Shop2Help Oakland Program Benefits Community Food Bank

The outside of The Pitt ShopFamilies and businesses alike have struggled as the pandemic continues. Pitt’s retail stores are participating in a program that aims to help both. The University Store on Fifth, The Pitt Shop and Maggie & Stella’s Cards & Gifts are among nearly two dozen businesses participating in a gift card program designed to support Oakland neighborhood shops and restaurants that have been affected by the pandemic, while benefiting the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to help community members in need.

The Oakland business district that borders the University’s Pittsburgh campus is filled with a vibrant variety of shops, restaurants and small businesses that add to the ambiance of Pittsburgh’s university district.

It’s typically bustling with traffic from Pitt and neighboring university communities, as well as visitors and employees of nearby hospitals, museums and cultural attractions.

But, with many University faculty, staff and students working and studying from home, and many individuals limiting contacts and avoiding crowds, Oakland businesses have suffered.

The Shop2Help Oakland program, launched by the Oakland Business Improvement District (OBID) in early October, is encouraging individuals, including those who are in Oakland less frequently than usual, to buy a gift card to support their favorite businesses.

The businesses get a boost, and buyers get a deal: a $35 gift card for $25.

In addition, neighbors get meals. Participating businesses are designating a portion of every sale for the food bank. To date, more than 15,500 meals have been donated.

“To help in supporting community members at this challenging time, University of Pittsburgh retail stores are proud to join with area organizations in the Oakland Business Improvement District’s gift card give-back program,” said Monica Rattigan, executive director of University Stores.

“With the purchase of each $25 gift card from Maggie & Stella’s, The Pitt Shop and University Store on Fifth locations, Pitt will donate 25 meals to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, in addition to providing shoppers with an extra $10 gift card bonus,” she said.

Said Georgia Petropoulos, OBID executive director, “From the franchises to the family-owned shops and everyone in between, our business community is made up of some of the most inspiring individual owners, employees, partners and patrons. They have all demonstrated unprecedented perseverance, compassion, resilience and unity these last few months, working tirelessly to continue serving the community safely and to the best of their ability despite mounting hardships out of their control.”

The program is made possible in part through a July 2020 grant awarded to OBID by the Richard King Mellon Foundation to fund a multi-prong effort to help Oakland businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We could not have brought programs like the Shop2Help Oakland Gift Card Program to fruition without the support of our foundation champion and community partners who have blessed us with this opportunity and are forever grateful for the persistent support of our Oakland community at-large who can help us realize its full potential,” Petropoulos said.