Kristen Maser Michaels, Safaa Bokhari, Gisele Fetterman. Photo by Maranie Staab.

In a New York Post story titled How a Mayor’s Wife Brought a Factory Town Back from the Brink, Pittsburgh-based writer Salena Zito maps the impressive trajectory of Gisele Fetterman’s life and her transformative work in Braddock.

Gisele Baretto Fetterman, the only Latina in a sea of black women, stands in a cheerfully painted former shipping container in the parking lot of an abandoned nuisance bar, directing customers toward the supplies.

Groceries, clothing, towels, blankets, diapers and formula are all separated into neat aisles for the people of Braddock, Pa.—the rough-and-tumble steel town that she and her husband have adopted as their home.

Outside the shipping container, a cheery sign marks the entrance to “The Free Store,” which fills the needs of those living in a town whose once important place in American history is now largely forgotten. It also gives those people more optimism than they have seen in a generation.

“The store rules are, ‘Be kind, take only what you need, and pay it forward,’ ” Fetterman says.

The statuesque, raven-haired, 35-year-old mother of three is a force of kindness, faith and beauty, both inside and out.

And people do pay it forward, she says: “When things are at their worst in this community or in this country, I find that faith, no matter what your belief system is, brings us all together. It provides us dignity and hope when we cannot find it anywhere else.”

The lengthy profile traces Gisele’s roots in Brazil to her move to New York at the age of 8 and then eventually Braddock as an adult inspired by an article about the mayor. Zito offers a brief history of Braddock as well.

“To say that Braddock is a rough town is an understatement, but it has moved away from its darker days, thanks to the efforts Fetterman’s family has inspired,” writes Zito in conclusion.

“But Mrs. Fetterman’s own journey here is nothing short of remarkable. So is her ability to bind this community together.”

Read the full article here and read about Gisele’s latest enterprise here.

Tracy Certo

Tracy is the founder and Editor at Large of NEXTpittsburgh which she started in March 2014 and sold in December 2020. She is passionate about making Pittsburgh a better place for all and connecting people...