Give Back to the 'Burgh

Summer is a great time to relax and take a breather. But it is also the best time to help out someone in need, so that they can relax a bit more too. Since about the sixth grade I have been addicted to volunteering. Whether it was small projects at my church to traveling the U.S. to rebuild houses, I have done it all. But there are still so many people who need a little extra help and especially for you college-aged readers, there is no better time then now for you guys to get involved!

Here are a few places in the city that are worth your time, I've tried to provide a variety to appeal to different interests. Now, of course there are many more organizations that you might feel more passionate about out there, but this is just to get the idea in your minds and get you guys looking into your summer plans. And all of these are worthy of your support and they are right here in Pittsburgh! So you could be easily helping your neighbors, which in turn makes this city even better.

Family House Pittsburgh
This is an organization that helps families who have loved-ones in the hospital for extended amounts of time. Currently they are set up as four different houses which were converted from old mansions, locker rooms and office buildings to create welcoming and beautiful rooms for families to stay in together. Family House supports families going through stress of medical issues. Since Pittsburgh is becoming a booming center for medicine, this organization has taken notice to the fact that not only Pittsburghers are coming here for treatment and these homes offer a place for families to live at a low cost while their loved ones are being treated in nearby hospitals. This gives families the ability to stay together, not spend outrageous amounts of money on transportation or hotels and gives a comforting and comfortable place to stay for the night instead of hospital chairs. There are a variety of ways to volunteer at any of their facilities and I'm sure your help and caring attitude would not go unnoticed!

Dress for Success Pittsburgh
I love the mission of this organization! Their main location is right in the heart of downtown, but they also have offices in Uniontown and Washington, Pa. This organization helps women in two ways; 1) the take donations of professional clothing for their clients who would otherwise not be able to afford them and 2) they help them to find jobs and then figure out how to balance those jobs with their already busy lives. I love that this organization is helping women in Southwestern Pa. Especially since if you read my post about Equal Pay Day, you know that women in this region are being paid horribly compared to their male counterparts. Dress for Success can use volunteers from simply donating clothes, to answering phones to being a client consultant and being able to help a client one-on-one. What better way to help this city grow than by helping to get more people out in the work-force?

Big Brothers Big Sisters
This organization is pretty much the most well known volunteer organization that I could think of and I am also currently going through the process of becoming a Big so I felt compelled to put this one on the list. Through this organization you can become a mentor to a child in the area. Basically, you hang out with a great kid for a few hours a month and be on call to support them if they need you. As a former full-summer camp counselor, I can promise you that there is no greater thing to become involved with than a child. Every single day I remember something a camper said to me or did in the past and realize that by being with them I learned more than I ever could teach. I cannot wait to become a Big.

Tree Pittsburgh
For those of you who are openly tree-huggers, this one's for you. Tree Pittsburgh is an organization that is committed to planting and maintaining trees around the city. They have a special Tree Tenders course that you must complete before becoming a member but this is a great organization to be involved with during the summer. (Work on your tan and help a great cause - those are my favorite kind of summer volunteer opportunities!) This organization is so intriguing to me because it's helping to grow Pittsburgh in a different way then the typical urban volunteer program - it is literally helping growth through trees. And while I love being a "city-liver," it is always great seeing some green around. Real trees are always welcomed in a concrete jungle in my opinion!

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh
This one pretty much goes without saying but I love Habitat for Humanity. I have been involved with various chapters of this organization throughout college thanks to the Griffins at Work Club we had at Seton Hill, which gave me most of my travel volunteer experience but also through the Greensburg chapter because it was so convenient to help them while attending Seton Hill for my undergrad. Habitat builds homes for families in need, but what I love most about them is that they require the families to help on their homes as well as others to pay off their "sweat equity." Being able to get your hands dirty while building a home for someone, while working right next to them is an indescribable experience that I would suggest anyone to take advantage of.

Like I said, there are plenty more organizations that are willing to take you on as a volunteer, especially throughout Pittsburgh and you can find many more through Pittsburgh Cares. Where there is a need, there is certainly some organization trying to help, and that organization needs people like you to continue to operate! So get out there this summer to jump start your new volunteer project and try to maintain it all year round - you will be thanked in one way or another and every experience is more than worth it!

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