By Diane Averill
The Pirate Parrot, Pittsburgh’s beloved MLB team mascot, came to Highland Park on March 14, straight to Karen Toole’s front door. She was, to put it mildly, surprised to see him.
“I thought they were just coming to ask questions about my business,” Karen said.
“They” are representatives of “Going to Bat for Small Business,” now in its fourth year, a joint project of the Pirate organization and PNC Bank. They came not to ask questions but to tell Karen that her floral design business, AndFlowers, was one of six small businesses in the Pittsburgh region selected to receive a 2023 grant of $5,000 plus a marketing package, including TV and radio commercials during Pirate games in April, valued at $100,000.
The timing of the award is a deliberate effort to boost Karen’s ongoing Earth Day project, “Unwind the Vines!”, which she credits for capturing the attention of the review committee charged with recognizing six small businesses that have helped to make a positive impact on their communities.
With “Unwind the Vines!” (featured in February on this blog), Karen has organized community volunteers and master gardeners into several teams who will pull down and cut away invasive vines that strangle and smother public trees. With the haul of vines, she and others will direct free workshops in forming decorative vine spheres, many of which will be used in a public art installation. Karen hopes that this will become an expanding annual effort to rescue and preserve the trees in our parks and public spaces.
There are still openings for the workshops and an additional workshop, aimed at the adults who might like to sip some wine while winding their vines, April 18 at the Blue Sky Kitchen & Bar on N. Whitfield Street in East Liberty. For details or to volunteer, visit the AndFlowers website.
Meanwhile, back in Karen’s home-based floral design studio, as a videographer recorded the proceedings, the Pirate Parrot tried his hand at making a vine sphere. With Karen’s help, he put one on the board.