On Thursday of last week, news broke that several local charities were coming up short to provide holiday cheer for hundreds of kids throughout the region. Word spread fast and the response was swift and immediate. Links showed up in my Facebook feed repeatedly as friends of friends of friends reached out for help and resources.
Obviously, toys under a Christmas tree from some Guy Named Santa aren’t necessarily in the same category as food on the table and roof over your head. Many people don’t even celebrate That Guy. But these are the holidays, and whatever you celebrate, there’s some miracle woven in there somewhere. And surely good will towards our fellow humans and joy are things we can all get behind, right? Right. And Pittsburgh got behind it in a pretty big way. Like Steelers-Nation-yes-I’ll-be-your-neighbor kind of big.
A Facebook group and Crowd Fundraising Campaign was started to create a virtual base of operations with requests and responses growing by the hour. I mentioned the story to several co-workers who immediately opened their wallets to chip in without waiting to see if I was even asking for contributions. On Saturday my kids and I delivered the contributions to Most Wanted Fine Art, an art gallery turned Santa’s Workshop, and spent a few hours helping to sort and pack. The phones didn’t stop ringing and people kept showing up with gifts and money to contribute to the cause. We learned of more groups who were coming up short, and people just stepped up their efforts even more. What started as toys grew to include a holiday meal and handwarmers for homeless youth.
As of Monday morning, it looks like well over 2000 families received some holiday cheer from hundreds of neighbors through the ‘Burgh. In a matter of days, more than $10K was raised on top of the toy contributions. And since it’s only December 22nd, the work continues, and the seeds have been planted to leverage these pathways to continue to provide much-needed resources in 2015.
In my own flurry of last minute holiday scrambling and end-of-year work deadlines, I’m filled with gratitude. I’m grateful that I work with the kind of people who will dive into an effort like this without being asked. I’m proud to live in a city where a call for help doesn’t go unanswered. I met so many amazing people both virtually and in-person this weekend, and I feel lucky to be a small part of it.