Game on! Residents hope the return of Millvale-Opoly is money in the bank for local firefighters

September 18, 2018
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A Millvale-Opoloy playing board

For Millvale residents Melissa Mason and Amanda Jazbinsek, playing a board game is serious business.

The friends, who are both daughters of firefighters, have resurrected Millvale-Opoly, an old fundraising idea, to help generate money for the borough’s volunteer fire department.

“It’s just something that holds a place in my heart,” said Mason, whose dad battled blazes in Penn Hills for 40 years.

Millvale-Opoly made its first appearance a quarter century ago. The borough wanted to institute a festival to celebrate its 125th anniversary. Organizers solicited local businesses, selling spaces on a game board, which was mass produced and sold to local residents.

The popularity of the game gave birth to Millvale Days.

The annual, three-day event, which will be held Sept. 13, 14 and 15, draws thousands to the tiny, riverfront town. Mason, 40, and Jazbinsek, 33, will be there selling an updated version of Millvale-opoly for $25. Folks can save $5 on their purchase during a pre-order party from 6:30 to 11 p.m. Monday at Cousins Lounge on Grant Avenue. There will be a 50/50 raffle, chances to win a free game, guest bartenders and other surprises.

“Millvale loves Millvale,” says Jazbinsek, whose dad and uncles served Bauerstown Volunteer Fire Department. “The businesses want to be involved in everything. It goes for the citizens, too. People cherish their old copies of Millvale-Opoly.”

One of those copies is on display at the borough building, which is where Mason and Jazbinsek saw it. They studied the squares, tallying which companies were still around. Of the 40 original participants, 11 are going strong. Newcomers such as Grist House Craft Brewery, Steel City Salt Co. and Millvale Yoga Collective have joined forces with local stalwarts Happy Day Lounge, Lincoln Pharmacy and Vecenie Distributing Co.

Now that Millvale is in the midst of its yearlong 150th anniversary celebration, it seemed like a good time to bring back the game. With help from Mayor Brian Spoales and supporter Perry Rees (who lives in the South Hills but works in the borough), the women were able to fill the new board with sponsors and print more than 300 copies. Through the grassroots effort, Mason and Jazbinsek say they developed an even greater appreciation for the borough ... and the people who help protect it.

They hope to raise at least $5,000 for the Millvale Volunteer Fire Department. Firefighters answer more than 400 emergency calls each year, including those coming from neighboring communities such as Shaler, Reserve, Etna, Sharpsburg, Aspinwall and Blawnox.

Station 191 is in desperate need of new equipment, including air tanks that carry a price tag of $110,000 and a 100-foot ladder truck to replace the current vehicle, which was built in 1962, refurbished in 1987 and is showing signs of its age. A new one will cost in excess of $900,000 because it has to be custom-built to fit down Millvale’s narrow streets.

Deputy Chief Jim Tunstall Sr. said the department applies for grants, sends out mailers and holds its own fundraisers, but it still requires financial support from outside sources.

He’s banking on Millvale-Opoly being a success.

“This is a real good game for us,” he says. “It’s nice to see independent organizations wanting to do something. They realize the need we have right now.”

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