United Way's Week of Caring helps Lighthouse

October 14, 2020 Cranberry Local News

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Volunteer Bob Eidenshink of Mars loads cars at the Lighthouse Foundation's food pantry in Middlesex Township on Thursday as part of the United Way's Week of Caring. About 75 volunteers worked through the United Way last week to help local nonprofit agencies. The Week of Caring ended Saturday.

MIDDLESEX TWP — For many people, a lighthouse represents hope. The mission of the lighthouse is to send out light to guide people through darkness.

The mission of the Lighthouse Foundation is to encourage people to find a Christian hope while meeting their immediate needs and empowering them to be self-sufficient.

Theresa Rodriguez

“We have been fully operational through COVID,” said Theresa Rodriguez, marketing and grant manager for the Lighthouse Foundation. “Our volunteers have adjusted so quickly.”

The foundation — which provides food, housing, transportation and ministry to those in need — has about 16 volunteers. The pandemic is drawing out people interested in lending helping hands, according to Rodriguez.

Amy Franz, Butler regional director for the United Way, said that's also been the case for those helping during the Week of Caring campaign. About 75 volunteers worked through the United Way last week to help local nonprofit agencies.

“They've really been excited to help,” Franz said. “Everywhere I turn, there's someone saying, 'How can I volunteer?'”

The Lighthouse Foundation, which receives funding through the United Way, is one of the organizations Week of Caring volunteers helped.

While foundation workers distributed food bank orders Thursday in Middlesex Township, United Way volunteers painted the foundation's transitional housing in Butler. “They needed a little sprucing up,” Franz said. “We wanted to be as helpful as we could.”

The foundation is serving about 1,100 people per month through its food bank alone, according to Rodriguez.

She said since the pandemic started, about 830 new clients have signed up to receive groceries through the food bank.

A grocery order includes about $300 worth of fresh and canned food, which people can receive twice a month. The foundation supplies about 145,000 pounds of food to people monthly, according to Rodriguez.

Products are either donated or purchased with donations through the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

Rodriguez said like the foundation's food bank process, donations have adapted to suit pandemic precautions. “We just got a big donation of Gold Fish in snack packs,” Rodriguez said, “which is perfect.”

Neither the foundation nor the United Way has been immune to the effects of the pandemic.

For the foundation, it's meant rearranging distribution to include a drive-thru arrangement instead of open “shopping” for clients. For United Way, it's meant finding extra opportunities for volunteers.

“We had fewer projects this year,” Franz said.

Audrey Carlson of Butler has volunteered with the Lighthouse Foundation for four years.

“I was looking for a place where I could be of service to people,” Carlson said.

Carlson minds the dessert table during food distribution, separating normal sweets from gluten- or sugar-free and low-carb options.

When clients have birthdays, she's able to give them cakes.

Volunteering is important to Carlson. She even encourages others to get involved, particularly now.

“Come and be a volunteer,” Carlson said. “People need a lot of hugs and a lot of love.”

Rodriguez said the Lighthouse Foundation always needs baby formula, diapers, wipes and coffee for clients. It can be reached at 724-586-5554 for more information on donating, volunteering or receiving.

The Week of Caring ended Saturday. To volunteer for the United Way's future activities, call the Butler office at 724-285-4883.

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Samantha Beal

Samantha Beal