Get to Know…Crystal Tackett

By: Sara Innamorato

Crystal Tackett served as a ReClaim Northside Ambassador in 2014. She used her time to build a community food garden in partnership with the Salvation Army. She is also trying to give away more veggies in her neighborhood. 

GTECH: Hi Crystal, so you aren’t a native Pittsburgh, where are you from originally?

Crystal Tackett: Saxonburg, Pa.

G: What Northside neighborhood are you currently in?

CT: I just bought my house in Fineview last year. Before that I lived in the Mexican War Streets.

G: So what is your favorite thing about your neighborhood?

CT: The camaraderie. It’s amazing how quickly people are willing to help; lending tools, lending hands, providing information and offering support. The Northside, like any urban community, sometimes gets a bad rap, but from the War Streets to Fineview, my neighbors have always been generous and kind.

G: In what ways were you involved in your community before joining the Ambassadors?

CT: Apart from a few community meetings, not so much. I guess I never felt like my opinion would matter. I got most of news from my neighbor, Ed.

G: That’s very encouraging. A lot of people think that they need to know a lot about community development before they become an Ambassador. What was the most valuable thing that you learned?

CT: I learned that the resources are really right at our fingertips. So often we all see something in our neighborhood and think “I wish this could be different,” or “This would be a great spot for…” , but rarely do we delve into the possibility that it CAN BE. There are so many grants, knowledgeable resources and people ready to help you. You just have to ask! Don’t be afraid to seek the answers. Chances are, they are closer than you think. You can make the change and even the smallest positive change is appreciated.

So often we all see something in our neighborhood and think “I wish this could be different,’ or “This would be a great spot for…” , but rarely do we delve into the possibility that it CAN BE

G:  For your Ambassador project you decided to do a food garden. What is it’s name?

CT:  Northside Community Garden. It was built to be an edible and educational garden for children.

G: What is the main goal of your garden?

CT: Sharing and spreading knowledge. Did you know celery is really incredibly easy to grow? How often do we go to the store for a whole bundle of celery, only to use 2-4 stalks for our soup stock and forget about the rest? Growing your own lets you take what you need while the others still flourish! (And you can totally freeze any stock you make in the summer, so winter bases are ready to go as soon as you see that recipe on Pinterest.)

G: Tell me about your inspiration for the space?

CT: The space was large, open, protected [from the street traffic] and overgrown with weeds. I knew I wanted to grow food, and that was it. With the help of some genius brainstormers we were able to collaborate ideas and form a lovely layout. Never underestimate the power of teamwork! Especially when you’re all working towards the same goal!

“Doing good, brings good.”

G: Who helped you make your garden a reality?

CT: GTECH, first and foremost! My family and friends who showed up when I needed extra hands and an ear to hear out my worries. The new faces that stopped by and offered support, tools and help I needed! And the Salvation Army for allowing me to build my dreams on their property! It was absolutely a group effort. Without everyone who even laid eyes on the lot, it would not have flourished.
G: Were you surprised by the help that you received?

CT: Absolutely! I was blown away by how many people actually wanted to help. It was a great life lesson that you can’t always accomplish your dreams on your own and you must never be afraid to ask for what you need. Be it information, donation (of plants or paint, in my case) or just someone to help carry the heavy stuff. You really do form great bonds this way, too. It’s an uplifting feeling to be able to say, “This is not mine, it is ours.”

G: Being an Ambassador is a lot of work, what is your best piece of advice for future ReClaim Ambassadors and other young people trying to get involved in their community?

CT: Do not get discouraged! It will almost never go as planned, but in the end, you’re still left with something wonderful. Even if it is a few new great friends and a better awareness in your community.

It’s an uplifting feeling to be able to say, “This is not mine, it is ours.”

G: What is your future vision for the space? How about yourself?

CT: I would love to turn the space into an outdoor artists display case. I hope to get some local artists to donate some pieces that we can hang on posts that I have yet to sink into the ground. I hope this will stir up a little more attention and get more people interested in the process of taking the beautification process into their own hands, outside of their home.

As for myself, I hope to take on more projects in the community! With the information I have now, I’d like to gather up some friends and neighbors to reinvent new spaces for play, leisure, food and education. I hope to get much closer to my neighbors and my city and hope to spread the good word of “Doing good, brings good.” I would love to be a solid resource for anyone else looking to do the same as well as a brainstorming partner for other Pittsburgh beautifiers out there!


Help Crystal finish her vision for her garden. Give what you can to her crowdfunding campaign and join us November 5 for a happy hour at Franturary benefiting vacant land community projects.

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