Since its inception in 1996, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy has raised $85 million to improve the city’s parks under the direction of its founder, president and CEO, Meg Cheever.

And Cheever and her organization are by no means letting grass grow under their feet. Through their partnership with city government they continue to work diligently on 1,700 acres of greenspace for all to enjoy.

Their current and most ambitious effort?

An $18.4 million project to rebuild the Frick Environmental Center at the entrance to Frick Park just off Beechwood Boulevard.

“It’s designed to meet the Living Building Challenge and to meet LEED platinum standards,” Cheever says. “We’re already serving about 1,500 kids a year through summer camps and school year programs, and the new center will offer a much improved platform for kids and everyone to experience the park in wonderful ways.”

On June 19 Cheever and eight other regional leaders were recognized for their commitment to their organization’s growth at the EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2015 Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia Award gala at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

In its 29th year, the EY Entrepreneur of the Year program recognizes business leaders in 145 worldwide cities, including 25 in the United States. The regional award winners will move on to be considered for the EY Entrepreneur of the Year national award which will be announced in Palm Springs in November. The national winner will compete for the World Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Monaco in June of 2016.

“The EY award is wonderful recognition for a community organization like the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy,” Cheever says. “The City of Pittsburgh has a magnificent park system – over 150 parks. But there are many places in the system where investment is needed. Calling attention to the need and letting people know that they can help the parks through the Parks Conservancy is a great opportunity.”

Cheever received the award for Community Impact.

Selected by an independent panel of judges comprised of previous winners, leading CEOs, private capital investors and other regional business leaders, the awardees were chosen for their entrepreneurial spirit, ability to overcome obstacles, the financial performance and growth of their organization, new approaches to company culture and their impact on the community.

“We are inspired every year by the countless entrepreneurs in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia who are driving growth, creating jobs and making a positive impact on our communities,” says Kimberlee Gillespie, co-director of the Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia regional program.

Other winners include:

Consulting & Big Data: Greg Petro, president & CEO, First Insight, Inc.

Healthcare: Arnie Burchianti, II, CEO, Celtic Healthcare

Industrial Services: Robert Tudi, CEO, Tudi Holdings, Inc.

Manufacturing: Joe Peilert, president and CEO, VEKA, Inc.

Robotics: Parag Batavia, president, Neya Systems, LLC

Social Ventures: Charlie Batch, founder and president, Best of the Batch Foundation

Technology & Software: Kinesh Doshi, founder and CEO, Accion Labs, Inc.

2015 Master Entrepreneur: Giorgio Coraluppi, founder, president and CEO, Compunetix, Inc.

The local awards are sponsored by PNC, Gateway Financial, Morgan Lewis & Bockius, The University of Pittsburgh: Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence, Chemistry Communications and Trib Total Media.

“Pittsburgh is an environment that supports those who innovate and lead to become entrepreneurs and seek to remain in Pittsburgh through our strong educational programs and universities as well as investors that reside in our area,” Gillespie says. “Cultivating entrepreneurs helps drive our economy and provides inspiration for others to do the same. It can really be contagious.”

Cheever adds that an exceptional philanthropic sense of involvement from both individuals and nonprofits and foundations, and a strong desire to better our communities and city, also encourage Pittsburgh’s entrepreneurial spirit.

“Our beautiful parks serve everyone in our region, and bring amazing health benefits, raise surrounding property values, and spur economic development,” she says. “The EY Entrepreneur of the Year award brings our parks to the spotlight, and highlights the value they bring to our world-class city.”

Laurie Bailey

Laurie Bailey is a freelance writer who has reported for many local publications. When she isn't writing she serves as a media consultant for nonprofits and other local companies.