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June 25, 2009

Fall food drive planned

The University Senate’s community relations committee (CRC) plans to partner with the Student Government Board (SGB) to develop a fall University-wide food drive and to meet in Johnstown with members of the Pitt-Johnstown community to compare notes on faculty and staff community-related initiatives.

Other committee agenda items for the 2009-10 academic year call for a roundtable discussion with Pitt’s local community organization partners, and a CRC-sponsored holiday service activity, such as a volunteer drive to staff a new Oakland-based food pantry that is expected to open this summer at the former Police Station No. 4 on McKee Place. (See May 28 University Times.)

The committee’s plans for next spring term include a joint meeting with the Senate’s commonwealth relations committee, which typically features a state legislator as a guest; a tour of the Upper Hill District followed by a discussion of future development in that area with community leaders; a joint meeting with partners from Duquesne University, Carnegie Mellon and Carlow University on broader, city-wide community relations planning, such as the future of the Fifth-Forbes avenues corridor, and a Pitt-based forum to display the results of faculty and staff service learning and service-based research projects at the end of the academic year.

Each agenda item would be covered at a CRC meeting, which traditionally is held the third Tuesday of each month. But CRC co-chair Wes Rohrer stressed that meeting dates are tentative while schedules are being coordinated.

Alexa Jennings, acting president of the Student Government Board for the summer months and CRC student liaison, told the committee that SGB has backed a fall food drive in principle, but that full endorsement would be delayed until the board reconvenes in late August.

“We’d like to get Residence Life behind the effort, so that resident assistants could promote it among their students, and we’d like to coordinate the food drive with volunteering at the new food pantry,” Jennings told the committee. “We’re also still pushing for students to donate unused dining dollars to the food bank, which was very successful this spring.”

Jennings added that she hopes to meet with leaders of student organizations to set up a friendly competition among them for food drive donations.

CRC members have targeted a pre-Thanksgiving food drive that would mirror the University’s annual Partnership for Food drive in April.

Steve Zupcic of the community relations office, who coordinates the April food drive, said that he would pitch the new food drive to faculty and staff “as a uniquely Pitt/Oakland community effort with a ‘Thanksgiving theme.’” He said the online virtual donation option, so well-received in its debut this April, could be duplicated for a fall food drive.

Zupcic also agreed to develop a holiday project for CRC to sponsor in December. “Pitt’s biggest holiday effort is the Christmas dinner, where we serve food to needy members of our community, and we will continue to do that, along with our sock drive and working with departments to donate toys for some 300 kids,” he said.

But there is always room to expand Pitt’s volunteer efforts, he added.

CRC members suggested adding an “adopt-a-family” drive as an option. “When you personalize a project, you get more ownership of it and more participation,” said CRC co-chair Denise Chisholm.

Susan Hansen, vice president of the University Senate who attended CRC’s June 16 meeting, suggested cementing ties with student groups by getting approvals for CRC volunteer activities under Pitt’s outside the classroom curriculum program, introduced in fall 2008. The program encourages undergraduate students to engage in learning experiences outside the classroom that will help them in their personal and professional development.

Rohrer said he would contact Kathy Humphrey, vice provost and dean of students, and other Student Affairs officials about Hansen’s recommendation.

Zupcic reported that Pitt has designated Sept. 16 as the date for the annual Pitt-United Way Day of Caring.

—Peter Hart

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