A grassroots giving circle for SW Pennsylvania

Giving2Grow began as a conversation between friends

Founder Jennifer McDowell heard about Giving Circles from some out-of-state friends, and was surprised when she couldn’t find any back home in Pittsburgh.  She poked around and talked to several people who had started giving circles elsewhere. A visit to the founders of Anne Arundel Women Giving Together (www.givingtogether.org) in Annapolis, MD sealed her resolve to start one here.

Lisa Turbeville Markowski,  Lea Anderson and Joyce Salls joined in soon afterwards. After a long series of discussions with local community foundations, they decided they could move faster and be more effective on their own.

After two years of planning, and the formation of a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation, Giving2Grow was launched with an open organizational meeting on a frigid night in December, 2013.  Twenty-eight women attended—about twice the expected turnout!  Word spread, and the mailing list quickly doubled, then quadrupled.

By the end of 2014, less than a year after signing their first member, Giving2Grow had grown to 61 Founding Members!!! Since members renew annually, the number fluctuates, but has increased every year.


Founding Giving2Grow Board of Directors

From Left: Jennifer H McDowell, Joyce Salls, Lea E Anderson, Lisa Turbeville Markowski


Current Giving2Grow Board of Directors


Jennifer McDowell

Jennifer has lived in Pittsburgh since she graduated from Allegheny College in 1974.  She received a master’s degree in Special Education at Duquesne as a ‘mature’ student. She raised three children in Mt. Lebanon and never once worried that they would to go to bed hungry.

Over the years, she has been involved locally with La Leche League, Pre-school Vision Screening,  School in the Park,  AFS, The Book Cellar at Mt. Lebanon Library,  The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, The Wish Book(Pittsburgh Foundation), and others she can’t recall at the moment.

She serves on the Board of Directors of Earthworks  ( Earthworksaction.org ) and on the Board of Water Engineers for the Americas ( WEFTA.net )

Current non-profit  favorites include:  Water Engineers for the Americas, Earthworks,  Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy,  Women Donors Network, Pittsburgh Action Against Rape,  Corporate Accountability International,  Mercy Corps, Global Fund for Women, Achieva, The National Diaper Bank and, of course:  Giving2Grow!

Jennifer enjoys keeping in touch with her three children, Julia, Sam and Peter, weekly cycling with friends, a small organic vegetable garden, her mutt Lucca, and meddling in social justice, environmental issues, and socially responsible investing.



Joyce Salls

Joyce received her bachelor’s degree in Spanish and earned her master’s degree and doctorate in occupational therapy.She is currently Director of the Occupational Therapy programs at Chatham University with a specialty in pediatrics.  Joyce has worked as an occupational therapist in a variety of settings including outpatient, early intervention and schools.

Her passion lies in traveling to third world countries to provide therapy services to underserved populations. She has led groups of students to Haiti to work at the Hopital Albert Schweitzer and to Ecuador with CRECER, a non-profit organization that provides services in a free clinic, orphanage, homeless shelter and nursing home.  Joyce has also conducted free workshops in Bolivia and Ecuador. Joyce lives In Mt. Lebanon where she enjoys running, ballet, reading, and spending time with her son, Adam, and daughter-in-law, Kristin.



Mary Beth Mannarino

Mary Beth is a licensed psychologist and professor emerita in the Graduate Psychology Programs at Chatham University where she is involved in training counselors and psychologists. Prior to joining Chatham, she had an independent psychology practice in the south hills of Pittsburgh, working with children, adolescents, and families for over 20 years. Much of her teaching and community work is related to promoting sustainable health and well-being, particularly among under-served people. She sees Giving2Grow as a wonderful opportunity to contribute to the current and future health of the children of Western Pennsylvania.

Mary Beth loves to spend time with family, travel, read, do yoga, and ride her bike. She has two adult children and one grandson. Her partner, Larry Kale, is a chemist who has worked throughout the US and Canada and who is happy to now be settled in Mt. Lebanon.



mary t

Mary Tambellini

Mary grew up in Aliquippa and moved to Mt. Lebanon with her husband, Ron, 38 years ago.  She is a graduate of Robert Morris University and Duquesne University.  Mary has been involved in many organizations over the years.   When her three children, Cara, Lea and Jess were young she was active in Juniors Women’s Club, PTA and CCD.   Currently she is involved with the Volunteer Service Board at Magee Womens Hospital and the St. Vincent De Paul Conference at St. Winifred.   She is also the Majority Inspector for Ward 1 District 1 in Mt. Lebanon.  Recently, Mary was the illustrator for a children’s book that her oldest daughter, Cara authored. Mary loves the concept of a giving circle and is happy to tell anyone she meets about Giving2Grow.

Running, yoga, paper crafting and cooking are favorites of Mary. But she most enjoys spending time with her friends and family, especially her little grand daughter, Vera.



Karen Ashby

Karen grew up in a rural area of Western Pennsylvania and moved to Pittsburgh in 1991.  She studied applied mathematics and earned her Bachelors degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and her Masters degree from Clemson University in Clemson, SC.  She works as a project manager for a health and wellness company and recently earned her Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.

She enjoys cooking, traveling, running, yoga, cycling, attending live music shows, spending time with friends, and reading.  Other volunteer activities include math tutoring, program distribution for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and helping at a local senior citizen center.





Bridgit Wolf

Bridgit is a Pittsburgh native and bigtime advocate – one who started in the North, moved to the South and got her degree in the middle (at Pitt), resulting in a full appreciation of the rich benefits of the whole of Pittsburgh and surrounding counties – the disparate communities, the arts, the trails, and the parks.

Bridgit counts her years with La Leche League as the beginning of her community involvement. She was an active member of the choir for many years at Bower Hill Community Church, where she learned the real meaning of community watching her patient church friends try to herd her small children, who tended to crawl under the pews while their mother was in the choir loft.  In the early 2000s, Bridgit joined many other concerned parents, educators, ministers and child advocates to form the Mt. Lebanon Children and Youth Consortium.

The Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council benefited from a fun project Bridgit started when she worked at Huntington Insurance – the Election Day Brownie Bake-Off and Bake Sale, every May and November.  And then there was the Used Purse Sale that benefited the company’s charity work.  Bridgit taught her coworkers that giving can be fun. Bridgit is also on the Board for a private family foundation, and she recently signed on to be the Judge of Elections at Jefferson School.



Kathy Noorbakhsh

Kathy grew up in the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh.  She and her husband Hossein moved to Mt Lebanon 38 years ago.  She received her nursing diploma from Mercy Hospital School of Nursing  and her BSN degree from Chatham University.  She started her career as a neonatal intensive care nurse.

She is currently employed by UPMC the Director of Revenue Initiatives and Compliance.   Kathy has volunteered with many organizations over the years such as Mt Lebanon PTA, American Cancer Society Relay for Life and Girls on the Run.  Her hobbies include running, hiking, traveling but most of  all spending time with her husband, three children and five grandchildren.




 Betsy Hohlfelder

Betsy received her bachelor’s degree in accounting from Penn State and currently works part-time at the United Methodist Foundation of Western PA.  Her passion lies in her volunteer work, having served on the boards of Big Brothers and Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh, Hekima Place and SHIM.  She has served as a tutor for over 5 years at SHIM’s Afterschool program, assisting refugee children with their homework.  She also volunteers with Literacy Pittsburgh as an ESL tutor for 2 Vietnamese students.  Through her church, Betsy has been part of a ministry to build solar-powered water purification systems in Haiti and has loved the chance to meet and learn from Haitian partners during her 5 trips.

In her free time, you will find either a tennis racquet or a book in Betsy’s hand 🙂




Connie Geiger

Connie recently retired from Bidwell Training Center where she was the Director of Medical Training Programs. Prior to that, she worked in public accounting, manufacturing, and as a public high school teacher. Connie received her B.S. degrees in Education from Temple University and Accounting from Duquesne University. She grew up in Greensburg PA and moved to Mt. Lebanon with her husband Bill nearly 40 years ago. Since retirement, she has volunteered at Global Links, Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Center, Career Links, and The Center for Women. She works at the voting polls on election days, takes classes at OSHER/CMU, and occasionally works as an extra on movies and TV shows filming in Pittsburgh. Connie loves to travel, read, cook, and do fun activities with her friends. Her favorite pastime is spending time with her family–husband, two children, their spouses, three grandchildren, siblings and their families.

Former Board Members

Lea E Anderson

Lisa Turbeville Markowski

Lucine Folgueras


Our Membership

Giving2Grow is a non-partisan group that welcomes women from diverse communities and backgrounds who wish to join us in addressing the issues of hunger and nutrition in the children of SW Pennsylvania.  While we encourage personal involvement, the only requirement for membership is an annual contribution of $500.