Our Massive-Hearted Neighbors | Pittsburgh Journal

I’ve found that if you want to volunteer for some programs in Pittsburgh, you’ve got to be quick.

When I had a more flexible schedule earlier this year, I would pick up 3-hour shifts at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank’s warehouse in Duquesne. I’d either help break down huge bins of donated frozen meats — poultry, pork, beef (and a shout-out to Giant Eagle for including a few filet mignon and Delmonico steaks in its lot) — and pack them into 20-pound boxes or help pack food boxes on an assembly line. The food bank would send emails weekly to its pool of volunteers announcing a list of open shifts for the following week. If I didn’t see that email right away — like in the first hour — most, if not all, of the open slots would be taken.

Gretchen McKay, food editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, wrote a story in 2017 about people who volunteer to serve at various soup kitchens on Thanksgiving. For many of these organizations, they’d reach capacity for volunteers weeks or even months in advance of the big day.

That’s a great testament to how big-hearted Pittsburghers truly are.

This is evident in our November issue that highlights 40 honorees under the age of 40 who have excelled not only in their careers but in the ways they have given back to their communities.

We also present our annual GIVE issue, which — to acknowledge Veterans Day on Nov. 11 — this year spotlights nonprofits that help veterans navigate back into society, whether through career networking or personal support and camaraderie.

I hope you find the time to read each profile in the 40 Under 40 feature. Many of these folks are giving back after experiencing their own hardships and want to help others in similar circumstances. Like Eric Howze, an Army veteran who was homeless after returning to the states. After he got on his feet, he set up a nonprofit, No Hero Left Behind, with his wife Christina Flewellen-Howze, also an Army veteran, that advocates for homeless, underserved and disconnected veterans. Or Constance Mulbah, a former Liberian refugee, who works to improve the lives of women in Liberia. Or Alydia Thomas, a Duquesne University student development official who felt undervalued and dismissed because of her race and gender and is serving as a mentor for students who look like her.

These and all of the other folks on the list are truly an inspiration to us all.

Virginia Linn can be reached at vlinn@pittsburghmagazine.com.

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