45 Ways to Do Good and Give Back in Pittsburgh

We bring you 45 ways across 15 categories where you can do some good in your community.

There’s plenty of evidence that Pittsburghers want to (and will) give back.

On #GivingTuesday last year, Pittsburgh Magazine, working with the Pittsburgh Foundation and other local organizations, launched its second annual #GiveBigPittsburgh campaign, allowing donors to give to 437 registered nonprofits through the end of the calendar year. In 2017, we raised just over $1.5 million total. In 2018, we raised $1,635,857 on Giving Tuesday and passed the $1.7 million mark throughout the rest of the campaign.

In May, the Pittsburgh Foundation hosted its #ONEDAY Critical Needs Alert crowd-funding campaign for nonprofits in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties focusing on providing basic needs to vulnerable populations. It raised $1.67 million for nearly 190 organizations in just one day. Additionally, nearly $800,000 was raised for a #LoveIsStronger campaign benefitting eight organizations assisting those affected by the Tree of Life shooting in October 2018.

“One of the greatest sources of excitement for me becoming president of the Pittsburgh Foundation is a 75-year history of generosity, especially for the region’s most vulnerable,” says President and CEO Lisa Schroeder.

Schroeder notes the Critical Needs Alert campaign has raised more than $6.57 million since 2013. “That’s a wonderful example of spontaneous giving,” she says.

She also points to the fact that there are more than 2,300 charitable funds registered with the Pittsburgh Foundation, making it one of the largest community foundations in the country.

Because of the large amount of people looking for opportunities to do good, we put together this guide of 15 areas where you can give back, everything from cuddling babies at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital to working as a docent at the Carnegie Museum of Art to transporting food to someone in need as part of 412 Food Rescue.

We provide an idea of the time commitment involved with each opportunity as well as whether it’s an activity good for an individual, a group, couples or families. For more opportunities to give in an area that fits you, visit pittsburghcares.org.

Click on you area of interest to get started.

**Please check with the organizations about any necessary clearances or other volunteer requirements.

Animals

Art

Community

Education

Environment

Health

Hunger

Jobs

LGBTQ

Military

Refugees

Seniors

Social Justice

Women & Girls

Youth

Animals
By Jessica Sinichak

1. Volunteer at Humane Animal Rescue
Pittsburgh’s Humane Animal Rescue offers three ways — through its two shelters, at its Wildlife Rehabilitation Center or at outreach events — for volunteers to offer their services. Shelter volunteers may begin by providing walks or care to the animals before progressing to animal training. Volunteers also are needed to assist with a number of services, including adoption, kennel and medical care. Volunteers at the wildlife center provide hands-on care to injured, ill or orphaned wild animals. Each position has training, scheduling and physical requirements. New volunteers are asked to attend an open house orientation, held on the first Saturday of each month, at the North Side facility.
humaneanimalrescue.org

Time commitment:
Long (most opportunities require a weekly commitment)

Good For:
Individuals, Couples, Groups

2. Lend a Hand at Animal Friends
Nonprofit Animal Friends needs volunteers to spend time with its resident animals, bring pet therapy to those who need it, lend a hand at low-cost clinics and greet guests at its signature Black Tie & Tails gala. Volunteers must be at least 13 years old. Those younger than 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian for orientation and certain other trainings.
thinkingoutsidethecage.org

Time commitment:
Short to Long

Good for: Individuals, Couples, Families, Groups

3. Dive in at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium
The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium has several ways for adults — and teens — to offer their services. Docents conduct tours of the facilities, provide information to visitors at animal exhibits, perform observational research and assist at special events. The summer Zoo Teens program (for students ages 14-17) allows teens to take part in small animal care, assist with Zoo Camp and interact with the public, mainly in Kids Kingdom. Volunteer divers also are needed to assist with in-tank maintenance of the warm- and cold-water exhibits.
pittsburghzoo.org

Time commitment:
Medium to Long (Docents volunteer a minimum of 60 hours per year. Zoo Teens must commit to at least one day per week for at least six of the eight weeks in the program. Divers must participate at least once per month as well as attend regular volunteer dive meetings.)

Good for:
Individuals, Couples, Families, Groups

Art
By Sean Collier

1. Volunteer as an Usher at Pittsburgh Public Theater
An all-volunteer corps of theater lovers serves as ushers at the O’Reilly Theater, mostly handing out programs and helping patrons find their seats. It’s an integral part of the theater’s machinery — plus, you’ll get to stay and watch each show as a thank-you.
ppt.org

Time commitment:
Short (minimum of one shift per production)

Good for:
Individuals, Couples

2. Become a Docent at the Carnegie Museum of Art
You’ll take a comprehensive, multi-week art history course before applying to serve as a docent, touring guests through the museum’s remarkable collection and exhibitions. Docents help foster an appreciation of timeless works and special exhibits in museum guests — and have plenty of time to consider the masterpieces.
cmoa.org

Time commitment:
Long (weekly trainings and at least one day of availability every week for at least two years)

Good for:
Individuals

3. Subscribe to a
 Season Series
Admittedly, this isn’t strictly an act of volunteering — but it benefits arts organizations more than just about anything else. Theater, opera, dance, classical music — they all need dollars and, just as vitally, audience members to keep doing what they do. An added bonus for you: Subscriptions usually involve deep discounts against single tickets.

Time commitment:
Short to Medium

Good for:
Individuals, Couples, Groups

Community
By Lauren Rude

1. Participate in Good Deeds Day
On March 29, 2020, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh will partake in the annual international “Good Deeds Day.” Registered volunteers will assist community organizations, nonprofits and religious institutions with activities ranging from a clean up at South Side Park to organizing books at the Millvale Community Library.
jewishpgh.org/good-deeds-day

Time commitment:
Short

Good for:
Individuals, Couples, Families, Groups

2. Beautify Parks with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy 
Projects with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy are opportunities for groups of friends, coworkers, classmates and more to get involved in renovating parks in the city. Based on the needs in the park, groups can spend a day planting trees, cutting vines or gardening.
pittsburghparks.org/group-volunteer-event

Time commitment:
Short (3-4 hours)

Good for:
Groups (maximum of 25 people)

3. Help out at the Bloomfield Saturday Market 
Volunteers at this seasonal farmers market will help set up and tear down canopies, greet customers and assist with any other needs. The market, where vendors sell fresh produce, baked goods, meat and fish, as well as prepared foods and handmade soaps, runs Saturdays May through November.
bloomfieldpgh.org/bloomfield-saturday-market

Time commitment:
Short

Good for:
Individuals, Couples, Families, Groups

Education
By Jamie Crow

1. Be a Reading Buddy at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
Reading Buddies assist children at the library by reading with them, helping with homework and teaching kids about technology. The program promotes literacy, as volunteers read with children one-on-one and in small groups. Training is provided, and evening and weekend volunteer shifts are available at many of the library’s branches.
carnegielibrary.org

Time commitment:
Short (minimum of four hours a month)

Good for:
Individuals, Couples, Groups

2. Volunteer at the Education Partnership
The Education Partnership provides teachers and students in low-income schools with everything they need for the best learning environment possible. Through donations and additional funding, everything is offered for free to educators. You can get involved by helping unpack and organize supplies for distributions at the Teacher Resource Center near the West End, working in the resource center to greet teachers or beautifying the space by making signs or creating artwork for the building.
theeducationpartnership.org

Time commitment:
Short to Medium

Good for:
Individuals, Couples, Families, Groups

3. Be a Classroom Conversation Partner for Literacy Pittsburgh
Literacy Pittsburgh offers corporate or civic groups the chance to help those learning English as a Second Language. Your group can help students practice their listening and speaking skills just by having a conversation, and Literacy Pittsburgh will provide information to make sure your group and the students get the most out of the experience.
literacypittsburgh.org

Time commitment:
Short (two hours at a time, weekday opportunities only)

Good for:
Groups of 5-10

Environment
by Brian Hyslop

1. Pitch in at the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse
The Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse is a nonprofit that blends conservation and creativity at its art supply shop in North Point Breeze and throughout the community. Volunteers starting at age 13 can help in the shop accompanied by a parent. Anyone ages 16 to 18 can volunteer independently in the shop with the permission of a parent or guardian. Donation volunteers keep the retail shop organized by doing things such as measuring fabric, packaging small materials and sorting buttons and beads. Shifts are usually a minimum of 2 hours between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday through Friday. There is a 30- to 60-minute volunteer orientation. For those with an artistic bent who enjoy working with kids, creative education volunteers facilitate hands-on educational programs at the Center and elsewhere.
pccr.org/volunteer/volunteer-with-u

Time commitment:
Short

Good for:
Individuals, Teens

2. Volunteer with GASP
The Group Against Smog and Pollution, celebrating its 50th anniversary, needs volunteers to handle a range of tasks from general office work to delivering educational programs. But dedicated volunteers can become certified Smoke Readers. These volunteers are trained and certified in accordance with the EPA to recognize and understand visible emissions from smokestacks, what violations look like and how to file reports. Smoke Readers need to be recertified twice a year.
gasp-pgh.org/get-involved/volunteer-form

Time commitment:
Short to Long

Good for:
Individuals

3. Go Green with Tree Pittsburgh
Tree Tenders are the most visible volunteers at Tree Pittsburgh, whose mission is to enhance the city’s vitality by restoring and protecting the urban forest. Tree Pittsburgh’s flagship course is offered multiple times a year, covering urban forestry practices, tree biology and health, proper planting, pruning and maintenance. Courses cost $40, but scholarships are available. Tree Tenders also organize tree plantings and tree care events at which individuals and groups can volunteer a few hours of their time.
treepittsburgh.org/ways-to-give/volunteer

Time commitment:
Short to Long

Good for:
Individuals, Groups

Health
By Lauren Rude

1. Provide Comfort (or Hats) to Newborns
UPMC’s “Cuddler Program” allows volunteers to physically comfort babies going through a drug withdrawal or neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Volunteers will hold or rock babies who were born to mothers who used heroin or other opioids during pregnancy. Both UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital and UPMC Northwest partake in the program. UPMC also has a program for volunteers skilled in knitting, crocheting or looming; twice a month they meet in Magee’s lobby to make hats for newborns or “chemo caps” for cancer patients in the midst of treatments.
upmc.com/about/support/giving/volunteer/patient-family-interaction

Time commitment:
Short to Medium

Good for:
Individuals, Groups

2. Cook Meals for Patients and their Families
Find a group of friends and cook dinner for patients and their families residing in one of the three Family House-owned homes located in North Oakland and Shadyside. Family House provides affordable housing for patients and/or families of patients during their time of treatment at various Pittsburgh medical facilities.
familyhouse.org/volunteer

Time commitment:
Short (3-4 hours)

Good for:
Groups of 8-10 people

3. Support Elder Patients through Hospital Elder Life Program
Designed to improve an elder patient’s time during their medical treatments, West Penn Hospital’s Elder Life Program looks for volunteers to create a friendly hospital environment. There are four intervention programs: daily visitor, feeding assistance, therapeutic activities, and caring and comfort.
ahn.org/locations/west-penn-hospital/hospital-elder-life-program-help

Time commitment:
Medium (a minimum of four hours one day a week)

Good for:
Individuals

Hunger
By Hal B. Klein

1. Go on a Rescue with 412 Food Rescue
412 Food Rescue aims to end food insecurity by partnering with food retailers and other organizations to reroute food that might have ended up in the waste-bin or compost heap; instead, it goes to those who could use it to feed themselves and their loved ones. Volunteering is easy: register on the app, find a rescue that’s convenient and hop on your preferred mode of transport to deliver the goods.
412foodrescue.org

Time commitment:
Short to Long

Good for:
Individuals, Couples, Families

2. Lend a Hand to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank
Volunteers are a pillar of helping the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank provide healthy, nutritious food to people in our region who are experiencing food insecurity. There are a number of ways to help: sort and repack perishable and non-perishable food items at the Food Bank’s Duquesne warehouse; distribute fresh food to families at weekly Produce to People events; head to the fields to glean unharvested produce at one of the regions farms; volunteer for office duty.
pittsburghfoodbank.org

Time commitment:
Short to Medium

Good for:
Individuals, Families with older children, Groups

3. Serve Lunch at Jubilee Soup Kitchen
Jubilee Soup Kitchen has since 1980 served lunch 365 days of the year to Pittsburghers in need of a hot meal. The nonprofit is always in need of volunteers to help prepare, serve and clean up following each noontime meal, during which as many as 200 people partake. Individual volunteers should call ahead for weekday meals but can show up without notice on weekends, and groups should call a month or two in advance to schedule time.
jubileesoupkitchen.org

Time commitment:
Short to Medium (Shifts are 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.)

Good for:
Individuals, Groups, Kids at least 13

Jobs
By Stacey Federoff

1. Organize a Career Fair through Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania
To prepare young people to succeed in a global economy, Junior Achievement hosts programs covering topics such as financial literacy and entrepreneurship and events such as career fairs. Professionals can participate in the fairs focused on fields such as energy or STEM, and help organize a number of events.
juniorachievement.org

Time commitment:
Medium

Good for:
Individuals, College students, Businesses

2. Host a Job-Shadow through the Center for Women
When women are re-entering the job market after a life transition, the Center for Women aims to help them develop skills and gain experiences to be economically independent. Professionals can share skills such as resume-writing or financial planning, as well as host a job-shadow or become a mentor.
centerforwomenpgh.org/volunteer-with-us

Time commitment:
Short to Long

Good for:
Individuals, Businesses

3.Help Teach and Prepare Adults for Jobs with Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania
Goodwill invests proceeds from its retail stores into professional development services. College students can become classroom assistants to help an adult education instructor at one of seven Pittsburgh area locations with topics such as reading, math, GED prep and English as a Second Language — plus they get 25 percent off at all the stores as an added perk.
goodwillswpa.org/volunteer

Time commitment:
Long (Three hours per week for six months)

Good for:
Individuals

LGBTQ
By Caroline Bourque

1. Show Some Pride
Two local organizations host celebrations during Pride Month in June. The Delta Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy LGBTQ organization, hosts Pittsburgh Pride, a three-day celebration Downtown, and SisTersPGH, a transgender and nonbinary resource center, hosts an alternative event called People’s Pride. Various volunteers are needed to facilitate the events.
pittsburghpride.org/volunteer
sisterspgh.org/volunteer

Time commitment:
Medium

Good for:
Individuals, Couples, Families

2. OUTrageous Bingo at the PGH Equality CenterBingo night volunteers can expect to verify winning tickets, sell special games and facilitate in setting up and breaking down the event. This 500-person monthly fundraiser supports the PGH Equality Center and the Shepherd Wellness Community, which helps those living with HIV/AIDS improve their wellness.
outrageousbingopgh.ivolunteer.com

Time commitment:
Medium

Good for:
Individuals 18 and older, Couples

3. Cultivate a Support System with PFLAG
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays offers an array of volunteer opportunities, from assisting in regular programming and events to answering the chapter’s helpline. The Pittsburgh chapter meets monthly as a support group to promote dialogue about sexual orientation and gender identity, while fostering a community of diverse and accepting allies.
pflagpgh.org/supportmain.html

Time commitment:
Long

Good for:
Individuals, Couples, Families

Military
By Stacey Federoff

1. Strengthen Community Ties with The Mission Continues
Three “service platoons” in the Pittsburgh area (Hazelwood, Homewood and South Hills) each serve a different focus (neighborhood revitalization or youth and immigrant and refugee support) to connect veterans and their passion for service with under-resourced communities through The Mission Continues. Veterans and non-veterans complete projects such as transforming a vacant lot, picking up trash or helping set-up for a community festival.
missioncontinues.org/service-platoon/pittsburgh-platoons

Time commitment:
Short

Good for:
Individuals, Couples, Families

2. Build Homes for and alongside Veterans with Habitat for Humanity
Volunteers of any skill level can work alongside the future homebuyers and a four-person construction crew to paint, tile, drywall and more throughout a day-long project building an affordable house, which often goes to a veteran. Opportunities to help with home repair projects, such as porch repair or clearing a backyard, also benefit veterans.
habitatpittsburgh.org/veterans

Time commitment:
Short

Good for:
Individuals, Couples, Groups

3. Honor Fallen Heroes with Wreaths Across America
On one day in December, at more than 1,200 locations nationwide, wreaths are laid on graves and other memorials to remember veterans’ sacrifices during their military service. Locally, wreaths are laid at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies in Cecil Township, where help is needed to both lay the wreaths and sponsor the more than 12,000 evergreens.
wreathsacrossamerica.org

Time commitment:
Short to Medium

Good for:
Individuals, Couples, Groups, Families

Refugees
By Lauren Davidson

1. Welcome a Refugee Family
Jewish Family and Community Services is the largest refugee resettlement agency in the region and helps provides basic needs for incoming families. Volunteers can work with youth in the After School Club and offer in-home family mentoring, whether that’s helping refugees develop English skills, become familiar with local culture or learn to navigate the city. Specific needs and opportunities are posted regularly on the website.
jfcspgh.org/volunteers

Time commitment:
Medium to Long

Good for:
Individuals

2. Translate at the Latino Community Center
Volunteers at the Latino Community Center Downtown take four-hour shifts answering phones and connecting Latino clients with necessary services. The center also needs volunteers to act as mentors to local elementary school students.
latinocommunitycenter.org

Time commitment:
Short

Good for:
Individuals

3. Help Those Who Help Refugees
Holy Family Institute in Emsworth needs donations (clothing, toys, school supplies) as well as volunteers to work with refugees and the other populations it serves. It also hosts corporate group days of service, which typically last from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., where co-workers can come together for a project such as groundskeeping, painting or cleaning.
hfi-pgh.org/volunteer

Time commitment:
Short

Good for:
Groups

Seniors
By Jesseca Muslin

1. Open Your Heart to a Senior with United Way
With its Open Your Heart to a Senior program, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania trains and matches volunteers with seniors living independently to help them with tasks such as shopping, hot meals and help with mail and technology. Volunteers get the chance to build one-on-one relationships and help seniors stay in their homes.
uwswpa.org/open-your-heart-to-a-senior

Time commitment:
Long (several hours a week)

Good for:
Individuals

2. Bridge Generations with the Jewish Association on AgingUnder 21? The Jewish Association on Aging wants you to volunteer with the G2G: Generation to Generation program. Youth in the community volunteer by visiting seniors, becoming a penpal or performing with classmates, all with the goal of providing connection between youth and seniors. The JAA also has other opportunities for volunteers of all ages.
jaapgh.org/join-our-team/volunteer

Time commitment:Short to Long

Good for:
Individuals, Groups

3. Help the Little Sisters of the Poor Create a HomeVolunteer opportunities abound at the Little Sisters of the Poor home for elderly residents. Individuals and groups are encouraged to help residents in many different ways, whether it’s serving meals, working in the in-house thrift shop or assisting with programs. Volunteer groups are able to sponsor activities, “adopt” a resident during the holidays or collect needed items.
littlesistersofthepoorpittsburgh.org/volunteer-2

Time commitment:
Short to Long

Good for:
Individuals, Couples, Groups

Social Justice
By Lauren Davidson

1. Donate to a Free Store
Free Store 15014 in Braddock and Free Store Wilkinsburg are exactly what they sound like: stores where you can take anything for free. Founded in 2012 by former Braddock First Lady Gisele Fetterman, the free stores receive donations from residents as well as surplus goods from clothing stores or other retailers and redistribute them to neighbors in need. The stores are in need of new or gently used items; the most-pressing needs are baby clothing, formula, diapers and household items. Volunteers are periodically needed to man the locations.
freestore15104.org
freestorewilkinsburg.org

Time commitment:
Short to Long

Good for:
Individuals, Couples, Groups

2. Work to Repair the World
Repair the World Pittsburgh, started in 2013, pairs thousands of volunteers each year with various projects related to food or education justice issues. Ongoing opportunities include volunteering with STEAM programs at Assemble in Garfield, cooking meals and assisting with childcare at Circles East Liberty and maintaining community gardens, and one-day volunteer efforts are organized periodically as well.
werepair.org/pittsburgh

Time commitment:
Short to Long

Good for:
Individuals, Families

3. Help out at Jeremiah’s Place
Childcare emergencies can arise if a parent is hospitalized or in a domestic abuse situation or if a family is experiencing any kind of crisis or trauma. Jeremiah’s Place, Pittsburgh’s crisis nursery for kids ages 0-6, in East Liberty needs both childcare volunteers (who are asked to commit for three hours a week for at least three months) and special event volunteers to help with planning and implementing.
jeremiahsplace.org/volunteer

Time commitment:
Short to Long

Good for:
Individuals

Women & Girls
By Jamie Crow

1. Become a Mentor with Strong Women, Strong Girls
Strong Women, Strong Girls allows college women from partner schools the chance to mentor girls in grades 3 to 5 in weekly after-school sessions that focus on diverse female role models. Through different weekly activities, girls learn skills such as leadership, teamwork and character. Professional women can also volunteer their time to mentor college women to better prepare them for their futures; these volunteer opportunities are available in individual sessions and group mentoring programs.
swsg.org

Time commitment:
Long (academic year)

Good for:
Individuals

2. Prepare Meals for the Women’s Center & ShelterThe Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh provides a safe space for women and their children who are affected by domestic abuse. Corporate groups of volunteers can work together to provide meals for shelter residents and their children. Volunteers supply the ingredients for the meal, which can be prepared either off site or at the shelter.
wcspittsburgh.org

Time commitment:
Short

Good for:
Groups (5-8 people)

3. Become a Client Suiting Consultant at Dress for Success
Dress for Success empowers women by providing support and professional clothing for women looking to develop their next step and build their economic independence. Client Suiting Consultants guide women in picking out the clothing and accessories and help women leave feeling confident and prepared for their careers. Shifts are flexible and scheduled on a weekly or monthly basis.
pittsburgh.dressforsuccess.org

Time commitment:
Medium

Good for:
Individuals

Youth
By Caroline Bourque

1. Do Your Part with the Western Pennsylvania Diaper Bank
The Western Pennsylvania Diaper Bank supplies diapers for low-income families at no cost to them and establishes a regular channel of distribution to ensure they reach those in need. Volunteer opportunities include diaper repackaging, sorting, assisting with community events and organizing your own diaper drive.
wpadiaperbank.org/volunteer

Time commitment:
Short to Long

Good for:
Individuals, Couples, Families, Groups

2.  Lend a Hand at the Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library
Located on Centre Avenue in Shadyside, the Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library is an indoor play space and toy lending library for children from birth through age 6 and their caregivers. The library allows Volunteers On Duty to work in two-hour shifts to greet visitors and manage the play space. Volunteers can also participate in regular play space and toy cleanups.
pghtoys.org/get-involved/volunteer

Time commitment:
Short to Long

Good for:
Individuals

3. Participate in Play it Forward Pittsburgh
Celebrating its ninth year of collection and distribution, Play it Forward Pittsburgh functions as a “gently loved” toy donation drive that takes place annually in mid-December. Volunteers can assist in sorting and organizing the toys as well as setting up the shopping area at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
playitforwardpittsburgh.com

Time commitment:
Short

Good for:
Individuals, Couples, Families, Groups

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