“Behind every life-changing event or moment, there’s someone who made that happen,” said Greg Scott, senior vice chancellor of business and operations and chair of this year’s Pitt United Way Campaign. “That someone is you.”
Scott was speaking to an audience of campaign managers and volunteers at a luncheon celebrating the conclusion of this year’s campaign — the most successful in University history, where more than $712,000 raised by the University’s staff, faculty and retiree community.
“This doesn’t happen by itself,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, who also spoke the luncheon. “It happens through all of you. Through your effort, the breadth and depth of this campaign is one of the most powerful ways we give back.”
‘Incredible creativity and energy’
“Something that really stood out to me this year was the incredible creativity and energy from campaign managers volunteers to increase faculty and staff engagement beyond fundraising,” said Kate McGlynn, campaign director and manager of administration in the Office of Institutional Advancement.
Throughout the year, University-wide special events offered faculty and staff a variety of such opportunities.
The Center for Creativity hosted literacy kit workshops where faculty and staff decorated bags and a bookmark for inclusion in the 100,000 Books Campaign. Over three years, the campaign has collected more than 105,000 books to improve the reading skills of local children and provide them quality books.
“The program brought together faculty and staff from across the University in a way that informed hands-on making with a sense of community. We heard from participants that the connections they made, the conversations as they created their bags and bookmarks, were an important part of the creative process,” said Erik Schuckers, workshop manager at the Center for Creativity.
LaKeisha Gray, benefits analyst in the Office of Human Resources, called this year’s Hoodies for the Holidays event, which collects cold-weather clothing to distribute to people to keep warm, incredible.
“It was so amazing to see all the many ideas discussed at the host committee meetings come to life at Heinz Field. The atmosphere overall was such a positive and enjoyable one,” Gray said.
At a department level, many units across campus organized and executed their own events like hoagie and cookie sales, weekly raffles and team contests to raise donations and awareness. These special events netted more than $22,000 to support the 2018 campaign.
Staff in the Office of University Communications held a fall pumpkin carving and decorating contest where the pumpkins that received the most votes — votes being cash and coins which were pooled and donated to the campaign — received office bragging rights for the year.
Michael Balderson, director of administration in and campaign manager for the office, said that the event was a big hit. “We were able to help out our Pittsburgh community and have a great time while doing it. We hope it will become an annual tradition.”
At the luncheon, departments including Computing Services and Systems Development, Institutional Advancement and the Medical and Health Sciences Foundation and the offices Human Resources, Business and Auxiliary Services, Student Financial Services and Registrar, were honored for the successful coordination of events that raised more than $1,000.
In the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, the campaign offered a way for faculty and staff to direct their donations to support the victims and families impacted by the shooting.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh reported in March that globally, more than $6 million was raised from 8,500 donors from 48 states and eight countries through the Our Victims of Terror Fund to support families of the victims, injured first responders and other affected congregations.
“The campaign is always about building community, not just in the financial and volunteer support we are generating for our region, but also in the connections we are making with each other here on campus,” said McGlynn. “We have a strong and ever-growing support network for the campaign with new ideas and opportunities being generated all the time. As we grow stronger in our work together, we are also improving our ability to respond to and assist each other through the hardships to come.”
Solving intractable problems
Robert Nelkin, who in December 2018 announced he would step down as president and chief executive officer of the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, also spoke at the luncheon.
“Spirit is not just compassion, passion and activism,” Nelkin told the audience. “There are different ways we help people, and one of those ways is thought leadership — to change the world around us.”
He discussed several ways, including Coaching Boys into Men, an evidence-based program for high school coaches that aims to help them talk to their male athletes about stopping violence against women and girls. Led by Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, the program’s long-term goal is to reduce disrespectful and harmful behavior.
He also noted the next phase of the 100,000 Books Campaign will feature a focus on books about respect and understanding each other’s’ differences. Nelkin sees these efforts and others as ways to address the “intractable problems we’re trying to solve.”
“We wake up every day, and every day we can make some effort to stand up for what’s right,” he said.