United Way at Pitt hopes for more participants and more funds


This year’s United Way campaign at Pitt kicks off on Oct. 3, with the goal of increasing both the percentage of Pitt employees who participate and the amount of money raised for local families. This year's theme, United We Fight — United We Win, “really defines the campaign,”  says campaign coordinator Tamara Whitlam of Institutional Advancement.

Whitlam says she has seen the impact of United Way personally. She recalls building a bike with a Pitt team for a 10-year-old girl at a United Way event last summer in Heinz Field, where 300 volunteers helped 150 kids get a new bicycle and helmet while learning bike safety rules and health tips.

“It just seemed to affect them in a positive and joyful way,” Whitlam says of the children. “It was like Christmas in the middle of the summer.”

Donors can see the local impact for themselves by choosing to direct their donation to a particular cause, says LaKeisha Gray, also of Institutional Advancement and the campaign's other coordinator. As in the past, donations may be directed to a specific nonprofit, locally or nationally; to a specific United Way focus, such as aiding veterans or the homeless; or simply to the United Way in general. Donations can be made through payroll deduction; via a button available Oct. 3 on my.pitt.edu; or by sending an email requesting a pledge form to pittunitedway@pitt.edu.

“Given Pitt’s location in an urban area,” Gray says, “we have so many constituents around us, so it’s important that we stay connected” through giving to United Way. Last year, Pitt faculty and staff (including retirees) gave more than $687,500 — the highest total ever — and the University's goal for the 2018 campaign is $750,000

At the Oct. 3 kickoff breakfast, staff who are leading the campaign, as well as the student group Students Consulting for Nonprofit Organizations, will be donating books to the United Way’s 100,000 Books initiative, which aims to collect new reading material for kids in kindergarten through third grade over the next three years.

“Building a strong bridge to children’s literacy at Pitt — there’s no better cause for a University,” Whitlam says.

Senior Vice Chancellor for Business and Operations Greg Scott is the chair of this year’s campaign.

Marty Levine is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at martyl@pitt.edu or 412-758-4859.