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North Hills Monthly

Pittsburghers Benefit from Philanthropic Foundations

May 01, 2017 08:22AM ● By Jennifer Monahan

Children learn vocabulary as they play at the Carnegie Library as part of BuzzWord Pittsburgh, a vocabulary development program of PNC Grow Up Great.

Pittsburgh—once known to outsiders for steel, football and All the Right Moves (a movie about steel and football)—has been transformed into a city that tops many national lists of best places to live, eat and work. As technology, healthcare and other industries continue to grow, local philanthropic foundations are benefiting from new ideas and energy. These organizations are doing valuable work to make sure that the entire community benefits from Pittsburgh’s new prosperity.

PNC Foundation

Established in 1969, the PNC Foundation is funded through The PNC Financial Services Group. The organization invested more than $72 million in 2016 across the 19 states where PNC regional banks are located. The bank encourages the donation of time and talent as well; employees receive 40 hours each year of paid time away from work to volunteer for the PNC Foundation’s signature program, Grow Up Great. According to Sally McCrady, chair and president of the PNC Foundation and director of community affairs for PNC Bank, over 14,500 employees volunteered in their local communities in 2016 doing things like reading to preschoolers, painting classroom walls and renovating playgrounds.

In early April, the PNC Foundation launched its largest-ever single grant and volunteerism drive in support of Grow Up Great. April 4 was officially a “Great Day at PNC,” with a corporation-wide day of service. Events included a book drive, writing letters to thank early childhood educators and making puppets to donate to early childhood centers. That same day, the PNC Foundation also announced a $5 million initiative with, a nonprofit, crowdfunding website where teachers can post projects to benefit their students and classrooms. The size of the grant allowed the foundation to fund every single open pre-kindergarten project listed on the site in states where PNC has local banks. Finally, every PNC employee who volunteered through the PNC Foundation in 2016 received a $50 gift card to use on for a project of their choice.

McCrady said that for the last 13 years the organization has had a particular interest in early childhood education. Employees volunteer locally in Head Start programs and with other early childhood programs such as Angels’ Place. 

In the North Hills area, the PNC Foundation is involved with the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center and Variety—the Children’s Charity. The foundation funds a variety of programs like “My Voice” and “My Stroller,” which provide communication devices and adaptive strollers to children with physical disabilities.

“Community involvement has become part of who we are at PNC,” McCrady said. “We cannot be a strong bank in a weak community. Working together benefits all of us. It’s where we all live and work, too.” More information is available at 

Passavant Hospital Foundation

The Passavant Hospital Foundation (PHF) focuses its programs in and around McCandless and Cranberry Township, where its two hospital campuses are located. According to President Fay Morgan, the hospital was built in 1964 on land donated by a member of the community, and the facility was funded by residents who went door-to-door asking for donations, and who held bake sales and organized flea markets. They wanted to make sure that their neighbors had access to quality health care in their own community, rather than having to travel to downtown Pittsburgh.

“We are very much living in that tradition,” explained Morgan. “We are working hard to make sure that we have the best care.” Morgan said that the foundation’s funds support facility renovations and new technology aimed at improving patient care.

The Passavant Hospital Foundation invests in programs that support the health of the community as well as equipment. In 2016, the foundation gave $280,000 toward health education. Recent events include a program at La Roche College for obesity and exercise; educational workshops to help people understand COPD, arthritis and other health challenges; and the distribution of 150 “FAST” T-shirts to raise awareness of the signs of stroke.

On May 12, the Passavant Hospital Foundation is sponsoring a workshop on the opioid epidemic that will include a panel of experts to help educate the community. The foundation also supports Bridge to Hope, a support group for people affected by a loved one’s struggle with addiction, and CLIMB, a program for children whose parents have cancer. Details about the foundation are available at 

The Pittsburgh Foundation

With more than $1.14 billion in managed funds, The Pittsburgh Foundation is the 13th largest community foundation in the United States. The nonprofit organization functions a little bit like a co-op, ensuring that funds go to worthy causes. Over its 70-year history, the Pittsburgh Foundation has helped to connect thousands of donors with the critical needs of the community.

Kelly Uranker, who oversees the foundation’s Center for Philanthropy, said one of the organization’s exciting programs is 100 Percent Pittsburgh. This new organizing principle focuses on Allegheny County, a region where many residents have experienced significant prosperity but where 30 percent of the population lives precariously close to poverty. The Pittsburgh Foundation is addressing this inequality through programs that assist single female heads of household and young people between the ages of 12 and 24—two groups that Uranker said are largely left behind despite the region’s economic resurgence.

Another initiative is the foundation’s Small and Mighty grants program.

“These are organizations doing really good work, but their total funding is under $600,000,” Uranker said. Often these groups might be the only entity in the neighborhood assisting with basic needs, trying to start economic development programs or running a youth leadership program. Small and Mighty is the foundation’s targeted effort to bridge the gap between grant-access and neighborhood-based nonprofits that work to improve the Pittsburgh region.

On May 23, the foundation will sponsor its fourth Critical Needs Alert, a one-day online giving event that will benefit basic needs organizations that provide food, shelter, transportation services and child care for people in need. In the North Hills area, organizations like Anchorpoint Counseling Ministry, North Hills Community Outreach, Glen Montessori School and Vincentian Child Development Center will be some of the direct beneficiaries of the flash-funding event. More information is available at