United Way Campaign 2019: New People, Ways to Help

“I am so delighted to be here this morning in this room full of people at this podium at Pitt — and not defending a dissertation,” joked Bobbi Watt Geer, the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s first female president and chief executive officer — and a Pitt grad herself.

Watt Geer earned a bachelor’s degree in communications and theater from Pitt–Johnstown and a doctorate in public administration and public policy at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. She returned to the University Club on Thursday, Oct. 10, to kick off the University’s 2019 United Way Campaign.

“We are very excited about working with the University of Pittsburgh community to launch this year’s campaign, but more importantly, to work together year-round to create positive change to help people,” said Geer, who was named United Way CEO over the summer.

The University offers several options for donating to the campaign, including payroll deduction. Employees can select this option by logging in to the My Pitt Portal and choosing “Donate to United Way” from the right side of the screen, below the Ask Cathy search bar.

Employees can also make contributions via credit card, check or billing by mail using the pledge form.

Employees who contribute will be eligible for weekly raffle prizes including on-campus parking spots for a month, extra vacation days and lunches at the University Club. Also, a special mystery prize will be drawn on Monday, Oct. 28. Drawings begin Monday, Oct. 21, and will take place through early March 2020.

Last year, through its Impact Fund, the United Way supported 75 distinct programs and provided service to more than 500,000 people. Through its programs, the United Way helps children succeed, families achieve financial stability, people with disabilities participate more fully in the community and seniors live safely and independently.

‘Those could be Pitt students in the future.’

Senior Vice Chancellor for Research and this year’s campaign chair Rob Rutenbar asked the audience to think about what drove them to be part of the cause and shared his motivation.

“I’ve been an academic for approaching 40 years and a teacher for a significant fraction of my life,” he said. “I understand how important it is for children to have the resources necessary to thrive in an educational environment. Unfortunately, so many of our youths are struggling. These children could be our future Pitt students.”

Rutenbar noted this year’s goal of $750,000 and highlighted numbers from last year’s campaign: 2,600 individuals donated, including 800 new donors and more than 550 who increased their donation. “These numbers are powerful and speak to our Pitt family’s dedication to come together as a force for good.”

Opportunities to help

Also new to helping lead the campaign is Kelly Gilliam, the University’s United Way Campaign manager. The Office of Philanthropic & Alumni Engagement created this new role to support Pitt’s United Way efforts year-round. “I’m always looking for opportunities to help others around me, whether it’s giving financially, volunteering or just an encouraging word,” said Gilliam.

Similarly, there are myriad ways for teams, departments and organizations to get involved with the campaign, including in-office volunteer projects. These sessions feature kit assembly focused on literacy, STEM or meals for both youth and older adults. 

Breakfast attendees capped the event by filling canvas bags with pantry staples including mac and cheese, oatmeal, granola bars and pretzels. The bags will be distributed by the United Way to Pittsburgh Public School children who participate in free breakfast and lunch programs so that they can take them home and have food for the weekend. University teams can sign up to host similar events for their departments by talking to their United Way committee members.

For more information, visit the United Way campaign website.

  • From left are Kate McGlynn, manager of administration, and Kelly Gilliam, United Way campaign manager, both in the Office of Philanthropic & Alumni Engagement; and Bobbi Watt Geer, CEO and president of the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania. “I think Pitt’s campaign is just stellar,” said Watt Geer. “Just the size of it and leadership engagement makes such a difference.” (Mike Drazdzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Kelly Gilliam is the University’s first full-time employee dedicated to the United Way Campaign. “Just as there are many parts that make up a team, and each person has a different role to play and each role is needed, the same is true for us,” said Gilliam. “We all have a role to play to continue to impact our region. A great University partnering with a great organization makes a winning team!” (Mike Drazdzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Senior Vice Chancellor for Research and campaign chair Rob Rutenbar hoped the audience felt motivated to mobilize their teams across the University. “This campaign is one of the most vital ways we as a family at Pitt can give back. We need to come together to make our community stronger, fulfill our mission of local outreach, be better stewards of our future and make a positive difference.” (Mike Drazdzinski/University of Pittsburgh)
  • Dan McCoy (left, seated), a research coordinator at the Human Engineering Research Laboratories, gives a bag of pantry essentials to Adam Baron (right), senior corporate engagement lead at the United Way. McCoy was featured in a United Way advertising campaign as a child and became involved with the organization through his mother’s volunteerism; this is first year with Pitt’s campaign. “I’m excited to be part of it,” he said. (Mike Drazdzinski/University of Pittsburgh)