By DONOVAN HARRELL
The Pitt community will have several opportunities to continue volunteering even while the COVID-19 pandemic limits social interaction.
A Pittwire article on March 31 outlined new initiatives to promote community service.
David DeJong, vice chancellor for Human Resources, and Kathy Humphrey, senior vice chancellor for Engagement, announced a plan that would give staff more flexibility to implement volunteer hours during their weekly schedule. The plan allows staff to request up to eight hours per week from their work schedule to volunteer.
“We appreciate how the Pitt community continues to pursue our institutional goal of strengthening communities as we transition from the familiar communal environment of our campuses to working and interacting remotely from our individual homes,” Humphrey said in Pittwire.
Staff members should discuss their interest in volunteering time with their supervisors to ensure all University business needs are met. Once supervisor approval is obtained, staff members who volunteer their time should classify these hours as “approved absence” on their timecards in PRISM and add a comment to read: “VOL COVID-19.” Find more information on the Human Resources website.
Further, the Office of Community and Governmental Relations, in coordination with the Office of PittServes, the School of Social Work, the Graduate School of Public Health, the University Library System and Pitt Information Technology, has created the Pitt Pandemic Service Initiative to provide a list of opportunities to volunteer, donate durable goods or food and share informational resources with neighbors and the broader public. The website includes a form for organizations to inquire about being included as a community partner.
These opportunities, from helping with the packaging and delivery of meals and assisting community organizations to volunteering IT and computer refurbishment service, will fit into social distancing guidelines. There are opportunities available for students, faculty and staff. The initiative will continue while the University remains at its current level of pandemic response.
“The University is confronting this crisis on all fronts — leveraging our research, our facilities, our ability to serve. We can all play a part: Now is the time we roll up our sleeves and double down on what it means to be a University of the community,” Lina Dostilio, associate vice chancellor for community engagement, told Pittwire.
Jamie Ducar, director of community engagement, outlined some of the details of the programs in the Community Relations Committee meeting on March 24.
The IT support program, Ducar said, will give Pitt faculty, staff and student volunteers basic IT support training. Her office is partnering with PittServes on gauging potential participants’ abilities and availability.
“We’re going to match them with the support of our IT folks at Pitt so that there’s a really nice easy way for our volunteers to offer drop-in remote neighbor to neighbor IT,” Ducar said. “And that’s really because we know there’s going to be a lot of households managing the new technology. As students are working remotely and as positions are moving remotely, we want to make sure that our neighbors are not left behind with hardware that they can’t use.”
Pitt also will participate in the “Buddy” program from Pittsburgh Cares, in which volunteers around Pittsburgh sign up to be a “buddy” to help people particularly vulnerable to the virus with errands, including picking up groceries and medicine.
Paul Supowitz, vice chancellor for Community and Governmental Relations, added that Pitt has created a centralized committee for receiving and responding to donation requests. These requests can be sent to Chris Casamento, director of Emergency Management and Planning in the Department of Public Safety, Supowitz said.
Shenay Jeffrey, assistant director of PittServes, said her office is also working with Community and Governmental Relations to put a volunteer management system together. Since most in-person programming has been canceled because of the pandemic, PittServes is reimagining how to offer community engagement online.
“We’re just really focusing on what we can do now and what does being a good neighbor really look like during something like the COVID-19 pandemic,” Jeffrey said.
Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at email@example.com or 412-383-9905.
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