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How you can help your neighbors this holiday season

  • Health and Wellness
  • Community Impact

University of Pittsburgh faculty, staff and retirees have already given more than $321,500 to Pitt's 2021-2022 United Way Campaign, which kicked off on Oct. 1.

These donations have long played a vital role in supporting Pittsburgh and Southwestern Pennsylvania communities, but they have become increasingly important during the pandemic.

"The need is still great," said Pitt's United Way Campaign manager in the Office of Philanthropic and Alumni Engagement, Kelly Gilliam. "Through the dollars we and others give, we're able to help our neighbors who are struggling."

The need for continued community support is perhaps best exemplified by a large increase in calls to 211 — a crisis referral hotline supported by United Way that helps people across North America find local resources for essentials like health care, food and shelter. Nearly twice as many people called for help, compared to 2019.

And it’s not just money that helps: Gilliam applauded Senior Vice Chancellor and Chief Information Officer (CIO) Mark Henderson for leading technology-centered community efforts like homework help hotlines and increasing internet connectivity so kids could attend virtual school and adults could work remotely. Henderson also led the charge to allow University employees to give vacation hours as a form of donation — a first in the campaign's history.

Mark Henderson, this year's United Way chair, and his team have really stepped up and helped to do a lot for the community," said Gilliam, who also commended Senior Vice Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer Hari Sastry for automating payroll deduction rollovers, which will begin in January 2022. (Signing up for payroll deductions and regular donations will be accepted until April.)

"Pitt has the same goals and drives that United Way has to do good things in the community," said Adam Baron, director of workplace campaigns for the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania. He said Pitt has the eighth leading campaign in the region, a significant feat.

"The vast majority of those dollars, probably 95 percent, are from employees, which is really tremendous and says a lot about Pitt people," Baron said.

Illustration of mother and child eating healthy food together

Units across the University have taken creative approaches to fundraising, from special events like raffles for experiences throughout Pittsburgh to volunteer opportunities at Pitt’s Pete Shop to a City Game Trivia Bowl and March Madness Bingo.

"We ask donors to think about what they're passionate about, what's important," said Baron. "You can give to different places at one time through your University of Pittsburgh campaign."

Baron added that United Way has been especially focused on basic needs — housing, utilities and COVID-19 response — through its Impact Fund, which goes to the community in which donors live. This fund is dispersed to around 80 different partners in the community such as the American Red Cross, Boys and Girls Club, YMCA and smaller grassroots agencies that help address basic needs.

Baron and Gilliam both said they’re optimistic about reaching this year's $750,000 campaign goal for several reasons. First, vacation hours and rollover deductions won't be tallied until January. Second, Pitt raised nearly $700,000 last year, which is consistent with past years, too, said Baron. Finally, he believes in the generosity of the Pitt community.

"Last year, people were generous enough to help somebody they didn't know. We're making a difference and impacting our community."

The deadline for automatic payroll deduction rollover and the vacation time pledges to this year’s campaign is Monday, Dec. 13, at 5 p.m. This year’s goal is $750,000 in total donations. Here’s how to give.


— Kara Henderson