Giving Guide 2023: Rivers of Steel

When your mission is to support the economic revitalization of an eight-country region, collaboration with community partners is essential — and at Rivers of Steel, it is part of the organization’s DNA. 

Formed at a time when Southwestern Pennsylvania was suffering from the worst economic and social effects of the collapse of the steel industry, the Homestead-based nonprofit set out to improve the economic opportunities of former mill and coal towns, while also securing the unique cultural heritage of those communities. The organization’s founders blended their economic and preservation objectives, in the process becoming pioneers of industrial tourism.

While Rivers of Steel offers many opportunities to the public, including tours, workshops, and festivals, an equal amount of their work happens through collaborations with community partners.

In 2023 alone, the organization worked with more than 70 nonprofits, small business, local governments, cultural centers, and individuals on projects designed to uplift and engage neighbors throughout the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area.

Community grant making is one way they do this; this year, seven grantees had projects supported through their Mini Grant program.

Rivers of Steel’s historic attractions also provide unique spaces for other nonprofits to host their events. Quantum Theatre’s production of Hamlet was held at the Carrie Blast Furnaces in August, and the Pittsburgh Irish Festival’s annual weekend event returned to Carrie for the second year in a row. The historic Pump House was the venue for JADED’s community festival, as well as for Tree Pittsburgh, who utilized it for one of their tree adoption events this spring.

A special highlight of 2023 was the Gledaj! The Gaze of Maxo Vanka exhibition at the Bost Building, offered in partnership with The Society for the Preservation of the Millvale Murals of Maxo Vanka. The show expanded the understanding of this unique artist by offering a window to his process and providing context for themes seen across his creative life.

On the community level, Rivers of Steel collaborated with small businesses and local organizations to produce six Homestead Live Fridays events this year. And in Monongahela, a yearlong effort working with the Mon Valley Alliance and Monongahela Chamber of Commerce resulted in the debut of a new pocket park, complete with public artworks, shade screens, and a colorful pavement mural!

Rivers of Steel’s collaborative work sets the stage for their newest initiative, Partners for Creative Economy. Announced in October, Partners for Creative Economy will unfold over the next three years, expanding the scope of this work into more communities and with deeper impact. 

It offers a dynamic new vision for the region, one that builds on the foundation created through partnerships and collaborations like those mentioned.

When you support Rivers of Steel, you are not just supporting one organization; you are supporting communities throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania. From allocating resources and investing in individuals to fostering creative expression and supporting workforce development, Rivers of Steel is forging community connections.

Together, we are making a difference. Support these efforts with a donation at

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Story and Photography by Rivers of Steel

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