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Comcast Cares at Frick Environmental Center on Earth Day and Beyond

April 26, 2017

By Meg Campbell

On Saturday, April 22, more than 100,000 Comcast employees and their friends, families, and neighbors celebrated the 16th Annual Comcast Cares Day by volunteering at 1,000 project sites around the world. In Pittsburgh, local Comcast volunteers could be found across the city, at organizations including the Sarah Heinz House, Animal Friends, Veterans Place and more.

One such location was the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy’s newly opened Frick Environmental Center, where more than 150 volunteers spent their morning giving back.

“Today, volunteers are going to be pulling invasive species…they’re going to be planting trees and they’re going to be protecting those trees as they plant them,” said Lauryn Stalter, online engagement coordinator at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, “All of this is to restore this side of the park which was pretty overrun with invasive plants, so this is a multi year ecological restoration. Volunteers are really important…this is critical work to this side of the park.”

For longtime volunteer Suki Nelson, this day makes for a great chance to have fun, get dirty, and feel a real sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.

“It’s a really good way to get outside and get some exercise and you don’t’ feel like you’re doing anything out of the ordinary. You feel really happy at the end of the day. You’re a little bit tired and a little bit sore and you can see that you’ve accomplished something,” she said. “Then you go to the park and you bring someone else with you and you can say, ‘I helped build that!’”

“As grownups…you don’t always get a lot of excuses to play outside. This is a great reason to climb around in the trees and get muddy.”

Judith Koch, landscape and volunteer coordinator at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, welcomed the group.

“Without you…we would not be able to have such nice parks. Our partners are really important to us. Today, Comcast is holding their Comcast Cares Day with us on Earth Day. That really makes it possible to have so many people out here today to work in the parks.”

Christine Whitaker, regional senior vice president for Comcast’s Keystone Regions, shared why the day means so much to her.

“I look forward to this day every single day of the year. I have my 16 year old daughter here with me today, she comes out every single time, too. It’s a part of our family tradition. I see it as a part of the family tradition of many of our Comcast employees as well. There’s nothing more special than giving back to the communities that we live and work in, but also having the opportunity to work alongside of our colleagues and their families.”

As the volunteers eagerly left to get started, Whitaker and her colleagues, Frank Polito, director of government affairs at Comcast, and Greg Wagner, Comcast’s site leader at Frick Park, hung back for a moment to talk about what the day means to them and Comcast commitment to the community.

“We’ve been doing this all week,” shared Whitaker.

“We work with The Education Partnership across from our Corliss facilities so that our employees during their break can go over and do volunteer work,” said Polito.

“With our business being 24/7…we can’t take 100% of the workforce out today,” elaborated Whitaker. “That’s why we’ve cultivated these opportunities that allow for everyone in the organization to participate.”

Another thing that the volunteer sites like is not just the [labor] they get for the day but also the per-volunteer grant donation we make to the nonprofit,” shared Wagner. “For every one volunteer we have here today, the FEC will get a certain amount in donations.”

“We are a big company, but one of the things we’re really proud of is that we make it feel small, and [Comcast Cares Day] is one of the days that everyone looks forward to,” said Whitaker.

Polito offered, “When the people get out here and do the work they say, ‘Wow, that’s so fulfilling.’ It’s only two to three hours of work and you feel so good when you’re done.”

At the conclusion of their work, volunteers were invited to join in the official Earth Day celebrations, which included family-friendly activities, lunch, and remarks by Governor Tom Wolf, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Mayor Bill Peduto, and State Representative Dan Frankel.