Sloane Davidson is the founder and CEO of Hello Neighbor, which works to improve the lives of recently resettled refugee and immigrant families through mentorship. It all started in 2016 when Sloane invited a Syrian family to Thanksgiving dinner, and now the nonprofit has matched 95 families from 13 countries with caring Pittsburghers. A Squirrel Hill native, Sloane lives with her family in Highland Park.
What upcoming events are you excited to attend?
Riverlife’s Party at the Pier on August 23rd. Even though I’m a native Pittsburgher, I didn’t have a big connection to our rivers growing up. Since moving back to Pittsburgh three years ago, my husband and I took up kayaking and I’m really excited about all the work Riverlife does to support our rivers.
I’m always up for a local adventure and we are members at Phipps, The Frick, CMOA (including the Warhol), the Zoo and the Aviary. I’m much more about experiences over things, so as a family we get out and enjoy Pittsburgh as much as we can.
What’s the best part of your job?
Being in the home of one of our new neighbors — a refugee family — here in Pittsburgh. Usually I’m sitting on the floor, playing with their kids and drinking Turkish coffee and talking about their new life in Pittsburgh and what goals they are excited about. It’s incredible to see families who have been through so much still be so optimistic about the future. Their resiliency is truly remarkable.
What’s your big idea for Pittsburgh?
My big idea for Pittsburgh is that we are who we say we are. If we’re a welcoming city we need to take the steps to be truly welcoming. And we need more third spaces and community places to bring people together. I have a big idea for Hello Neighbor to build a clubhouse with refugees and immigrants in mind but is for everyone.
I’d love to see more Pittsburghers embrace moving away from being a car culture, and focus on air quality and regulating business, especially as it pertains to the environment. I’d love to see our parks and green spaces have better wayfinding so anyone, from anywhere, can know how to navigate their way through a walk in Frick Park. We have so many parks all around us, how can they be more welcoming places for everyone?
Favorite Pittsburgh brewery?
We have so many favorites! Breweries are perfect with babies and dogs, so it’s a good weekend spot for us. East End Brewing, Brew Gentlemen and Arsenal Cider are three top ones, but I also love Threadbare Cider and Grist House.
What’s one thing you would love to change about Pittsburgh?
Getting more Pittsburghers to cross bridges and go through tunnels to explore new neighborhoods. I take my family on what we call neighborhood walks where I research a bit about a new neighborhood, a coffee shop, local market, playground, library, a few historical landmarks and then we’ll walk around and explore for a few hours on a Saturday. It’s been an awesome way to see so many places in Pittsburgh. For the cost of less than a tank of gas, I feel like we can really explore and be tourists in our own city. You can learn a lot about Pittsburgh by walking around!
Your not-so-secret Pittsburgh spot?
A labyrinth! I like the one on Chatham’s campus and at East Liberty Presbyterian Church. I have a hard time with meditation sitting still, but I can do a walking meditation and it feels wonderful. I also love coffee shops, cold-pressed juice and ice cream shops.
What’s been bugging you lately?
So much of the news is dire. At the same time, news is incredibly important and we should all be well-informed on the major issues affecting our communities and our country.
If I had to pick three, I would absolutely say the human rights atrocities happening with child separation at the border; second would be the need for sensible gun legislation and reform, and third is the need for increased environmental protection and regulation around pollution.
Ideal date night in Pittsburgh?
We have two small kids, so when we go out I like to do a progressive dinner and hit up a few spots. We might start the night at Garbarino’s or Lorelei, move on to Scratch in Troy Hill, down to the new TRYP Hotel and end at DiAnoia’s Eatery. I like to loosely plan going to at least four places, all in one night, once a month.
What is the one thing that would surprise Pittsburghers most about you?
I’ve been to all 50 states (and 45 countries)! I love how people are usually so proud of where they’re from (I know I am that way about Pittsburgh).
It’s time to unwind. Where do you head?
The easiest is a walk around Highland Park. The trails aren’t all well marked but I like to wander around and explore. I love Frick and Schenley Parks too, and also will head to Fox Chapel or further to Donegal or any of the awesome state parks. The best way for me to unwind is to be in nature, in the woods, with my husband and two sons and have all of us go for a hike together and eat a picnic lunch next to a stream.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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