Sara Shahade hasn’t lived in Johnstown for more than 50 years, but the town, and its people, still hold a piece of her heart. “I just want to help, I guess,” says Sara. “I’m still a Johnstowner at heart. It’s a nice area, and I remember downtown was booming with old stores. It was a nice downtown, doing well.”
Sara believes Johnstown can be a booming economic center once more, but it’ll take an educated workforce and people who want to stay in this area to make it happen. “Young people getting ahead are going to try for education and a lot of them can’t afford it… Everybody needs help.”
Sara is helping. She created an annual $1,000 scholarship through the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies for a student attending the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. She invested the money in Johnstown, instead of sending it someplace else, with the hope that this region will keep its educated young people. “I hope they’ll be able to stay in Johnstown, and put up a fight to revive Johnstown. Get more people interested in doing that… And if I’m in a position to help in the name of my brothers, I want to help.”
The youngest of five children, Sara named the scholarship for her two brothers – Robert and Theodore Shahade.
Robert passed away in the mid-1980s, and Ted passed just a few years ago. Both men were products of the public school system, lived through World War II, and got their education at the University of Pittsburgh. Robert went on to be an attorney. Ted had a career in counseling. Their parents were immigrants, who owned businesses in Johnstown and gave their children the seed money they needed to begin their own professional lives and families.
Sara turned her seed money into a successful real estate business spanning Washington, DC, and Florida – in addition to a 30-year career at the Pentagon. She turns 90 this spring, with no sign of slowing down, and feels lucky. She says she just wants to give something back to the city that gave her her start. “It’s helping the economy. Putting money back into it is going to help. It’s not a fortune, but it’s going to help.”
Robert’s son Robert calls the scholarships noble and generous: “As life goes on, a lot of us forget our loved ones. She was a dedicated sister. Her fund can have a tremendous impact.”
The scholarship is available to UPJ students who graduated from Westmont-Hilltop High School, Greater Johnstown High School, or were members of St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church in Johnstown. Go here to support her scholarship fund, or click here to apply.
To set up your own scholarship fund, contact Katrina Perkosky: firstname.lastname@example.org.