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North Hills Monthly

Eden Hall Foundation Provides Women with Tools to Make Transformative Change

Apr 30, 2018 04:59PM ● By Clare Heekin Lynch

Sylvia Fields

Every single day for the past 22 years, Sylvia Fields has been committed to building a better Pittsburgh community by focusing on opportunities for women, girls, and underserved youth to become future leaders around the world.

As the executive director of Eden Hall Foundation, Fields and her team work with other foundations to accomplish mutual goals. “We are not a charity; rather we are truly philanthropy. The difference is that we give people the tools to help them change their lives, which makes them stronger and more independent,” she explained.

“That’s what I love most about this work–we have the chance to help make things better for people, and it all comes from the spirit of cooperation with other organizations.”

Eden Hall Foundation is a private foundation established pursuant to the will of Sebastian Mueller, a Pittsburgh philanthropist and vice president and director of the 

H. J. Heinz Company. Raised by a single mother who 

had to work, Mueller understood the importance of helping women who needed a little extra support. During his lifetime, he and his wife gave substantial support to improve conditions of the poor and disadvantaged, to promote sound education, and to support health facilities and projects.

Today, the trustees of Eden Hall Foundation continue Mueller’s stewardship in the areas of social welfare, health, education and the arts. “Each program area strives to achieve outcomes that reflect community needs and foundation goals,” Fields explained. “It is this blending that yields results that are strategic and yet responsive to the region’s needs. Working together is a part of who we are, and it inspires all of us to reach our full potential.”

Through its work, Eden Hall supports organizations that provide access to education, technology and health care; cultivate creativity and innovation, and teach the skills for taking on the world’s biggest challenges today and in the future. Under Fields’ leadership, the foundation has granted more than $15 million to initiate transformative change for women and girls. 

“Many women have shared with us that our involvement has been life-changing for them because not only did they learn tangible skills, but their perception of themselves and their abilities also shifted,” said Fields. “Each woman has her own story to tell about creating change–whether for herself, her family or her community. It’s very rewarding to be a part of that.”

In October 2017, Fields was recognized by the Pittsburgh ATHENA Awards program for demonstrating professional excellence while contributing to the community’s growth and success through mentorship. As the ATHENA Award recipient, Fields credited her mother for being the strong female influence in her life. 

“Widowed at age 36 with seven children in 1963, a lot of people would have said, ‘I can’t do it, it’s too much.’ But not my mother! She showed me what true management practices were,” said Fields. 

Driven by an equally resilient work ethic, the executive director isn’t taking a step back to savor the recognition. “This award, while exciting, means that the work is just beginning rather than ending,” she explained. “It says to me, ‘We think you’ve got the right stuff.’ So it’s a challenge that drives me to take it and run with it. 

“There’s so much to be done and we know how to do it,” she added. “I accept the challenge because I know we can do it.”

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