Reading, Riding and Caring

Okay, maybe the marathon is over. But you still might want to run over to Market Square this week to catch up on a good read or two when the Carnegie Reading Room returns to open a new chapter on one of last year's most successful programs. In fact, the Reading Room cart will park itself in the Square every Tuesday this year — starting this week — instead of every other week. From May 17 (that's tomorrow, you know) until October 11, the Reading Room is the perfect place to release the inner bookworm in you from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.. It's also great for the lunch crowd that wants to lose itself in a good mystery or history book under one of the Square's trees while sipping sip a cool, refreshing beverage or munching on delectable edibles from one of the many fine eateries that surround the Square.

Now along with picking up a best-selling novel or can't-put-it-down self-help book, everything at the Reading Room is on sale for prices that are a bargain you won't find anywhere else in town at just a buck for hardcovers and paperbacks at only 50 cents. Best of all, every book you buy will help support one of Pittsburgh's greatest assets — the free Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh system. And if you're looking to clear some space on your home bookshelf for your new purchases, you can donate your previously read volumes to the Downtown Library on Smithfield Street so that other can enjoy them. Be sure to remember to bookmark this one for every Tuesday on your calendar.

One thing we can tell you is that people around here are ready to roll up their sleeves when it comes to helping out. If you've been looking for that perfect time and opportunity to give something back to the town you call home, stop by the Square Tuesday (same day as the Reading Room) to visit the Pittsburgh Cares staff. Starting today, they'll help you get involved in HandsOn Pittsburgh, a special two-day event this May 20 and 21 to pitch in with your time and talents with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and other area non-profits that are making the region even more livable for everyone. You can get involved individually or with a team of co-workers or friends and family. Either way, you'll being doing a good deed. On top of all that, you'll get a free T-shirt for participating and a special discounts at local restaurants. With those kind of incentives, this is one opportunity you'll want to get your hands on.

Get ready for a doubleheader this Wednesday, with two events sharing the Square. The Higher Education Information Fair  might not have carnival rides, but if you're looking to increase your worth on the job market this might be the ticket for you. Hosted by CEA/PA, the Continuing Education Association of PA, the fair gives you the chance to speak one-on-one with admissions representatives from nearly 20 institutions of higher  learning and discover how earning a degree or advanced degree can make you more attractive to potential employers.

Across the Square the United Way of Allegheny County and The Pittsburgh Foundation ask the question, "Why Cut What Works?"  Starting at 11:30 a.m. Bob Nelkin, President and CEO of United Way and Grant Oliphant, President and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation, along with other nonprofit and community leaders address spending cuts for nonprofits, especially those serving the human services sector. But these folks are thinking big picture, too, and to talk about "the social compact" – the idea that together we work to safeguard the well-being of communities for ALL citizens. It's a complicated topic so get out there, listen to all sides of the debate and become part of the conversation. After all, that's what a town square like Market Square is for!

Anyone who's paying attention knows that the price of a gallon of gas is soaring and burning a big hole in your pocket. One of the cheapest — and healthiest — alternatives to the budget-busting cost of fuel is to pedal your way to work Downtown. And since this is National Bike to Work Week, there's no better time to get rolling. Just in case you're wondering, both Bicycling magazine and the League of American Bicyclists named our favorite city one of the most bike friendly towns in the U.S.A.

If you're looking to plan your ride route, you can get a downloadable trail map from the good folks at Bike Pittsburgh, who also offer a few tips about commuting to and from your job and biking around town in general.  You might be surprised to find out that along with an extensive network of well-maintained trails up and down the three rivers, there are more than 25 miles of designated bike lanes on city streets. What's that you say? You don't have a bike. Well, just about wherever you look these days in the city, another new cycle shop seems to be opening for business. So there's no shortage of options for getting yourself a new set of wheels. If you're not sure about spending a few hundred dollars for a new two-wheeler, Golden Triangle Bike Rentals is the place to go for a test ride or two. Finally, you'll not only save gas money, bike parking in many Downtown garages costs less than a can of soda from the lunchroom vending machine — and you might just be eligible for a commuter tax break from Uncle Sam. That's what we call a wheel deal.

If you've been keeping current on your Market Square blog reading, you know that the Square once was better known as "The Diamond." Well, this coming Saturday — May 21, to be exact — one lucky person will take home a real diamond during the 2nd Annual Henne Jeweler's Diamond Dash.  About 500 participants in teams of two will compete to win a diamond engagement ring valued at $15,000.  Dazzle your partner with your brilliant knowledge of the city and overall smarts. It's free to join in the fun. And even if you don't take home a really nice piece of "ice," you'll dig exploring the city in your quest to grab the diamond ring.   So, sign up today, come early and caffinate up at a Market Square coffee shop so you are at your sparkling best and let the games begin!

And before we sign off, don't forget the Farmers Market this Thursday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Last week's opening day was a big success with most vendors selling out their bounty of organically grown veggies and homemade foods and other goods. Don't forget your cooler so you can take home some of the frozen meats and eggs that are new this year. 

So unless you're afraid of melting in the rain, we'll see you in the Square for an amazing week of events!

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