Love from Pittsburgh image courtesy of Carol Luckner

With the flip of a switch, Pittsburghers can show their appreciation for those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, April 7 and Tuesday, April 14 at 8 p.m., residents throughout the region are asked to turn on their lights, step outside and applaud first responders, hospital employees, mail carriers, grocery store clerks, delivery drivers and other essential workers who are risking their own well-being for others.

The organizers are hoping that Pittsburgh Nation joins in the coordinated “Illumination-Ovation” from their balconies, porches and yards while practicing social distancing. Participants are encouraged to clap their hands in a collective round of applause and light their homes, buildings and neighborhoods by using illumination such as holiday lights, porch lights, flashlights and phones during the event.

Logo designed by LUXE Creative

They are also asking buildings to be lit in yellow or gold, if they are able, to show their support.

Jenifer Evans, a native Pittsburgher, took part in the United Kingdom’s Clap for Carers on March 26 and was so inspired that she asked her friend and event planner, Evelyn Castillo, for help in getting it done in Pittsburgh.

Castillo, owner of Sterling Events, was also inspired by similar outpourings of gratefulness in other parts of the world.

To get things started, they formed a core group with Nancy Shelton, Ben Petchel, Jena-Anne Sabom, Jeremy Brinling, Bob Steineck, Martin Potoczny, Ed Hyp and Kit Mueller.  Then they sent an email to 140 people in the region asking for their help. From there, they assigned tasks using Google Docs, from creating a Facebook page to getting the word out on social media. Not surprisingly, lots of folks pitched in to help.

“We need a bit of positivity in our lives right now, and the simple act of acknowledging our gratitude can help build communities and solidarity when we have to self-isolate,” Castillo says. “Seeing your neighbors clapping in unison, what a great mood booster.”

Castillo, the wife of a physician and mother of a grocery store employee, has been busy networking with friends, colleagues and city officials to get the word out. She hopes Downtown buildings and other local landmarks will shine with yellow lights to show solidarity. Community members can use whatever lights they have on hand.

“No need to buy anything,” she says, “just applaud the folks that make our world work.”

Kristy Locklin

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.