• Today is: Thursday, March 30, 2017

Join the Pittsburgh family volunteer challenge at Be My Neighbor Day

Be My Neighbor Day
Candy Williams
March14/ 2017

Above photo: Daniel Tiger has been involved with Be My Neighbor Day from the beginning. Photo by Renee Rosensteel

There’s an episode of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” with the theme of growing up where Little Daniel learns that everyone is big enough to do something.

It’s the perfect message for kids attending Be My Neighbor Day, where Daniel Tiger and Katerina Kittycat will help their young fans understand they can be part of the bigger picture in helping others.

“That’s really the mantra for this day – that even preschoolers are big enough to help,” says Paul Siefken, president and CEO of The Fred Rogers Company. “With their families with them, if we can foster a conversation with both parents and kids to help develop empathy, that’s a lifelong lesson.”

Volunteering is so easy, even kids can do it – and families do it best together, says The United Way of Southwestern PA. Hundreds of families are expected to converge on Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Oakland from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 18 for the fourth-annual Be My Neighbor Day.

WQED Pittsburgh and the Fred Rogers Company collaborated with United Way to develop the very first Be My Neighbor Day.

“This has continued to grow as a wonderful partnership between organizations that share the essence of Fred Rogers’ wonderful concept of ‘neighborhood,’ which is at the core of WQED’s mission,” says Darryl Ford Williams, vice president of content for WQED Multimedia.

As in past years, families will take part in activities to benefit people in their community. They will decorate squares to be sewn into quilts for veterans, plant sunflowers in pretty pots for seniors, create literacy kits, and make trail mix as a healthy snack for children.

New this year is a call to action to continue volunteering. Be My Neighbor Day will serve as a kickoff to the organization’s first-ever #FamiliesForGood Challenge. The effort encourages families to continue to volunteer together and to challenge their friends to do the same on social media from March 18 to May 20.

Be My Neighbor Day
Even the youngest kids can help in the volunteer effort at Be My Neighbor Day. Photo by Renee Rosensteel

The goal is for families to collectively log 5,000 volunteer hours during the challenge – beginning with their time spent helping together at Be My Neighbor Day – and share their volunteer stories on social media at #FamiliesForGoodChallenge.

“It all starts with the youngest children,” says Lois Mufuka Martin, the United Way’s chief volunteer engagement officer. “They can learn about empathy and caring.”

A slew of volunteers will get the ball started at this weekend’s event.

Carley Taslov of Robinson, a manager with Schneider Downs, will work as a member of the social media team, sharing videos on Facebook and Twitter to promote the cause. A long-time volunteer since high school, she believes it’s vital for kids to get involved. It’s important to teach kids to have compassion for those in need, she says.

“I’m excited, and I’m already promoting the event on social media with my friends,” says Andrea Krueger of Murrysville, who works for Pittsburgh Technology Council. She will volunteer with her husband Marcus and their 3-year-old daughter Autumn. “Volunteering is something we can incorporate in our family’s fun time that also teaches our daughter about doing things in the community. It’s good for her growth and development.”

Be My Neighbor Day is free, but a donation of a new children’s book suitable for ages 5 and younger will be greatly appreciated. Books will benefit local kids through United Way’s 100,000 Books Initiative.

Family volunteer ideas

This weekend, United Way and partners The Fred Rogers Company and WQED Pittsburgh will offer more details about a variety of upcoming family volunteer activities. A website will go live on March 18 with ideas for families to volunteer together in their homes. Here is a short list to get started:

Flip Flop Drive: Collect flip flops for women and families in shelters with communal showers.

Safety Kits for Seniors: Pack collections of items, such as Neosporin, bandages, cotton balls, nail clippers, tweezers, hydrogen peroxide, sunscreen, aloe vera, ice packs, and flashlight with batteries,

Spring Cleaning Kits for Veterans: In laundry baskets, gather laundry detergent, dryer sheets, cleaning wipes, dish liquid, toilet bowl cleaner, floor cleaner, bucket, and sponges

Summer Enrichment Kits: Collect arts and craft supplies, such as notebook paper, construction paper, pencils, markers, modeling clay, board games, card games, word search books, crayons and coloring books. They will be welcome at day camps and shelters.

Candy Williams

Candy Williams is a freelance writer and journalist whose articles have appeared in national and local publications. She lives in the South Hills.