By Eric Seiverling
Old Man Winter has been rough in Pittsburgh this spring, but he took a timeout to let the sun shine for hundreds of Comcast employees, volunteers, and other participants throughout the region for the 16th annual Comcast Cares Day on Sat., April 21.
A nationwide event, Comcast Cares Day allows Comcast employees and other volunteers to roll up their sleeves, pick up their shovels and hammers, and grow a green thumb by repairing, painting, gardening, and landscaping for numerous non-profit agencies and community services.
One of the country’s largest single-day corporate community service volunteer efforts, the event saw Comcast employees in Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Jacksonville, Little Rock, Los Angeles, Miami, New Hampshire, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. donate their time and skills to improve their locales.
Closer to home, Comcast’s Keystone Region spearheaded volunteer efforts throughout Pittsburgh, including the Sarah Heinz House Boys and Girls Club, Northview Heights Family Support Center Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh, Veterans Place of Washington Boulevard, The Education Partnership, Frick Environmental Center, Best of the Batch Foundation, Treasure House Fashions, South Park in Allegheny County, and Wilkins Primary Memorial Garden.
“We’ll do whatever they need us to do today,” said John Dillon, director of security for Comcast’s Keystone Region and a retired first sergeant and special agent in the United States Army during a break from working at the Veterans Place of Washington Boulevard, where an estimated 100 volunteers cleaned, mulched, and put a fresh coat of stain on a wooden deck. “The secret of volunteerism is that the volunteer receives more than the person for whom it’s intended. There are 100,000 volunteers doing this around the country today, and that’s a powerful statement. Non-profit organizations are our friends and neighbors.”
The volunteer effort at the Veterans Place of Washington Boulevard was led by Gloria Mullner, recruitment manager for Comcast’s Keystone Region. This year marked Mullner’s first time leading a Comcast Cares Day project.
“We’re so proud and we’re so grateful to be here,” Mullner said. “It’s been a fabulous turnout and even better than anticipated.”
Opened in 1996, Veterans Place of Washington Boulevard was created to establish a rehabilitative, residential complex for the growing number of homeless U.S. military veterans throughout Western Pennsylvania. The group’s aim is to facilitate the return of formerly homeless veterans to society as contributing citizens.
The complex features 13 rowhouses that can house up to 48 veterans, and provides employment training, food, and transportation to veterans in need.
This year marked the third consecutive year Comcast Cares Day visited the facility.
“We’re so appreciative of Comcast for doing this for us,” said Veterans Place of Washington Boulevard Executive Director Marlon Ferguson. “We’re a small non-profit battling a big problem. We use this as a launching pad for our spring improvements. I hope Comcast doesn’t underestimate the impact of today. It sends a message to our vets that they matter.”
According to Military Times, there were roughly 40,000 homeless veterans in the United States in 2017, an increase of nearly 600 people since 2016.
The day hit home for Ron Harbor, a United States Army veteran who’s been staying at Veterans Place of Washington Boulevard for the past three months. Originally from South Carolina, Harbor was a fuel linesman in the United States Army from 1976 to 1980.
“I’m having a tough time finding a job because I’m on disability and because of my age,” Harbor said while watching volunteers work around the complex. “I think it’s really good that Comcast is helping us out like this. I didn’t even know they did this. It shows that they really do care about the community.”
Since Comcast Cares Day began in 2001, volunteers have contributed over 5 million hours of community service during 7,700 projects nationwide.
“I brought my grandson here with me because I want to teach him about good values,” said volunteer Victoria Ball while staining the Veterans Place of Washington Boulevard’s back deck. “It makes me feel happy that Comcast is giving back to the community and helping people. Hopefully, they’ll be an example for other companies to follow.”
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