More than 1,700 mayors across the country paid homage to volunteers in their cities on Tuesday as part of the Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service, and Pittsburgh’s Mayor Bill Peduto was no exception.
Peduto spoke to hundreds of volunteers at the East End Cooperative Ministry Tuesday morning, just before the volunteers embarked on a day of community service.
“Thank you for being those people that care,” Peduto told the crowd. “Thank you for being those people who say ‘I have a job to do that goes beyond my own life’ … That’s what being part of a community is about.”
Many of the volunteers at the event were senior citizens working with Senior Corps RSVP, but there were also dozens of young AmeriCorps volunteers on hand as well. Jessica Ruffin works with AmeriCorps through her role at Public Allies Pittsburgh, an organization that works to identify and provide service opportunities for aspiring community leaders.
“You have a great responsibility, not just to complete your service objectives, but to empower those around you, especially those you serve,” Ruffin said. “True leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.”
The celebration of Pittsburgh-area volunteers was organized by the non-profit Pittsburgh Cares, which matches individuals with service opportunities.
Deb Hopkins, executive director of Pittsburgh Cares, thanked the crowd for their service, emphasizing that every individual volunteer does make an impact.
“Whether you’re rebuilding a city … mentoring one child, serving a meal to one senior, or as in AmeriCorps, helping one small agency with their technology needs, for that one you have made a difference,” Hopkins said.
Helen Crowley, a volunteer with Senior Corps’ Foster Grandparents program, echoed that sentiment. The Crafton resident said she began volunteering in Pre-K classrooms after her retirement. She remembered one little boy in particular, with whom she worked throughout his final Pre-K year.
“When he started kindergarten, he came in every morning to give me a hug. When he started first grade, he came in every morning to give me a hug,” Crowley said. “That made me feel good that I did something really good for even one child.”
Crowley was one of several people who opted to volunteer with the book sorting project in the library at East End Cooperative Ministry. Other volunteer opportunities included serving hot lunches to community members in need, cleaning up litter in the East Liberty area, and working in the community garden.
The national Mayors Day of Recognition is sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the National League of Cities, Cities of Service, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.