Acts of Kindness: Pandemic Service Initiative Engages Pitt Community

As part of the Pitt Pandemic Service Initiative, Julie LaBar, volunteered to contact community members to check on their well-being on behalf of the Homewood Children’s Village.

Through the calls, LaBar, director of communications for business and operations at Pitt, was able to help identify members’ needs and connect them with resources to assist with food, safety, technology and financial services.

“It has been wonderful to be a part of this outreach program, making a difference and helping others during this challenging time,” said LaBar.

More than 600 Pitt faculty, staff and students have rallied together to act as the helpers that Pittsburgh native Fred Rogers—of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” fame—often lauded as being there for others in frightening times.

From making calls like LaBar to building porch pantries to creating hand sanitizer, volunteers have participated in nearly 30 volunteer opportunities and other community activities since the initiative launched at the end of March.

Coordinated by the Office of Community and Governmental Relations, the Pandemic Service Initiative aims to expand staff, faculty and student service opportunities; contribute to food and supply drives and collections; and forge innovative partnerships with area organizations and nonprofits.

“Almost immediately upon realizing the impact COVID-19 would have, Pitt faculty, staff and students reached out to see how they could help. We, in turn, asked our close community partners for guidance and together we have developed a coordinated and robust effort,” said Lina Dostilio, associate vice chancellor for community engagement. “Since starting the Pandemic Service Initiative, we’ve been thrilled at the University response. The numbers themselves are impressive, but what’s truly gratifying is the positive impacts and tangible differences we’ve been able to make—neighbor to neighbor—in people’s lives.”

Care and support—from a safe distance

Since the inception of the Pandemic Service Initiative, 85 volunteers have gone through training to support five community-based organizations by contacting individuals and families, helping to connect them to community services resources they might need. Overall, volunteers have made more than 600 Care and Connection phone calls.

Other volunteers have provided tech support, answering questions about connecting to the internet, using computers or other devices and setting up email and other software.

Community organizations and residents also have access to additional information provided by University units, including Be Fit Pitt's live fitness videos, a compilation of resources for impacted businesses at the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence’s website and videos and handouts supporting learning development curated by the Office of Child Development.

Shenay Jeffrey, assistant director of the Office of PittServes, said that the Pandemic Service Initiative has provided students “an amazing experience working alongside various Pitt units and community members during this unprecedented time. It really shows the power and perseverance of humanity and community.”

What’s 1-4-3 Day?

In 2019, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf declared the 143rd day of the year 1-4-3 Day in PA. The numbers 1, 4 and 3 are based on Mister Rogers’ special code for “I love you.” Now in its second year, 1-4-3 Day in PA offers an opportunity for neighbors around Pennsylvania to share the acts of kindness and good deeds they do for others.

The state has updated its Kindness Generator to provide extra inspiration to Pennsylvania residents on May 22. The site includes a Kindness Tracker that tallies all the great deeds residents do throughout the day, which are counted by using the hashtag #143DayinPA. Pitt invites you to share your stories of kindness using the hashtag, and by visiting our Instagram story.