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Huntington Bank TNT Features Animal Friends and Tull Family Theater

Interview by Audrey Russo and Jonathan Kersting


TechVibe Radio is back on air at ESPN 970 AM every Saturday at 8:00 a.m. from the Huntington Bank Studio.



This broadcast Features Animal Friends and the Tull Family Theater -- two organizations based in the Sewickley area that are making a positive impact across our region.

Learn how Animal Friends continued to find new homes for its cats, dogs and bunnies while seeing a dramatic uptick in fostering. Plus, the Tull Family Theater is set to reopen shortly and offers a one-of-a-kind viewing and performance experience.

So join us for the Huntington Bank TNT and see how these organizations are making our tech ecosystem all the better!


Audrey, I am so excited for today's show, because we're bringing it back virtually the tech via radio neighborhood tour with Huntington Bank, it's been a while back in the day, we could go to a branch at Huntington set up shop interview people do a great radio show from it. But COVID is not allowing that. But that's not holding us back. We're using zoom as we've been doing forever. It's still making a great time nerding out on some great neighborhoods. And we love hanging out with Huntington bank to have these great conversations. Today we got some great folks hanging out with us. We had animal friends hanging out with us today which is near and dear to both of our hearts. Of course Audrey is we are both dog lovers and pet lovers. And of course we have the Tull Family Theater stopping by as well too with Carolina Thor, so some great organizations that we're excited to talk with today. So let's start it off with Animal Friends. Really excited to have Cody Holleran in here today. He's the director of communications there. So Cody, thanks for taking the time to be part of our show today. Really appreciate it.

Yeah, thank you so much for having me. It's great to be here with you guys.

It's great. So what's what's going on right now? Are there some good stories to tell us tell us about what you do? And what some of your priorities are? Yes. So,

you know, Animal, for instance, has been around serving the Pittsburgh community, actually, since 1943. So as you can imagine, a ton has changed over the course of the last, you know, close to 80 years that we've been helping the pets and people of the community. But you know, one thing that absolutely has not changed that animal friends, and all of that time, is the commitment that the staff and the volunteers and everybody involved with animal friends has to the life saving mission that we have as an organization. You know, everything that we do is is just centered around our Pittsburgh community, and the people that live here, and of course, the pets that they love. So that's that's really what drives us every single day and animal friends, and we're just so proud to do it.

That's a lot of pets that have been rescued and saved and given good homes over two decades.

Oh, yeah, yeah, absolutely. And, you know, in in 2019, we actually found loving homes for close to 2600 animals. So as you can imagine, you know, the, the work that we're doing is so very important. It's so very needed. And like I said, you know, if we weren't here doing what we what we do, I don't know what we wouldn't be doing, you know, everybody just is so passionate about what they do at animal friends. And it's just an honor to be a part of such an amazing life saving organization.

What about 2020? Did we see an influx of adoptions, you know, we haven't seen necessarily an influx of adoptions, but things have definitely changed and a lot of different ways. One of them actually very early on, in 2020, you know, in March, right when, when the pandemic first started, was really an increase in fosters. And the way that we look at fosters as an organization, you know, we've always relied on on the people from the community, you know, our volunteers and people that stepped forward, that are willing to provide a temporary home to an animal that needs it. And that can be for any number of reasons. That could be for medical reasons, if they need some close monitoring, it can be if they're working on a specialized behavior plan, so they can really get that one on one around the clock attention. But something that we really learned during this pandemic, when we when we saw a big push for foster is coming forward wanting to help out is really that just giving an animal the opportunity to get out of the kennel to get out of the shelter environment, even if it's just for a few days or a couple weeks, it is just amazing for them. And it kind of is a really good way for them to hit the reset button. And for them to kind of just relax in a home setting with a consistent routine with a family that loves them. And that's something that even as we've been able to open back up a little bit more and as we look to 2021 that that's really something we're going to continue to work into our daily routines because it's just worked wonders for so many of our animal residents.

Well, I think that as we continue to go into like this hybrid work environment and people think differently about work from home and, you know, remote, there might be more opportunities for people who want to be able to do that. And to give back.

Yep, there really, really is. And that's what we saw, actually, in March, when, you know, the world kind of just came to a grinding halt. And people were adjusting, you know, I think we all got sick of the term the new normal, but it really was, it was it was kind of just this entirely new thing to so many people. And with everybody working remotely, people working from home, the calls just started to come in the calls, the emails, the applications, through our website of people that had this extra time, they had a new opportunity that they were able to jump in and help with something that maybe they weren't able to do before. And like I said, it was it was a silver lining to everything, because it really worked wonders for our residents.

That's great. And I love that you call them residents, how many today, how many animals are in their today?

At any given time, we've got about 250 animals in our care, and that's dogs, cats and rabbits. So as you can imagine, with limited space in the shelter, that was another kind of, you know, hidden gem with with all of these Foster's coming forward is, you know, being able to take one of our animals and put them out into the community temporarily, until they're ready to be adopted, that just opens up one more kennel spot. So that's, that's one more animal we're able to help. So rabbits, Jonathan, we could we could be bringing rabbits home. I don't know about that. But that they need homes to I guess lots of people get rabbits and then can't keep them. And so they give them away and they need good home just like dogs and cats do.

How long do Rabbits live for?

Depending on their breed, you know, they're very similar to dogs and cats in the in the sense that you know, they can, they can have a wide range of their lifespans. But something that a lot of people don't know is that rabbits are the third most adopted companion animal behind dogs and cats. So oftentimes, you know, I think it's very important for us to provide a lot of education about rabbits and proper care. Because, you know, I think they are overlooked in a lot of different ways. People are a little bit less educated about them, maybe then dogs and cats. And I think the tendency in a lot of cases can be that a rabbit is a perfect pet for a little kid, which isn't necessarily the case. You know, while any animal dog cat or rabbit can be a really great family pet, just because they're a rabbit doesn't mean that they're easier to care for that they need less attention, less, less care. So that is a really important piece of the education that we put out is really, you know, all of the resources that we have, and all of the important things that go into caring for a rabbit, just like any other pet.

I'll tell you what I had a hamsters lived to be almost four, he was the best cared for hamster ever. That's a long time right for him. Animal Friends doesn't deal with hamsters,  their priorities really are dogs and cats and rabbits. So what could we be doing by telling the world how could we help Animal Friends?

You know, the bottom line is, you know, and I and I don't want this to just turn into a fundraising pitch because there are so many different things that people can do to get involved. Like, like we talked about Foster's, we talked about volunteering, we talked about opening your home, to an animal that needs adoption. But really what it all boils down to as a nonprofit organization, we rely on the generosity of our community to continue doing the work that we do. We have nearly nearly 100 staff and animal friends and a corps of nearly 3000 volunteers that are going in every single day to do this life saving work and truly would not be possible without the generosity of our community. I think that's important. So end of the year, it's time that you can still give and look to your website.

Our website is thinking outside the

What a great name for a website that is for sure. So I was wondering, could you could you walk us through the process of what it takes to adopt a dog or to adopt a cat?

Yeah, sure. So during COVID, we actually switched over to a kind of hybrid model in terms of how we're doing our adoptions. What we used to do was really encouraged the community to come in to walk through our building to get to know the animals to read their bios on their kennel cards. But obviously, without us being open to the general public on a daily basis, we kind of had to take a fresh look at our adoption process. And it has become a little bit more of a virtual experience. And that's actually worked out really, really well because we have an application that's available through our website that you can go on, you can fill it out. And that really just gives our adoption team a good feel for what type of lifestyle you live and what type of pet you're looking for, for your family so that they can kind of start that matchmaking process and being able to complete that application and fill out any paperwork that you might need to do ahead of the adoption, that really saves a lot of time both for our team and for the adopter, because we can get, you know, if you need a letter from your landlord, saying you can have a pet, if you need to get a copy of your vets records, really anything that needs to get taken care of ahead of time, we can do that over the phone and by email, so then by the time you're ready to come in and meet the animals, that's truly all you have left to do, you've taken care of the hard part. And it's kind of just meeting your match. And really, what we've seen is that by the time people go through that process of talking to an adoption counselor, and taking care of all the paperwork and things like that, they really look forward to just coming in meeting an animal or to finding their match. And then they're on their way, in these zoom meetings with animals.

Oh, yeah, we definitely make sure that all of the animals and the people meet in person before they go home. But it definitely is the you know, zoom meetings, phone meetings, email, conversations, filling out the application online, it's really become much more virtual of a process than it's ever been before. But we're making it work. And we're still finding matches, and we're getting homes for these animals.

It's great to know that through all this craziness of COVID, there's some positive bright spots with more animals being helped and people getting some companions and all the magic that happens with that such great work that you guys are doing, it just just amazes me. And yeah, it really is, it's been an amazing year.

Cody is there also like a little store that you have there? We do we have an on site retail store, actually, we have two retail stores on our campus. One is our main retail store. And then the other one we call our retail resale store. And that is a great way for us to take donations that we get from the community that we can't necessarily use for our shelter residents. You know, that might be a cat tree with carpet on it, it might be some toys that aren't kennel safe, you know, that can be ripped apart easily. A lot of different things that we get from the community, and, you know, we're able to resell those things, you know, for amazing savings. It's kind of like a flea market where you can find a hidden gem and pay a fraction of the cost. But it is something that you know, makes a little bit of money for for our life saving work. And it's a really good resource for the community for people to get the the tools and supplies that they need for our campus is located on camp Horton road in Ohio Township, just about 10 minutes north of the city off of 279. So under normal circumstances, once we open back up, we're looking forward to seeing everybody in 2021. But for the time being the best place to learn about what we have going on. And the different ways that you can get involved is on our website, you can learn all about which programs are operating. We have an online store on there, too.

Very cool stuff, just so glad you guys are doing what you're doing. And I really encourage everybody, this is the time to think about it on the fence. check these guys out. And maybe we can find a cat a bunny, or a dog as your next companion. And I just love us hanging out with Huntington bank to kind of geek out with all the good stuff happening in this area. And this is just obviously one of those. There's tremendous stories. Cody, thank you so much for taking the time to give us all the details on what's happening there with Animal Friends.

It was my pleasure. Thank you so much, guys for having me.

Thank you have a great holiday everyone. Don't forget your pets. And you too can be a foster.

Absolutely. And we're taking a quick break. We're coming back.

Audrey. I told you we're coming back. I love hanging out with Huntington bank. When we're doing our virtual tech vibe neighborhood tour, we're talking to some of the coolest people. And today's guests. I'm just so excited to talk to. I didn't even know this place really existed until kimbra. vendor Huntington told me all about I'm like, how can I possibly missed the Tull Family Theater?

Amazing when you look on the outside, if you drive through so quickly, you can already see that they've pumped up their visibility, which is really awesome. That's what I want to hear. Who do we have in the house now?

We have Carolina Thor, who's the executive director of the Tull Family Theater. Thank you for hanging out with us today.

My pleasure. Thank you. Well, great to see you. So tell us about what you're up to and what you run and why this is so special.

Sure. So the the Tull Family Theater is a film-driven, independent nonprofit theater. And  Our mission is to strengthen cultural, educational entertainment experiences for communities northwest of Pittsburgh. Accessibility, geographic, physical, economic, is the hallmark of our diverse programming. And all welcome here, including YouTube. I hope to see you here soon once we reopen.

Definitely, will definitely be there. So what's in store? We I know that you're getting ready to reopen after the closures from COVID. So you're looking at January 4, you're looking at reopening what's in store what's on what is on the menu, so to speak.

Sure, thank you, Audrey. So first of all, we have never hesitated to comply with any ordinance from the county the state. So our opening on January 4 is contingent upon any changes any any new orders from from the governor, or the county. But the plan is to reopen with all the protocols and the measures that we have put forth to safeguard our audiences a few months ago when we reopened after the the summer closure, so and in order to bring in the best that the cinematic industry has, at the time, is you may have heard, we have been struggling with product. Hollywood is not releasing a lot of the you know, highly anticipated films. But everything indicates that Wonder Woman 1984 will be released on Christmas Day. And the plan is to reopen with that film coupled with a lot of seasonal favorites, right right before we closed for the holidays due to the latest mandate, we were playing perennial favorites, elf Asian, right the films that everybody has enjoyed for years. But they were hoping to come up with a small group or family and enjoy in the big screen. So so we anticipate all the way back to your question that that cinema for the next few months are going to know is going to be more of an outing of an event. Especially considering how the limited occupancy has made it more of has made patrons really need to plan they have to purchase your tickets in advance. They can't just show up because we have such limited occupancy.

So So here you are. First of all, it's too bad that we're not doing this via video because we can actually see the rooms and you know the theater and they look it looks magnificent. We gotta go there. Audrey, we got to check this place out and go see a movie more we're allowed to go see a movie. I'm going to the Tull Family Theater to do it.

Described described but the physical environment because it really is beautiful.

Yes. So it's a brand new state of the art new construction. Right. We launched in February of 2017. And ground up construction. I'm seated in the Huntington bank screening room so it's a screening room sponsored by Huntington Bank. We were grateful for their support. We have two screening rooms, a large screening room that seats 169 people and aid Huntington bank screening room which seats 69 under regular circumstances has been decreased. We have a 4k projectors. We have an auxiliary space that we really it's flexible and we have used for community programming events. Just a variety of options and we have full concessions for So this space is right at the heart of sweetly and accessible via bus route 6579. So we're really in a great location for those who are living on the edges of Allegheny County. We attract a lot of patrons from Butler County, Beaver County, and so forth.

It's great. So, um, what else do you have in store? So you talked a little bit about Hollywood, obviously, Hollywood, definitely slowed down during COVID. And what else do you have in store in terms of showing for 2021? Sure.

So aside from film we are partners with different cultural collaborators, and at times were able to bring in ballet and live theater to our auxiliary space. Aside from that, we have a strong commitment and a strong working relationship with different communities around us, where we are able to bring in the youth to take advantage of our programming at no cost. We even provide transportation. This year, theater has piloted sensory friendly screenings on this side of town. Some of our programming is very, very common in urban core, the urban core, but not as accessible as you get to suburban area closer to rural areas. So we have piloted sensory friendly screenings for those who have different kinds of sensory challenges.

Can you tell us more about that? Because I thought I saw that on your website, I thought that was so interesting that you're able to provide a different, slightly different experience for people. Yes, so we had in 2020, was actually the first year they were going to be able to offer that on a regular basis, once or twice a month in a scheduled manner. But with the support of different donors and funders, we set aside a time where the theater when the theater is completely available, available for people who have different kind of challenges, be mobile, be cognitive, but they want to take advantage of, you know, enjoying cinema, sometimes a family member, and a lot of the patrons who come on those on those days have autism, and, and they enjoy an environment that is comfortable to them. That is we bring down the house lights, so the theater is never completely dark, right? To prevent overstimulation, the doors remain open. So we follow the best practices of sensory friendly screenings around the country. But mostly, it's a time where people feel just comfortable. A lot of families, they shared it, sometimes they feel just embarrassed maybe by going to theaters and concerned about what other people feel like in other words, more concerned about the way that others feel we're concerned about inconveniencing anybody, and this way they really feel you know, this is a screening for for them, that there is no reason to be uncomfortable in any way. If somebody has to move around and walk around the screening room to feel comfortable, and that's absolutely acceptable.

Great stuff. I just love that that's it's such a cool way to go about business and provide everyone the ability to get there and watch a good movie.

Yes, yes. vision was started by Thomas Tull is that is the history of this.

And not exactly Audrey so did the Tull Family Foundation, they sponsored the naming rights for for the organization. But it was actually the the brainchild, if you say, of a group of community leaders that were very familiar with the challenges of residents in the suburbs to take advantage of the cultural vibrancy that that the urban core provides. As you experience life a little harder and having to rely on transportation accessibility. A lot of people don't drive downtown all the time and even parking and just did the things that people who work downtown and live downtown may not even think about it. People who don't do that often. Sometimes hesitate on taking advantage and also there is the the economic aspect of it, you know, closure becomes more accessible proximity. And in the price point of an X have a very accessible form of art, such a cinema. So this group of community leaders had the idea of launching a cultural center, a film driven cultural center that would start really focusing on film, and you know, and this guy would be the limit to partnerships, and, and so forth, and then the total Family Foundation sponsored in any way.

That's awesome. That's really great. And I think it'll be very exciting for 2021 people have really been deprived, they've been deprived son, that kind of environment will be of high demand. And so hopefully January 4 really kicks off 2021 in a way that's very special for you.

Yes. And next year will be a year of a transition for sure. Right, we are experimenting with different programming with different offerings to adapt to, to the new model of cinema.

I'm just so excited for you guys moving forward, because I think so many people are gonna be looking forward to getting out and getting back into theaters and doing it safely and coming to a standard studio facility. Like what you have, I think it's just absolutely amazing what an asset that we have here and reading this quickly, which is near and dear to my heart. I used to work at the swiftly Herald newspaper way back in the day. So it is great. Is there anything else that you think our listeners should know? Sure, well, I just always encourage everyone to to review a website A lot of us are, you know, really feeling more comfortable going places when we know exactly what to expect. And our website outlines specifically, the measures we're taking to safeguard our patrons and options to to visit a theater such as private screenings. So if you'd feel better just coming in with a family member or a friend or your pod. We offer those options right now.

Great stuff, I can totally understand why Huntington bank is one of your sponsors there because this is just the type of thing I know they like getting behind. Just like we're always so pumped to be working with Huntington bank and we bring you our tech five neighborhood tour. We get to hang out with our folks in this weekly area. And that's what the total family theater what an asset Audrey, what great stuff for us to go off in the day. We can hold some we can hold some events just like what we used to do.

I want some theater popcorn, for crying out loud. That's all I can say. That sounds like a plan Carolina, Carolina. Thank you so much for being part of our show today. We really do appreciate it. We wish you continued success in 2021 with the tall family theater, everybody. This has been Jonathan Kersting Russo and we're from the Pittsburgh Technology Council. We love hanging out with Huntington bank to bring you these special geek outs our tech vibe neighborhood tours our tnts as we so often call them to put a cool spotlight on great work like what's going on there in this weekly area. Everybody have a great weekend and go to PGH tech org to learn more about the Pittsburgh Technology Council.

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