Since 2011, longtime Beltzhoover resident Natalie Thomas has been the caretaker of the Unified Positive Effect Community Garden at the corner of Climax Street and Estella Avenue. Thomas, 57, said the space used to be a jungle of overgrown weeds and grass that attracted neighborhood crime. Now people know not to “mess with” her garden, and she said she’s noticed a reduction in crime on the block.

Whether it’s working with neighborhood kids to plant flowers or pulling out pesky weeds, hosting garden tea parties or scurrying door to door at local businesses to gather donations for gardening materials, everyone in Beltzhoover and nearby Allentown seems to know of Natalie and her positive personality.

She’s a person who smiles with her whole face. She loves kids. She sings and writes poems about her garden. Natalie will chase you down the street, waving her arms and yelling “Hiiiii!” at the top of her lungs because she’s so excited to see you.

This is her story.

PublicSource’s Natasha Khan contributed reporting to this story.

Ryan Loew is PublicSource’s visual storyteller/producer. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @RyanLoew.

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Ryan is a PublicSource visual producer/storyteller. He joined PublicSource after being a freelance producer of news features and documentary stories in the Pittsburgh region and beyond. His work appeared...

2 replies on “Video: Amid crime and blight, Natalie Thomas plants peace and community in Beltzhoover.”

  1. She tries so hard and does what she set out to do. The whole community needs to get on board with her as she tries to make Beltzhoover a better community. Go Natalie! And yes, she will chase you down with her smile.

  2. What a wonderful story about Natalie Thomas bringing joy, pride and safety to the neighborhood. This could be done in neighborhoods across the city.

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