Last month, we were pleased to welcome Ben Graber on board the ELDI team. A current fellow with PULSE, an organization that connects university graduates with Pittsburgh based non-profits, Ben will be with us for the next 10 months, contributing to our land recycling activities and gaining an in-depth look into community planning and development.

Hailing from Plain City, Ohio, Ben graduated from Otterbein University last year with a degree in physics. Throughout school, he was actively involved in a range of groups, from Habitat for Humanity to his school’s A capella choir, Ottertuned

We sat down with Ben to learn more about PULSE and his aspirations in Pittsburgh and beyond.


What motivated you to become a PULSE fellow?

While investigating programs for a year of service post-graduation, I heard about PULSE through a family member. I loved the intentional community aspect that PULSE fosters in addition to the opportunity to live in Pittsburgh and serve in local nonprofits.

How were you placed with ELDI and how long is the placement?

PULSE recruits the talent and Pittsburgh nonprofits apply to work with PULSE to hire a fellow to serve in their organization for 11 months. Over 70 organizations applied to recruit one of our 32 PULSE fellows this year. After interviewing with several organizations spanning a broad range of my interests, I was placed with ELDI.

How does PULSE support you through this process?

In addition to providing housing and work placements, PULSE facilitates weekly seminars, programming and opportunities for personal and professional development throughout the entirety of the program.

Can you talk about your role within ELDI? What will you be doing?

My position within ELDI is serving as a Community Revitalization Fellow. A large part of my role consists of property acquisition. This process includes identifying and researching blighted/abandoned properties that we can stabilize and re-purpose for affordable and mixed-income housing. 

What are you most looking forward to learning and contributing during this placement?

I have already learned so much about the complex issues and components involved in the housing market and community planning/development. I am very excited to learn more about these fields, more about East Liberty and how I can create a positive impact in my community.

Do you hope to stay in Pittsburgh/East Liberty after this fellowship?

I am really beginning to love this city and could easily see myself looking to stay.

What areas or industries do you hope to pursue when your time with PULSE is over?

After my time with PULSE I want to put my Physics degree to work and explore if the field of mechanical engineering is the right fit for me.

What’s your favorite East Liberty spot?

  The favorite spot I have discovered in East Liberty thus far has been the Kelly Strayhorn Theater.



What has been most surprising about Pittsburgh/East Liberty so far?

One of the biggest surprises I have had was learning the history of East Liberty. It is fascinating, all of the factors that have played a role in its fall from a prosperous residential and commercial hub to a declining neighborhood perceived as being dangerous and a lost cause. As an Ohio native who moved to Pittsburgh in 2015, I would have never independently guessed the extent of either of these past realities of East Liberty. It is crucial to understand both the mistakes and successes of the well-intentioned parties and members of this community to appreciate what East Liberty has been through and what we want to be in the future.