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Pittsburgh Foundation’s Critical Needs Alert focuses on vital family services

Critical Needs Alert
Sally Quinn
May17/ 2017

The Pittsburgh Foundation has raised a call to arms – or at least a call to pocketbooks – for Tuesday, May 23.

That’s the day you can make a difference in children’s lives across Allegheny County by participating in the Critical Needs Alert fundraising event. The $1.2 million goal is the largest the Foundation has set for this type of fundraising event. The foundation offers a $600,000 match pool for the one-day, online fundraiser.

With increased pressure on struggling nonprofits which provide essential human services and the prospect of federal and state government aid being slashed, Foundation officials have seen the necessity for a Critical Needs Alert to provide a safety net for children and families. Previous Alerts targeted areas such as food insecurity and housing, raising $2.5 million.

The 93 nonprofits which will benefit from this Alert work in five areas of basic needs: child care, food and nutrition, housing, physical and mental health, and transportation.

“We work in response to what we see currently happening,” says Kelly Uranker, director of the Foundation’s Center for Philanthropy. “We’re focused on what we call 100 Percent Pittsburgh.”

Despite the prosperity that we’re experiencing in Pittsburgh, she explains, at least one-third of the region’s population live at or below the federal poverty line, with 70 percent of that population being single mothers.

“The idea is that 100 percent of us need to be moving forward,” Uranker says. “Now is the time and the opportunity to shore up those organizations that service those populations and give donors a little bit of incentive to do so.”

This time around, the pool of matching funds has a new twist. You can still go online and choose the organizations to whom you wish to donate, but the matching funds are no longer first come, first served.

“Usually, if you have a match pool, if the money runs out in an hour and a half, people stop giving,” Uranker says. With this pro-rated match pool, “people can give throughout the day and give at their convenience. So, we end up raising more funds at the end of the day.”

How it works: At the end of the day, the Foundation will look at the total amount raised and divide it by the match pool. Then every organization will get the same percentage on top of the total they raised.

Prior to the May 23rd giving effort, you can visit the website and wander through the benefitting nonprofits listed on the Leader Board to get a sense of their missions.

Critical Needs Alert
Children often benefit from hands-on activities as part of lessons, in this case, the importance of healthy food was the focus of creating a garden at Child’s Way Daycare.

One of those is Child’s Way Daycare at the Children’s Home & Lemieux Family Center. The pediatric, extended care center offers an alternative and a supplement to in-home nursing and therapy to medically fragile kids, who would otherwise be unable to attend traditional daycare.

The Critical Needs Alert fundraising helps Child’s Way provide tuition and scholarships for kids from infancy to young adults.

“We assist parents in maintaining employment because of the consistent quality of care that we offer,” says Kristina Waltman, director of external affairs. “Child’s Way lifts barriers to child care for families in the community by providing extra support for children experiencing disability and health disorders.”

Teachers and nurses work side-by-side, providing educational curriculum to kids while caring for their special health needs.

A more traditional daycare, but no less special, is the 60-year-old Arsenal Family & Children’s Center in Friendship.

“One of the things you need to know about child care and preschool is we can’t charge enough to make ends meet,” says Melissa Hankin, executive director. “That’s the critical need there.”

Parents need to work and they want a high-quality day care and preschool they can trust, she says. And they need it to be affordable.

“Most often the families that we serve cannot afford to come here,” Hankin says. “We try to get scholarship money for them, and we try to get extra funds for them.”

Donations through the 16 hours of Critical Needs fundraising will be a big help.

“We believe Pittsburgh’s community foundation must lead now on the moral imperative,” says Maxwell King, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Foundation. “The Critical Needs event is key to jump-starting the legendary generosity that residents are known for in assisting the most vulnerable.”

Keep the discussion going under the banner #SafetyNetPGH.

Sally Quinn

Sally Quinn is an award-winning writer and editor who has been covering her favorite city for more than 20 years. She welcomes comments and story ideas for Kidsburgh.