Tag Archives: charity

Volunteers in Ambridge assemble bicycles for foster children nearing independence

Photo by Emily Matthews

Link: http://www.timesonline.com/timestoday/volunteers-in-ambridge-assemble-bicycles-for-foster-children-nearing-independence/article_090fc6ce-68c4-11e7-9c4c-2f50feecb659.html

By Luke Furman for The Beaver County Times

AMBRIDGE — More than a dozen student volunteers grabbed the handlebars Friday morning and worked to assemble 50 bicycles for foster children about to reach self-independence.

The students, who belong to a University of Pittsburgh PittServes program called Jumpstart, broke into small teams at Allison Park Church in Ambridge with a stack of cardboard Huffy boxes scattered throughout the large room.

The nonprofit Together We Rise, which helps to improve the lives of children in foster care, donated the bikes to the church for one of its annual Serve Day outreach programs, but the charity left some manual assembly required.

Bethany Jarmul, who handles public relations for Allison Park Church, said it had never before held a bicycle assembly outreach program.

“Children are the future, and it’s important for us to have programs and give back to our communities,” Jarmul said. “Foster-care children usually can’t afford a car after emancipation and don’t have means of transportation.”

The church takes part in the annual Serve Day, formerly known as Servolution, with hundreds of other congregations nationwide. While talking about the meaning of the outreach project, Thomas Manning, director of Allison Park Church’s Ambridge campus, paraphrased part of Matthew 20:28 that reads, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.”

“In the past, we’ve given backpacks to children, paid for customers’ ice cream at an ice cream shop, brought people groceries and served people breakfast at a bus stop,” Manning said. “We’re happy PittServes students came to partner with us.”

PittServe’s Jumpstart discovered Allison Park Church’s Serve Day project from a grant application by the Network of Hope and decided to take part, said Christine Chua, a student executive of Jumpstart.

Network of Hope functions as a nonprofit connected to Allison Park Church’s main campus, Ambridge campus, Deer Lakes campus and its soon-to-be-opened Butler campus.

Julie Mikus, who serves as director for the decades-old entity, said this year’s Serve Day consists of more than 30 outreach projects, which range from lot beautification in Homewood to working on a garden that feeds local refugees in Troy Hill.

“The vision of Serve Day is to communicate the love of God in a real and tangible way and to reach those who are hurting or lost,” Mikus said.

Mikus estimated that 1,000 volunteers would turn out for the projects over the weekend, and the Pitt students in Jumpstart ranked among the first of them, beginning their work at 9:30 a.m. Friday.

“We usually work with kids in low-income areas,” Chau said. “We can only do service projects on Friday because we work with preschoolers from Monday to Thursday for kindergarten preparedness.”

However, not everyone in Jumpstart volunteers on the basis of being an education major. Several volunteers major in the sciences and other nonpedagogical studies.

“A lot of it is helping people from low-income areas,” said Sid Dash, who studies biology at Pitt.

The project presented many of the student volunteers with their first opportunity to assemble a bike straight from the box. Unlike home assembly, instruction manuals proved a must, at least for the first one.

“It’s my first time assembling a whole bike, but not the first time putting on a wheel,” Pitt student Robert Brown-Gartei said.

“We haven’t really had experience with assembling bikes, but we are happy to learn,” Chau said.

The bicycles came in two styles: a white street bicycle with sea-foam-green accented tires and a black mountain bike with streaks of an intense forest green.

Manning said he expected the bikes to be completed and donated to a local foster home on Saturday.


Center Twp. dentist hits the links for more than a couple of rounds of charity

Photo by Emily Matthews

Link: http://www.timesonline.com/community/news/center-twp-dentist-hits-the-links-for-more-than-a/article_5800303e-5dbb-11e7-a6b1-0319ff92ceca.html

By Luke Furman for The Beaver County Times

HOPEWELL TWP. — Rick Gradisek teed off Thursday morning when the birds first started chirping, and he did not plan to pack up his clubs until they stopped.

For 28 years, Gradisek has participated in a charity golf marathon called the Longest Day of Golf, an all-day, 16-hour event that benefits the American Cancer Society through pledged donations.

Gradisek, a dentist from Center Township, and three other golfers started the event in 1990 and played 54 holes, a long shot from the team record set in 2013 of 263 holes, Gradisek said. Each June, Gradisek and a changing group of companions try to break their record by a few holes more.

“Our goal is to play as many rounds of golf as we can,” Gradisek said. “It’s a breeze.”

This year, Gradisek played the course unaccompanied by additional golfers for the first time, beginning at 5:14 a.m. Only his dental partner Dr. George Mistovich, of Center, and friend Cindy Kuton, of Coraopolis, trailed his fast-paced cart, keeping score and delivering refreshments when needed.

Mistovich has golfed in the event four times and played in the original in 1990. Kuton golfed once in the event with a group of four women, who covered 54 holes during the day.

First held at Black Hawk Golf Course in Chippewa Township, the Longest Day of Golf moved in its second year to the Club at Shadow Lakes in Hopewell Township. The club allows Gradisek to start before sunrise and play the course for free throughout the day.

“The generosity of the members is so accommodating,” Kuton said as Gradisek prepared to drive a ball down the 17th hole. “They even provided lunch for him.”

In 2014, Gradisek had to postpone the event to October after undergoing a hip replacement. He played 126 holes that year.

On Thursday, Gradisek broke his solo record of 272 holes in 2016 by playing through 275 by the time he wrapped up at 8:45 p.m.

“(Thursday) had to be as perfect of a day as any,” Gradisek said. “There was a slight breeze, no humidity and none of the predawn fog that sometimes happens. It was as perfect as can be.”

Along with being a longtime golfer and dentist, Gradisek served more than 20 years on the Beaver County board of the American Cancer Society. Kuton held a spot on the board, as well, before it moved to Pittsburgh in 2014 as a consolidation group.

The idea for the event had already existed in the organizations charity canon, but Gradisek championed the idea with his affinity for golf and devotion to the charity.

“I told them I would do (the Longest Day of Golf) as a fundraiser,” Gradisek said. “Cancer affected people who were friends and relatives. Only four years after I become active with the charity, my father died of colon cancer.”

In addition to Gradisek, Kuton and Mistovich have dealt with cancer firsthand, dedicating parts or all of their Thursday to a personal cause.

Gradisek said that friends, family and people subscribed to a mailing list pledge a donation either based on a flat rate or by the amount of holes the group plays. For example, pledging 10 cents per hole with a total of 275 holes would amount to $27.50.

“A few people still pledge a dollar per hole, but most people give a flat rate,” he said. “In 1990, pledging money was en vogue, but now it’s a lot of extra work.”

The event brings in around $5,000 to $10,000 each year, Gradisek said. He said the exact figure of this year’s earnings will not be known until the fundraising portion of the event concludes. He plans to possibly use GoFundMe in the future.

After finishing the 275th hole of the day, Gradisek said he took a shower then enjoyed dinner and a cold beer with his brother and a few friends.