Amizade 25: Saturday Night Highlights

by Melissa Nix

Over 200 people gathered together and beautifully modeled our mission, inspiring empathy, linking with each other, and catalyzing new ideas and action. It was simply spectacular. 

On Saturday night—September 21st, 2019—Amizade gathered with friends and family from all over the world at Teutonia Männerchor to celebrate 25 years of friendship, service, and learning. It was truly a night to remember—filled with insightful speeches, a German-style buffet feast and a traditional Pittsburgh cookie table, plus music, dance and magic performed by talented artists.

Keith Weiss kicked off the night with some heartfelt and witty remarks on behalf of the celebration’s generous underwriter, Magellan Corporation, whose dedication to supporting global service-learning over the years is truly inspiring. Mayor Bill Peduto joined the party and gave a touching tribute to Reverend Glenn Grayson, the first of five new inductees into Amizade’s Hall of Fame. Reverend Grayson was joined by former Executive Directors Eric Hartman and Mike Sandy, as well as Northern Ireland’s GSL Champion Arlene Kee, and Betty Lou Weiss, the Amizade matriarch and mother of founder Dan Weiss, who has tirelessly supported Amizade from the very beginning. Honoring these amazing individuals provided an opportunity to look back on Amizade’s rich history and proudly recognize the contributions that made Amizade what it is today. Keynote speaker Matt Deitsch, co-founder of March for Our Lives, wrapped up the speeches by emphasizing how more connection and more empathy can help us tackle some of the most serious issues and divisions facing the world today. 

There were a few wonderful surprises along the way as well: Matthias Brown, Amizade Hall of Famer and site director in Jamaica, celebrated Amizade by presenting us with a citation from the Petersfield Galloway Benevolent Society. Denise Aleong-Thomas, Amizade site liaison in Trinidad & Tobago and owner/manager of Samise Villa, presented an award congratulating Amizade on 25 years. We were not expecting such kind, thoughtful gestures—what a great honor to receive these awards! 

“Over 200 people gathered together and beautifully modeled our mission, inspiring empathy, linking with each other, and catalyzing new ideas and action. It was simply spectacular.” said Executive Director Brandon Blache-Cohen.

Throughout the evening the crowd enjoyed many different forms of entertainment: Conrad Ostertag greeted guests with his accordion, Kyle Purnell dazzled diners with his magic tricks, Mathew Tembo and his band got the dancing started with their Afro-Pop rhythms, and the Capoeira Association of Pittsburgh wowed with a live performance at the end of the night. Michelle Zhu, Chair of Amizade’s Board of Directors, guided guests through the night as our emcee.

We were lucky to be joined by friends, family, and longtime supporters from Pittsburgh, across the US, and around the world—from at least 14 countries! That number includes our site directors and community partners, who joined us from 9 countries and 13 different program sites. We cherished the time together and loved being able to welcome these dear friends and colleagues to the city of Pittsburgh. 

Saturday night was fantastic, but for Amizade staff and site directors, the good times didn’t end there. Check back soon for another post about our weekend of bonding and exploring Pittsburgh! 

Amizade site directors and staff exploring the ‘Burgh

If you were able to join us for this whimsical and important milestone evening, thank you! We continue to be humbled by the amazing people we get to call part of our network. If you couldn’t make it to this one, it’s not too late to show your support—you can still help us celebrate Amizade’s 25th Anniversary by making a donation today

Time to start looking forward to the 30th anniversary—we’ll see you there!

Take a look at the photo gallery here or on our Facebook page to see more moments from the night. Want to share your photos with us? Email them to or tag us: @amizadeGSL!