Day of Caring Grows in Participation, Impact

On Friday, Oct. 18, several hundred University employees were dispatched in teams all around Pittsburgh. Destinations included Oakland, Wilkinsburg, Homewood, the Hill District and even the busy median on I-376 just outside the Fort Pitt Tunnel.

Their mission: to show how Pitt is a university that strengthens communities. 

From 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., employees painted floors, packed away poolside furniture for winter storage and performed myriad other labor projects for local organizations as part of the University’s annual Day of Caring organized by the Office of Community and Governmental Relations. This year, 308 volunteers registered to participate — an increase of 105% over 2018 registrations.

Close up of hands working on a project

To our faculty and staff that participated in Day of Caring:

While many hands make light work, your work had a tremendous impact.

Thank you—as always—for making Pittsburgh a great place to live and learn.

- Chancellor Patrick Gallagher

The satisfaction of working together

In the Hill District, Pitt employees maintained a rooftop garden at the Thelma Lovette YMCA, picked up litter at the Dinwiddie Community Alliance and built a walkway and solar-paneled shade pavilion at the Project Love Coalition.

“The Day of Caring is a shining example of how the University and the community can come together to support community-driven projects and meet community needs at the most fundamental levels,” said Kirk Holbrook, director of the Community Engagement Center in the Hill District.

“Throughout the day, I was impressed by the enthusiasm of the volunteers and community members alike, and the satisfaction that came from working together,” he said. “It is through these small win-wins that we are able to build trust and move toward initiatives that will have great impact and outcomes in the community.”

A first time for everything

Erik Arroyo, director of academic support services for the University Center for Teaching and Learning, has been impressed by the University’s community engagement — so much so that he volunteered for the first time this year. In Homewood, his team helped cultivate a space for the Black Urban Gardeners and Farmers of Pittsburgh Co-op.

“The time is right for people who haven’t been involved to get involved,” Arroyo said, a sentiment with which other volunteers echoed throughout the day.

Caitlin Mathis, budget and finance manager in the Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement, volunteered for the first time at Homewood’s Mount Ararat Community Activity Center. “I wish I’d done this sooner,” she said.

At Bible Center Church, also in Homewood, Pitt Information Technology split into two teams; one helped haul construction debris to a dumpster while another worked at the solar-powered greenhouse conceived as part of the Business of Humanity Project at Pitt Business.

Tony Polley, developer, has been with the University 23 years but was volunteering as part of Day of Caring for the first time this year. “My father, a veteran, does a lot of service, and he inspired me,” Polley said. “People should help each other.”

‘As many options as possible’

For the first time, Day of Caring organizers planned an on-campus volunteer opportunity for employees unable to participate in an off-campus daylong event. Faculty and staff members packed birthday bags and turned recycled Pitt T-shirts into dog mats as part of two sessions in the William Pitt Union Ballroom.

The bags were for Beverly’s Birthdays, a nonprofit organization that provides birthday celebrations for homeless children in the Pittsburgh region. When the nonprofit’s volunteers noticed that children’s wish lists included food items like macaroni and cheese, they began to include bags with common kitchen staples in their birthday bundles.

“This on-campus event gave employees who want to give back but weren’t able to leave their office for a full day a great opportunity to be a part of Pitt’s Day of Caring,” said Rob Rutenbar, senior vice chancellor for research and 2019 United Way Campaign chair.

“It’s great that our United Way organizers are committed to providing as many options as possible for people to engage in our community.”

  • Cindy Wertz, services, licensing and support manager in Pitt Technology, has been at Pitt for 30 years, but this was her first Day of Caring. “It’s always something I wanted to do. It’s inspiring, and it makes you feel good to do what you’re doing for other people.” (Tom Altany/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Celeste Taylor, farm manager of Black Urban Gardeners and Farmers of Pittsburgh and farm director of the Homewood Historical Community Farm, in the greenhouse where community residents grow vegetables and herbs. “I’m excited to have these wonderful folks here to help,” said Taylor. (Tom Altany/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Pictured are some of the “wonderful folks” who helped Celeste Taylor at the at the Black Urban Gardeners and Farmers of Pittsburgh Co-op. From left: University Center for Teaching and Learning’s Michael Arenth, director of educational technologies; Erik Arroyo, director of academic support services; and David Puccio, senior classroom engineer. (Tom Altany/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Rob Rutenbar (left), senior vice chancellor for research and 2019 United Way Campaign chair, and Paul Supowitz, vice chancellor for community and governmental relations, speak with Bonnie Rolison, community engagement manager at Beverly’s Birthdays. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Staff from Pitt IT cleared out construction debris at Bible Center Church in Homewood. (Tom Altany/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Camille Burgess, assistant director of student services and MBA programs at Pitt Business, helped with clean up and maintenance at Schenley Plaza. (Aimee Obidzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • In addition to making sure publications including Pittwire and @Pitt are published on time, Kirkland An, editorial production specialist in the Office of Communications, also cleans windows. (Tom Altany/University of Pittsburgh)