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August 29, 1996

Record number of Pitt employees volunteer for UW Day of Caring

Approximately 370 members of the University community already have registered for this year's United Way Day of Caring on Sept. 11.

The total is the largest ever for Pitt and just 30 participants short of this year's goal of 400 volunteers set by Pitt's Center for Public and Community Service. Last year 315 people from the University took part in Day of Caring activities. Pitt won the first-ever Westinghouse Award for Excellence for its United Way campaign in 1995. One of the main reasons cited for presenting the University with the award was its efforts during the annual Day of Caring.

"In a couple of areas people aren't volunteering in large enough numbers this year," said Steve Zupcic, Pitt's coordinator for the Day of Caring. "We're over subscribed in some areas, but a couple of projects need people." Volunteers are especially needed for projects in the Arlington Heights public housing project and at the Verland Foundation facility for mentally retarded individuals.

In Arlington Heights, 40 volunteers are needed to paint stairwells. The project has a high priority because it is being showcased by the United Way. Along with Pitt people, volunteers from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, PPG Industries, the Pittsburgh City Housing Authority and the Arlington Heights Tenants' Council will be working on the project.

"This isn't going to be a passive kind of thing where volunteers come in, paint the stairwells of a public housing community, and then are gone and nobody cares," said Zupcic. "The tenants' council actually chose the project." Partly because it has skilled people such as plumbers, electricians and carpenters, Zupcic said that the Office of Facilities Management has traditionally taken the lead in Day of Caring activities and will do so again at Arlington Heights.

While unskilled volunteers will be painting stairwells, according to Zupcic, a number of Facilities Management staffers will be working on a basketball court and constructing a French drain around a baseball field that has been practically unusable due to drainage problems.

"This is real impact stuff," said Zupcic. "It's not just coming and visiting for the day. It leaves a real lasting impact." Arlington Heights Tenants' Council has invited volunteers to stay and play in a ball game after the work is completed, according to Zupcic.

At the Verland Foundation facility in Sewickley Hills, 80 Pitt volunteers are needed to work with foundation staff on recreational activities for mentally retarded individuals living at the facility.

Other Day of Caring projects for this year include: * Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank: At least 70 volunteers will repackage bulk food items at the food bank in McKeesport.

* Habitat for Humanity: Fifty members of the University community will work on improving the homes of low-income individuals in North Braddock.

* Pittsburgh Blind Association: A group of 12 Pitt volunteers will assist agency staff with a museum outing, leisure walk and daily living skills class. Volunteers also will paint a program area and kitchen.

* Canterbury Place picnic: More than 40 volunteers will staff a picnic at Arsenal Park in Lawrenceville for senior citizen residents of Canterbury Place. Volunteers will serve food, assist with transportation, serve as companions and help with clean-up.

* Pittsburgh Aids Task Force: Fifty members of the Pitt community will be used to organize the task force's library, prepare HIV prevention kits, distribute AIDS/HIV information packets and assist in wallpapering rooms and the task force's headquarters.

* UPMC's Living-at-Home Program picnic: Over 20 individuals will assist senior citizens from East End neighborhoods enrolled in this UPMC program that helps them stay in their own homes. Volunteers will serve lunch, be companions for a day, participate in games and help to set up the picnic pavilion.

"It is partly the hope that once people get to sample this program it will be something they might want to become involved in in the future on an on-going basis," said Zupcic.

* Stephen Foster Community Center: Fifty volunteers will be used to assist with programs for senior citizens, paint and move furniture.

The Stephen Foster center project was suggested by John Dobransky, a staff member in Pitt's Small Business Development Center, according to Zupcic. Dobransky suggested the project after taking part in last year's Day of Caring.

To make taking part in the Day of Caring as easy as possible, the University has granted release time to all volunteers, with the approval of the volunteer's supervisor.

Either Pitt, the United Way or one of the sponsoring agencies also will supply transportation to and from work sites, Day of Caring T-shirts, lunch, and all tools and equipment. In addition, there will be an optional end-of-day party.

Again this year, friends and family members of Pitt employees can take part in the Day of Caring. All projects begin at 9:30 a.m. and run until 4 p.m.

The deadline for registration is Sept. 3. Contact Zupcic at 648-1489. –Mike Sajna

Filed under: Feature,Volume 29 Issue 1

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