At Pitt, Caring is a Family Affair

Two people in face masks hold up books while in a storeWhen Rebecca Farabaugh learned of the Special Day of Caring coordinated by the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, she thought it was a perfect opportunity to support the community—and make it a family affair.

Farabaugh, a communications manager in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, tries to keep her family—her wife (and Pitt alum) Carrie Tongarm (LAW '13) and their three children—engaged in volunteer activities like helping their local food bank during the organization’s family days.

“Having an opportunity to volunteer and support the members of our larger community in a safe way, and allowing us to do so within the parameters we are comfortable with, was wonderful,” said Farabaugh.

Feeling connected and making a difference

More than a dozen University employees signed up for the Special Day of Caring on June 20, which saw 360 volunteers deliver approximately 600 cards to seniors, 100 personal protection equipment (PPE) kits, 600 summer activity kits for kids and 275 baby supply packs in Allegheny, Butler and Greensburg counties.

Five people smile into the cameraFarabaugh worked with her 8-year-old daughter Emma Weber to create at-home activity kits for kids. “It helped both my daughter and I feel connected during a time of disconnection and empowered that we can still be a meaningful part of our community while staying safe,” she said.

E.J. Milarski-Veenis, staff accountant in the Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor for Engagement, and her daughter put together two baby supply kits and more than a dozen summer activity kits. “There are so many intense situations in our environment these days and it’s easy to feel helpless. Putting these kits together gave us a sense of making a difference,” Milarski-Veenis said.

Both Farabaugh and Milarski-Veenis said their daughters enjoyed coordinating the packs, imagining what children their age would enjoy and helping online shop for specific items.

Seamless delivery

Diane Drazdzinski, who works in special projects in the Office of the Controller, chose the cards to seniors option, a project personal to her, as her father is in a nursing home.

“I empathize with the seniors who are cut off from their families, and I thought it might brighten their day to receive a note from someone,” said Drazdzinski.

She also recruited her sister, who sews masks and who put together PPE kits to drop off in Butler County.

Everyone reported the delivery process was seamless. Tongarm, who dropped off her family’s kits off at the Allegheny County location, said it was well-marked with balloons and signage and took no time at all. “Everyone was very friendly and grateful,” Tongarm said.

Farabaugh asked her daughter what she thought of the overall experience.

“I thought it was really fun to think of things to give to people who may get bored in the summer without camp. Things like crafting, playing with toys or reading a book—you can do all those things outside,” said Emma. “It made me feel helpful to pick things out for someone I don’t know. It was fun, and I want to do it again!”