For the past several years, the PA SHPO has used their Community Initiative Award to recognize the hard work and dedication of organizations, municipalities, individuals, and others whose work embodies the spirit of #PreservAtionHappensHere.

The three recipients of the 2020 awards have demonstrated the power of digital engagement and the importance of 21st-century tools and technology to advocate, promote and preserve Pennsylvania’s older and historic places, which has been especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Erin Phillips, Old Erie on Foot Instagram and Blog

In July 2018, Erie resident Erin Phillips started her Old Erie on Foot project on Instagtram with a hashtag and a call to action for fellow history and Erie enthusiasts to discover and explore the area’s amazing older and historic places. She believes that “every old building has a story that needs to be told.”

Erin Phillips, 2021.

Over 440+ posts and 3,200+ followers later, Old Erie on Foot is a positive social media presence that highlights some of the beautiful (and not so beautiful) old places, homes, and buildings in Erie, PA.

The inaugural Old Erie on Foot Instagram post in July 2018.

Erin uses her platforms to promote historic preservation, local history, community engagement, and Erie county’s unique communities through engaging photographs and personal insight. 

Society to Preserve the Millvale Murals of Maxo Vanka

The Society to Preserve the Millvale Murals of Maxo Vanka (SPMMMV) was founded in 1991 to raise awareness and educate the public about the twenty-five mid-20th century murals painted by Croatian artist Maxo Vanka in the St. Nicholas Church, the country’s first Croatian Catholic parish, in Millvale, Allegheny County.

St. Nicholas’ Church sanctuary with its rich and colorful Vanka murals.

SPMMMV’s “behind-the-scenes” social media posts about the ongoing mural conservation gave followers a sneak peek beneath the layers of dirt accruing over 80 years and has helped build excitement and support for the next phase of work.

The “Table Talk” events introduced St. Nicholas and its amazing murals to many for the first time, giving SPMMMV an opportunity to share news about the Vanka Collection, new discoveries about the history of St. Nicholas found through our work on the Historic Structure Report, and support the call for social justice in the country and their community.

Social media advertisement for the SPMMMV’s “Table Talk” series.

Thirty years later, SPMMMV has proved that social media and virtual events can be powerful tools for building awareness and support — in the 21st century and particularly during a global pandemic – in an engaging and cost effective way.

Mainstreet Waynesboro, Inc.

Mainstreet Waynesboro, Inc. hosted a successful virtual “Historic Designation Celebration” in May 2020. The group had originally prepared for an in-person event to celebrate the recent listing of the Waynesboro Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places.

Announcement for the Facebook Live celebration event.

When COVID-19 precautions meant they couldn’t host a large crowd, they quickly changed to a Facebook Live event showcasing the Waynesboro community and its many older and historic places.

Waynesboro Historic District in Franklin County, PA. Photo by Ben Harvey, ASC Group, 2019.

While a large crowd may have joined Mainstreet Waynesboro in Franklin County to celebrate the National Register listing and learn more about preservation in person, over 1,700 people have watched the Facebook Live event recording, spreading a positive message about Waynesboro’s historic community and historic preservation far and wide.

Looking forward to 2021 Awardees…

Organizations, municipalities, agencies, and individuals interested in being considered for a Community Initiative Award are encouraged to use the #PreservAtionHappensHere hashtag in all of their social media posts and/or submit their success story to Shelby Splain, PA SHPO’s Education & Outreach Coordinator, at or via the story link.

There is no formal application or deadline for the Community Initiative Awards. The PA SHPO selects candidates for consideration in the following ways:

  • monitoring social media coverage and traditional press reporting
  • reporting on active projects that utilize federal or state programs
  • tracking use of the #PreservationHappensHere hashtag and
  • reviewing success stories submitted to the PA SHPO via email or the #PreservationHappensHere story link.

To see the list of past award winners, visit the Community Initiative Awards webpage.

Congratulations to this year’s winners!