City raises money, hope for charity this season

By Nerine Sivagnanam / Staff Writer

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While most Pitt students are thankful that final exams are over, some in the Pittsburgh community would be thankful simply for having a winter jacket. Pitt students are working to make that happen. 

According to spokesman John Fedele, Pitt is attempting to break a world record with its “Give a Thread” project, which began on Dec. 5. If the Pitt community can collect more than 150,000 “large” articles of clothing for charity, including pants, shirts, jackets, suits, dresses, shorts and skirts, Pitt will hold the world record for most items collected in a clothing donation campaign. 

Other divisions at Pitt, including Student Affairs, Residence Life, faculty and First Year Experience are alsoworking on the clothing drive. “Give a Thread” represents one of many on-campus charity efforts this season. Throughout the remainder of 2014, several Pitt groups will work toward helping those less fortunate with donations, charity events and holiday gifts for those who cannot afford to buy them. 

“PittServes came up with the idea,” said Kacy McGill, the Student Government environmental committee chair. “They thought it would engage the community and would be good for sustainability.” 

Organizers, including McGill, will donate clothes collected from the drive to organizations such as Dress for Success or Goodwill. They’ll recycle the clothes they don’t donate, McGill said. If all undergraduate students donated eight articles of clothing, Pitt would beat the world record for most clothing collected in a drive.McGill said she isn’t sure of how many articles the drive has collected so far, but the world record attempt will be on Jan. 9, 2015, when the drive ends.

Whether or not Pitt breaks the record, McGill said she hopes that the effort will have a positive effect on students by making them feel good about the fact that they are giving during the holiday season.  

“We hope students will come out of the event realizing why it is so important to give to the poor,” McGill said. 

In addition to the clothing drive, some Pitt organizations are looking to help others during the holiday season. 

The Office of Community and Governmental Relations coordinates several efforts to help those in need, according to its director, Kannu Sahni. 

“Christmas Day,” a Dec. 25 meal in Market Central for those in need of food, is a partnership between the University, Sodexo and the Salvation Army, Sahni said. 

“Guests enjoy a traditional holiday feast and a day filled with cheer,” Sahni said. “Market Central is decked with decorations, Santa and Mrs. Claus take photos with families and a band plays holiday music.” 

According to Sahni,the event has been very successful in the past. The first dinner, which was held in 2006, served 300 people. The Tower C Candygram sale, through which students send $2 candygrams to anyone, also supports Christmas dinner. 

“Perhaps most impressively, on Christmas Day more than 200 staff and faculty volunteer to serve food and pass out gifts,” Sahni said. “We receive emails starting in November asking when sign-ups begin, and we’ve even had to ask people to take a year off so that everyone has the opportunity to volunteer!” 

Sahni’s office also hosts the Winter Apparel Drive and the Holiday Gift Drive, which make the “Christmas Day” event possible.

Pitt students can donate to either drive, according to John Wilds, assistant vice chancellor of community relations. Donation bins for the Winter Apparel Drive are all over campus, and students may drop off gifts at 710 Alumni Hall, Wilds said.

The University even brought a few guests to campus to inspire students to donate.

The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium kicked off the “Give a Thread” clothing drive by bringing a penguin to campus on Dec. 5. To enter the “Give a Thread” kickoff event and get a chance to see the animal, students had to bring one article of clothing to donate.

Pitt charities aren’t forgetting about nature’s more domestic animals either this winter.

The Animal Lover’s Club is also hosting an ongoing blanket drive for the holidays, according to Kelsey Hooker, the group’s business manager. Members collect blankets, towels, pet food, dog beds, sweaters and toys for animals in the Pittsburgh area. The collected items will go to the Animal Lover’s Club affiliated shelters: the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania and Animal Friends.

The cold weather during the holiday season increases the demand for blankets at the local animal shelters, Hooker said. Collection boxes for pet supplies are “all around campus,” Hooker said, including Hillman Library and the William Pitt Union.

“Every donation makes a difference,” Hooker said. 

The response from the Pitt community for charitable causes on campus, Sahni said, is “incredible.”

“Everyone deserves to have a holiday season full of good food, laughter, joy and most importantly, the hope that comes from knowing that their community cares about them,” Sahni said.

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