In our latest NEXT Up feature, we spend an inspiring week with Wilkinsburg Council Vice President Marita Garrett, who launched the borough’s “Community Conversations” initiative to connect and empower residents to work together for neighborhood improvement. In 2015, Marita co-founded the Free Store Wilkinsburg, where donations of material goods are thoughtfully paired with families and residents. She is also co-owner of Admintrinsic, which provides services to entrepreneurs, small businesses, nonprofits and and mid-level corporations. Born and raised in Akron, Ohio, Marita has been a Wilkinsburg resident for seven years.

Monday, April 11

I try to start my week off at the gym to get me started on the right foot. I go to Planet Fitness in the Penn Hills Shopping Center, where my neighbor is the manager—I see him more there than at home.

Photo by Timothy Cox
Marita photographed for Pittsburgh Magazine’s 40 Under 40 Awards. Photo by Timothy Cox.
Marita photographed for Pittsburgh Magazine’s 40 Under 40 Awards. Photo by Timothy Cox.

Next I will take a walk with Brandon Boan, owner of Tip Type located in Wilkinsburg. We will talk about the ideas for bringing an international artist to bring his work here in the Borough, which is exciting.

Then Marlee Gallagher, communications & outreach coordinator, of the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation (WCDC) and I will do an interview at WRCT to discuss the upcoming Wilkinsburg Vacant Home Tour that takes place on May 7th. We will also mention some of the other great things happening in Wilkinsburg.

Going to end the day at Chatham University’s Pennsylvania Center for Women & Politics to hear Donna Brazile and Mary Matalin speak as a part of the Elsie Hillman Chair in Women and Politics Lecture. I am excited about this lecture and meeting Ms. Brazile again. She is truly a pioneer for women, especially of color, working in politics and government.

Tuesday, April 12

In the morning, I have a meeting regarding my business, Admintrinsic, at Abator Information Services regarding certifications and technology management. They are great and are fairly new to Wilkinsburg. I truly value working with local businesses.

Then I will go to the Wilkinsburg Borough Building to meet with the borough’s Social Media & Promotions Committee. I chair that committee and am excited about increasing our presence on social media and promoting the events happening here in Wilkinsburg.

Later that day, I will be at the WCDC for the next Vacant Home Tour meeting. Twelve of our residents have agreed to be tour guides for the stops and I am excited to hear what additional history they have found on the properties. With these homes being vacant anywhere from 20 to 40 years, it is interesting what we will find.

I will end the night celebrating a dear friend’s birthday at Ease in Regent Square. I am obsessed with their seafood mac and cheese!

W for Wbg: Marita with with Marlee Gallagher of the WCDC. Photo by Greg Sciulli.
W for Wbg: Marita with with Marlee Gallagher of the WCDC. Photo by Greg Sciulli.

Wednesday, April 13

I will start the morning off at the gym and then head over to the Free Store Wilkinsburg to check in with our volunteers and see how things are going for the day.

Later that afternoon, I will meet with City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak and Dormont Councilwoman Kate Abel at the City-County Building to discuss potential activities to do for Earth Day weekend and future strategies for clean energy and environmental justice awareness.

I’ll end the evening at our (Wilkinsburg) Council Chamber’s for our Legislative Session. No council meeting is ever the same, and I am looking forward to hearing a presentation about the restoration of the Wilkinsburg Train Station.

Thursday, April 14

For the earlier part of the day, I will work on my business and will reach out to prospective clients that can benefit from the services we offer. I will be doing work at Biddle’s Escape, where everyone knows your name.

After a productive day of work, I will head down to Councilwoman Rudiak’s fundraiser at the Fairmont Pittsburgh. I firmly believe in women supporting and empowering other women, especially in local government. After Natalia’s fundraiser, I’m going to the 10th annual Fair Housing Partnership Poetry Slam at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater to see my favorite performer, Nerdboy (aka Devyn Swain).

Friday, April 15

It’s Friday! I will use the morning to catch up on emails and other miscellaneous work I didn’t get to. Then finally I get to catch up one-on-one with my good friend Julie Strickland Gilliard at Arnold’s Tea—my first time there.

Marita at Penn Brewery for the Coro Women In Leadership Power Panel & Happy Hour. Photo: Catlyn Brooke.
Marita at Penn Brewery for the Coro Women In Leadership Power Panel & Happy Hour. Photo: Catlyn Brooke.

After that, I will check out Vanessa German’s latest opening reception at the Artists Image Resource. I appreciate her activism and her work.

I will end the night at Lovett Sundries’ grand opening of their new storefront on South Avenue. I am a huge fan of their products, especially their lip balm, soap and shampoo. #GoodAllOver

Saturday, April 16

Start the morning off the County Democratic Committee’s Black Caucus meeting. After that, I will engage in some much needed Netflix binging. I need to finish House of Cards before the new season of Veep premieres.

I will end the night with friends at Poros in Market Square.

Sunday, April 17

Finally a lazy Sunday! I will start reading, Everyday is Election Day: A Woman’s Guide to Winning Any Office, by Rebecca Sive. It is my book club’s next selection and clearly a topic of much interest to me.

See who else is NEXT Up here.

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade. Musically, she is in a band called The Garment District and is a founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.