If time is our most valuable commodity, then to give of it is to be
at our most generous. Nationwide, about 64.5 million of us
generously volunteered at least once during the year ended
September 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics. That was equivalent to a volunteer rate of 26.5 percent,
which declined just slightly from the previous year.
But Pittsburgh is bucking that trend, and volunteering here is on
“We have over 6,000 volunteers who participate in all of our volunteer
programs that we organize,” says Christy Stuber, director of
volunteer initiatives for United Way of Allegheny County. “We are
seeing an upward trend in the number of volunteers.”
Maria Bethel of Squirrel Hill is one of 400 volunteers in the Be a
Middle School Mentor program supported by the United Way. For
the third year in a row, she is meeting with a young student on
Wednesdays after school at Pittsburgh Sterrett 6-8 in Point Breeze. A working mother of three, Bethel carves out this volunteer time because
she recognizes that many kids don’t have the family support that she
took for granted as a child.
“When you look back on your own life, you remember that one
person who took time out to help you with a problem, who said,
‘Don’t worry, it’s going to be better down the road,’” Bethel says. “I’m
glad I can be that person.”
The largest volunteer matching resource in our region is Pittsburgh
Cares, which sends approximately 18,000 volunteers to about 250
nonprofits over the course of a year. Of those, 60 percent are women
and 40 percent are men, which perfectly reflects the national ratios.
Nonprofits are looking for “skills-based volunteers” who can contribute
both their talent and time, says Benjamin Weaver, community
programs coordinator for Pittsburgh Cares. “We are always looking for
volunteers who can do basic accounting, website and graphic design, information technology support, and marketing,
and a lot of people have those skills
in Pittsburgh,” he says.
Their impact is tremendous; the estimated
value of the hours donated by Pittsburgh
Cares volunteers this past year equaled nearly
$1.1 million, according to Weaver.
But with some 3,000 nonprofit organizations
registered in Pittsburgh, there is much
more work to do.
“There are so many opportunities and so
many nonprofits that are underfunded,
which is why volunteering is so needed,”
Stuber says. “It’s part of how we are a great
civilization. We help each other.”