A Reflection on Volunteering

By Brenner Burkholder

My first memories of volunteering were, ironically, events thrust upon me by my parents, teachers, or church community. Not that I disliked activities like working on houses for Habitat for Humanity, but it never felt particularly voluntary. At the end of high school, I volunteered in a hospital, which felt important, but most of the time I had little direction, a common and unfortunate aspect of some volunteer opportunities. I wondered, when would I finally have an opportunity to give back that was both voluntary and useful?

It wasn’t until I went off to college that I found a few volunteer activities I enthusiastically chose and participated in, like seasonal prairie burning on my college campus (firefighting and fire-starting are a fun way to pass a slow spring Saturday). Although volunteer activities in Pittsburgh are decidedly less fiery, I’m surprised by both the number of opportunities and level of engagement in the city, especially for environmental work. It’s clear a lot of people care about making Pittsburgh a greener, healthier place to live, especially when it comes to restoring health to people and land negatively affected by the pollutants of heavy industry.

Toward this end, I’m excited to help create volunteer opportunities for improving the environment in Allegheny County. As part of Plant Five’s inaugural gift of 5000 trees for 1000 newborns, we are holding three planting days on a former coal mine site, as well as a celebration event for families given trees. If you’d like to volunteer, and know others who would voluntarily help, sign up for our upcoming planting days here or the family celebration here. We promise to do our best to make it a purposeful and enjoyable experience!