They Came to Pittsburgh to Eliminate Poverty
Now, more than 50 years hence, it is time to ask a few important questions: Did the presence of VISTA Volunteers have an impact on the communities they served, and how? And what impact did the VISTA program have on the lives of the VISTAs themselves?
What follows are the stories of almost a dozen-and-a-half individuals who signed up to serve as the “domestic Peace Corps”—a year of poverty, living in some very disadvantaged communities, in Pittsburgh and surrounding towns.
I served as a VISTA Volunteer in McKeesport, beginning in September 1968 and departing in August 1969. To research this story, I contacted a number of former VISTAs who served in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, and a couple of individuals who supervised VISTAs. I’ve also interviewed Jim Butler, who picked up where VISTAs in McKeesport left off, and who married one of the administrative staff members of the Community Action Program, the sponsor of the Mon Valley VISTA program.
But let’s first step back to the period of 1965–68, when VISTAs began to arrive in Pittsburgh. The War in Vietnam was heating up. Many potential male volunteers were receiving draft notices, and VISTA offered a one-year deferment. I had received a notice to report for a physical just about the time my letter of acceptance came from Washington, informing me that I had been selected as a VISTA volunteer and should report to Baltimore for training on September 4, 1968.
Our class of recruits was assigned to three areas: the Pittsburgh region, the Philadelphia region, and West Virginia. I was assigned, along with other trainees, to the Mon Valley—three in McKeesport, one each in Crestas Terrace (North Versailles Township), Elizabeth and Turtle Creek.
Prior to our arrival, an earlier class of VISTAs trained in D.C. were already working in the Hill District and on the North Side.
Let me introduce you, in no particular order, to some of the Pittsburgh VISTA volunteers. Some reports are nearly verbatim from interviews; others are brief summaries.
I also have included the comments of four non-VISTAs. Tom Murphy was mayor of Pittsburgh but was heavily involved with VISTAs on the Northside where he lived and directed the local community council; Dick Ridenour was an ordained minister who supervised a number of VISTAs working on welfare rights and housing issues; Jim Butler founded Housing Opportunities Inc. in McKeesport, and Mark Sissman, one of the trainers in Baltimore, was employed by the University of Maryland School of Social Work. Two ex-VISTAs, Tracy Soska and Michael Eichler, were VISTAs in the 1970s after the first few classes were placed and had departed.
Also included are two obituaries from the Post-Gazette. Ann Mason was a well-known and beloved nonprofit administrator, community volunteer, and a leader in improving race relations in McKeesport. Mark Schneider was appointed by Mayor Murphy to oversee the building of PNC Park and Heinz Field, and died tragically in a biking accident.
1965: The first VISTAs arrive
Patricia and George Wright were among the first VISTA recruits nationwide. They were in the second class to be recruited and were trained by the University of Maryland School of Social Work. Pat was a graduate of Howard University in Washington, D.C.; George graduated from Tuskegee University in Tuskegee Alabama. Pat earned a degree in psychology; George majored in physical education. Both said they were inspired by John F. Kennedy’s speech when he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” George had served in the military reserve from 1958–1959.
Pat recalled a VISTA group dinner in Baltimore near the training center on Pratt Street. “When we came into the restaurant and sat down, the waitress told us that they could not serve the group because black people were part of the group. So we all got up and left.”
When they arrived in Pittsburgh, they were put up in the Roosevelt Hotel, which is now an apartment building.
Pat and George were assigned to the Community Action office at 15th and Carson on the Southside. Their work assignment was in Beltzhoover and they were living in St. Clair Village. Much of the work they did was with youth; in fact, their project was the subject of a PBS film, “Kids are Beautiful.”
The Wrights believe that they had an impact on the community, especially on the youth with whom they worked. But they also said emphatically that VISTA had a huge effect on their lives, as both of them went on to teach at the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work for many years.
1967: VISTA grows in force
Marco Swados came to VISTA from Rockland City, N.Y., in Westchester County. He lived in the Hill District with Eric Holmes, Frank Melcouri and Ron Smoker. He was one of many assigned to the Mayor’s Committee on Human Resources. Swados was supposed to work as a tutor but found that playing basketball with the youth was the best way to connect and build relationships. Swados grew up studying piano and dreamed of being a professional musician, so he attended Columbia University and majored in music but didn’t do well in his other classes, so he transferred to the Manhattan School of Music where he earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in piano performance.
Swados received his draft notice but applied for conscientious objector status and was accepted. Then VISTA called and after training, he was assigned to Pittsburgh.
Ron Smoker grew up in the little town of Sturgis, Mich. His major in college was what he describes as “human services”—a liberal arts degree through which he was able to structure a program that held his interest, including classes in social work and criminology.
He lived and worked in the Hill District, sharing a house with a couple of other VISTAs. He was assigned to the YMCA under the supervision of Jim Winters. Smoker recalls getting his bus driver’s license so he could drive the YMCA bus with the hill District youth basketball team to McKeesport. After his VISTA year, Smoker returned to Michigan and spent several years as a social worker and nonprofit administrator, eventually retiring and spending a few years working in his son’s landscaping business. He continues to stay active, officiating at high school and college volleyball games and playing in an over-70 softball league.
Alan and Lili Penkower were one of two married couples who joined VISTA together. Alan was from Brooklyn, Lili from the Bronx. The Penkowers were assigned to the Northside Committee on Human Resources, under the supervision of Dick Ridenour. The lived in a house on Veto Street in the Central Northside, with a couple of other VISTAs. This house became a gathering place for VISTAs and community participants, a place to meet and party, and the Penkowers left it to another group of VISTAs when they departed.
Much of the work revolved around a welfare rights campaign. Stories of that effort and the other adventures the Penkowers and their VISTA colleagues experienced could fill a volume. Because Alan was an attorney, he could be effective in advocating on behalf of current and potential welfare recipients. Direct action was a relatively common tactic employed by the VISTA crew and their community colleagues. Housing issues were also common at the time, and the Penkowers recalled a humorous incident involving Al Tronzo, the executive director of the Pittsburgh Housing Authority, in which Dick Ridenour handcuffed a tenant to Tronzo at a Housing Authority board meeting.
Rent withholding was another effective tactic. Tenants would deposit their rent in a bank account, to be held until the landlord would make needed repairs.
Alan eventually became a “Reggie”—a member of the Reginald Heber Smith Community Lawyer Fellowship Program. This was a federal program that supplied newly minted lawyers to Neighborhood Legal Services offices, expanding legal services for the poor.
After VISTA, Alan became a Municipal Court Judge in Pittsburgh, and then a Judge in the Court of Common Pleas. Lili went on to earn a master’s degree and doctorate in Social Work and Public Health, and worked as both a social worker and teacher.
They described Ridenour as a wonderful teacher, and said VISTA was certainly a life-changing experience for them.
Frank Melcouri worked in the Hill District with C.A.I.R. He shared a house with Marco Swados and he remembers vividly Marco’s love for music. Marco had a great record collection and stereo system, and when the rioting occurred, the house next to theirs caught on fire. Soldiers told them to evacuate, but they elected to sit on the roof and “drink cheap wine.”
Frank and Jane McKenny Louik were married and had a daughter. After VISTA, Frank moved to Chicago, and eventually remarried. He now works as an immigration specialist for Catholic Charities. Like so many others, he believes VISTA changed the direction of his life.
Dick Gressle came to VISTA from Wilmington, Del., though he was born in western Pennsylvania. By the 10th grade, he had become an Episcopal Church youth leader and organized the picketing of a movie theater to desegregate it. He became involved with a black congregation and was schooled by Quakers, so he ended up spending weekends working in a settlement house, which was an eye-opening experience.
He describes his first two years in college as complete screw-off. Then in his junior year he joined Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) on campus and got involved with the anti-war movement. In VISTA, he was assigned to the Northside, working with welfare rights organizers.
After VISTA, he became an Episcopal priest and served as pastor of a church until he retired.
1968: Maryland XXIII brings reinforcements
David Chavkin was a native of New Hyde Park, Long Island. He had attended Michigan State and majored in mathematics, but in 1968, he got involved in the Gene McCarthy campaign in Wisconsin and Indiana. After that campaign folded, he joined organizers of the Poor People’s Campaign in Lansing, Mich., and brought local people to Washington where people set up camp in plywood and plastic tents. When the camp was bulldozed, Chavkin joined VISTA, but he was an early convert to community organizing. After VISTA, he attended law school at the University of California Berkley and continued resistance organizing. While in VISTA, he worked with Dick Ridenour on the North Side and in Oakland, where he shared a house with two other VISTAs.
VISTA changed the direction of Chavkin’s life. He stayed in Pittsburgh for two years working with the Welfare Rights Organization of Allegheny County (WROAC), went on to work in the Carter administration, at various times had a radio show on Pacifica Radio, and as a Reggie attorney, working for the Office of Legal Services, a federal program to provide free legal services to poor people.
Chavkin continued throughout his career working to provide legal services to poor people, but held several teaching positions at American University, the University of Maryland, and Georgetown University. He worked on international legal issues in Palestine, Israel, Africa and Asia, and retired in 2014.
Linda Sohner was recruited on campus at Bowling Green University in Ohio. She had majored in sociology and education but was unsure of what she wanted to do after graduation, except that she wanted to work with children. However, an older sister had served in the Peace Corps, so she might have been predisposed to VISTA.
Sohner’s assignment was with the McKeesport Neighborhood Ministry, working nominally under Reverends Jim Filbern and James McDowell. Sohner was in charge of the Ministry’s Early Child Development Center, and also ran a teen coffee house. She shared an apartment with another VISTA, Ann Mason, who recently passed away.
After VISTA, Sohner moved to San Francisco, where she tutored in a public housing project through a program run by Glide Memorial Church. She returned to Pennsylvania, obtained a master’s degree at Penn State, and returned to the field of early childhood development through the Appalachian Regional Commission. She then worked at the Ohio State University, and during this time helped desegregate an all-white apartment building in Upper Arlington. While officially retired, she stays active with volunteer work.
Barbara Russ left Fairmont, Minn., to come to Baltimore for VISTA training in Maryland XXIII. She was assigned to Pittsburgh’s North Side and worked in Northview Heights, the large public housing project. There she met Bob (String) Baldwin, a local community activist, whom she later married and moved with to St. Paul, Minn. After several years in St. Paul, the couple with their new daughter moved to Duluth. Barb had earned a law degree and secured a job with the county. She currently serves on the Duluth City Council.
Ann Scanlon Cummings came from Holliston, Mass., and served a year in Turtle Creek. Ann attended a small Catholic college, Cardinal Cushing, in Brookline, Mass., where she majored in history and sociology, hoping to become a social worker. She was concerned about poverty and civil rights. Arriving in Baltimore for training, she recalls the aged convent where the women trainees slept, and with guns in downtown because of recent riots. Training consisted of role playing, simulation exercises and T groups. Soon, she was off to McKeesport, where she was assigned to Turtle Creek, because it was considered “safe” for a young female volunteer.
While in McKeesport finishing her training cycle, she recalls attending a black church, meeting Major Mason, and learning more about organizing from Marvin Feit, the VISTA supervisor. Marvin told her that using a sit-in should be the “trump card”—not to be used unless she was certain it would succeed. As a single woman, many local people were trying to match her with eligible young men. But she married a local artist, Regis Cummings. The pair moved eventually to Vermont, where Ann became involved in local politics, first being appointed to the local community action council. After 10 years on the council, she ran for the school board. Then an opening occurred on the City Council and she was appointed to fill the vacancy. After six years on the Council, she ran for mayor but lost. She subsequently ran again and won. Following the same pattern, she ran for the State Senate and lost, then won, and has served in the Senate for 22 years.
Jane Louik, a native of Palm Beach, Fla., was the daughter of a conservative military officer. She attended the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University. She said she had no idea what career path she should take, what life should be, or what she should do. But she applied and was accepted as a VISTA trainee, and reported to Baltimore for the Maryland XXIII training class. Unlike most VISTA trainees who flew to Baltimore, Jane drove. Her memories of Pittsburgh included sharing a house on Dunseith Street, working with Dick Ridenour and Frank Melcouri (whom she later married) and helping to organize welfare recipients.
Her year in VISTA was divided in two, with the first half organizing welfare recipients, and the second half working with teenage gang members in East Liberty, a group she called the Larimer Kids. She remembers something that puzzled her: the use of discarded doors to make fences. She also recalls spending time at the Veto Street house with the Penkowers.
When she and Frank divorced, she returned to school and earned a nursing degree, then pursued a law degree. She spent 20 years at Highmark, the Pittsburgh Blue Cross/Blue Shield agency. She describes her life as “so fortunate” and VISTA as definitely a life-changing experience.
Don Russell was raised in Grosse Point, Mich. He attended Wayne State University but ended up dropping out of school and writing stories for the Detroit News. As a VISTA, he worked in Pittsburgh on the Northside, and was supervised by Dick Ridenour.
After VISTA, Don and two other ex-VISTAs, Tom Taylor and Rick Downing, decided to go to Alaska, but ended up in California, living in what Russell describes as the “boondocks.” They made friends with a forester and worked in a logging operation, then headed up the coast to Washington, where Russell ended up owning three fishing boats. Eventually he sold the boats and became a writer to earn a living. He bought a newspaper in Mountain View California, the Mountain Messenger, and owned and operated the newspaper for 30 years.
Russell was active in the anti-war movement and refused induction. Somehow, it seems the Selective Service never caught up with him, and curiously enough in later life he became Republican, and chaired the Republican Central Committee in Mountain View.
Don is certain VISTA affected his life; he is not so certain how much effect he had on the Northside of Pittsburgh.
Joe Isherwood grew up near La Guardia airport in College Point, Queens. Isherwood enrolled in the seminary right after high school, but decided he didn’t want to be a priest, He was a member of the Maryland XXIII class that trained in Baltimore, where we met and became lifelong friends. His assignment was to a community center in Crestas Terrace, a remote African American community in North Versailles Township. However, he was part of a group of VISTAs who were supervised by Marvin Feit in McKeesport. Playing basketball with local teenagers was one of the best ways to connect and build “street cred.”
Joe describes his VISTA experience in his own words: “Upon completing graduation from Lona College (1968), it seemed that I was headed for high school (English) teaching. However, despite my love of literature, the social tumult and excitement of the ‘60s seemed to be pulling me in another direction, and a little leftover missionary zeal from my earlier days as a Maryknoll Seminary student made me take a look at the Peace Corps as an alternative. But since my dad had recently passed on, leaving my mother alone, I thought I should stay relatively close to home and maybe not commit to a two-year assignment—thus VISTA.
“The ‘Community Action’ training program at the University of Baltimore/School of Social Work was an eye opener as well as inspiration for a dedicated year in the war on poverty. The T-groups, role playing, sessions of confrontational psychology, mock up community power structures and political ideology were really well thought-out as a revealing look at whether or not you were really suited to this type of business and stress. It was often outrageous, comical and humbling at the same time.
“Once completed, I was assigned to a rural community outside of the Pittsburgh. The social makeup was composed of almost entirely a black population, historically from the deep south and largely in an economic strata of borderline low income and often overlooked for services from the larger community nearby. I was assigned to a CAP (Community Action Program). As there had been a previous VISTA assignment to the Center, I was easily welcomed and started to engage pretty quickly with the community.
“Before long, I found myself directly involved in a Welfare Rights organization, a youth program targeted for tutoring and drug abuse counseling, an Early Childhood Development pre-school program run directly out of the Community Center, a local men’s basketball team sponsored by the ever generous Salvation Army, a very generous liaison group between a local merchants association and our community which began to hire youth for summer jobs, and probably most important, a sense of pro-active mindset for our community as a whole.
“I am not entirely sure if that lasted over the years, but I certainly believed (and still do) that the impact of VISTA in that specific community served a cause successfully, and that the Office of Economic Opportunity, despite the usual bureaucracy, had the right idea.
“After completing my year of VISTA, I returned to NYC and through a great referral by another VISTA volunteer (Jack Boyle, ‘69 VISTA Group), secured a position as a caseworker for Lincoln Hall, a residential treatment center for court referred adolescents. After a few years, I moved on to NY State Parole and spent several years supervising post incarcerated parolees. Graduate school in forensic psychology led me into a new role as a state psychologist for the Bureau of Forensic Services, serving incarcerated inmates with mental health issues in the confines of maximum security prisons.
“After 30-plus years with state service, I retired with a small clinical practice and tennis instructing in my community of Larchmont, N.Y. My year as a VISTA colunteer was certainly a catalyst in my professional career as well as a transformative period in my life.”
1969: The last Mon Valley group
Bob Mulqueen was a native of Council Bluffs, Iowa, on the far western end of the state. He did undergraduate work at Loras College and at Creighton University, majoring in political science and eventually earning a master’s in public administration at Iowa State. However, during his undergraduate career, he dropped out of school to enroll as a VISTA volunteer in 1969, feeling a pull to domestic service after considering the Peace Corps.
Bob’s specific assignment was the Community Action Agency in Duquesne, and eventually to the Youth Center in Turtle Creek. While in Duquesne, he helped to start a boys and girls club, because there was nothing like that in Duquesne.
His VISTA colleagues in that part of the county were Jack Boyle, Joe Ross, Bea Longo and Vinnie Rappoli.
Vinny Rappoli came to Allegheny County after serving for a year in a rural community in Central Pennsylvania. He was assigned to Duquesne, and worked mainly in the local housing project. Vinny was a native of the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, and his father was a New York City police officer. He described his undergraduate years as somewhat unfocused, until he became involved with SDS and the Worker Student Alliance (WSA).
Vinny eventually heard about an opportunity to attend a nursing program a Kings County College, and graduated with a nursing degree. Vinny is retired and now lives in Tamarack, Fla.
Mark Schneider was a Pittsburgh native who died tragically as a result of a bicycling accident in Washington, D.C. Mark worked and lived on the North Side and married a VISTA colleague. He later was appointed by Mayor Tom Murphy to lead efforts to build the new PNC Park for the Pirates and Heinz Field for the Steelers and Panthers. Mark had a remarkable impact on Pittsburgh as reported by the Post-Gazette.
In his obituary, the Post-Gazette reported that Mark C. Schneider “suddenly and accidentally passed away on July 28, 2012. Mark was fueled by his innate passion for Pittsburgh. He liked to say that when everybody else was leaving Pittsburgh in the late ‘70s, he was the only one naive enough to come back.”
He volunteered as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer and was placed exactly where he was destined to be: Pittsburgh, Pa. Mark would go on to an extensive career as a community organizer, real estate developer and public servant in the city of Pittsburgh. Mark’s success in the private sector, most recently as managing principal of Fourth River Development LLC, a full-service real estate firm, was matched by the quality of his performance in numerous public sector positions. He was appointed by Mayor Tom Murphy as Chairman of the Stadium Authority in 1993, and later, as chairman of the Allegheny County Sports and Exhibition Authority, he oversaw a tripling in capacity of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. Mark’s impact on Pittsburgh’s real estate footprint is no less impressive. As president of The Rubinoff Company, Mark was central to the conversion of a long-ignored island in the Allegheny River to Washington’s Landing, a mixed-use residential, office and recreational complex that immediately earned national recognition.
Ann Mason, a Wisconsin native, was one of the first VISTAs in Allegheny County. She worked at the McKeesport Neighborhood Ministry, married Major Mason, a local community activist, and spent her life after VISTA in human services and volunteerism. She passed away recently and is most remembered for her efforts to heal the racial divide in her community. A “fearless warrior for justice,” Ann Mason devoted her life to bridging divides, leveling playing fields and promoting causes that would make the world a better place.
“Ann demonstrated her humanity on a daily basis,” said Tim Stevens, a longtime civil rights activist and chairman of the Black Political Empowerment Project, who co-founded the Black and White Reunion with Mrs. Mason and others in 1998. “She was a gift to all of us.”
Bridget Berrigan entered VISTA from Ely, Minn. Bridget was the niece of Daniel and Phillip Berrigan, two priests famed for their antiwar protests. Bridget worked in Pittsburgh, and later moved to Oakland California where she worked at Arizmendi, a worker-owned bakery. She was active in Jerry Brown’s political campaigns and was also his running companion. She passed away a few years ago.
VISTAs in the 1970s
Tracy Soska, a native of Ambridge, joined VISTA at a time when the VISTA had shifted its focus from recruiting nationally to recruiting what it termed as “indigenous” volunteers. Tracy had ambitions of becoming an astronaut and envisioned a career path from the Naval Academy to becoming a pilot, and then to being selected to go into space. In undergraduate school, he majored in pre-med and English, but found the science courses were tough, and he took an interest in theater arts. And he started volunteering at the Free Clinic.
Pittsburgh was still looking for indigenous VISTAs, so Tracy signed up and was assigned to East End Cooperative Ministries. His main assignment was “making breakfast.” The EECM had a free breakfast program for 300 kids, and Tracy was the pancake maker. After school, he spent time tutoring and supervised a work group of students doing home repairs. Over the summer, eight to 10 kids participated in the program, learning useful work skills and helping low-income and elderly residents with home repair projects. According to Tracy, “VISTA helped me find my way.” And that way led to graduate school at Pitt and a master’s in social work. Before he graduated, he was hired by the Pittsburgh Neighborhood Alliance and served as its director for a number of years.
He then moved to the Urban League, working with ex-offenders and the federal jobs program; and finally, to the Turtle Creek Valley, where he directed the Human Services Center for 10 years. Ultimately, that led him to seek a teaching position at Pitt for 26 years, and, working with Jim Cunningham and Moe Coleman, he developed and refined the COSA (Community Organization and Social Administration) program, becoming recognized as a national leader in community organization.
Michael Eichler, founder of the Consensus Organizing Model, originally began his career as a conflict organizer. He served as a VISTA on the North Side in 1975–76, working with Tom Murphy. Before joining VISTA, he was a caseworker in the welfare department but found that quite frustrating. Mike helped launch the Perry North Citizens Council and later created a credit union for residents. He also created a real estate office to help market homes in the Perry Hilltop community. The community was the target of “blockbusting” by several real estate agents, which involved provoking racial fears, flooding the market with home sales, and ultimately, decreasing property values.
Mike responded in traditional conflict organizing fashion, and the community of Perry Hilltop was successful in their immediate efforts. However, Mike realized that conflict organizing led to short lived victories and did not have long-term effects; from this realization he developed the Consensus Organizing Model. This new model ties the self-interest of the community with the self-interest of others to achieve a common goal.
Following the success in Perry Hilltop, Mike was contracted by a new project in the Monongahela Valley of Pennsylvania where he applied the Consensus Organizing Model. Through the collaboration of community members and owners in the steel industry, the Mon Valley Initiative was established. The Initiative is a non-profit community and economic development coalition of 12 community development corporations. For the first time in Mon Valley history, stakeholders of all socioeconomic levels were working together to formulate solutions where everyone benefitted. From this experience Mike learned that the Consensus Organizing Model could not only be successfully replicated in a different community but could also facilitate long lasting systemic change.
At the completion of Mike’s work with the Mon Valley, he was contracted by the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC), a national non-profit agency that provides grants, loans and equity investments to Community Development Corporations. LISC was interested in applying the Consensus Organizing Model in local community development corporations in cities across the United States. To achieve this goal, Mike hired, trained and supervised talented individuals to take charge of Consensus Organizing efforts. The Model went on to be successfully applied in six urban areas: Little Rock, Ark.; New Orleans, La.; Palm Beach County, Fla.; Houston, Texas; Baton Rouge, La., and Las Vegas, Nev. Each venture in Consensus Organizing reflected the trials and lessons of the earlier efforts, which enhanced the Model’s applicability in new settings and with new issues.
VISTA supervisors and supporters
Four individuals played important roles in the VISTA program during the 1960s. Tom Murphy, who had served in the Peace Corps and at the time was the director of the Perry Hilltop Citizens Council, later went on to serve in the State Legislature and as mayor from 1994–2006. Marvin Feit, a native of New York City, was a graduate of the University of Columbia School of Social Work. Marvin was known among community leaders in McKeesport as a street-wise, community organizer. He went on to join the staff of the Turtle Creek Model Cities program, and in later years, served as dean of the schools of social work at several universities, retiring from Norfolk State University recently. Dick Ridenour played a crucial role supervising VISTAs on the Northside and working closely with the Welfare Rights movement. Dick left a strong impression on the VISTAs he supervised, both in terms of his commitment to the mission and in terms of his imaginative and courageous social action tactics. Jim Butler launched the acclaimed Housing Opportunities program based in McKeesport and now leads a new effort called Tube City Renaissance. Murphy, Ridenour and Feit kept VISTAs focused on community organizing when some local agencies wanted to use them in administrative or clerical capacities. Mark Sissman was a memorable trainer in Baltimore, who had served two years as a VISTA on an Indian reservation. Mark went on to lead affordable housing and neighborhood revitalization programs in Baltimore throughout his career. He is still active and stays in touch with most of the trainers he met during the 1960s.