I’ve wanted to be a journalist since I was in middle school.

When I discovered I could talk to people and tell their stories for a living, I was enamored. I frequently tell people my preferred interviews are when I get to speak with knowledgeable and passionate people. I feed off that energy – it’s infectious when someone loves their work. These are genuinely my favorite people to surround myself with; I am lucky to work with many people like this and meet others in our community.

When I first met Leanna Spada, executive director of the Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce, I could tell she was this type of person. I pitched her a strange idea: let me follow you around for a day, and I’ll write about it.

Thankfully, she told me, “Trista, that sounds great!”

Spada is this year’s Observer-Reporter Best of the Best Person of the Year. Each year, we profile this awardee in one of our magazines, and I’ve been fortunate enough to write these features for the past two years.

Our annual Best of the Best awards feature some of the finest things our communities have to offer. I love this program because it highlights the unique businesses, organizations and people throughout the region.

I had a delightful time getting a peek into Spada’s world and how she makes the Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce work. It truly is a labor of love, and you can tell!

The other stories we have for you in this feature are also significant labors of love and focus on Brownsville. Efforts by residents near and far have uncovered and honored a grouping of Jewish graves in the community, giving them the recognition they deserve. And the demolition of one building brought forth a hidden advertisement from the early 1900s recently restored, reminding us all that a beverage delicious and refreshing used to cost only a nickel.

I hope you enjoy each of these stories. As always, feel free to reach out with any questions, comments or suggestions. We genuinely enjoy hearing from our magazine readers! Email me at tthurston@observer-reporter.com, or give me a call at 724-222-2200 ext. 2421. It would be glad to hear from you.

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