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December 5, 2002

Volunteer Pool sponsors holiday gift drive for Family Houses

What did members of Pitt's community do some 3,700 times this year? They volunteered for Pitt's Volunteer Pool activities.

According to Gwen Watkins, interim Volunteer Pool coordinator, 3,756 volunteers participated in 45 projects in 2002. Watkins said 1,160 volunteers, including 300-plus who took part in Pitt's annual Day of Caring events, gave their time for Volunteer Pool-sponsored activities, and 2,596 donated blood in various Pitt-sponsored blood drives during 2002.

"Without the untiring energy, enthusiasm and commitment [of our volunteers], many of the volunteer projects could not have become a reality," Watkins said.

This holiday season, the Pitt Volunteer Pool is sponsoring a gift drive for Family House, Inc., a "home away from home" for patients and their families who travel to Pittsburgh for treatment.

Family House is accessible and affordable, offering comfort, compassion an d hospitality, according to Carey Miller, Family House, Inc., director of development and public relations.

Family House, Inc. is a non-profit corporation operated under a volunteer board of directors. Its mission is to serve adult patients and the families of those patients undergoing treatment for life-threatening illnesses at hospitals managed by or affiliated with UPMC Health System, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Oakland, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania Hospital.

According to Miller, prior to Family House's founding families accompanying a patient for extended periods of time were forced to stay in relatively expensive hotels or sleep in hospital corridors and waiting rooms. "Family House meets a tremendous need in reducing emotional and financial turmoil for these people. Most importantly, the hardships associated with illness are significantly reduced in an atmosphere of warmth and caring, directly aiding patient recovery and contributing to a lower health care cost," Miller said.

Headquartered in Oakland, Family Houses, Inc., comprises three residences. The original Family House at 233 McKee Place opened in 1983, and in 1995 underwent a $1.4 million renovation.

A second residence at 514 North Neville Street, custom-designed to accommodate patients on heart-assisting devices awaiting transplants, welcomed its first guests in 1989.

A third residence at 5245 Centre Ave. in Shadyside opened last year. To date, Family House has served more than 60,000 guests from all over the United States and many foreign countries.

For the Pitt Volunteer Pool holiday gift drive, Family House of Pittsburgh has provided a "wish list" that encompasses both the needs of the facilities and those of guests.

The Family House wish list includes:

For the Family Houses

* Irons, ironing board covers, piano music, vacuum cleaners, 18-volt Dewalt cordless drill, gas-powered leaf blower/vacuum, snow blower, paint brushes, hand tools, hard candies for reception desks and gift certificates to Home Depot.

* Diversionary items: Subscriptions to USA Today and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; magazine subscriptions; tickets to cultural and sporting events; restaurant/grocery certificates; CDs, and Bingo prizes (small games, knick-knacks and puzzles, etc.).

* Kitchen items: Mugs, dishtowels, pot holders, cookie sheets, Teflon frying pans, 12-cup Mr. Coffee maker, can opener.

Items for the families staying at Family Houses

* Unwrapped holiday gifts for adults

* Personal items: Sample-size toiletries, stationery, grocery certificates, hats, gloves, scarves, umbrellas, postage stamps, easy-to-read maps of Pittsburgh, boxes of notepaper, Post-It notes, pens and pencils, boxes of tissues.

Donations should be unwrapped and delivered to Gwen Watkins, 710 Alumni Hall, by Dec. 13.

–Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 35 Issue 8

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