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January 21, 2010

Pitt launches bucket brigade for Haiti

The University has launched “Pitt’s Bucket Brigade for Haiti” campaign to aid in relief efforts for the victims of Haiti’s recent earthquake. Donations of specific personal-care items are being accepted until Feb. 8.

Office of Medical Education staffers Judi Mitchell, left, and Maria Magone are coordinating the medical school’s bucket brigade effort.)

Office of Medical Education staffers Judi Mitchell, left, and Maria Magone are coordinating the medical school’s bucket brigade effort.)

Over the next few days, 500 five-gallon buckets will be distributed throughout the Pittsburgh campus at offices and residence halls in an effort to collect hygiene products for the victims.

The collection is limited to the following personal-care items: baby or wet wipes, non-liquid soap (bars), wash cloths, hand towels, toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs and brushes. No donations of shampoos or any materials that could leak will be accepted.

Pitt is partnering in the effort with Brother’s Brother Foundation, a 50-year-old local organization that has provided more than $3.4 billion of medical supplies, textbooks, food, agricultural products and other humanitarian supplies to people in 141 countries.

Brother’s Brother already has sent its first shipment by air of antibiotics, surgical packs, surgical instruments and other requested medical items to Haiti, according to Steve Zupcic, assistant director of the Office of Community Relations, who is coordinating Pitt’s bucket brigade campaign.

Zupcic said Pitt’s drive is not accepting any other items at this point.

“Brother’s Brother is an extremely effective organization with a 40-year history of working in Haiti. Their staff in Haiti is Haitian, so they really know what’s happening on the ground,” Zupcic said. “Based on their field experience, this is the list of the most useful — as well as crucial — items.”

Buckets will be picked up after Feb. 8, lids will be attached and Brother’s Brother will ship them to Haiti, Zupcic explained.

(If any buckets are overlooked during the pick-up process, there will be an email address on the buckets — — to email for a pick-up, he noted.)

“In Haiti, the buckets will be used in temporary housing areas, at what essentially become tent cities. The personal-hygiene items are absolutely crucial at that point,” Zupcic said. “The buckets themselves will be used for carrying and storing water. Our first goal is to fill 500 buckets. We may do another order of 500, depending how it goes.”

Brother’s Brother Foundation also is accepting monetary donations for the Haiti relief effort via its web site link:

For more information on Pitt’s Bucket Brigade for Haiti campaign, contact Zupcic at 412/624-7709 or

Some Pitt employees weren’t waiting for the buckets to be distributed. In a school-specific effort, Judi Mitchell, assistant director in the Office of Medical Education, and Maria Magone, medical education researcher/writer, are coordinating the Haiti relief effort for faculty and staff at the medical school’s education division. The response already has been outstanding, they said.

Magone said, “The neat thing about this is you’d like to donate money, but you’d also like to do something. The act of buying something that’s needed and bringing it in is great. It makes you feel good.”

To bolster the medical school effort, Mitchell said, “I had emailed a couple of my friends and one of them works for a medical supply company that provides personal care home centers with items. He brought me boxes and boxes of toothpaste, toothbrushes, hairbrushes and combs, all hospital-quality stuff.”

Those early donations were just the tip of the iceberg, Mitchell said. Since then, medical school faculty and staff have contributed many more supplies, as is obvious by the buckets full of donations accumulating in her office area.

Mitchell also has contacted medical students about volunteering to care for Haitian orphans arriving in Pittsburgh. About 75 medical students have signed up as volunteers, either those who are fluent in French or Creole, or those with experience in caring for children, she said.

Zupcic said Pitt has forwarded the names of the volunteers to Catholic Charities, a social service agency of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, which is one of the agencies overseeing the orphans’ care.

Pitt’s regional campuses are supporting the Haiti relief effort in a variety of ways.

• Pitt-Bradford’s Anthropology/International Club has raised more than $1,200 in cash donations and will continue collecting through today.

In addition, the gate proceeds from tonight’s UPB men’s and women’s basketball games vs. Hilbert College are being earmarked for Haiti. Money from both efforts will be sent to Save the Children.

• Pitt-Johnstown has partnered with the Windber Medical Center to raise money for the Mission Discovery charity, which will provide food, water and temporary shelter to the earthquake survivors. Theatre patrons at the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center opened their wallets to donate nearly $1,000 at last week’s performance of “Stayin’ Alive” and a collection was planned for this week’s performance of “Hairspray.”

Longer-term plans include a relief effort partnership between UPJ’s Campus Ministry and Compassion International, a student-led campus-community food, clothing and supply drive, as well as cooperation with a local church that plans to send a relief crew to Haiti.

• At Pitt-Greensburg, students have planned a Feb. 2 dance to benefit Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti. Donations also will be accepted during the Feb. 6 homecoming and families weekend carnival.

UPG’s student government will meet this week to discuss other activities.

—Peter Hart

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