Pitt Alumni Lend a Helping Hand during the 11th Annual PMADD
Above: (left-right) Barrett Henzel (A&S ’05), Annie Baca (Executive Director, Operation Homefront Nevada), Katie Henzel (A&S ’05), Kathy Brown, Lark Fountain, and Tony Fountain (A&S ’70) take a moment to pose for a picture while volunteering at Nellis Air Force Base.
From packing food for the hungry to cleaning up a flood-damaged community, more than a dozen University of Pittsburgh Alumni Association (PAA) clubs and councils across the country organized volunteer events this month as part of the 11th annual Pitt Make A Difference Day (PMADD).
“Being a loyal Pitt alum is much more than just supporting Pitt athletics,” said Lori Hoinowski (CBA ’00). “Having Pitt Pride means giving back to the community and paying it forward.”
Lori led a group of fellow Northeast Pennsylvania Pitt Alumni Club members and their families in packing high-nutrition meal kits for food insecure individuals in the Scranton area.
“We specifically chose an activity where families could be involved because that’s what it’s all about, showing the next generation of Panthers that we are paying it forward,” said Lori. “And it’s so much fun to show our Pitt pride and represent our school in Northeastern PA.”
In Las Vegas, Katie Henzel (A&S ’05) and four other Pitt alumni and friends volunteered at the Haunted Harvest Festival for military families near Nellis Air Force Base.
The team set up tents, manned the registration table, worked a few game booths, and made sure the kids had a fun experience with their families. “Being of service is the greatest thing you can do for anybody and there is never a shortage of opportunities to do good in the Las Vegas area,” said Katie.
Last year, members of the Las Vegas Pitt Club cleaned up trash in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and the club is already thinking about what it can do next year.
“I feel like the members of the club are family; it’s so nice to share a common connection with someone when you are so far away from Pitt,” she said. “We also gather for game watches, Send-Offs, and Networking Days, but I feel serving others on Make a Difference Day is the most important activity."
The New York City Pitt Alumni Club got in on the PMADD effort by volunteering to help deep clean the Community Kitchen and Food Pantry of West Harlem. David Greenwald (A&S ’06) organized the outing that involved mopping floors, cleaning stoves, and shelving canned goods for the pantry that serves nearly 700 meals a day.
“I remember taking part in Pitt Make A Difference Day my sophomore and junior years at Pitt,” David said. “It’s important to continue to give back as a member of an alumni club and to let the community know we are here.” David said it was great to see his fellow Panthers doing hard physical work with smiles on their faces. “It was all about ‘the give,’” he said. “There is just an inherent joy in helping others.” David plans to make PMADD a tradition for his club.
For alumni in the Pittsburgh region, there were several volunteer opportunities. Students and alumni worked together to help Earthen Vessels Outreach in the Friendship neighborhood. Earthen Vessels’ mission is “to build social, racial, and economic bridges to connect communities, organizations, and people for the enhancement and transformation of all in the East End of Pittsburgh.”
“It feels good helping others and giving back to the community,” said Scott Pearson (NURS ’05) who spent several hours at the site. “I enjoyed seeing the alumni and students working together in service and it was great netwworking experience.”
In Bridgeville, students and alumni got their hands dirty helping with flood recovery efforts. “The floods really destroyed a lot in these communities. It’s one thing to see it in the news and another to get down here and help,” Jerry Michak (SCI ’84) said.
PMADD as a student event is more than a decade old and this is the second year alumni clubs have been encouraged to participate. In all, about 100 alumni took part this year.
“When we measure the success of our alumni, we often focus on the impact they have professionally and economically, but our graduates get more than a degree while at Pitt, they get a broader view of the world and that translates into caring for those around them,” said Shannon Mischler, Director, Regional Clubs and Advocacy. “Pitt Make A Difference Day is one 24-hour period set aside to highlight the good deeds we do throughout the year.”