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Downtown Reflections. Photograph by Brian Cohen.
Downtown Reflections. Photograph by Brian Cohen. | Show Photo

For Good

Charities, honorees, winter ease: More ways to make it a season of giving

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If it is truly better to give than to receive, here are just three ways during this holiday season that the local philanthropic community is looking for your help. You can honor those who have given and give to those who have the least.
 
On Dec. 21, at the winter solstice, Operation Safety Net will hold its annual candlelight memorial service to remember those who died while homeless in Pittsburgh in 2013.
 
The vigil at Fort Pitt Boulevard and Grant Street, underneath the highway overpass, honors the 10 individuals who suffered this fate thus far this year and also marks the longest night of the winter. The service includes music by the Mt. Ararat Baptist Church Men’s Choir and a reading of the names; it is free and open to the public.
 
Operation Safety Net, part of Pittsburgh Mercy Health System and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, has held this service each year since 1998. They will also be collecting new men’s and women’s hats, gloves, and socks for distribution to those whom Operation Safety Net serves at the local Severe Weather Emergency Shelter.
 
Homelessness is a particular problem among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Pittsburgh's LGBTQ Community Center downtown has also put out an emergency appeal for blankets and coats. In addition, the donations will help low-income members of the community.
 
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh on Dec. 17 will recognize individual volunteers and local organizations that have given the most to the organization this year. Among its Celebrate Coalitions winners this year, to be honored at the James Street Speakeasy in the East Allegheny neighborhood, are:
 
· Dennis Hazenstab of Lawrenceville, Male Recruitment Advisory Board Member of the Year
· Doug Foster of Wexford, BIG Speakers Bureau Member of the Year
· Jackie Belczyk of the North Side, Young Professional Outreach Board Member of the Year
· Heidi Nevala of Mt. Lebanon, Washington County Advisory Board Member of the Year
· The Saturday Light Brigade and Washington and Jefferson College, both BIG Community Partners of the Year.
 
Keynote speaker at the event is Emmai Alaquiva, who was homeless at one time in his life but is now director for CBS Sports Network and CEO of the multimedia company Ya Momz House, Inc.  He also founded and leads the arts education program Hip Hop on L.O.C.K.
 
Writer: Marty Levine
 
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