Pittsburgh's Volunteers and Their Spirit of Giving

12 longstanding local volunteers tell us why they've chosen to donate their time, talent and treasure for decades.



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Gail Newton, 53
•  Port Vue
•  National Aviary
•  Years of service: 12
It all started with a family vacation to Florida, where Gail Newton swam with the dolphins at Discovery Cove. “It was such an incredible experience to be that close to nature,” she says. “It made quite an impact on me.” A complete career change for the program manager at the Software Engineering Institute of Carnegie Mellon University wasn’t in the works, but dedicating more than 5,000 hours of service over the past 12 years at the National Aviary was. Having started as a docent, she’s now an educational volunteer, teaching guests onsite and at outreach programs about the facility’s approximately 200 species (with a soft spot for the African penguins).
 

Jack Sheehan, 78
•  North Hills
•  Heinz History Center
•  Years of Service: 10+
So, what inspired Jack Sheehan to volunteer more than 4,400 hours at the Heinz History Center over the past decade? “There’s a secret code in the marriage contract that the wives never tell the guys about. When I retired, my wife read it to me. It said, ‘Now that you’re retired, you have to find to something to do,’” he laughs. Which is a good thing, because the Vietnam War veteran and former major in the Army has brought history to life for thousands of students through the art of storytelling. “I like to talk about the ‘what’ — but the real key is, ‘so what?’” he says.
 

Carol Radzanowski, 66
•  South Side
•  Animal Friends
•  Years of Service: 25+ 
Carol Radzanowski has logged a total of 27,000 hours over more than 25 years of volunteer service at Animal Friends. “Hey,” she says. “If you like it, it doesn’t seem like work.” That work, which began when the facility was located in the Strip District, has earned her the Animal Friends Lifetime Achievement Award — but more importantly, the newest addition to her family: a cairn terrier/lhasa apso/poodle mix named Jesse Luke. “I’m looking around my house and don’t see any photos of my daughter, Heather, but I do see a lot of Jesse Luke!” she laughs.
 

Patricia Taylor, 72
James Taylor, 79

•  Penn Hills
•  Pressley Ridge
•  Years of Service: 27
When their own five biological children were grown, a friend suggested Patricia and James Taylor try foster parenting. “Lo and behold, what started out to be a job — which it is — turned out to be a love affair with our boys,” says Patricia. The Taylors, both cancer survivors, ended up adopting five — Shawn, Anthony, Robert, Dane and Jordan. “They’re honest, they have character, they’re hard working, they’re not a burden on society and I’m very, very proud of them,” she says. In July, Patricia traveled to Washington, D.C., to testify in front of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, championing the importance of medical assistance and funding for the elderly and foster children.
 

Greg Mutinelli, 54
•  Greenfield
•  PERSAD Center
•  Years of Service: 18
Recruiting donating artists and acquiring their work for PERSAD Center’s annual art auction, Art for Change, isn’t something Greg Mutinelli does last-minute — on a whim, or as an afterthought. If he’s in Ligonier and sees something he likes, he’ll contact the artist. If he’s Downtown, same thing. It’s a passion that will soon eclipse two decades — during which he has successfully solicited donations from globally known artists — which couldn’t make him any happier. “I love art, and I love PERSAD,” he says. “I just want to know that I gave everything that I could and I did the best job that I could and that I am thought of as somebody who cared. And I cared a lot. I still do.” 
 

Lara Washington, 50
•  Squirrel Hill
•  Buhl Foundation, Vibrant Pittsburgh, All Star Code, Landmarks Development Corp. 
•  Years of Service: 12
“Volunteering allows you to express yourself,” says Lara Washington. “You invest time in the things you care about — and it helps you to stay focused on what you think is important in your community.” For Washington, the president of the Allegheny Housing Rehabilitation Corp., those things include celebrating the strength of Pittsburgh — but also working with different organizations, such as the Buhl Foundation, Vibrant Pittsburgh and the All Star Code, to help even out disparities and level the playing field for people who come from different socioeconomic circumstances. “I was excited to emulate the example that was set by my parents, [Milt and Nancy Washington], and see how I could help — and what I could learn through volunteering,” she says.
 

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Pittsburgh Magazine’s Three Rivers Champions is an online recognition program designed to honor local individuals who make Pittsburgh a better place by serving our community through volunteerism and charitable deeds. Do you know someone who deserves the title “Three Rivers Champion”?  If so, share their story here. One will be selected for an online profile each month. 
 

Meet our champions here.
 

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