Grant to help boost city volunteerism

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The City of Pittsburgh -- which has only average participation in volunteer efforts, according to the latest federal study -- is getting a $200,000 private grant to oversee and increase volunteerism.

The city and nine others nationwide received the "Cities of Service" grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bloomberg Philanthropies to hire a chief services officer to coordinate volunteer efforts among city government, nonprofits, foundations and neighborhoods. In Pittsburgh, the focus will be on promoting youth programs (such as the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program) and neighborhood development plans, including citywide environmental initiatives.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl was an early participant in a bipartisan Cities of Service Coalition started by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in September 2009, and thanked his fellow mayor for the two-year grant, which will allow Pittsburgh to hire a full-time volunteer czar at his City-County Building offices.

"We're really excited about the fact we were chosen. It was a competitive grant -- I'm not sure how many cities were chosen, but I'm told there were many who were told no," Mr. Ravenstahl said. "Volunteering and getting involved is something Pittsburghers naturally do and have always done, but now we'll have a newfound commitment even to increasing that in the out-years as well."

The city will begin advertising the job opening soon, he added.

The other cities winning grants were Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Baltimore; Baton Rouge, La.; Chula Vista, Calif.; Houston; Little Rock, Ark.; Orlando, Fla; and Richmond, Va.

A "Volunteering in America" study issued June 15 by the federal Corporation for National & Community Service placed volunteer rates in the metro Pittsburgh area 25th out of 51 large urban areas nationwide.

The city worked with Pittsburgh Cares, Leadership Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development and the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group to secure the Cities of Service grant. Having a city coordinator will help the various groups work together on projects and make sure critical needs don't slip through the cracks, said Pittsburgh Cares program manager Alexa New.

"Cities of Service allows Pittsburgh to make volunteer service a priority citywide, and encourages neighborhoods, nonprofits, foundations and volunteers to step up and claim projects," she said.

Tim McNulty: or 412-263-1581.


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