousing Group for over 15 years. He has visited over 10 cohousing communities and understands what is required to help them succeed. He is married to Jane Critchfield and has 2 adult sons, both artists.
A native Pittsburgher, (with art school and some college in Cleveland), I am Margot Critchfield. I have been interested in co-housing for quite a while. I took a weekend workshop at Ecovillage Ithaca and have visited a number of other communities. I am 78 and settled in Naples, Florida but I am willing to give up ‘endless summer’ and a bunch of good friends for a chance to be part of co-housing in my home town. My interests are reading (human prehistory, social history, detective stories set in first century Rome), watercolor painting, riding my tricycle, arts and crafts, getting my old cat to eat, discussions with friends, going to the Unitarian Universalist Church in Naples. Rachel Carson EcoVillage at Chatham University seems like a nearly ideal situation, very exciting. (If it just didn’t have snow and ice—just kidding).
Kristi Karsh is a Libra, left handed, tried a vegetarian diet 40 odd years ago and is still at it! She’s also a fiber artist, nature lover, mother of 3 fine young people, fond of peace and all about repurposing and recycling. A perfect day for her is one spent outside or working with my hands. A gratifying moment for her is when I’ve been of service to someone.
Kristi is a North Hills native and was born in Bradfordwoods, raised in Pine Township, and graduated from Richland High School (which is the elementary school across from the Ridge Road). She’s had some adventures; living for a time near the Rockies and then in northern California. She reluctantly returned to Pittsburgh, but grew to recognize what a gem of a place we have here, she’s a big fan of Pittsburgh, which is possible even without following the sports teams. Travel will never get old for her.
She’s presently employed as an elementary school paraprofessional for the Pine Richland School District. She’s held a variety of positions (with a 12 year stint as a stay at home mom and busy volunteer) in educational settings and nonprofit organizations. She’s consistently inconsistent about most things and learning to embrace not knowing what will happen next.
To live in community to her means that she’ll put time and effort into knowing my neighbors and care about their welfare. It means sharing in something special and putting energy into sustaining it. It means expanding her social network and increasing her opportunities to learn and grow.
She’s excited that the RCE is founded on principles that honor the planet and engage members in being good stewards of the earth. She also likes the fact that it’s located on a university campus and that it feels like she’s returning to her roots. She values the earnestness and sense of humor of the members and the compassion she’s witnessed both on an individual and collective level.
After learning about cohousing from friends who were involved with planning a community in Massachusetts, Jill Brethauer was excited to find out about the proposed RCE. Knowing her neighbors and being an active member of a vibrant community is important to Jill. She also is intrigued by the opportunity to live on the Chatham Eden Hall campus.
Jill was born in Alabama and raised in West View. She attended college in Massachusetts and then moved to West Philadelphia. Life in Philadelphia instilled a love of urban living, which spurred Jill to eventually purchase, renovate, and live in a home in Pittsburgh’s central North Side. In the late 1980s, Jill and her then-future husband purchased land and began building a home in Gibsonia. It was an adjustment to move to what was then “country”. But wonderful neighbors, involvement in the community, and a growing understanding and appreciation of the power and rhythms of nature had a huge positive impact. In the eight years since the house was converted to solar, hearing the “hums” and “clicks” of the inverters and tracking and reducing the energy usage have reinforced that connection with nature.
Jill is retired from a career in healthcare finance and management. Volunteer commitments include the AFS exchange program, Friends of the Northern Tier Regional Library, Allegheny Unitarian Universalist Church, and some others. Hobbies include hiking, gardening, knitting, enjoying the arts, traveling, and taking classes at CCAC, although ailing knees have forced Jill to curtail some of those for the time being. Jill’s husband has returned to his home state to live. Jill’s extended family includes her cat; her siblings and their families; host siblings from when she was an exchange student in the Philippines many years ago; and her “son” from India whom Jill and her husband hosted when he was an exchange student at Pine-Richland High School 10 years ago.
Luba Severinovsky was born in Kiev, Ukraine and immigrated to the USA in 1989. She currently lives in Levittown, NY and works in Manhattan in a consulting/engineering company. She has two daughters, two grandchildren, two cats and one dog. When not at work she enjoys reading, theaters, museum and galleries, along with various outdoor activities – hiking, walking, skating. She’s looking forward to being part of the Rachel Carson EcoVillage community.
Mary Ellen “Mel” Scott grew up in Fair Bluff, NC along the banks of the Lumber River. Shoes were optional; she loved riding horses, swimming, and playing with her animals. Stuart “Stu” Bush (Inquirer Manager) grew up in Rochester, NY. In April 1970, he created a slideshow with photos of pollution in Rochester, set to Bridge Over Troubled Waters that he presented at a school assembly on the first Earth Day.
After earning a BA (Chemistry) at Wittenberg U., Stu enrolled at UNC. He met Mel at a Chapel Hill bus-stop. While at UNC, Mel finished her BS in Psych, then studied massage while Stu completed his PhD. Married in 1983, they moved to Doylestown, PA in 1984. Mel practiced massage/Reiki for 32 years, became an interfaith minister, and an entrepreneur. Stu was a research leader at Rohm & Haas for 25 years until it was acquired by Dow Chemical. For 12 years, Stu has worked for human service nonprofits, for eight years as an Executive Director. They parented two wonderful sons who live in Swissvale, PA and Somerville, MA. Breast cancer has paid Mel a visit twice and has shaped her literally and figuratively.
Because of her vision loss, nature has become less available to Mel; RCE seems like a great place for her to feel the dirt between her toes again. Both Mel and Stu envision RCE as an ideal home to create and live into the Quaker testimonies of Stewardship, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality and Simplicity.
Janet Rodriguez, SoHarlem Inc, Founder and CEO, has more than twenty years of experience in policy and grantmaking positions in public, private, and corporate philanthropy. That, along with a personal understanding of the critical role the arts
play in child and community development, led her to serve on boards, manage institutions, initiate change, and become a social entrepreneur. She established SoHarlem in 2011 to ensure creative and local people participate in the economic
development in the Manhattanville Factory District. SoHarlem supports racial equity and employment in Harlem by incubating creative enterprises.
Prior to establishing SoHarlem, she served as Vice President of the JPMorgan Chase Global Philanthropy Group and was responsible for providing leadership and support to the National Community Relations team charged with developing and implementing philanthropic strategies in their local communities. She was also the proprietor of Straight Out of Harlem, the sole creative outlet among retail stores and bodegas in Sugar Hill section of Harlem which produced public programs, exhibitions, and salons that explored contemporary cultural issues, and promoted and sold the work of more than 250 local and global artists.
Other professional experiences include: Program Officer with the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation; Managing Director of the Aaron Davis Hall; New York Philharmonic’s Music Assistance Fund and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; Program Director for the Kentucky Arts Council; and Co-Founder of Latin American Music in Alternative Spaces. Rodriguez is a graduate of Columbia University’s School of the Arts, MFA in Arts Administration; Columbia University’s Teachers College, MA in Art Education; and New York University, BS, Art Education. She has served on many boards, among
them the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, the World Media Foundation, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, and Grantmakers in the Arts.
Where do you come from? My parents were from the Dominican Republic and I was born in East Harlem and raised in the San Juan Hill community on Westside of Manhattan until Robert Moses decided to create what is now Lincoln Center.
What are your enthusiasms? I am passionate about creating economic equity in communities which have historically been disenfranchised and working with creative people to help make that happen.
What interests you in living in a community? My other passion is mother earth and how best to take care and age with it so future generations can embrace her grace and beauty.
What is exciting to you about Rachel Carson Ecovillage? Aging in a place designed to care for our planet with like minded people, being able to continue to be a lifelong learner with access to Chatham University and perhaps mentoring students, and adapting to a rural community after experiencing an urban lifestyle.
Elizabeth is a native of Pittsburgh’s South Hills with a love for nature and the outdoors. She graduated in 2017 from Duquesne University with a degree in Classical Civilizations and English Literature with a minor in German. Having been interested from a young age in the German Wohngemeinschaft form of living but concerned about the lack of privacy in full communal living, the Rachel Carson EcoVillage embodies her dream of living as one with nature, while fostering the human connection that is so often missing from modern living. She is extremely excited to learn everything there is to know about putting permaculture into practice and living lightly on the planet with likeminded people.
When she’s not out kayaking, hiking, gardening, biking, practicing yoga, walking barefoot, or reading on a hammock, you might find her traveling (still working on making that more eco-friendly) or spoiling her pet rabbit.
Judy Trupin currently lives in New York City (specifically in Kew Gardens, Queens). Her work experience has been varied – starting as a performing artist creating movement theater pieces and simultaneously working as fitness instructor and writer in the field of health and nutrition. While continuing her work in performance, she earned her Master’s in Teaching English to Speakers of Other languages, and became an ESOL teacher. Currently, Judy is a yoga teacher and professional developer for teachers of adult immigrants. She also writes and performs her original poetry.
Other interests for Judy include dancing of any kind, bike riding, reading, walking, and vegan cooking. On her wish list is the chance to garden outdoors instead of on an apartment windowsill. She loves learning new things and finding a balance between quiet time and time with friends.
Judy is looking forward to living in a community that takes care of the earth and values living sustainably. And of course, she’s very excited about living, laughing and spending time with her new RCE neighbors.
Kelly & Melvin discovered the Rachel Carson Ecovillage in July 2022 during a search on the Foundation for Intentional Communities site. They were specifically looking for an ecovillage using sociocracy for its governance, but beyond that were drawn to RCE being built on a university campus. They’ve found that RCE has attracted a wide-range of community members committed to being caring neighbors, living sustainably, embracing inclusion and building community on a campus that supports lifelong learning.
Melvin grew up in Puerto Rico, and Kelly grew up in Indiana. Kelly has a 20-year history working in higher ed and was the founder of Pride Lafayette, Inc. He is also a graduate of Sociocracy Leadership Training from Sociocracy For All. Melvin is currently a professor of accounting atGeorgia Southern University. His research focuses on healthcare accounting and diversity (DEIB). They live just outside of Statesboro, Georgia and moved there in 2019 after eight years in Iowa. They met in Indiana in 2006 while Kelly was working at Purdue University in disability services and Melvin was pursuing his PhD. They have a black Labrador retriever named Java, who they adopted in 2012.
While sociocracy and sustainability are what brought them to RCE, and the community those values have attracted are what have kept them involved, the surprise they didn’t expect was how much they would fall for the Pittsburgh area. They’ve discovered several opportunities to grow networks in sociocratic governance, sustainability, and microsolidarity, but also in the area of DEIB, in which both have significant experience and commitment. Neither of them had visited Pittsburgh prior to becoming members of RCE, and now they say they can’t imagine starting the next chapter of their lives in any other region with any other group of people!
Dick spent part of his childhood in a household that lacked indoor plumbing, but raised and grew most of its own food, and he remains a committed home gardener. Along the way he earned a Ph.D in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics and an MBA and is retired from a career involving air pollution monitoring instrumentation. A life-long learner, he reads wide-ranging topics from philosophy to the social sciences to the latest in medicine, astrophysics, and quantum science. During the pandemic, he took advantage of CMU’s Osher Zoom courses.
Marilyn grew up in Carrick, a neighborhood in the South Side of Pittsburgh of small lots and close neighbors. She is a Pittsburgher through and through and likes the idea of a neighborhood where neighbors interact. Her degree is in Fine Arts and she has been an Art teacher to all ages from kindergarten to those in assisted living facilities. In retirement she teaches watercolors and drawing.
Always an environmentalist, she was a charter Board member of GASP, (Group Against Smog and Pollution} and Environmental Chair of the Allegheny County League of Women Voters.
Classical music is one of her passions—in fact she met Dick, her husband of 30 years through music! She is one of the founders of the Edgewood Symphony, where she continues as Personnel Chair and plays in the violin section. She is also nuts about accordion music.
Dick and Marilyn have long been active in several local orchestras – he as a violist and she as a violinist. Between them, they have four children, eleven grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren – none living close-by, alas.
Dick and Marilyn are attracted to the RCE project as a viable option for their final stage of life: as a way to live in a supportive, intergenerational setting and within a lifestyle that embraces their values. Although they have no expectation of living at RCE in the near future, they consider themselves friends and supporters of the project, and Dick is heavily involved is the Community Life and Governance Planning Group.
David Clapp was born in Birmingham, AL, but spent all his public-school years in a suburb of Chicago. I loved going to Eufaula, AL where his grandfather was the County farm agent and had a farm with cows he could explore. He also has strong and pleasant memories of going on long walks with his great-grandfather in Birmingham. He his obsessed about searching for and finding good answers to real life problems and arcane research questions. He excelled as a reference librarian and as a manager and administrator by working successfully around roadblocks and dead ends through other channels.
He’s been collecting family autobiographies (60+ years) as part of a massive genealogy project and studying the effects of religion on communities from ancient times to the present (55+ years). An important tangent of the latter project has been studying the effect of art (art, literature, dance, and film) on identity, morality, and culture. His collection of books and media is designed to support these three book projects.
As a teenage artist, his interest in religion and communities included drawing a self-sufficient city with crops on roofs under one of Fuller’s geodesic domes. That led to a fascination with Gerald O’Neil’s space colonies and more practical energy-efficient structures. He loves the work done on passive home design in this community as well as the support for sustainable gardening. He also loves the access Pittsburgh provides to trains we can use for research trips.
Mariann Davis has a BA in psychology and even completed some postgraduate work in cognitive psychology, and got into the computing biz and worked in the K-12 administrative software industry for 38 years. She’s enjoyed my programming jobs because it’s usually different every day, is challenging, can be very creative, and allows her to sit in my cubicle or work remotely and do her own thing most of the time.
She’s a cat person (although she grew up with a Weimaraner and Irish Setter), enjoys the arts, history, and science, binge watching Netflix/Hulu/Britbox, consuming movies and books, loves gardening (getting sweaty, dirty, and tired) and being outdoors. She’s an information junkie and loves to look at charts, maps, graphs, read the dictionary and encyclopedia, and surf the Web.
One important piece of her history was founding a Charter School in 1997 along with two other women. That was the most demanding and stressful work she’s ever done. It was very rewarding but if she had known how hard it was going to be and how it was going to take over her life she might not have signed on (but thank goodness she did).
She spent 25 years on a woodsy 2 acres, followed by 15 years at the Jersey shore, three blocks from the beach. She’s also lived in Arizona and Boston. She used to raise and show Abyssinian cats. She has 2 ex husbands, 2 daughters, and 2 grandchildren. The last ~2 years alone in Florida have been nice but not “home.” She’s looking forward to having a real community again.
Julia Burch comes from he New York metro area mostly, though she has lived in nearly every region of the country at some point. She’s a former academic (comparative literature), sometime writing coach, and newly trained integrative health coach. A retired SAHM, she has two grown kids.
She enjoys exploring inner and outer worlds: Qigong, meditation, cognitive science, woods and water, cities and towns, historical sites, natural science. Getting outside and moving: walking, hiking, biking, swimming, gardening, paddling…or connecting more quietly: cloud watching, photographing small natural “wonders” or practicing Qigong. Indoors or out: reading, cooking, conversation, movies.
What interests her in living in community is intentionality: enough shared interests and values to foster meaningful connection and enough differences for the variety that is ‘the spice of life’. Sharing governance and the everyday work of the community.
What’s exciting to her about Rachel Carson Ecovillage is the people, the setting: beautiful, on a campus, not too far from a city and the commitment to sustainability and learning about and protecting the natural world as well as Sociocracy and channelling Rachel Carson.
Paula Strasser was born and raised in Pittsburgh, attended Taylor Allderdice High School in Squirrel Hill, and then earned a BS in Physiological Psychology from Carnegie Mellon (nowadays the degree would be called neurosciences). She also got a second BS from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Natural Resources (Wildlife Ecology), and embarked on a 15 year career in zookeeping and zoo management. She returned to Pittsburgh to serve as the Assistant Director of the Pittsburgh Aviary in the 1980s and early 1990s. Since 1994 she’s been living in Fallbrook, California, where she worked at a wholesale nursery, a research laboratory exploring some of the basic properties of malaria, and bred tropical birds (including toucans).
Her two most passionate enthusiasms are raising vegetables, citrus and small fruits in her backyard garden, and dog sports, particularly Rally and Agility, which involves my two Australian Shepherds. Laika, the four-year old, has earned her Intermediate Rally title from AKC, and is in training for her Advanced title, and has begun her Agility training. Inti, the yearling, is in training for his Novice Rally title. Laika accompanied me on the Great Allegheny Passage in 2022, from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, before Inti joined our pack. Both dogs help her teach Beginning Obedience classes at their local Obedience club.
Her ecological knowledge comes not only from Rachel Carson, but also from Aldo Leopold (The Willdlife Ecology Department at UW was started by Leopold, and one of the biggest thrills of her life was seeing and reading his tiny field notebooks). Although she practices land ethics on her own property, she is looking forward to sharing Leopold’s and Carson’s viewpoints with a larger community.
The idea of sharing meals, Sociocracy and community activities is so very attractive to her. In California, few people have front porches, and fewer still encourage casual drop-in conversations with others passing by on their way to or from their homes. Rachel Carson EcoVillage is designed to scratch an itch that she’s had for a long time, and she can’t wait to move in next year!
Chris & Tink
My name is Chris and I’ve lived in the Connecticut River Valley of Western Massachusetts my whole life until recently moving to Pittsburgh to be close to RCE as it’s being built. I am a recent founding member (as of June 2023) and I feel very excited to be part of forming/living in community at RCE!
My varied working life has included building inspection, owning a fun used bicycle shop, working at my local food co-op, and working at a nursery in a garden center.
Some things I enjoy: all things outdoors (bicycling, hiking, kayaking, and gardening); a love for all animals; art & music; and the joy of cooking.
Howdy ~ Tink here!
I appreciate; humor, being in community – was a founder of a co-housing community 30 years ago with my first husband in Western Massachusetts; we raised our now three grown children in. And, I am so excited to get back to my core root values of helping heal the planet while living in community – the only way I imagine ever feeling fully at peace since my earliest young memories.
A few other of the zillion things I appreciate, aside from the occasional exaggeration; authentic meaningful relationships,metaphor, books (right now heavy into memoirs – the more traumatic, the more healing!), and Nature as my spiritual home.
Some of the many things I am grateful for: cotton candy, riding carousels with my hubby (yay to finding true love 2nd time around!),spontaneous art with found nature,travel, poetry, being witness to people and animals as they transition from this life onto whatever is next.
Victoria will always be a Jersey girl, even though she left Long Beach Island after college. After living in London, Boston, San Francisco, L.A., and New York, she wound up in Maryland and taught English and communication there for thirty years, the last twenty at the College of Southern Maryland. Since then she’s been working as a freelance writer and editor, living on Anastasia Island off the coast of St. Augustine, FL.
A child of the 1960’s and 70’s, Victoria was exposed early to Left Coast ideals of collective living by a hippie older sister; beginning in college, her house was always filled with people of all ages, and she’s been heading toward cohousing ever since.
Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and The Sea Around Us were on her family’s bookshelves
when she was born, and that consciousness of world ecology has remained throughout
her lifetime. She believes that creating a thriving cohousing community is the best
contribution we can make to a healthy future for our planet.
Victoria brings to RCE her experience in writing and editing and in group and
interpersonal communication, as well as a background in literature and theater, both of
which she loves sharing with others, and she’s excited about working to establish a
writing group, a book group, and a readers’ theater group at RCE. She’s more
comfortable in the water than out, practices yoga, and walks a couple miles daily with her
dog Scarlet. She’s a Buddhist in the Vipassana tradition, a liberal, a fairly decent cook,
and generally a good sport, game for the adventure of genuine community with a group
of like-minded individuals in the challenging cultural environment of the U.S. in the 21st