3 Ways Pittsburghers Can Give Back & Get in Shape During National Volunteer Week

Giving back will help you to get walking, lifting, bending and stretching, all in the name of doing good in your community.


When we learned that April 12-18 was National Volunteer Week, we thought, “Great, we should be giving back.” And then, selfishly and because we are mere overtasked mortals who already are losing interest in our gym, we thought, “Ah, that might help us to be more active, too.”

As we started talking to local organizations about their volunteer opportunities, we found out that we were right — giving back will help you to get walking, lifting, bending and stretching, all in the name of doing good in your community.


Carnegie Library

Nineteen of Carnegie Library’s neighborhood locations have a community garden, all of which need volunteers to weed, water and help with the harvest. Many locations also host Wise Walks — weekly strolls for the over-50 crowd — which are looking for volunteer leaders. If you prefer to be indoors, you may opt to help shelve books. Ginny Beck, coordinator of volunteer services, says the Oakland and Squirrel Hill branches are seeking help in their children’s departments.

Register online, or send an email.


Humane Society

If you want to share your exercise with a new four-legged friend, volunteer to be a dog walker at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. Dogs there are hoping to get three 20-25 minute walks a day.

Be aware that not all dogs will be model leash walkers, and often dog walkers will walk multiple dogs throughout the day. But the dogs — even if they’re feisty — are grateful, says Jessica Dettling, director of volunteer and foster services for the Humane Society.

“It’s very rewarding. You are giving something that the dog needs at that time, whether it’s attention, exercise or love,” says Dettling.

Dog walkers must commit to two hours a week for a minimum of six months. If you’re not a dog person or can’t commit to the schedule, the Humane Society also seeks volunteers to assist with its cats and rabbits, as well as greeting at the front desk and filing. Find out more online.



Habitat for Humanity

Roll up your sleeves and help Habitat renovate a home for a family. After training, you’ll join team leaders in doing anything from demolition and hanging drywall to carpentry or working on siding. 

A typical work day lasts from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and no prior experience is necessary. (Seriously, none.)

“The feedback we get most often is, ‘I didn’t know that I could do that.’ It’s a strong testament to what people are capable of,” says Derek Morris, volunteer coordinator for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Pittsburgh.

Find more information on the website. 

—Jennie Dorris

#Nutrients: Incorporate spinach into your diet this month

We know kale still may be the cool kid on the block, but registered dietitian/nutritionist Andrew Wade is bringing spinach back for April. Why does he love it? For its antioxidants and phytonutrients, which he says are being studied for potential as anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory agents. There’s also vitamin A, B1, B2, C, E, K, folate, zinc, magnesium, iron, calcium and potassium in spinach. “It’s literally a multivitamin,” says Wade. Spinach blends well, so sneak it into a smoothie with Greek yogurt, almond milk, blueberries and strawberries.


photo by Brook Ward via Flickr Creative commons


#FindYourPark: National Park Week kicks off soon

April means it’s time to get outside. But you don’t have to travel all the way to Yellowstone to visit a national park — there are five in western Pa. alone. The National Park Service will celebrate 100 years of operation next year, and this April it's preparing with National Park Week.

On April 18 and 19, there will be free admission to the five local national parks: Flight 93 National Memorial, Fort Necessity National Battlefield, Friendship Hill National Historic Site, Johnstown Flood National Memorial and Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site. The week extends through April 26 and will include tree planting at the Flight 93 memorial, spring wildflower walks and ranger rides.

The National Park Service encourages park visitors to document their visits on social media with #findyourpark #nationalparks to encourage others to get out there and join them.

—Cristina Holtzer


Categories: The 412