Brent helps people all day long in his job as a Community Relations Coordinator with the City of Pittsburgh Council District 7 team, but when he heard about the Snow Angels program he liked the idea of helping out right in his neighborhood. Snow Angels, a United Way-supported program that is also part of United Way’s Open Your Heart to a Senior volunteer recruitment initiative, matches local volunteers who can help with elderly and disabled neighbors who can’t clear their own walks of snow and ice.
Now, when it snows, Brent picks up his shovel and heads for the home of the Grenzigs, long-time Bloomfield residents who live a few blocks away. “It’s not a big deal,” he says. “I clear my sidewalk and then I walk over and clear theirs. It doesn’t take long.” But it makes a big difference: “If you don’t have mobility issues you may not realize how difficult it is for some people to get around, or even to get out of the house, when there’s snow and ice.” Street plowing can make it worse, especially in neighborhoods like Brent’s, where the streets are narrow. “It can be unsafe for anyone who’s walking.”
Volunteering was “just a built in part of life” when Brent, now 30, was growing up in Fort Wayne Indiana. “My mother was a very active volunteer, especially in projects at our church. She would always bring me along. Volunteering was just what we did. One time she even took me with her to volunteer in rural Kentucky.” After a stint in the Peace Corps, Brent came to Pittsburgh in 2012 and fell in love: with his fiancé Hilary, who was also attending the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Social Work, and with the town itself. “Pittsburgh has everything a big city has, but each of its neighborhoods has a distinct character. The people are friendly, and that gives the city a small town ‘neighborhood’ feel.” With its diversity, vibrancy, and deep sense of community, Bloomfield feels like home. “I’m proud of my neighborhood,” Brent says. “I want to help maintain it. And I want people to come to Bloomfield and see that this is a place where people look out for each other.”