Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Drive

Kidsburgh hero: Teen delivers warm message with sweater drive

Jackie Seltzer is dedicated to keeping kids warm this winter.

As a volunteer with the 17th annual Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Sweater Drive, she has posted signs and set out bins for donations of new or gently used child- and adult-sized sweaters. Hosted by The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, the drive runs through Dec. 16.

This is the second year Jackie has been involved. Last year, despite a late start, the 18-year-old, Penn-Trafford High School senior, delivered more than 700 sweaters.

This year’s goal is more ambitious. Jackie hopes to collect 1,017 sweaters in honor of the drive’s 17th anniversary.

Jackie is motivated to give back, she says, because she knows there are plenty in the region who struggle to even put food on the table.

“I can’t even imagine how cold they must be if they can’t afford food,” Jackie says. “If we can just help them out and put a sweater on their backs, that’s their armor against the cold.”

When Jackie joined the drive in 2015, she turned it into a project for her school’s Community Action Program. She enlisted her principal, Tony Aquilio, to clear the way to place bins at district schools.

Sweaters aren’t all Jackie will be contributing: She has pledged to donate two weeks of tips from her job as a server at Eat’n Park.

Stephanie Aaronson is impressed by Jackie’s commitment.

“Seeing this young lady as someone who believes in the mission, just like we do, and is working hard toward that goal, is something to take notice of,” says Aaronson, co-chair of the Community and Special Engagement Committee for The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh Ambassadors: Kids at Heart.

The ambassadors are a collection of young professionals who give of their time and connections at the museum. Last year, 12 ambassadors set up collection centers at their offices and area Tender Care Learning Centers.

“You want to be part of the mission in a hands-on sense,” Aaronson says. “We collected 2,800 sweaters last year. It gave the volunteers a sense they were helping these needy families.”

Jackie says her sense of mission comes from her mother, Diane, who is a nurse. Over the years, mom would take Jackie and her brother with her on home or hospice visits if she couldn’t get a babysitter.

“She just always taught us it was right to give back when you can,” Jackie says.

Jackie expects her community service will continue as she grows into adulthood and starts a professional life. She has designs on becoming a politician so she can influence others.

“I feel that that’s the best way to help locally. They’re the ones who make the laws and they’re the ones who can really decide what gets done,” Jackie says. “If I can decide what gets done I can put my time and effort towards helping those in need.”

The Mister Rogers’s Neighborhood Sweater Drive runs through Dec. 16. The program has collected more than 39,000 sweaters since starting in 2000. Interested in donating? Call the Sweater Donation Hotline: 412-322-5058, ext. 363